Shop Intro

My shop, if it can be called that, is being carved out of what once was the biggest room in my basement. I live in a townhouse about 15 miles outside of DC, which means a 20′ x 30′ footprint to start with. The front half of the house is taken up by laundry, mechanical, stairs and the “storage area” a 10 x 10 space under the sunken foyer and half bath. When we finished the basement about 8 years ago, it was meant to be a play area/rec room for the kids (now 20 and 17) with a small workroom for me where the bathroom was supposed to be. Back then, most of my tools were centered around DIY projects for the house and for the most part fit in this small room, but real work took place in the backyard (walkout basement thankfully) to have room and keep the dust down.

I should probably say at some point that my wife and I have been separated for 2 years now, so a lot of the references I’ll make to “us” are from prior to the separation. My son is in college and my daughter is going into her senior year of high school. Both are great kids and a heck of a lot smarter than I was at their age. In the ensuing years, the main room never really lived up to its potential and became more of a storage area for stuff we never sold on eBay. So anyway, now I’m trying to arrange the main space as a shop while attempting to figure out what to do with all the other stuff. Some of it could have some value, but a lot of it has probably lost it’s eBay value by now, and will probably go to either Goodwill or the dump.

The main room’s dimensions are about 15 x 15, which I know is kind of small, but it does have the advantage of opening to the backyard with a door and two windows for natural light with a southern exposure. The floors are a Pergo-like laminate, which at least is more forgiving than the concrete underneath. Right now my workbench is against the wall opposite the windows, ’cause that’s where there’s room at the moment. The only other thing I have set up at the moment is my table saw, which is a Craftsman contractor-type saw that is unique in its ability to frustrate the hell out of me. I bought it probably 5-6 years ago primarily because it came with a folding stand with wheels that easily lets me take it into the backyard to set it up and didn’t really pay attention to other features-such as the now frustrating built-in miter table! Besides conveniently eliminating the need for slots for accessories, it also can’t figure out what’s meant by “90 degree cut” when setting the miter fence at 0 degrees. I have to back it off by about 1 degree in order for it to come close. Needless to say, I would like love to replace it, but finances are tight and I’ll have to make do for now.

My bench is kind of a weird duck. It started out as just a work table with no loftier ambitions, but the more I got into this, I just had to be able to make it into a workbench somehow. The top is just half-inch ply on top of half-inch MDF with poplar edging. The base came from Fine Woodworking’s “How to Build a Workbench” video series, although I adapted it to accept a larger front vise. One of the toughest thing was finding 4 x 4’s for the legs. My 2 closest big box stores only had 4 x4’s in pressure treated, nothing else. I ended up having to go to the next nearest Home Depot to get the ones I do have, which are kiln-dried doug fir. Now that I’ve been using it for a few months, I’ve already started plans for replacing it. First problem, for a workbench that’s going to see a lot of hand tool work, it’s way too light. Now part of this may just come from the laminate floor, but it just moves way too much when planing. I’ve already had to put pieces of a no-slip router pad under each leg so it won’t slide so much. I also realize that I made the top much too thin to be able to use bench dogs and holdfasts effectively, and since I made the edging a little thicker than the top, it’s also made clamping a challenge as well. So until I get the funds to build a proper bench (yes, I’m leaning towards Roubo here-it just seems to make more sense to me), I think I’ll start with building a thicker top, still out of sheet goods, but better suited for hand tool usage.

 

So, that’s the sad state of my shop right now. As I get things cleaned up and more organized, I’ll update this thread. One thing I hope to finish this year is a wall-hanging tool cabinet. I’ve gotten inspirationseveral sources and am very excited about where its going.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments below.

 

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Posted in Shop Journal
2 comments on “Shop Intro
  1. Jeff Branch says:

    On your shop being small, I have seen smaller and while I have a two car garadge and adjacent work area, it is the work area that gets the use. It is about 24′ 15′ and then there is a smaller dog leg to the right. So, welcome to small shop space. I’ll be you will be able to do a lot with it. Good luck

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