The Five Minute Wood Worker is currently prepping and planning for a season of sawdust and projects. And while we all have a busy schedule, I thought I’d give you a peek at what it is I work out of. Not all the projects will be coming from this particular location, but this is the primary shop I have.
Not all of us have a fully-decked out shop to work from. Some of us use sections of the garage, or maybe the basement. I know plenty of folks who have something other than their old junior high or high school wood shop for their primary wood working location, and they are just fine with it. Just so we are clear, you do not need the biggest, nicest, or most equipped shop to make projects. This is a point that seems to catch many a new person, after catching some episode or other online or on TV that has people designing and building amazing projects. You can do these same things with whatever space you need!
Now, I won’t say that it isn’t nice to have more space available to you. There will be a project or two you will swear needs more space than you have available. That’s partly a trick of the human psyche – use the space you have, and spread out. To be honest, there will probably come a project or six from the Five Minute Wood Worker where the space in the shop is less than the space the project takes up. (I can practically guarantee you will see one this year.) So when I can, I will throw in some tips about maximizing the space you have… and some of them will be my own tips, instead of ripped from some other source.
As long as we’re on the subject of credit where credit is due, let me preface all the projects and pieces/parts you’ll see in photos and videos. Currently, I do not have any sponsorship with any individual or company. So the products I have, I do my best to show branding of them at some point. Do not think that you have to use what I use, but if you like the projects that the products are used to create, you should have some idea where you can find them. To that end, I will occasionally list the company and model number of the tools and accessories I use. No compensation (to date) has been paid to me for using these tools, and there is no pressure to do exactly as I do. For example, I can think of six chisel manufacturers off the top of my head, and I use tools from two of them. That does not mean the other four aren’t worthy of looking at; my criteria for purchasing led me to those two particular manufacturers at that time. I might revisit tools and acquire new ones periodically, and I’ll be upfront and as honest as I can about it.
That said, I’m not going to “pimp out” one tool as the only one you will need to have, because you may not have the same situations or needs as I have, and a different tool may work better for you. Similarly, your local retailers may not be the same as mine, so you may or may not be able to purchase the same stuff. That’s fine. Think of what I have as an example, or maybe a starting point. Since I’m at the beginning of a woodworking journey, you may have better tools that me, or none at all. What I’m hoping to provide is a starting point, and after a while, the tools are less the focus than the projects.
Same thing goes for your workshop. I know a guy who works out of a bedroom, and another with a custom-built shop. There’s scores of folks in all the spaces in between. So don’t get discouraged when you see someone’s shop – think instead of how to make that project in the space you have available. Since it’s been over a year that I’ve been in my shop space, I figured I’d better clean it out and organize it. While it was only partially successful (I still had to pack it all away at the end of the first day), I’ve got a better feeling about it than I’ve had in a while. Mostly because the door closes.
Now, there is still one item that did not get back into the shop, and I have a tote full of stuff that still needs to get into the shop. That’s fine, because one of the projects on the list is shop storage. After all, organizing our space is the best way to maximize the space we have. (There’s tip number one. It can be found from a lot of different sources, so I can’t give credit to any one person.)
Now, what I’m using to organize stuff is a lot of the storage totes available from several retailers. I have a lot of the Bella 6 Quart/5.7 Liter plastic storage totes, in a variety of colors. These are useful for a lot of things, although not everything fits into them. They might be marked as shoe boxes, or storage totes, or something similar. I find them at discount retailers and dollar stores, specifically Family Dollar, Marc’s, and Dollar General. Usually they are one dollar (American), but they can be a little more expensive depending on the source. (Here’s a little secret about me: I’m cheap. If it can be done with a cheaper tool or part, I’m all in favor of it, because like many of you I have a limited budget to work with. So I’ll save costs where I can, and spend extra for better materials or tools when I have to.) Some of these totes will need extra protection for the contents because I have an outdoor shop, so I might do something different than you when storing things. Don’t worry.
To start with, the physical footprint of my shop is 48 inches by 64 inches, not including the spaces in between the studs. At best, that’s only going to give me another 3 and a half inches, and there are some other things sharing the space. The primary usage of my shop is woodworking, but I do store some camping gear, outdoor cooking gear, and gardening material in my shop. The physical height of the shop is effectively 114 inches, again not including space between the studs, but there’s a few pipes, cables, and items that are lower than that, limiting the maximum space available. This isn’t a large footprint. Effectively, this is a 20 square foot space, that if I want to do any woodworking inside it, I need to pull things out of the space to use it.
This brings us to organization tip number 2: Mobility. The space has to be able to condense as much as possible, and things will need to get out of the way. So my shop will have wheels on it, and be stackable, and fit into compartments. Collapsing work horses are a great idea, because they fold flat and support the work surface (another flat surface) that you can use. I got mine from Craftsman (Sears) on sale, but I’ve seen similar ones from Harbor Freight. Don’t think you need to purchase yours, though. You can make your own out of construction lumber (plywood, 2x4s, 2x3s, or other materials). Or, you can use the same product as my latest bench, from Centipede Tools. They have a magnificent alternative that was successfully funded on Kickstarter, and I’m glad to have one in my shop. It came in very handy during the cleaning project. As for its mobility, well, I’ll let my “unboxing” video show how mobile it can be.
This ties in to tip number 3: functionality. Some people will say that multi-purpose items are bad, and others will say that they are good. In a space as small as mine, things need to serve multiple purposes. That doesn’t mean that I have only multi use tools, though. There are a few things I have that are only for one purpose. But the numbers of them is limited, out of necessity. If you are just starting out and don’t know what direction you want to go in, I would suggest getting some more “broad use” tools that can be used in a variety of projects. Tools like band saws and jig saws are terrific examples of this, because they can cut curves or straight lines. Table saws pretty much get used for one purpose, although there are more people looking for ways to use them to do other things. (The single-use aspect of a table saw is not the primary reason I don’t have one in my shop. The amount of floor space they take up, however, is.)
Well, enough about the why. Next week, we’ll start seeing the how and what. Coming up next week, I’ll be demonstrating a couple of cheap ways to make a Game Master Screen, for those who do some gaming, and I’ll also start on those storage shelves and cabinets. Some of these projects can be knocked out in five minutes, and some can’t. Don’t worry, though. It might take some time to learn the skills, but the tasks can be done in a brief amount of time. After all, that’s the primary goal: to show you what you can get done when you break it down into five minute steps!