How to Design a Woodworking Shop

By Finn McCuhil
Do some planning before you move out of your old workshop.

Designing a woodworking shop is an exercise in compromise for most craftsmen. Unless you have the budget to build an aircraft hangar, the chances of having enough space for comfortable placement of all your tools, assembly and finishing areas are slim to none. Compromise is key when you decide on your budget and determine your needs, as opposed to your wishes. When designing your workshop, safety should come first. Then consider convenience and work flow.

Make a scale drawing of your shop floor plan on graph paper.

Measure all your stationary tools, table saw, band saw, workbench, etc.

Transfer the footprint of each piece of stationary equipment to a second piece of graph paper using the same scale as the floor plan for the shop.

Cut the footprint drawing out for each piece of stationary equipment. These can be moved around on the shop floor plan drawing for trial placement. Leave enough workspace around each tool to work with standard material. If you need to rip a standard sheet of plywood, you will need at least eight feet of space past the end of your saw table.

Draw in the locations of your storage cabinets and bench tools. Include racks or storage area for raw material.

Add locations for dust collection and compressed air plumbing. If possible, add a shed to an outside wall of your shop to shelter your air compressor and dust collection unit. Moving these outside the shop will dramatically reduce the noise level in your shop.

Lay out the number and location of electrical circuits and outlets. Large 220-volt outlets should be on individual circuits. Standard 110-volt circuits should be planned for projected load. Don’t expect to run an entire shop on a single 110-volt, 20-amp circuit. Being overly cautious with electrical layout will prevent future headaches and add little to the overall cost of your shop.

Draw in locations for lighting. Include windows wherever possible. Natural sunlight is the best source of light for your shop.

Tip

After you have everything in place on the drawing, go through two or three different projects in your mind. Look for any problems you may encounter that are caused by your current layout. You may have to make several adjustments before you come up with a satisfactory compromise. Making adjustments on a paper plan are much cheaper and easier than remodeling a shop.

If you don’t have enough room for all your large tools to remain stationary, wheeled bases are available from a number of suppliers. Consider adding a mobile base to your less-frequently used large tools if positioning them safely poses a problem.

About the Author

Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.