Woodworking in a Small Shop

Get more done in your small shop with Super Small Shop Strategies!

I know how hard working in a small shop can be. My shop is squeezed into a one-car garage that also serves as a storage area for most of the stuff my wife and I don’t frequently use. But woodworking projects, even the small ones, can require a good deal of space and tools. That’s why Steve Johnson’s online class (Super Small Shop Strategies) has been so helpful; it’s all about making the most of a small shop and building big projects with limited tools.

One of the keys to organizing your shop so that you enjoy working in it is to really think about the kind of work you like to do. This will help you identify tools and equipment you don’t use so that you can get rid of them and make room for what you really need. If you don’t build kitchen cabinets or built-in bookcases, why do you need that 5HP cabinet saw with the giant out feed table? Maybe you cut a lot of solid maple and you want the power, but you could switch to a 9” diameter thin-kerf blade and still get excellent cuts in dense hardwoods. The reduced blade diameter and thickness make a big difference. You could downsize the saw and replace the out feed table with a portable stand. I know it’s nice to have big, powerful tools that can handle anything, but those aren’t usually the best options for small shops.

How are your hand tool skills? I recently got rid of my jointer in favor of a scrub plane. When I have a crooked board, I flatten one side of it by hand and run it through the planer to get it to final thickness. The process seems to be about as quick as it would be with a jointer, but it’s a lot quieter and more fun. I don’t surface hundreds of board feet at a time, so it works well for me. Now I have all that extra floor space, too.

Woodworking is supposed to be a fun hobby, but it’s not enjoyable when you feel like you never have the space or the tools to do what you want. Steve presents a lot of good ideas for maximizing what you have in Super Small Shop Strategies, and don’t worry; most of them aren’t about downsizing your tools. Check out Steve’s class for some ideas that can help you build all kinds of projects in a shop of any size.

Take a look at Super Small Shop Strategies if you want to make more room in your shop for the stuff you really like to do.

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Tools in Your Shop

About Nick Lieurance

Nick Lieurance is the online education manager for Popular Woodworking University. He's been a professional cabinetmaker since 2003, and has worked in architectural millwork, cabinets and countertops.