Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Quick Tour of my Not-so-great Workshop

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Visitors to my shop are always surprised how small my shop is – 15’ x 25’ – and that I share it with the house’s furnace (it’s a friendly relationship, I promise, with good dust collection).

At the request of a reader, here are some photos of my shop and some details of why things are the way they are. Before I dive into this explanation, keep in mind that while I prefer to use hand tools whenever possible, I feed my family with my furniture. So I do own machines that help me process rough stock. If this offends you, feel free to send us a turkey each week and I’ll consider getting rid of my jointer.

The most important area of my shop is my workbench. It’s 18” deep, 8’ long and is under a window that faces north. I love northern light because you never get harsh shadows or weird color changes on the bench. The position allows me to work early in the morning until sundown with natural light doing most of the work.

To the left of my bench is an old bourbon barrel that is my trash can. I usually can simply push shavings off the bench and into the barrel without a broom or brush. This saves lots of time.

I also have my nail cabinet above the bench, which holds all the common fasteners I use. To the left of the trash can is my tool chest and a wall rack for my saws. If I worked with hand tools only, this would be the end of the shop tour. You really don’t need much space to work by hand.

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On the east wall of my shop is my jointer and table saw. And the wood rack is above both these machines. I have everything positioned so I have about 6’ of infeed and outfeed on both of these machines. I can move the table saw if I need to rip 8’ stuff, though I almost never do.

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The little cart is one of my most useful pieces of shop furniture. It’s an outfeed table for the saw and holds all my shop supplies. I can roll it around to catch any sort of stock coming off the saw.

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On the south wall of the shop is a 14” band saw on a mobile base and a second workbench that I use for sharpening, turning and holding stock when I bring it off my truck. Below the bench are my leatherworking and chairmaking tools in a metal tool chest.

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Tucked into the corner created by the furnace is a metal office cabinet I bought at a second-hand office supply store for $70. It holds my glue, wax, assorted tool parts, manuals and all the stuff I’m not sure what to do with. I try to clean it out every few months.

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The west wall of the shop has my portable planer and drill press. These are both on mobile bases so I can shift them around as needed.

As I think you can see, my machinery is pretty humble (except for the Northfield jointer). And I have more than enough room to build anything.

I’ve worked in larger shops and usually find them frustrating because I feel like I’m walking around more than building.

— Christopher Schwarz

45 thoughts on “A Quick Tour of my Not-so-great Workshop

  1. drjohn1963

    Was the Lumber rack in a magazine issue, or only as the plan for sale that you linked? I don’t mind two bucks, but if I already have it in a back issue….

  2. Gregg Drennan

    Chris,

    I would love to know more (or see a couple of photos) about your fastener cabinet. I’ve tried a bunch of different ways to sort and store fasteners and small parts but haven’t found one that I really like. Thanks.

  3. Roubo Goldberg

    Hey Chris,
    It’s hard to say whether I’m less competent as a woodworker, or as a computer-savvy fellow – likely started both too late in life. Still fun, though, and thank God I don’t have to feed my family with either. Loved this story about your shop – reminds me a lot of mine, probably as I read a ton of your stuff whilst making it in my basement. My space is maybe 12′ x 25′ or so, and I had to put my table saw in another room in order to have space for it. Trying to keep the main shop fairly dust-free and quiet – I listen to classical music when I’m down there, and do mainly chin-scratching and cogitating!
    One or two thoughts:
    Your shop has the GREAT LUXURY of windows and natural, low-angle light, which is not going to happen in mine – you are right, north-facing is best, but you have windows on more than one side, which is even better, so I hear. Used to do a bit of architectural drafting in the days when that was done with pencils and a drafting board!) If you have any thoughts on how I can simulate natural, low-angle light in a shop without windows, I’d love to hear them.
    If I could buy another major tool (have quite a few, I guess), I can’t decide between a jointer, a band saw, or a good jointer plane. I am now limited to prepping stock with a combination of the table saw and a jack plane, and what seems like a helluva lotta work, and results are well short of perfect. Or I buy s4s lumber, which has to be reserved for very important projects at the price I have to pay. No planing shops around here, and very limited wood supply generally. I like that you are a hand-tools-first kind of guy, but also that you use the power supply when it makes sense. Do you have any advise on this for an old, fat, fairly lazy and not-very-smart fellow? Thanks!!

  4. Billinflora

    Love the Northfield jointer. I am in the market for a new jointer and wondered what size the Northfield is.

  5. gtrboy77

    Just out of curiousity (and because I don’t recall you ever talking about it), what kinds of leatherworking tools do you have in your tool chest, and what kinds of things do you make doing leatherworking?

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