Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Quick Tour of my Not-so-great Workshop

CS_bench_IMG_4304

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.

CS_jointer_IMG_4305

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.

CS_TS_IMG_4306

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.

CS_sharpen_lathe_IMG_4307

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.

CS-cabinet_IMG_4309

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.

CS_DP_IMG_4308

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?

  6. Wood5200

    Good morning,… If anyone noticed my post below about the tail vise please ignore as I have settled this issue myself… Head was not where it was supposed to be…. There was an odor there also… 🙂 John

  7. Wood5200

    . I have purchased the book “workbenches” by Christopher and in the process of building the Roubo bench and am having fun doing it…. I know that mr. Swartz does not have a great love for the tail vise but I am adding one to this bench. Purchased the product from Lee Valley. As I have read elsewhere that instructions do not come with it and did not. I cannot find any plans anywhere for building this vise and installing this mechanism… Any help as to where I can find this???? Thanks for your possible help… John

    Sent from my iPad

  8. Kevinmad

    Smaller shops are quite nice. I work out of a 3 car garage which at times still seams too big. I tend to roll most of what I need into the main-one-car area, such as my clamp rack – which made me thick – Chris, how are you storing your clamps. Are they in your little cart?
    Kevin

  9. alegriarick

    Is that your original yellow pine workbench that you wrote about in 2005? I love that bench and article and someday hope to build one. But I thought that one was wider than 18″.

  10. Farmer Greg

    Thank you for sharing this. Three questions, if I may: Is the nail cabinet your reproduction of Roy Underhill’s? Is the saw rack related to the tool rack you made a while back in Popular Woodworking? And how is the lumber rack designed? Thanks so much.

  11. dan@rode.org

    Thanks for the tour. I think the northern light for the bench is perhaps the most important feature. Getting good lighting — natural or artificial — makes a big difference. I can’t add windows to get natural light. If I ever build a shop, that will one of the main design considerations.

    As for the machinery, I’m not going to apologize for my planer or table saw. I do much of my work with hand tools, but I never hesitate to use a machine whenever it makes sense. Oddly enough, It’s mostly my jointer that now collects dust. I tend to flatten with hand planes and then run through the planer to get the thickness.

    I don’t feed my family from woodworking, so I don’t have to be efficient but it’s a hard habit t break 🙂

  12. martinsmithjr

    That’s great! I have a small basement shop and accordingly have no room for a table saw or a jointer.i have gotten to a place where I think I can work without those. The one thing that I find myself totally missing, though, is a good solid bandsaw with better resaw capacity. I was wondering how you dealt with only the 14 inch one. I think it’s too imprecise to make shop sawn veneers and is lacking the capacity to resaw reasonably wide boards. Thanks! Enjoyed the tour.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      I’m spoiled. We have so many fantastic veneer mills around here that I can buy great knife-cut stuff and have no need for a monster band saw. That old 14″ Rockwell is my most used machine by far.

  13. KirbyKrieger

    Painters (who make paintings) call the rolling cart a tabouret. Traditionally it held paints, rags, some solvent, vases for holding brushes — whatever the painter needed for his/her daily painting session. More recently, painters have used the top surface for mixing paint (having given up holding a palette in the non-dominant hand), but the general use is unchanged: these are the things that I use while I work, and I keep them near me when I’m working.

    As a painter learning woodworking, I have already started collecting in a folder ideas for my woodworker’s tabouret. Fleshing out what an experienced woodworker’s tabouret could be might make for another superb Schwarz blog-post/article, no? On wheels … with some kind of saw-bent-like saw-height support … maybe knobs for hanging the planes used that day … dedicated spots for a small plane and a try square … a box of mini-golf pencils … .

  14. wheatlpa

    That is a very nice shop. I am working with something about the same size but sharing space with my home brew set up so it is a tough call on what takes pride of place. My question is about your dust collector, i work in a basement with no ventilation so dust is a concern for me. My only big machine is a delta planer with an attachement that directs the chips into a bin but it still generates a lot of dust. I see you have a dust collector there in the corner, what type is this and is it a good investment or should i be looking for something else like an air exchanger?

  15. Justin

    The people who think your shop is small would mistake my 12′ x 16′ shop for an outhouse. 15′ x 25′ sounds cavernous to me. Of course, my only stationary power tool is a lathe, so that frees up a lot of space.

  16. Fuzesetter

    Thanks for the tour. My workshop is half of two car garage which I share with my pick-up truck. All my tools, woodworking machine, and workbench is on wheels. I built an over wood storage which is on a pulley system which I raise and lower with a wrench.

    1. laterthanuthink

      I did not know until now, those jointers (and lots more) are still in production, and only and hour away in Northfield, MN. The 3-phase motor could be an issue for me though.

      1. matthewjoneill

        You just need to wire up a VFD to convert from 3 to single phase. They’re typically a couple hundred bucks, but that opens you up to a whole world of relatively cheap heavy machinery.

  17. laterthanuthink

    Thank you Chris for the shop tour. The tip about facing north for good light all day has me thinking about rearranging. I get harsh late afternoon light from my west wall and then it’s time to quit for the day or get blinds. Interesting your Sawstop is covered up. I remember when Norm Abram used to tape over the Shopsmith logo in his early days on New Yankee Workshop, probably for the same reason. Love that Northfield jointer, what a beast, oh man I want one! I see a Festool vac and some systainers. Those are some of the best power tools anywhere on the planet. I recently acquired an industrial Little Giant rolling cart at a garage sale and like your rolling cart, it has become a favorite of mine. Yours looks adjustable and has drawers, a most useful distinction. Thanks again for all you do. You are a virtual mentor to millions. Well, maybe tens of thousands.

      1. rushby.craig

        So the jointer looks like the only machine that needs 220V?

        I have a similar sized basement workshop space with an outside entrance. Only difference is that the approach has about a dozen stairs coming down from ground level. I don’t know how you would get a machine the size of a 12″ jointer down a bunch of stairs.

        I don’t have any 220V outlets so I’ve stuck with my old Rockwell 6″ jointer (with a Shelix head).

  18. jasalomon

    Shop looks great. You had mentioned your hollow chisel mortiser in ATC, and I seem to recall that you had a floor standing one in a previous shop pic (though may be wrong about that). Did you get rid of it because you can cut mortises by hand just as fast, and do you ever miss having it?

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      I still have a floor-model mortiser. It’s on the south wall. I’m debating selling it and getting a Domino XL for production work. For one-off stuff I can do that by hand.

      1. trmikie

        My mortiser sits in a corner all dusty since I bought a Domino back a few years ago. Never looked back. It is so fast and strong

      2. AnthonyT

        Any particular reason why an XL instead of the 500? Thanks for sharing your space with readers. It’s very helpful. Good luck with the new building as well.

  19. mysticcarver

    Impressive shop. I don’t understand why anyone would be offended that any hand tool user occasionally uses power tools. Your amazing with your hand tools and using power to break down stock just makes sense. It gives you more time to spend doing the part of the build that you enjoy the most. Just my opinion….. not asked for I know , but there it is lol
    Anyways amazing tour thank you, Sir.

  20. BLZeebub

    I find the space quite lovely and cozy. I myself have had to [she made me] shrink mine to only half the garage so she can park her vehicle inside. I know, I know, parking cars inside the garage, how ridiculous! Anyway, I also have everything on wheels so there, misses I-want-my-car-out-of-the-elements. I can say that knowing she won’t read this. HA!

    Anyway, great shop.

  21. pmac

    I think my favorite part is the north window followed closely by the little cart by the table saw. Have fun laying out the shop space in the new place. Hope you have some good north light there.

  22. charlton

    Come on, Chris. What’s under the blanket? I don’t see the Excalibur sliding table that you used to have so can i assume that you got a new TS? Looks like…a Sawstop maybe, hm? 🙂

    1. charlton

      Alright…nevermind. Somehow, I missed your post from 2 years ago that you got the SS. Seems I’ve had my head buried in the sand.

Comments are closed.