My first workshop was the 6′ x 10′ back porch of our Victorian home in Lexington, Ky. The floor sloped dramatically thanks to termites, and the the whole place reeked of rotting opossum after one of the marsupial buggers took a dirt nap below the joists.
Let me tell you that it is dang hard to get rid of opossum odor – something that is never covered in the fancy books on setting up your workshop.
Every workshop I’ve had since then has been a small improvement. And this summer I took a huge leap forward when I resolved to finish out my current shop. It still had a raw concrete floor, open stud walls and cinderblock foundation.
The first order of business was to install a wooden floor. The contractor I worked with recommended a white oak floor with only one coat of water-based polyurethane on it. Putting on only one coat protects the floor from moisture and minor spills but it doesn’t make the floor slick. In fact, it is the grippiest floor I’ve ever used, which is ideal for handwork.
I also hired some guys to put in drywall on one wall (I flipping hate hanging drywall). I covered the rest of the shop wall myself with oriented strand board (OSB) that I painted white. Then I trimmed out all the windows and doors myself and painted everything.
The other big change is that I got id of a lot of tools that I don’t use anymore (which helped fund my shop improvements). I got rid of my compound miter saw because I use a manual miter box for a lot of cuts. I got rid of my router table because I use moulding planes a lot more now. And I got rid of a ton of hand tools that I bought over the years to review for the magazine or the blog.
The result is that my shop is a much nicer place to work. The wooden floor is easy on my feet and back. The white walls reflect lots of available light. And the extra space I now have makes it easier to do just about everything.
The only downside to the project is that I’ve been spending a lot more time down there during nights and weekends, so I won’t be winning any fatherhood or husbanding awards this year.
— Christopher Schwarz
Workshop Books I Recommend
• “The Workshop Book” (Tauton) by Scott Landis. Still the best one available.
• “Small Woodworking Shops: The Best of Fine Woodworking” (Taunton) A good compilation of articles from Fine Woodworking that focuses on the smaller shop.
• “Workshop Idea Book” by Andy Rae. A nice little book with a ton of good ideas for laying out your shop and improving it.