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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.

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 40 comments
  • josh9906

    nice job chris ! feels great when you make progress!!

  • skirincich

    I love the idea of using OSB instead of sheetrock for the walls. What thickness do you recommend? Thanks.



    Great video. I remember watching a interview with Marc Spag where you showed your shop. Great to see it coming along.

  • Rick Hengehold

    Love the shop. Wondering where you assemble projects? Norm’s has assembly tables every where you look in his shop. 🙂


  • Mike O'Brien

    Chris, Thanks for the tour, I know you will enjoy your new shop greatly.
    One concern I have is that your furnace is in the same room. If it is a gas or oil type that requires an open pilot light or piezo electric spark igniter, I would be concerned about ambient dust in the air when powered saws etc were used. Even with a good dust collector, efficiency is not 100% and some dust will escape into the air.
    Just a concern I have for your safety, and if you have solved this issue if, indeed, there is one.
    Best wishes, Mike O’Brien, Valley Head,AL

  • Chase


    I’m a young, penny-poor carpenter and aspiring woodworker form Lexington, Ky. I’ve been reading popular woodworking since i seriously got into the craft (not long at all) and was first drawn in by the roubou workbench; something i still dream of making for myself one day. I mostly tinker alone in my surprisingly large garage in Versaillles, Ky and make do with the tools i have and can afford. I started working wood with rough capentry tools and slowly made my way into the warm and inviting world hand tools (just got my first router plane, an old Stanley No. 71, but it only has one, handwelded, 1/2 straight blade…) and real craftsmanship.
    Anyway, the reason I’m writing this today is to ask you, Mr. Schwarz, if you still live in the Lexington area. I read the first sentence accompaning this video and was suprised to learn that you once lived the the town of my birth! I don’t know many woodworkers outside of the staff at woodcraft and even then most are only as advanced as I, or so caught up in power tools they have more Kreg jigs than dovetial saws.
    If you are willing, please send me an email@ I am always looking for a little sage advice. I know there’s plenty out there but I can scant afford lumber for projects let alone expensive weekend tutorials; also, i work most weekends and am free most weekdays.
    Thanks for your time and for reading this very long post if, in fact, you do.

  • Jason

    Wow, it looks too nice of a shop now to get it dirty! What a contrast compared to my unfinished 2 car garage, shared with 2 cars. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Chris,

    This is Navy vet who emailed you several weeks ago about needing help in setting up a woodworking shop. Thanks for the additional help in your video…I’m envious…that’s what I’m shooting for more than anything is a man "woodworking" cave. As you said, shops are as different and varied as our spouses.

    In the process of prioritizing what needs to be done, looks like gutting the space is first and then electrical, then need a nice workbench…thanks for the video. See you later.


  • Christopher Schwarz

    As to finishing, I spray solvent-based lacquer outside (with a respirator — nasty stuff). Inside, I use a homemade wipe-on oil/varnish/low-odor mineral spirits blend.


  • Christopher Schwarz


    My tool cabinet is still hanging on the wall in the shop at work.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    The water-base poly was on the recommendation of the flooring guy.

    1. Lower odor. There was no smell.

    2. The water-base has a real grippiness with one coat. He’s right.

    3. It was dry and ready to work on in four hours.

  • What level of finishing (using solvents) do you do in the shop, since I saw your shop resembles mine with a funace in it?

  • Dan Miller

    Thanks for the tour.

    What happened to the Amazingly cool A&C spaulded tool cabinet?


  • John

    Thanks for sharing though I’ll have to admit to a bit of envy- I share part of an unfinished, unheated garage and it’s -8 as I type. Love the wood floor; metal hip and knees and concrete don’t go together so well. I was curious if you had considered Waterlox for the floor finish and if so, why the water poly preference?

  • John

    Very nice. I have a dedicated shop that needs a floor and your idea of one coat of finish is great as I was wondering what to do about that.

    I left the ceiling studs open so I can hang things and also storage for some long stips and other things long. If I sell the house I will sheetrock the ceiling.

    Use it in good health and if you want I have a couple of aftermarket guards including an over head guard with a vacuum attachment that I am not using anymore – if you want them let me know and I will send them out to you.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    We have a Oneway lathe here at work. So I’ve never felt the urge to buy a lathe at home….



    Love the wooden floor! I can only imagine how nice that feels to work on. However, the addition of the windows has to be what I most envious of. I’d have to do major renovations to my garage to pull off that.

    You know what surprised me the most? No LATHE! Then again, hand tools are enough of a slippery slope. You don’t need another!

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I’ve taken the tool rack down a few times (it’s just four screws). It really doesn’t make that big a difference to me.

    But then my opthamologist says I’m legally blind without my glasses.


  • Thanks for the tour, always nice to see what others have done with their work space. One question if I may. I noticed in your basement shop, as well as the magazine shop, you have a tendency to block a good deal of light coming in the window. Putting a tool rack there, is a handy place to have it, allowing convenient access to your tools, much more so than in a tool chest. Blocking the incoming light however, seems to defeat the reason for the window and the expense of installing a window.
    Am I missing something here?


  • Nice looking transformation…. pleasant surroundings make all the difference. On another note, what’s the white stuff on the plane outside your shop? We don’t get much of that down south.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    No worries. It has an easy life in our photo studio for DVDs and the like.

  • Chris

    What happened to Grandpa’s workbench?!? Please say it didn’t end up in the heap …

  • Miter Saw Reviews

    Nice! Thank you for showing us your work space. It’s beautiful!

  • Kevin Brown

    I for one would like to be trained in this strange art of "mess-less woodworking" that you seem to practice… if I’m in the middle of any project, there always shavings, sawdust, bits of scrap, un-finished parts lying all over the place… yet your shop is spotless in every photo. Show me the secret!

  • John Burton

    Chris, Nice shop! If the sliding table for the table saw is not the best one, so you have a preference for another brand?

  • @Michael Brady

    I shouldn’t have been so specific about the dust question. I guess it’s a concern for both the makeup air and the cold air return. My furnace is a high efficiency unit as well, but I have a cold air return duct located in the basement. Seeing the basic dust collectors in use, as compared to a two stage cyclone with a canister filter, gives me some comfort and keeps me from spending money. Is this the first time someone said Chris kept them from spending money?

  • Wow! Congratulations, Chris. It’s beautiful.

  • Michael Brady

    To the poster who asked about the furnace in the shop, it appears that the furnace might be a high efficiency model that draws its cumbustion air from the outside using PVC piping. That is also known as a sealed cumbustion furnace, so the shop air will not mix with the air required by the furnace. You still have to check the filters more often as sawduct can migrate from the work area via the return air ducts.

  • Anthony

    I think you need to write a blog entry, or maybe a magazine article regarding how you manage to get away with spending nights and weekends in your shop, and not with your wife and kids. That would be a pretty useful entry under "Required Reading".

  • Christopher Schwarz

    As to dust getting into the furnace, I honestly have not had a problem. In the 10 years I’ve been in this hop I’ve only power sanded a couple projects. When I did that, I used good dust collection.

    I change the furnace filter quarterly and it is no dirtier than the filter from the other part of the house.

    So hand tools save the day here.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    The room is 15’ x 25’. The furnace and cold air return take up about 25 square feet. So I have about 350 square feet of shop space.

  • Marc Spagnuolo

    Amazing transformation Chris! Nice and bright now! I hope you don’t mind me posting a link to our interview we did with you a couple years ago. About half way through you give us a quick tour of your old shop. MIght be cool for some folks to see the old shop just to get an appreciation for how much was done.

  • Steve

    Looks good. What is the overall floor area (excluding the furnace)?

  • Great Shop! Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to hearing more about that tool chest. You and your family have a Merry Christmas.

  • Christopher Lindsay

    Thanks for the tour! I recently expanded my shop (creating a dedicated handtool room) and laying a hardwood floor in a similar fashion — it made a huge difference. The best part, as you say, is that I was able to take over a bank of north facing windows. I never leave the place now.

  • Hi Chris,
    My workshop shares space with a furnace as well. Did you have any concerns with wood dust getting into the furnace make-up air? I’m debating whether I need to partition the furnace off from the rest of the workshop. Is it mitigated by you mostly working with handtools these days? Can’t wait for some commentary on the tool chest! Or better yet, a feature in the magazine.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Pretty much all the concrete and cinderblock was covered in plastic sheeting before getting covered with the subfloor and beadboard. Nothing fancy, but then, I didn’t have much of a moisture problem to begin with.


    Hi Chris- What did you use in the way of vapor barrier- if any- is between the concrete floor and OSB subfloor? Thanks for the tour- great shop!

  • Thanks for the tour!
    Matt V. recently also invited us into his shop for a tour.
    Always interesting and motivating to see others places of
    work, relaxation and inspiration.
    Love the bird house! (-;

  • Lloyd Parker


    Thanks for showing us your shop upgrades. The floor is beautiful and it answers a question for me of what to do with my shop floor. I understand your reticence to part with the Powermatic mortiser. As great as hand tools are I turn to the Jet version of your mortiser when I have a lot of mortises to cut.



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