Workshop Architect

I’ve been having a bit of a brainstorming session today about workshop design and layout (with myself, unfortunately – bit of a one-way conversation), and was lamenting that there isn’t such a person as a workshop design specialist, who can take all the tools and workflows, and come up with an optimum design.

What is bugging me, is even with the significantly improved floorspace, I still seem to be lacking a good workshop area – open space, perhaps (at worst) with a workbench in the middle.

As much as it is great having machines with plenty of space around them, finally being able to access those machines easily, I haven’t gotten the layout right yet.

Unlike some, at least I have access to the collective wisdom of all the readers out there, so let’s brainstorm. Ideas on the table and let’s see if we can’t work this through.

In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts.

1. The mezzanine. When finished, it is going to have a good amount of floorspace, and although limited in a number of areas, how can this space be best utilisted? Limitations include:
– access (obviously), being upstairs, and accessed by ladder
– floor load capacity. Not sure the /m2 load rating – will have to find out.
– head height
However, working around these limitations, is there any function (other than storage of items not needed on a daily basis) that can be located to the mezzanine?

2. Dust extraction. The dust extraction layout will have to be compromised to work around workshop layout, and not the other way around. However, is having the extractor on the mezzanine a good option. I’m having definite second thoughts. I put it up there to a. free up workshop floorspace b. for it to be inside the main shed, as it draws a lot of air, and if outside the main shed, that is a lot of hot (or cold) air that would be drawn into the workshop, and c. as that would make it generally central to the machines it is drawing from. On the other hand, having it in the timber store next door gives better access, better noise separation, better workshop air quality (particularly on the mezzanine).

3. Infeed and outfeed on the jointer and thicknesser. These machines are claiming a lot of the new workshop’s floor space. Both in having area around the machines to walk, but also material workflow area. Is there a better layout? Would there be a benefit in moving one (or both) to the long, narrow timber store? Especially if the dust extractor is going in there. Or is there a better way to manage their floorspace requirements? If it was an option, would replacing the two separate machines with one combo be a better solution? There are some pretty interesting alternate machines out there that could perform both functions in one footprint, and with one infeed and outfeed area.

4. Location of the router table. Would it be better up against a wall (rear edge) as I had it in the previous workshop? Should it swap position with the workbench that is near the lathes?

5. Things I like about the current layout: The lathe area. That back section of the workshop is still looking as I envisaged it. The rest though, really not sure if it is right, and how best to tweak it.

6. Storage. Still a big problem. I have a lot of things still packed in crates, waiting for their new homes to be revealed. Still unsure what a good solution will be.

7. I still really need to move some machines and tools on to new homes, such as the TS10L tablesaw, and the Torque Router Master. The list of machines and tools to move on is also growing. I have a bunch of cheap clamps (quick action, Irwin style, but much cheaper) to go, a scrollsaw, even a radial arm saw. The big ticket items need to go quickly though – need the funds to pay for some of what the workshop has cost, and they take up significant room too.

So that is the current list – any thoughts?

8 Responses

  1. I’d probably avoid having the dust extractor on the mezzanine. How would you manage a bag full of dust/shavings down a ladder? Plus don’t forget the longer the pipework the less efficient the system becomes.

    I’m having similar dramas myself having just moved house again! Thankfully the shed in this house is bigger, albeit longer/skinnier. I don’t have as much machinery as you but I also fly model planes, most of which I store fully assembled. My issue is trying to layout everything with easy access and still retain some usable floor space.

  2. I’m starting to think you need a bigger shed, Stu!

  3. A lot of shops like to group their main milling machines: table saw, jointer and thicknesser. Many I’ve seen have the jointer or thicknesser sitting along side the table saw extension table. The jointer obviously backed to it, and the thicknesser sided up. Looking at the pictures in the Weekend Summary post and the Setting Up The SawStop post, you might be able to move the SawStop a little closer to an expansion slot just to the left of it and then fit one of the other milling machines on the right of the SawStop just in front of the garage door. If you put the jointer there, you could swap the router table and the thicknesser. Or put the router table where the jointer is now freeing up the side of the shed the thicknesser is now.

    I must point out at this stage that I may well be talking out of my arse, as my shop is the bit of uneven concrete just outside the side door of my house.

  4. You need to produce a written brief to figure it all out. Think about typical items that you make and the workflow/ machines/ tools needed. Work out which items are needs and which are wants.

    This is the easiest way to test whether you are achieving what you need to with the space available. Work out which items are flexible and which need rigid areas.

    I have experience with man arts buildings in schools and not many ever use the same layout. It is all dependant on the workflow.

    If you need a hand shoot me an email as I have a lot of experience writing briefs for clients.

  5. It is a complicated question Stu. Aside from workflow, rack to machine, to machine to bench. Have you considered dust containment? ie dust free area, for assembly and finishing. The extractor won’t catch all the dust and you don’t want any in your finishes. I have the added issue of trying to keep dust away from my surface plate and metal lathe etc. sawdust = rust.

  6. Since you plan (I assume) to video segments all over your shed, consider good camera angles and support.

    On the air extractor. I like the idea of having it in another shed for noise. You might also consider ensuring you have return air and HEPA air filters (like Wynn Environmental that Bill Pentz/Clearvue uses). If sending the extractor air outside, you might consider a heat exchange unit where the incoming air and exhaust air cross in a heat exchanger (used in some homes and businesses). You could also build your own, but that would take some time.

    Just a couple of thoughts

  7. 1 Mezzanine.Keep an inventory of what you put up there and keep it up to date, saves going up looking for something that is not there .
    2 Dust extraction must be on ground level, in an outside shed, with a dust deputy inside the workshop. Dust extractor controlled from inside workshop.
    3 Have machines on mobile bases until you decide best location. All need to be kept in main workshop. Not sure about the combo machines. Machines need to be set up ready to use to get the most benefit from them.
    Definitely need a central work bench.
    4 Does the router table need access around all sides?
    Mine does and that works for me.
    6 Timber storage shed, keep an up to date inventory.

  8. Stu, I operate out of half a double garage and space is a premium. I am 6’1” tall and I have all work surfaces at 960mm tall. This includes my workbench, assembly table, table saw, bandsaw, drill press, planner…. I use the other side of the garage for in feed and out feed is across the various other pieces equipment. E.g. the drill press is behind the bandsaw. They both help each other. I got this from a post you put on your website. Dust Free Tymes Designer Wood Shop on Youtube. Check out the video (two parts). He also uses doors to help with in feed.
    The Mezzanine; I am going to go against the others. Put dust extraction and Air up there. Enclose them with a soundproof frame and put a louvered air grill in the shed wall to vent them outside. You can deal with temperature changes. Try working in a garage on a WA summers afternoon. This is better than fine airborne dust in your shed. Getting a bag of sawdust down is no big thing, at least it’s not going up. You can also use the space for those bulky templates we always end up with.
    Keep the wood shed for wood. cheers Calum

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