Starting Your First Woodworking Shop
Woodworking as a hobby can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever enjoy.
You can get started on a shoestring with a minimal amount of tools and equipment. A small home
workshop can produce a wide array of simple projects that will help you develop your creative
and building skills while rewarding you with practical and artistic wood products that you
can enjoy and even give away to friends and family.
Wherer to Do Your Woodworking
Before we get into the equipment you should start with, let's talk about where you'll
do your woodworking. Depending on the size of your home, you may be able to create a dedicated
space to your woodworking activities. This might be a reserved spot in your garage or in your
basement. In some cases, a detached shed or outbuilding may be ideal to set up your first shop.
A heated shop detached from your home offers one distinct advantage: better dust control. Without
sophisticated dust control systems, basement workshops will inevitably produce dust that travels
into the living area of your home. This is particularly true in homes with forced air heating
systems where cold air returns located in the basement draw up dust into the upper levels of the house.
Another advantage of detached workshops is of course the noise level. You can work
without disturbing the rest of the family. A good compromise might be the garage of your home.
This can help minimize the problems of dust and noise, however depending on where you live,
a garage workshop may not be practical during extremes of cold or hot weather.
Your Woodworking Setup
Space is always a challenge for the woodworker. Regardless of where you are in your development,
everyone from beginner to expert all wish they add more space to work in. If you can have a
dedicated spot for a workshop all the better. Floor tools and bench top equipment can remain
in place from project to project.
If this setup is not impossible, at least try to create a bench area where equipment can be
stored and pulled out as needed. If possible plan for inevitable expansion as you acquire more
tools and equipment. At the start, set up a bench area where you can store and use most of your
equipment, with temporary expansion of your activities onto the garage or basement floor.
A rudimentary workbench can be constructed from inexpensive spruce lumber ideally at
least 48 to 54 inches wide and 32 inches deep. The bench should be about waist height. That
will enable you to work comfortably while standing. Add a sturdy shelf below the bench to house
your hand power tools and a pegboard above the bench to hang other equipment. Install a wood
working vice at one end of your bench on the front to hold small work pieces.
Acquiring Your Equipment
The scope of your start-up equipment will be largely based on your budget. Whether you've
got large financial resources or you're starting on a shoestring always buy quality equipment.
If you can afford it, purchase your quality tools at your local building and hardware center.
If your budget is tight buy quality used tools from others through Kijiji or other local ads.
There is an abundance of quality lightly used tools out there that belong to individuals who
embarked on that one molding project around the house or received tools as gifts that they
will never use. You can usually purchase tools for these sellers for less than half the original
price and save even more money if you make a package deal for all their unused equipment.
Of course, acquiring tools from private individuals will take extra time and perhaps travel expenses.
Weigh out the benefits of traveling across town to save a few extra dollars on a cheap piece
of equipment. The extra cost of time and travel in these situations is usually justified when
purchasing large ticket items such as table saws, bandsaws or high ended tools like surface
planers in the future.
For smaller acquisitions, a trip to your building center may be the best approach.