New Shop? Where to Start?

Article - December 26, 2007

This week’s question comes from Eric. He writes:

I finally have a two car attached garage that I’ve talked my wife into letting me keep as a workshop only. The trouble is, I watch all the woodworking programs and shows, and I don’t what to do first. Like most people my age (29), I haven’t got an extensive budget. First, how do I get started? I have a router, compound miter saw, lots of hand tools, clamps, compressor, nail guns, skill saws, a jig saw and a Dremmel. What’s the next major tool to buy? How do I arrange my garage? I’d like to maximize the space with areas to keep stock and a little bit of yard storage too (no sheds with my HOA). I haven’t found a functional plan that works for me yet. Any ideas? Lastly, will you send me a list of a novice’s guide to starting a working shop out of a two car garage? I was quite impressed with your shop and aspire to have one of my own one day.

And here was my reply:
Hey Eric. Congrats on the garage. From your list of tools, it sounds like you have everything needed for a small weekender shop. But if you plan to get serious, there are 3 major tools that you will eventually need. The tablesaw, the planer, and the jointer (in that order). How soon you need them is up to you. My suggestion is start building projects. As soon as you hit a wall because you don’t have a particular piece of a equipment, that’s how you know what you next purchase will be. Lots of people buy pre-dimensioned lumber and cut their sheetgoods with a circular saw. So its certainly possible to survive without the big set of tools. As far as arrangement, the best thing to do is look at other people’s shops. The best place to do that is right here on our site: Shop Tours. You should also check out our sister site, NewToWoodworking.com where we have a special article on Setting up Shop.

Just remember that a shop is always being rearranged. I have yet to find the “perfect” setup. Check out this article I wrote on the topic. And you might find some helpful info here as well: Fine Woodworking Article”

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