The Evolution of a Shop Set-Up

by John Kaczynski

Setting up a new woodworking space can be super exciting. All the new projects you can do or possibly more space you will have in the new shop is a wonderful thought. Even just having a dedicated space that’s not shared with the other home items ( a car, yard equipment, other household items ) this is all great. But there is the harsh reality of taking on the task of a new shop which can be stressful. For me, the solution was adding a building or addition off of the back of my existing garage.

 As a little background on my adventure, I was working out of half of a two-car garage. In that space I had to house all of my woodworking tools, lumber, bikes, other tools, and of course a car, ( but parking the car never happened) Oh, I failed to add, it also had to store the projects I was building. So when the process started I needed to figure out a realistic size that is, one, acceptable to my local guidelines ( zoning codes and municipalities)  and two, that wouldn’t be a huge financial burden or eyesore to my property.

 I settled on a 16’x14’ footprint which is more than double the space I was working out of currently. Depending on how you go about this process is based on how “hands-on” you choose to be. I chose to build it myself. This was in addition to working my full-time job and having family responsibilities. This needs to be considered because it’s easy to get consumed and or even overwhelmed. If you are having it built for you, a lot of that goes away. You then jump into the part of the layout in the new space.

This is where the learning comes in. You see that when you have an open space that’s completely different from your present space, it can be hard to imagine what should go where and what works with your type of work. I did try the method of making a to-scale shop layout. You take graph paper and draw your space then measure all of your existing equipment’s footprint. Then you can make scale pieces to move around your drawing to see what may work. For me, this worked to a certain degree. I spend some time checking videos and looking at pictures of other shops and remembering the pros and cons. But I’m more of a “let me physically get into the space and feel what works” kinda guy. So when it was time to start moving things in the truth hit me. How did I cram all this stuff into that smaller space? 

The truth is that we get comfortable in the space we have. Even if it’s small, the newly added room shocks us. So I had to just roll with it for a good couple of weeks. Just being in the space helps give you a new perspective. Your workflow will definitely be different, and that’s where you start to see what you want the space to be. I can’t stress this enough, let it feel uncomfortable for a bit, make small changes along the way, move things and see what you like and what you don’t. The beautiful thing about setting up a shop is that very little, if any, needs to be in a permanent location. You have the flexibility to try new things, plan for organizing, and even build shop furniture and storage. But that’s for a separate conversation. 

So what’s the takeaway from this article? Think about your needs and a little of your wants for your new space. Think about what tools you already have and things that you will need in the near future. Meditate on what your goal for the space will be and spend some time looking at pictures and videos of other shops to get a sense of what you like and don’t like. Then move into action. It will get stressful at times but remember you’re making a space where you will be creating things you love and that in turn will bring great joy and will be totally worth it. Until next time, thanks.


JAK’z Woodcraft