Last Updated on 2022-03-09 by Harry Masterton
How To Set Up A Woodworking Shop In A Small Space. The ultimate small shop guide for DIY, hobby and small business woodworking to save you $1000's
As woodworkers, we dream of having a large workshop with floor space for all the full-sized power tools on our wish list. Some get the opportunity to fulfill those dreams, but others need to make a hobby area in a shared space or small room work for our needs. I needed to learn how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space and want to pass on some things to you.
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- 1 How To Set Up A Woodworking Shop In A Small Space
- 1.1 Making a Home for Your Wood and Project Hardware
- 1.2 How to Design a Small Woodworking Shop
- 1.3 How Much Space Do You Need for a Home Workshop?
- 1.4 How Much Space Do You Need for a Small Home Workshop, at the Minimum?
- 1.5 How Much Space Do You Need for a Small Home Workshop, Ideally?
- 1.6 How to Build a Small Woodshop
- 1.7 Sliding Tool Wall for Your Small Woodworking Shop Setup
- 1.8 Space Saving in a Small Woodworking Shop: Vertical Pantry Drawers
- 1.9 Small Woodworking Shop Ideas: Portable Workbench
- 1.10 Small Woodworking Shop Setup: Folding Racks
- 1.11 Ultimate Small Shop
How To Set Up A Woodworking Shop In A Small Space
What do you need a woodworking shop for in the first place?
- Tool storage;
- Material storage;
- Assembly area.
Wall Mounted Tool Storage from woodsmithplans.com
Your Tools Need a Home
A home for your hand and power tools requires more than a closet or space under the stairs. It needs to protect your equipment and accessories when not in use. Another consideration is the benefits of organization, and a small shop provides that without having to rummage through stacks of containers to find an item.
Minimal floor space is not ideal for full-sized shop equipment, but manufacturers have created several “benchtop” and compact designs that perform a needed task in a smaller area.
Making a Home for Your Wood and Project Hardware
One advantage to learning how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space is it allows you to hold onto more building materials. Novice woodworkers might not appreciate usable storage space, but they will learn to as their collections of lumber, metal, fabrics, and assembly hardware grow.
Your workshop's space will limit the dimensions of the lumber that you store. You can still hold enough materials for a handful of small and medium-sized projects in a small shop.
Room for Your Bench and Power Tool Stands
Most hobbyists learn how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space so they can cut, drill, and shape with their tools. Providing enough area improves the quality of your work, the speed you do it at, and the overall safety in your shop.
You may have to wait for nice weather to build and assemble large pieces, but a shared hobby room or a corner of the garage will work adequately for many woodworking projects.
Space for Assembly
Remember, you will need extra space for glue-ups to dry and finishes to cure. Partially assembled projects will need space as you prepare other components as well.
How to Design a Small Woodworking Shop
So, you have a room (or part of one) set aside, and now you want to learn how to design a small woodworking shop within it. You could “wing it” as you go, but I recommend taking the time to think about the layout. Your shop will change as your woodworking interests develop and grow, but the planning ahead will save you time and require fewer changes.
Two things stand out to me as you figure out how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space:
- How much total area: Not just square feet of floor space. How much vertical space do you have, and is there potential storage space overhead;
- What will you want to build: While most beginner projects are small, do you have plans for medium or large-sized items down the road? You may need to plan for another room or be more realistic about the size of projects you can make.
Once you grasp these, you know how to design a small woodworking shop around them. Measure the available floor space as well as the height. Note existing obstacles like registers, windows, and overhead ductwork or pipes. That gives you a basic idea of the room you have for storage and space for working.
There are some general guidelines I would recommend as you learn how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space, including:
- How much lighting will you need: Where is existing lighting, and will it be sufficient for working? Do you need to add fixtures, lamps, or better bulbs? Are there windows, and if there are, you need to determine how to use them effectively;
- What type of dust collection will you need: No matter where you set up shop, you will need a way to gather dust and larger debris. Will you use a shop dust collection system, shop vac, or air filtration?
- Where will wood storage go: Do you have room for wall storage or a rolling cart? I find overhead storage in small shops an effective way to save space for work and assembly areas;
- Is there room for tool storage near stations: Keeping tools near the workstation you use them at saves time and effort. I find this helps with my workflow.
How Much Space Do You Need for a Home Workshop?
You might find it hard to know how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space if you are unsure how small you can go. What is a good size for a woodworking shop? When it comes to small spaces, there are two sizes I think are worth discussing:
- What is the minimum space you need;
- How much space provides a good workspace.
How Much Space Do You Need for a Small Home Workshop, at the Minimum?
So, what is a good size for a woodworking shop in small spaces? I think you need at least 7×10 feet of floor space. While limiting, that would allow you to:
- 75 square feet includes most rooms: You can convert a small room, half of a one-car garage or storage shed into a workspace of this size;
- Room for small and medium-sized projects: I find many beginners and intermediate woodshop projects small enough to build in a room of 7×10 feet. You could even make larger components and then assemble them in another area;
- No room to grow: It will be hard to futureproof a small work area like this. You will be limited to hand tools and portable power tool designs.
How Much Space Do You Need for a Small Home Workshop, Ideally?
What is a good size for a woodworking shop if you have more options? With an 11×11 foot floor space, you could gain more than wood storage space. The extra square footage would:
- Increasing to 125 square feet provides a better atmosphere: With that extra room, you can add better dust control, lighting, and one or two full-sized power tools;
- You have room for more projects: The extra space lets you work on bigger pieces. Use it to build more than one sub-assembly or project at a time. You also have more room to expand and grow with your hobby;
- Do not let the space frustrate you: 125 square feet is between a minimum shop size and a spacious woodworking area. The extra room might tempt you to invest in power tools that take up room but get used less frequently. Small shop spaces force you to use every inch of the room efficiently.
How to Build a Small Woodshop
Starting in a small woodshop myself, I learned how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space by trial and error. Luckily for you, the internet offers other woodworkers a chance to show how they created their workspace. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of information out there can leave you more confused about building your own.
It would be impossible for me to tell you how to build a small woodshop for your particular location. Instead, let me share with you some design ideas that I think would work well in a shop of almost any size:
- Stick with a shop vac or dust collection with a single port: Most small woodworking spaces will not have room for an elaborate dust collection system. I would suggest a shop vac with adaptors that will let it fit snuggly on your power tools.
- If you insist on buying or building a shop system for collecting dust, use one or two ports at maximum. Locate them at a workstation where you set up your power tools or at your sanding area;
- Locate your main workbench surface where the light is: Select a window for your benchtop or pick a location where overhead lighting is the best. You can install a fixture if needed or add mobile lighting.
- Many power tools come with LED lights but do not depend on these. Those are intended for low-light situations and not as shop lighting
- Use above-head storage: If you are learning how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space, make use of the area above your tables. Create hangers to hold long pieces of lumber or broken-down sheet goods. In short sections, add bins for hardware or shelves for tools, batteries, and finishing products.
- Keep shelving or hangers away from above-head fixtures and windows, so they do not block light;
- Consider a flip table: It lets you connect two power tools to a work surface, with a rotating hinge design that places one power tool beneath the other. The top power tool can is ready while the other sits below it, out of the way.
I wish I had read about this when learning how to build a small woodshop. The only downside is the support surface is not as stable as a solid tabletop.
Small Woodworking Shop Ideas
When calculating how to set up a woodworking shop in a small space, you need to be clever with organization and storage ideas for your small woodworking shop setup. Some ideas fit well with a small woodworking shop, and others work better with more room.
These are a few small woodworking shop ideas that can keep you working instead of digging for your tools:
- Sliding tool walls;
- Vertical pantry drawers;
- Portable workbench;
- Folding racks.
Sliding Tool Wall for Your Small Woodworking Shop Setup
Shelves on the walls of your small shop is a given. You can add extra storage with a pegboard hanging on rollers in front of the shelves. That provides a place to hang hand tools you use often and acts as a door on open shelves.
- Combines pegboard and shelving;
- Slides sideways instead of opening outwards;
- Needs room to the side.
Space Saving in a Small Woodworking Shop: Vertical Pantry Drawers
A cabinet with vertical storage for bits and other small items improves organization and workflow. It also helps you from losing parts. Adding hinged inserts will increase your vertical storage capacity, allowing you to hang an extra couple of layers worth of items.
- Stores long hand tools vertically;
- Can store on front and back of each section;
- Not good for bulky items.
Small Woodworking Shop Ideas: Portable Workbench
Many woodworkers think of portable workbenches for outdoor projects. They also make a good work surface in tight spaces, like a small woodshop. You can fold it and move it out of the way when you need to set up a power tool stand and store it away when the day is over.
- Allows you to work anywhere;
- Folds up for easy storage;
- Does not provide a lot of bench space.
See Our In-depth Review of Keter Workbenches
Small Woodworking Shop Setup: Folding Racks
You can create shelving for your small woodworking shop and build a fun project. You can craft a collapsible “X” mid-section between two ends. Add support arms to create shelves for drying or temporary storage.
- Shelfs are mobile;
- Can break down for more room;
- Not as sturdy as permanent shelving.
Ultimate Small Shop
If you really want to go in-depth and make sure that you get things right first time then you may want to consider the Ultimate Small Shop Guide. If you are a beginner woodworker or you're maybe thinking of starting a woodworking business and need the perfect shop layout per square foot for your woodworking workshop then this outstanding small workshop guide will help.
This complete shop guide will enable you to maximize your shop space. An ideal woodworking space should incorporate lumber storage, a woodworking tool storage unit, and space for essentials like your miter saw, table saw and maybe even a drill press.
The Ultimate Small Shop Guide is full of ideas and shop layouts for small spaces.
Need more great small woodshop articles? See our 10 point guide to building a woodshop on a budget