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- The Ideal Workshop Layout
The Ideal Workshop Layout
- Photo: startwoodworking.com
Tabletop versus Freestanding Tools. When purchasing some power tools (the list includes the jointer, shaper, sander, and even some models of table and band saw), you may decide to opt for benchtop models. A single bench can then serve, alternately, a range of purposes. Make- ready time is increased significantly, of course, as not only the blades, fences, miter gauges, and the rest must be set but the machine itself has to be positioned and powered. But for the small shop, the infrequently used tool may be quite easily stowed on a shelf out of the way, opening up more space for other tasks.
Partitions. If you are planning to introduce your workshop into an existing space in your house, you may find it necessary to construct a partition to separate the dust and dirt of the workshop from, say, the laundry room with which it is to share the cellar. Or, for safety reasons, from the children's play area.
Within the workshop itself, you may deem it necessary to subdivide the space for a painting and finishing area.
Natural Light. Natural light is best, so any windows that offer illumination to the space should be put to good use. If you have little sunlight in your shop, locate your workbench so that its work surface gets whatever there is. Even the best eyesight is made better by good light, so the close work to be done on a benchtop benefits from the natural light.
Another thing about windows: As we have learned in our workshop, they can make a small shop seem bigger than it is when long workpieces being ripped or planed begin with one end out one window (or door), are run through the machine, and extend out another window.
Artificial Illumination. The same rules apply: Good light is essential, and if it isn't natural light, it will have to be artificial. Don't put your safety at risk by working in poorly lit or shadowed areas: If you can't see what you're cutting or shaping, you just might cut or gash yourself.
Plumbing. You don't need plumbing, you say? Then what about washing up not only paintbrushes but yourself after a particularly dirty job? A utility sink is a very handy convenience to have near at hand.
Temperature and Moisture Control. If your workshop is to be located in a portion of your house that is already comfortably warm, this will not be an issue. But if you're converting a barn or shed or an unheated space, especially if you live in a climate where winter temperatures make for cold hands, you'll need to devise a heating strategy. In some climates, air conditioning is a virtual necessity in hot weather.
Is your cellar damp? If so, you may have to correct that problem before installing your tools and lumber supplies. Insulate pipes to prevent condensation. Make sure your gutters outside keep rainwater running away from the house. Cracks in the cement floor or walls should be filled with hydraulic cement; a high water table may necessitate a sump pump to collect water at a low point and pump it out. Any or all of these circumstances may also require a dehumidifier. In any case, dampness is unacceptable where power tools are to be used because of the risk of electric shock.
Egress. A door that leads directly outside is best (avoiding corners and hallways); a double-wide door is better still. The closer the door is to the outside world, the less stuff to be tracked in from without.
Electricity. It's a rare workshop today that doesn't need electricity; most need multiple receptacles of high amperage (20 amperes or more). Are there plugs available or will you need to add new lines and circuits? If you need to add wiring, when laying it out keep in mind that there's no such thing as too many outlets in a workshop. The fewer (as in, ideally, zero) extension cords the better; they're safety hazards. A good minimum is to have receptacles set at no more than six-foot intervals around the perimeter of the room, and, if possible, flush-mounted floor plugs in the central area.
If a poured cement floor prohibits the installation of plug receptacles flush to the floor and you elect to surface-mount a plug, protect the exposed feed wire. A piece of one-by-four stock with a groove cut in its underside and its top edges chamfered, will pose little more tripping risk than a threshold. However, paint its protective covering a bright color to remind you and any other visitors to your shop of its presence.
A receptacle or circuit that is overloaded is a hazard, in particular one fused beyond its limits. Power tools, especially heavy-duty saws, require lots of amperage, and you may need to add a circuit or two to serve the increased demand in your workshop space. Some tools require 220-volt service, so you may want to install a special plug and line to power that high-powered table saw.
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