5 Ways to Do Projects When You Don’t Have a Full-Fledged Workshop

DIYers don't need their own garages or dedicated workshops to tackle ambitious projects. With just a few essential tools, you can make the space you have work for you.

By Anna Castelaz | Published Feb 25, 2022 3:27 PM

5 Ways to Do Projects Without Your Own Full-Fledged Workshop

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When we are first learning how to fix and build things for ourselves, few of us have a fully stocked workshop up and running—or a space that can be set aside exclusively for the purpose. It’s no easy feat to find space for a workshop, or the budget to set it up with upgrades like a table saw, planer, or pillar drill. A lack of a dedicated work space needn’t stop you from building a range of interesting and useful projects at home, though. As long as you have a few essential tools, DIYers without a garage or workshop can still tackle some impressive woodworking and carpentry projects.

SUPPLIES

None of these tools need be expensive, but if you plan on tackling numerous projects we recommend investing in the best quality tools you can afford. For safety, you will also want some form of eye protection. Dust masks are also a good idea.

Work on a stable surface.

Working on the floor is usually impractical and potentially dangerous, not to mention uncomfortable. When you don’t have a workshop, a makeshift workbench is something of a necessity.

Many DIYers start out on the kitchen table, which is fine if damage can be avoided. It’s not unusual for those new to DIY to saw through their timber and into the tabletop! You can also rest lumber between two sturdy chairs if necessary, but it’s not ideal. If you have a garden table, using that may be a better idea, and it’s good to work outdoors where possible so you don’t make a mess inside.

Investing in a portable workbench is another solution. There are some very affordable models around, and they are always useful. The other option is to build a workbench, and there are some great starter plans available. This folding workbench is easy to build, and folds down to just 7 inches wide when not in use.

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Choose the right projects for your space.

5 Ways to Do Projects Without Your Own Full-Fledged Workshop

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Grand plans to build a dining table and six chairs might need to wait a while. There probably isn’t space for all the lumber, or each of the components, or the tabletop while the glue sets, etc.

For DIYers itching to outfit their homes with handmade wood furniture, however, there are hundreds of more manageable project plans to take on, from fashioning shoe racks and step stools to building storage shelves. These items are straightforward to make, attractive, and useful for those who live in small spaces.

Buy dimensioned lumber and plywood.

Without a workshop, it can be very difficult to bring lumber down to the required thickness. Using a hand-held planer is a possibility, but it takes a while to learn how to use one properly. Powered models are also noisy, and create quite a mess.

Dimensioned lumber (which can be anywhere from 1×2 to 2×10) can be bought pre-planed from a number of DIY stores. So can plywood, which comes in a variety of thicknesses, has smooth surfaces, and is easy to stain or paint.

There are quite literally thousands of woodworking projects that can be made with these materials, from decorative lamps to garden benches, and all within the abilities of the novice woodworker.

Let the store cut your wood down to size.

5 Ways to Do Projects Without Your Own Full-Fledged Workshop

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One potential challenge with both dimensioned lumber and plywood is the uncut size. Boards are typically 8 feet long; plywood sheets are 4 feet by 8 feet. That’s too big to fit in many vehicles, and may also be challenging to get indoors.

The good news is that many hardware stores and lumber suppliers will cut wood down to size for you. Sometimes there’s an additional charge per cut, but oftentimes the service is free. It’s possible you could take them the cut list from your plan, and have them prepare the whole thing. It’s worth shopping around to see who offers the best service.

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Consider pastimes and projects that don’t take up much space.

There are some crafts that can be accommodated in even the smallest homes.

  • Pyrography—or wood burning—is a way to create beautiful artwork on almost any piece of wood, or to decorate store-bought chopping boards or wooden platters.
  • Whittling and wood carving can produce stunning sculptural pieces, and can be started with just a single knife.
  • Scrollsawing can produce a wide variety of decorative items from unique jigsaw puzzles to birdhouses.

Not only can these be absorbing hobbies, but they are also quiet enough not to disturb the neighbors.