Workshop setup?

I’ve collected a very small amount of equipment that needs to be mounted to tables. So far, I have a vice, bench grinder, and small drill press. I expect I’ll add more to the collection, although the only tool I can imagine currently is a belt sander. If I ever get a lathe, it’ll have a fully dedicated table of its own.

So, does anyone have suggestions for setting these tools up in ways that maximize their usefulness? At a minimum, I’m pretty sure that I want to have sufficient clearance to deal with long work pieces.

For context? Aside from auto-specific and large tools, think 1/2’ socket sets, chainsaw, big hammers, etc, I’m moving most of my tools and capability to the basement. I have more space down here and I like the idea of the garage being dedicated to automotive / tractor work and as working space for large projects.

Side note, I’ve replaced all small-engine equipment (push mower, weed trimmer, and chain saw) with battery powered tools. I have absolutely no regrets with the push mower or trimmer. The only down-side I’ve found with the chain saw is that it seems to be good only for cutting a single large tree into campfire-sized logs before it’s requires an hour or two too cool. It wouldn’t surprise me if newer models improve on this. While they are more expensive than similarly capable engine powered tools, the reliability and ease of maintenance is astounding. I don’t expect it to be cheap, but I’m definitely interested in the battery powered zero-turn mower that EGO has been teasing on their website.

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After cutting a tree into firewood, I’m pretty sure I’d want an hour or two to myself anyway!

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My only suggestion for the shop is strong wheels on everything. I used to be against wheels. With wheels you do not have to worry about shop setup at all. If you do it wrong just move it. I work with metal and wood, separately. So my shop changes depending on what I am doing. I roll everything into a corner and wheel it out when needed. I guess having one solid table with the vice on it would be nice, my vice is out back covered on a sturdy table.

The battery powered yard stuff…the best! I got lucky my county had a deal, turn in your gas mower and they give a heavy discount on battery or electric. I was given a old POS mower that barely worked with a juice bottle lid for a gas cap! I turned that puppy in and I got the ego set. Freaking love it!!! That one battery easily handles my front and back yard, cut, trim, blow. Best of all, way less noise.

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I’ve taken after Gramps and Dad, took my course wheel off the grinder and replaced it with a wire wheel. And put the vise on a corner.

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I don’t know if it is something useful for your shop, but in my shop I’m planning on converting a few of the tools to be hide-a-away. The bench belt sander and grinder are the primary candidates. I’ve seen a variety of hide-a-way designs over the years, and it seems like a good way to centralize tools while freeing up bench space. One random example:

I like to think in terms of accessibility. If I can see a tool or walk up and use it, then I will. If I have to open a drawer, I’m less likely. If O have to set up a sawhorse, less likely. If I have to clear off a table to use it, I will convince myself another tool will work better :).

If you have space, wheels are awesome, especially if you “suffer from” analysis paralysis or decision fatigue. If you have a small space, wheels can end up making you need to move a tool each time you use it. I started my small shop with tools packed like tetris blocks and it would look like a transformer whenever I needed to set up a tool. Now, I can walk up and use my table saw and my drill press without moving anything. I use the TS instead of a miter saw for cross cuts. I can get some projects done in minutes.

I’ll have to give wheeled carts/workbenches some thought. I’ve never had a drill press, but I got one after struggling with making squared holes by hand. I could see it being helpful to have the ability to pull it away from the wall to say, put a hole in the middle of a long 2x4.

I currently have a lot of space available in the basement, but it’s steadily being utilized for various purposes. I need to stake my claim before it’s all gone!

In general, I like the idea of a large central workbench and having equipment that can be pulled out if necessary. I don’t expect to do anything of a production nature with this equipment, so an efficient workflow isn’t terribly important.

I could see having a grinder and belt sander setup in some way that they could be pulled out when needed. Best bet is to not be too efficient. If I cram all my stuff into a small area and make it work, my odds of justifying a dedicated shop building to the wife will be near nil.

I suggest thinking of matching table heights so you can use one as a support for another.

And wheels are great, but make sure things are solid and safe when working on a surface.


Yea, like Tom said, try to keep all your benches the same height. Or at least pair them up. My table saw and lowrider table are the same height, I use the lowrider table as an offcut table for the saw. The other wall has my drill press, a workbench and then a radial arm saw all the same height.


Might not work for everyone, but wifey and I don’t make any compromises. Started off really early in the relationship, because compromise looks like this : she wants to watch a love story, i want to watch an action flick, so we compromise on an upbeat comedy. Basically, nobody is “happy” and we get to be disappointed together. Not my idea of a great relationship, basking in misery, lol.
We go with trades or concessions. Sometimes she still doesn’t feel comfortable getting 100% of what she wants (lucky me) but it looks more like this: I get the garage (subject to the restriction of making sure she can park in it every night) and she gets control over pretty much every other room in the house, lol. I used to get the kitchen but I don’t care so much anymore. I mean, do I really care what color paint is going up or what gets hung on the wall? Does it bother me if she wants to pack stuff into a closet? She’s has an office and a craft space…do I need to go in either room? Nope, nope, nope.
I’m a lot happier guy knowing what my priorities are AND knowing that wifey wants me to have them AND knowing that she’s happy with getting full control of the things she wants without having to negotiate every little thing.

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If you’re sharing the space, dust collection is going to be big. Not just “chip” collection that grabs the macro sawdust at the machine. You also need micro dust collection that gets the invisible stuff that ends up coating everything in the room (and your lungs).
Consider an “air scrubber” that can run independent of any particular power tool, and that can be set on a timer to run for a couple of hours after the shop work is complete.

This will also have a positive effect on your finishing work, assuming you can’t afford a “clean” shop" and a “dirty shop” configuration.

Closed bins or cabinets also go a long way to keeping the dust off/out of places where it isn’t wanted.

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This is outstanding. I was thinking about dust much in the way I think about it in the garage - mainly that while I care enough to vacuum/blow out the dust, it isn’t a big deal if it’s dust in there. In the basement, it is definitely something I need to manage. I’ll have to think on that. Lots of ways. Best for me is probably an enclosure for the cnc. For any significant cutting on the miter or table saw, my best bet is to roll them outside.

I’m anticipating a year mobilization with my army reserve unit. I’m thinking this might best be a project that I take on when I come back. I’ll enjoy planning it while I’m away. In the mean time, I can make do and finish up the cnc and printer projects that are ongoing.

As for my wife, she’s pretty hands-off with the basement, aside from storing things and exercising down there. I let her know what I’m doing, how I’m funding it (side business) and ask for her input. The garage is my responsibility, but I get require buy-in on significant changes in there. The rest of the house and yard are hers. Trees, shed, vehicles, tractor, generator, etc are mine. Nicely though, her tolerance for grass height is about three inches shorter than mine, so I don’t tend mow more than twice a year while she’s out of town.

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When planning the enclosure, assuming you’re going to suck the dust out with a vacuum device while the cut is running, make sure there’s a way for enough air to get in.