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Carpentry HQ, Just for You

About this Project 

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens®

You’ve taken the steps to become a bit of a carpenter with your many home improvement projects. You can be even more productive if you create a space for your tools, designs, and projects in process. You definitely need a convenient and comfortable space that will allow storage and organization.

While a full-fledged shop is nice, you don’t need to go that far if you’re just getting started in the handy-person category. Invest in tool containers and stake out a space for your tools and projects.

You can build your workshop in a basement, garage, seldom-used room, or even a closet or attic. A basement has several advantages. It's off the beaten path, so you needn't worry about disrupting family activities as you work. In most homes it's also one of the few areas with a sizable amount of unused space -- an important factor if you want to use stationary power tools. However, if your basement tends to get wet or if it will be difficult to get sheet goods into it, you may want to investigate other areas.

Once you've decided on the tools you would like to have, plan your space carefully.

Common Options

Power and lighting

Make sure there is plenty of light. Large fluorescent fixtures usually work best. Make sure the lights are positioned so you won't accidentally bump the bulbs.

Run at least one 20-amp electrical circuit with a GFCI ground-fault circuit interrupter to the shop to provide power for your heavy-duty tools. Large shops should have separate circuits for tools and lights. Position electrical outlets strategically around the workshop so power is never far away.

Carrying tools

Give yourself a way to easily carry your tools from place to place. The bucket with apron shown below has room for a drill, power cord, and other large tools in the middle and smaller tools in the pockets of the apron. You may prefer a standard tool box for smaller items.

Carpentry HQ, Just for You1
Carry tools in a bucket like this 


Constructing sawhorses

Have at least two sawhorses on hand (see illustration for a simple sawhorse design). Use these to support bulky sheet goods and lengths of lumber while you're working on them in the shop and to help you work at the job sites.

Carpentry HQ, Just for You2
Constructing sawhorses 


Cleaning and ventilation

Make it as easy as possible to keep your shop clean or have a broom, dustpan, and shop vacuum on hand. For a serious shop, buy a dust collector -- a central vacuuming station with tubes running to all the stationary tools. Have large garbage containers you can carry out to the trash easily.

If you have a forced-air furnace, make sure the dust you make cannot get sucked into it and change the filters often.

Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the work area. If possible, install an exhaust fan that can change the air in the shop every 4 minutes. The cubic feet (length times width times height) in your shop determines the size of the fan needed to do that.

Building a workbench

The workbench is the activity hub of every shop. A full-size workbench typically measures 6 to 8 feet long, 24 to 36 inches deep, and 40 to 42 inches high. You may want to make it the exact height of your tablesaw or radial-arm saw. This makes it easy to handle sheets of plywood for cutting, using the bench as an additional cutting support. If you have limited space, it may make sense to have a smaller bench on wheels, so it can be stored out of the way.

The bench shown can be built in a day. The plywood or hardboard top provides a smooth, hard surface and can be replaced easily when it becomes worn. The underlying planks give the bench plenty of strength and enough weight to make it a solid working surface. The bottom shelf is handy for storage. Assemble the framing with bolts, lag bolts, or screws and screw the shelf and planking in place. If you have a table-top vise, extend the front of the planking and top so it overhangs the frame by 3 inches or so and bolt the vise to the top.

Carpentry HQ, Just for You3

Workbench diagram 


Tool and material storage

Attach a sheet of perforated hardboard (Peg-Board) to the wall near your workbench to hang tools on. Install the board so it extends 1 or 2 inches out from the wall, so tool hooks can be inserted. If the hooks tend to pop out every time you remove a tool, glue the hooks in place with construction adhesive or hot-glue them.

Provide plenty of storage for your tools and materials. See Handling and Storing Materials, Related Projects, for how to store lumber.

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