Canadian Woodworking

Sharing Space

Author: James Jackson
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: June July 2021
Shop Space
Shop Space

My small workshop would feel a lot bigger if it wasn’t also the home to kids’ toys, yard tools, firewood and more.

I have what you might call a small workshop. I guess. To be hon­est, I’ve never really had a proper workshop so I don’t have much to compare it to. I’m not even sure if it would qualify as a workshop given all the other stuff that lives in it most of the time.

We had a 8′ × 10′ shed installed in our backyard last summer and I had high hopes it would become a place where I could set up a dedicated stand for my mitre saw, maybe get a small drill press and store my tools all nicely organized on one of the walls.

Things haven’t quite worked out that way.

Eighty square feet sounds pretty big on paper, and even when it’s empty it seems like there’s space to spare. But that’s not always the case.

Tools are big, they’re bulky and they take up a lot of room. But so does the lawnmower, the gardening tools, the kids’ bikes and scooters, and all the other non-woodworking items we need to keep in there.

We don’t have a garage, and our basement is unfinished, but it’s where we wash and hang the laundry to dry, and where we keep some workout equipment, so my wife is pretty hesitant to let me start sawing and cutting down there. The noise alone would carry throughout our 900-square-foot home with ease, never mind the dust.

So I was hopeful the new shed would become a sanding sanc­tuary. A whittling wonderland. A project paradise. Instead, I’m tripping over the weedwacker while reaching for a box of screws, scattering them across the floor. Oh, and the ladder fell on my head the other week while I was moving some wood I had stacked nearby.

I thought cuts and scrapes were the big threats in woodworking, not twisted ankles and concussions.
Yet 8′ × 10′ would be more than ideal for many woodworkers. I’ve never been a very organized person, and perhaps my scattered workshop and disheveled desk reflect my disorganized mind.

My father-in-law has created many wonderful pieces of wood­working in his basement woodshop that’s not much bigger than mine, while my father has the luxury of a modified drive shed that’s heated, well-lit and big enough to park two cars inside with extra space to spare. And every now and then he laments it isn’t bigger.
I think he’s joking, but it’s hard to tell with him sometimes.

I’d love a full-size garage that I could convert into my own workspace – or at the very least, a space where I don’t have to run an extension cord out from the house just to get some power for my tools.

I read an article once that said the absolute minimum for a shop should be about 75 square feet, and the ideal space is about 125 square feet. I’m barely above the minimum, but I’m still far from the ideal.

The trick is to have a dedicated space, I think, and not one you have to share with inflatable pool toys or lawn chairs.

Maybe the size of the woodshop isn’t as important as what you make in it. If my shop spills out into the drive­way or backyard during the warm summer months because I need the additional space, and if it goes largely quiet in the winter because of the winter conditions, I’m okay with that, too.

James Jackson - [email protected]

James is a woodworker, a freelance writer, a former newspaper reporter and father to two amazing girls.

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