Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 tips for great shop organization

We all need more shop space, but another approach is to make better use of what we have.

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1. Get Rid of What You Don’t Need – Be ruthless.

Whatever you don’t need really has to go. There’s no sense sav­ing a million small scraps if you don’t have the space to turn them into something. And tools and machinery, too. If you don’t use them, sell them or give them away.

2. Figure Out What Type of Work You Do

If you plan on making large wall units and kitchen cabinets, yet only have 150 square feet of space, you’ve got to specifically set up your shop for that. Keep the work you do in mind when making purchases and orga­nizing your shop.

3. Consider Storing Some Items Elsewhere

I don’t want you to get in trouble with your spouse for monopolizing the basement, too, but if there’s a seldom-used tool or machine that could live there while not in use, or some extra materials you could store for later, I’d start eyeing the basement or other areas.

4. Look Up

Storing materials like solid wood and long strips of sheet goods up high may free up some much-needed space around benchtop height. Power tools, clamps and other items can also be stored above, as long as everything is secure.

5. Build Cabinets and Shelves

A bit of dedicated storage will go a long way to keeping things organized in general, as well as storing things up high, out of the way.

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6. Look for Small, Unused Areas

Whether it’s under your workbench, table saw, mitre saw or lathe, those small, dead spaces that go unused are great opportunities. No need to try to cram large items into small spots, as they will be frustrating to get out. Instead, use these small spaces to store small items.

7. Off the Floor

I find keeping as many items off the floor as possible is a great way to streamline organization and keep my shop clean. Sweeping is easier, things aren’t falling over and shop life is just better.

8. Considering a Table Saw

There’s no question that a table saw can take care of a lot of shop tasks, but it also takes up a lot of space and isn’t easily maneuverable when you need to shift things around. Deciding on whether to center your work around a table saw or forgo one in favour of a track saw or circular saw jig for cutting sheet goods, and tools like a router, Domino or hand tools to take care of the rest — and save all that space — is an important decision.

9. Expand Outdoors?

Although not feasible for even the hardiest Canadian during the winter, doing some of your work outside the shop is an option for at least half the year. There are obvi­ously pros and cons, but even building a roof structure overhead would go a long way to making this option work quite nicely.

10. A Spot for Everything

This is one of those things you hear all the time, but only because it really works. Even going as far as having a hook on the wall for your shop apron (you do wear one, right?) will keep your shop safer, tidier and more efficient.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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