Real Estate

About the most valuable commodity in the workshop is not the tablesaw, or the ubeaut spiral headed whatever, or custom made plane with metal dovetails. It is space.

Floors space, and bench space.

Hard to know which one is worth more. Floor space dictates if it is possible to move around, fit in large machines and floor-mounted tools, and for project assembly.

Bench space is working area, and given how much this space magnetically attracts mess, dust, tools, offcuts, works in progress, and benchtop tools.

I’ve been struggling with this for years. I have a number of bench-top machines that have long struggled to have a legitimate home – they always get bumped for a higher priority. Guess that is always their lot in life. I do tend towards floor-mounted, stand-alone machines. Bigger, more powerful, (more expensive), and don’t take up bench real estate.

Guess that indicates where the most valuable real estate is then – the bench top. Still, bench top machines need a home, and that is the challenge I am facing.

So I have made the decision (which is modifiable/reversable) to use the bench for the bench-mounted tools. A lathe (with buffing wheels), spindle sander, belt & disk sander, scrollsaw.


That is some serious bench space to sacrifice, so there needs to be a replacement, or equivalent.

Not sure what to use to achieve this, but there are some options (without resorting to using the tablesaw as a work surface, like I have for years!) One is to make another workbench, to fit the slightly smaller space under the window. That bench will take the main Veritas twin screw clamp.

The Walko workbench will be wall mounted (as it was designed to do, as an alternative to the A frame configuration). Just need to identify a suitable section of wall. Speaking of walls, that is another area of real estate that is always incredibly useful and also in short supply. Think I have a location in mind.

Space, the final frontier.

Ask, and the workshop answers

I’ve been playing around some more with the machine layout, and have come up with something that looks a great deal more workable. The latest layout started by considering the position of the tablesaw, and resulted in it being spun 270 degrees. Yes, I know that makes no sense whatsoever, but I started by rotating it anticlockwise 90 degrees before deciding it would be better facing the other way and up against the pillar rather than the wall.

Things gained momentum from there, as that placed the tablesaw in range of the 15A GPO I had originally planned for it (as a bonus for the location choice). It also allowed sufficient infeed, out feed and side clearance for full sheets to be cut- another indication I was on the right track.

Next, I pushed the bandsaw out of the way, and decided where best to place the router table, up against the wall. That then provided a logical place for the bandsaw, and I noticed I had laid out each of the cutting and shaping machines around a common central area.


Not too bad if I do say so. I can see this working rather well.

The question about the location of the dust extractor became glaringly obvious. Looking at the thicknesser, jointer, bandsaw and drum sander, they were all pointing (with their dust chutes) to the same location. Back to my original plan for the dust extractor. No, not the mezzanine- my original plan when first designing the shed. The triangular courtyard between the two wings of the shed. Sure, I need to fill the area in so the extractor is protected from the elements, but it is logical. Furthermore, it puts the extractor within range of the GPO I had installed specifically for it- another bonus.

The two main sawdust generators (jointer & thicknesser) are close to, and have a direct path to the extractor. The next is the Torque Workcentre, and it is just on the other side of the wall, as is the drum sander. The tablesaw is a bit further, but it produces a much finer dust that will carry easily. The only tool left out then is the router table. I will either bring pipe work over the top to it, or consider its location further- it may be possible to get it co located as well.

So when asking where the extractor should go, the shed pointed the way.



Workshop Architect

I’ve been having a bit of a brainstorming session today about workshop design and layout (with myself, unfortunately – bit of a one-way conversation), and was lamenting that there isn’t such a person as a workshop design specialist, who can take all the tools and workflows, and come up with an optimum design.

What is bugging me, is even with the significantly improved floorspace, I still seem to be lacking a good workshop area – open space, perhaps (at worst) with a workbench in the middle.

As much as it is great having machines with plenty of space around them, finally being able to access those machines easily, I haven’t gotten the layout right yet.

Unlike some, at least I have access to the collective wisdom of all the readers out there, so let’s brainstorm. Ideas on the table and let’s see if we can’t work this through.

In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts.

1. The mezzanine. When finished, it is going to have a good amount of floorspace, and although limited in a number of areas, how can this space be best utilisted? Limitations include:
– access (obviously), being upstairs, and accessed by ladder
– floor load capacity. Not sure the /m2 load rating – will have to find out.
– head height
However, working around these limitations, is there any function (other than storage of items not needed on a daily basis) that can be located to the mezzanine?

2. Dust extraction. The dust extraction layout will have to be compromised to work around workshop layout, and not the other way around. However, is having the extractor on the mezzanine a good option. I’m having definite second thoughts. I put it up there to a. free up workshop floorspace b. for it to be inside the main shed, as it draws a lot of air, and if outside the main shed, that is a lot of hot (or cold) air that would be drawn into the workshop, and c. as that would make it generally central to the machines it is drawing from. On the other hand, having it in the timber store next door gives better access, better noise separation, better workshop air quality (particularly on the mezzanine).

3. Infeed and outfeed on the jointer and thicknesser. These machines are claiming a lot of the new workshop’s floor space. Both in having area around the machines to walk, but also material workflow area. Is there a better layout? Would there be a benefit in moving one (or both) to the long, narrow timber store? Especially if the dust extractor is going in there. Or is there a better way to manage their floorspace requirements? If it was an option, would replacing the two separate machines with one combo be a better solution? There are some pretty interesting alternate machines out there that could perform both functions in one footprint, and with one infeed and outfeed area.

4. Location of the router table. Would it be better up against a wall (rear edge) as I had it in the previous workshop? Should it swap position with the workbench that is near the lathes?

5. Things I like about the current layout: The lathe area. That back section of the workshop is still looking as I envisaged it. The rest though, really not sure if it is right, and how best to tweak it.

6. Storage. Still a big problem. I have a lot of things still packed in crates, waiting for their new homes to be revealed. Still unsure what a good solution will be.

7. I still really need to move some machines and tools on to new homes, such as the TS10L tablesaw, and the Torque Router Master. The list of machines and tools to move on is also growing. I have a bunch of cheap clamps (quick action, Irwin style, but much cheaper) to go, a scrollsaw, even a radial arm saw. The big ticket items need to go quickly though – need the funds to pay for some of what the workshop has cost, and they take up significant room too.

So that is the current list – any thoughts?


It pays to try a layout of a system as a dry run, before going to the trouble of connecting everything up.  And that is what I am doing with the installation of the RapidAir system.  It may be easy to install (and modify), but it is even easier if you get it right first time!

So I’ve taken the 8 outlets I have planned for the shed, assembled them (by hand only at this stage) and initially placed them around the workshop where I originally thought they’d go.  Didn’t take long to work out some were not in the right place – having to reach over machines (or almost unreachable at all), others not having something solid to connect them to.  So they got a bit of a shuffle.

Then while doing some other things around the workshop, visualising how I might utilise the compressed air, and where the nearest outlet is.

For some areas, I originally planned two outlets.  This is so I have access to compressed air for various tools, and a second outlet that will provide air for the vacuum clamps.  Turns out they do not need to be right beside each other so long as there are two in close proximity to the workbench, and that gives better overall coverage around the workshop.

I still haven’t finalised the layout – sleeping on it is another good option!  I’ll approach it with fresh eyes, see if there is anything I have forgotten or missed.

Weekend Summary

After a very short shed visit today where I just managed to attach the air filtration to the underside of the mezzanine, I headed to hide in air conditioned space.  A disappointing loss of a day.

I got a little more done yesterday with the help of Dennis (cheers!!) who dropped around to see progress in person.  We got the dust extractor up to the mezzanine floor, and the last of the really cumbersome machines out to the shed – the 17″ bandsaw.  Only the drill press to go now before I start to work out where all the smaller machines and tools will go.  I had a look for some fittings to start the dust extractor run, but Masters doesn’t stock much in the way of 6″ pipe supplies.  I can either do what I normally do with 4″ everywhere, but i did want to see what having a 6″ main trunk line with 4″ going to each of the machines would work like.  I’m not sure how I will get extraction from each of the central machines, without blocking movement around the machines, or getting in the way on infeed and outfeed areas.  The perpetual problem!

Also had a visit from Michael (who is the editor of the Professional Woodworkers Supplies newsletter), and we discussed a number of ideas, including workshop layout.  The result of which is the workbench has now been moved to the back section of the workshop, and a new, smaller workbench and storage unit will be made to fit under the window.

Another bench will be made for the back corner, so the sink can be installed.  If only I had a supply of timber, and the machines to work it….. 😉

So to some latest progress photos:

Photo 1-02-2014 21 53 17

Tablesaw, router table and SCMS area.

Each machine can be moved (in fact almost every machine in the workshop can be reasonably easily repositioned given the wheeled bases I use everywhere), where different amounts of infeed and outfeed areas are required.  Given the room between machines, I can (for example), spin the tablesaw 90 degrees, move the router table completely out the way and break down full, even oversized sheets.

The dust extractor (as you will see soon) is now close to the main workbench, so can be spun around from the Kapex, and used with any of the other hand power tools at the workbench (and given much of the Festool is being stored under the arms of the Kapex, even they are close to hand).

Photo 1-02-2014 21 53 24

A bit more of a turn to the left, and the bandsaw comes into view, plenty of room around it, and behind it against the wall will (potentially) be where the drill press will go.  These are in the vicinity of the lathes too.  And now the workbench comes into view – within reach of the dust extractor hose.  Given the hose also carries power for the Festool tools, it is quite functional with minimal need to move the Cleantex.

Photo 1-02-2014 21 53 33

Next bit of a turn, and we see the lathe bay.  The air filter under the bench is now gone – mounted on the ceiling, and the Jet Mini on the bench is unclear what will happen with it still.  The Comet II is now on the lathe stand (some modification needed to get it to bolt down securely), and the DVR is still in prime position.  The bench is not too close to interfere with lathe operations, but close enough to have supplies and tools laid out as needed.  And there is good access to both vices.

Photo 1-02-2014 21 53 42

A quick 180 and we see the second bandsaw (set up with fine scrolling blades), the sink is out of frame to the left, which is also where the Tormek T7 will find a home.

Directly in front is the drum sander, with the outfeed now directly across the Torque Workcentre.  A small height adjustment will get the outfeed above the TWC.  The jointer as good infeed and outfeed area by the solitary mid-shed pillar.  The Walko workbench is currently where the new small workbench will be located, under the shed window.  Storage units are in the corner near the door.

Photo 1-02-2014 21 54 02

Final view shows the jointer, thicknesser, and Torque Workcentre (currently with a CNC Shark Pro on top).

So that is where I have gotten to so far.  Is looking functional, although the proof will be when wood starts to get worked, and that cannot be far away (if for no other reason but my own sanity).

All still tracking pretty closely to my original planning too.  From here on, there is no plan to work to, so there will be some sorting and re-sorting as I bring in the oscillating sander, linisher, scrollsaw etc etc.

A New Tab

At the top of the website, you will see a new tab has appeared – Shed Build. (It may take a little bit for it to appear – the site is quite heavily cached it seems!  Even mine is appearing and disappearing – idiosyncrasies of the web!)

I will use this to capture some of the specifics of the shed design and construction.  New content will still appear here as new blog entries, and then summarised and refined under that tab for prosperity.

So to start, I wanted to look at some of the lessons learned from the existing shed.

With the decommissioning of the current shed in approximately 30 days (a month seems so much shorter when you realise how many, or rather how few days there are, especially if you only count weekends!), I am going to document the process involved in setting up the new shed, at the new location.

The existing 8×4 shed was a great improvement when we built it, but it has been well and truly outgrown  in the past couple of years.  It was as large as I could justify on the existing block at the time.

Looking back through the website, I didn’t realise how long the existing shed had been around – time sure flies! (Built April 2008)

So what lessons have I learned from the existing one, that needs to be incorporated into the new design?


The current shed is 8m x 4m, with a 2.1m high ceiling (to the lower beams).  Shed width is a critical factor – not just the square metreage. 4m is ok, but 6m would be more desirable.  This allows machines to line the walls (those that suit that location), and still provide plenty of room between them for work, manipulation of stock etc.

Length then is as much as possible for maximum area – the more wall space the better too – I ran out a way back!

Height – 2m is a minimum, but I found I was regularly banging stock into the beams.  2.4 – 3m would have been better (as in total clearance).


The doors on this shed were a good size – about 2m across (when both were opened).  It would have been better if I hadn’t had to block one of the two for the bandsaw, and would have been preferable if I hadn’t had to consider out and through the doors as space for some of the tools outfeed!


She’s solid – no doubt about that, and with society as it is, nice to know things are locked away.  However, one point is lighting, which is the next category.


I ran 10x double fluorescent tubes in the workshop, and as there were no external windows or skylights, this was the only source.  These have been good, but more would have been better.  Daylight for example!  With the new shed going to be directly opposite the house, having some windows would be ideal, and the ability to open part of the side of the shed (roller door).  There is a limit of course – the more windows and doors, the less wall space.


I struggled along for quite a while with power being provided to the shed via an extension cord, but things really improved once I had a decent amount of power bought directly in.

2x 15A, plus 3x 10A circuits.  I made the mistake of using the ready-wired plugs from Bunnings for the 10A supply (wired into the supply by the electrician).  These had their own circuit breaker on each line that was forever tripping.  Running too much on the same circuit, and some being machines that needed the full 10A when under high load.  The circuit breakers on the GPOs tripped at 10A at best, if not before  Normally, circuit breakers do allow some overcurrent before tripping, but these seem to be right on the limit.

You can never have too much power.

Temperature control:

It was always either way too hot, or way too cold out there.  Insulation (and installed during construction) is mandatory!  Additional temperature control in the form of air con or heating would be a definite added bonus.  I tried a gas heater, but that posed a number of problems.  For cooling, I didn’t want to use evaporative – too much cast iron and too much timber to want to change the workshop moisture levels.  When I did give in, it was very ineffective (portable units don’t cut the mustard).  One way or the other, if it is not a comfortable environment, you can loose so much shed time by not wanting to be out there.  Shed time can be hard to come by, and you can’t afford to throw it away because the weather is too hot, or cold!

So that is a first pass – I’m sure there is much more that I can glean from the existing shed to build into the new design.

Shuffling the Pack

Had a sudden urge to refine the layout of the shed – things were not working as I wanted after the last two additions out there, so I really wanted to get it back to properly functional out there.  My first thought was to relocate the Torque Workcentre into the 3mx3m shed which would really open things up again, but when I measured it, the small shed door was not simply wide enough (and I’d have to take the whole workcentre apart to get it in there – not something I’m really interested in doing every time I want to move the machine.

So I changed focus to what else I could do instead.

It was all heavy stuff – individual items weighing between 80 and 250kg (175lb – 550lb).  Each move then a slow, coordinated system of checks and balances (lots of balancing).

The shed is now a real mess, so once I get everything back into place I’ll snap a few new layout pics.  Feeling better about the layout now than I was with the compromises I was coming up with.

The Jet mini lathe was moved to the lower shed (storage) where it joins my Jet bandsaw.  I’m not anti-Jet at all, in fact if I had any negative opinions towards the two tools they’d be sold, not stored.  (Stored in the hopes that one day I’ll have a shed large enough to properly restore them to operation).  You might ask why I would want two bandsaws, or two lathes?  With the bandsaw, I’d like to have the Jet set up with finer blades, and the big one with resaw blades and not have to chop and change the blades for each job as much. The lathe is a combination of just liking the Jet, and it has a full length bed, and it is a good lathe for spindle work.

With the Jet lathe moved, and the drill press relocated there is then room for the Nova DVR down that end.  It then meant the planer could return to where I planned to be in an earlier iteration.

Finally, the workbench was rotated to fit into the corner as a better utilisation of space and to open up the floor space (floor space is an important tool in a workshop).

I still maintain infeed and outfeed space for the thicknesser and drum sander, and by rotating the planer it can feed significantly long work through it as well by opening shed door when necessary.  Same for the bandsaw – ok for smaller work, and much larger work can operate out the shed door as well.

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