Important Things to Consider for Your Small Workspace

After realizing that I was moving away from my workshop in a two-car garage to a place without any workspace, I seriously considered selling all of my tools and finding another hobby besides woodworking — like reading. The opportunity to use a 10′ x 16′ (3 x 6m) garden shed as a workspace seemed impossible, yet intriguing. As least it was enough to make me think twice about getting out of woodworking altogether. (You can read more about this by clicking here.)

MiniMax Workshop before conversion to a workshop
Converting this garage shed into a workshop means finding a home for all of the items currently stored there.

With a 160 sq. ft. workspace as my only option, I began to consider all of the work that needed to be done. And these are all things you should give some thought to, as well.

What would I need to do to the shed to make it a usable woodworking workshop? Can I use it as-is, without any modifications? Many woodworkers work is shops that are nothing more than a floor, stud walls, and exterior sheathing under an uninsulated roof. Should I add insulation and interior wall sheathing?

What about electricity? The shed has one receptacle for a couple of old fluorescent shop lights and another 2-gang receptacle box attached to one of the studs. Would this be enough? Are these receptacles on their own circuit? Should I focus on using “unplugged” or hand tools only, to minimize the requirement for electricity?

How would this smaller space affect the types of woodworking projects I could build? I’ve built everything from large display cases for an NFL referee to display game balls to small, Shaker-style wall cabinets and everything in-between. With this smaller workspace, am I restricted to building smaller pieces?

How does the smaller space affect the selection and type of tools I could reasonably store and use? I mentioned before that it might make sense to migrate more to hand-tool use. But for some projects, this might not be practical, particularly if I ever pick up a commission piece where time equals money. Even if you’re only building projects for friends and family, how much you rely on power tools is something to consider. So how can power tools be incorporated into the workspace yet leave room to maneuver and assemble projects?

What about climate control? Is your workspace located outdoors as mine is? If so, do you live in a temperate climate year-round? If not, should you consider heat for the cooler months? Would a fan be sufficient for the warmer months or do you need to consider air conditioning? Perhaps you just don’t work in the shop when it’s uncomfortable to do so. Many folks maintain other hobbies during those times they’re unable to be in their outdoor shop.

My little garden shed is obviously located outdoors. I’m in a warm, southern climate where it can sometimes be stifling hot. This is an important consideration for me if I want to build projects during the hotter summer months.

These are all questions I wrestle with and give a lot of thought to. In my mind, I picture a comfortable, well-organized workshop that calms the nerves whenever I spend time there. Let’s see if we can make it happen.

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