I’ve been a woodworker since I was old enough to pick up a hammer. I remember being with my dad who worked as a handyman. He would have me pull nails from boards, straighten them, then let me use them to build what — in my mind — were fantastic creations. In reality they were nothing more than a few sticks of leftover lumber whacked together with a few bent nails. It took a long time for me to develop enough muscle and skill to drive a nail straight.
As a youngster, I built many projects as a member of the local “Radnor Roadrunners” 4-H club in Central Ohio. Some of my projects even got blue ribbons at the county fair. Many of these projects were built in the damp, dark basement of my childhood home. As a matter of fact, during a good rain, the basement would often flood. So tools were often rusty. But my dad managed to maintain an old Craftsman radial arm saw, table saw, and other tools that helped him get the job done.
Fast forward a few years. The first home that my wife and I purchased after our marriage had a full basement that was (mostly) dry. But, being a newlywed, buying tools was low on the priority list. They just weren’t in the budget.
However, I did manage to scrape together enough dollar bills to go to the local Sears store in the mall and buy a Craftsman contractor saw and a Craftsman router. Somewhere along the line I also acquired a circular saw and a hand drill (both Craftsman, I believe). That was during the time when the only place to buy tools was at Sears.
If I had to guess, I’d say that basement shop was about 15′ x 30′. In the middle of the shop I build a workbench with a full 4′ x 8′ – 3/4″-thick plywood top.
In that shop, with just the tools I mentioned above, I made a lot of projects. I didn’t even own a drill press. It’s amazing what you can do with a router, a shop-made router table, and a table saw.
Our next house was a 1-1/2 story farm house with a 1/2 basement. It too was very damp and not usable for shop space. Over time though, we built an addition onto the house over a full basement and rebuilt the foundation for the original house. The basement space was much larger (and dry) and I had almost full use of a 30′ x 48′ basement shop. I had acquired quite a few tools and I quickly became spoiled with the amount of space available to me.
In 2005, we moved from Central Ohio to Des Moines, Iowa. I took a job as one of the editors for Woodsmith and ShopNotes magazines and enjoyed ten years there. Our house in Des Moines had no ideal area for a woodworking shop. Except the attached two-car garage. So…we never parked our cars in the garage since moving in.
Moving from my shop in Ohio to Iowa meant downsizing. I spent many months trying to figure out a workable floor plan that allowed me to move around without feeling cramped. It was crowded, but I eventually settled on a floor plan that worked.
Then we moved again in 2015. To Florida. Our son and his family invited us to stay with him in their large home. But, as we were making plans for the move, I was very disappointed to learn that there was no room for a workshop. There was no garage. Just a carport. And Florida homes don’t have basements.
Then my son offered up a crazy idea. On the property when he purchased the house, sat a rather well-built 10′ x 16′ shed. He said I was welcome to it. In my mind, I was thinking there is no way that can be made into a usable, productive woodworking shop.
Well, I’ve always been up to a challenge and taking risks, so I made up my mind to see how far this can go. And to be honest, one of my pet peeves as a woodworker writing about and teaching woodworking is the notion that you have to have a huge space and tens of thousands of dollars in tools before you can start being creative and making great projects. My goal is to bash that notion into the ground. I want to prove that you can make great projects from small, MiniMax Workshops.
Can I turn this small shed into a workshop? We’ll find out. And you’ll be going along for the ride with me. From the start. Who knows where we’ll end up!
And that’s the beginning of MiniMax Workshop. Oh…the name MiniMax? Well, “Mini,” as in small shops or workspace. “Max” is part of my last name. But more importantly, it means that you can get maximum use out of your small workspace and make great projects.
So here I am. In the shed. Shooting video. Taking photographs. Writing articles. All to share with you.
I’m having a blast and I hope you will too.