Episode #005 – The Final 2 Steps to Simplify Your Workshop to Get More Woodworking Done


The Avid Woodworker – AW Episode # 5 – Simplifying your Workshop  To Get More Woodworking Done

 As a reminder:  The Five steps towards simplifying your shop

1)     Survey your existing workshop and decide what you really like to do in your shop

2)     Analyze your woodworking flows

3)     Clean House

4)     Organize, design, or re-design your shop

5)     Develop new rules and systems to maintain the simplicity in your shop

Step 4 – Organize, Design or Re-design your shop

Well, finally, we are at the organize and design phase!  It only took two previous episodes to get here.  I know as woodworkers, this can be the best part of this process because it gives us excuses for shop wood working projects.

I am not going into great detail on this or step 5 for a couple of reasons.  In some respects, after you design the look of your overall shop, the organization of your shop can really be broken down into zones.

For instance, I am going to build a sharpening station in the next few weeks so I can quickly sharpen my plane irons and my turning chisels I use on my lathe.  I am going to build it out of scrap wood to save my money for wood I want to use on my projects.  Mainly MDF left over from Cub scout projects like cub mobile

Start with a sketch.  It does not have to be in Google sketch up.  A piece of graph paper will work just fine.  Break out where you are putting certain stations, even the ones you have not built yet.

Empty the space. After cleaning house, your space should be much more open now.  It is even helpful to move as many items that you are keeping out of the space to get a very clear view of the room.  Make sure you have taken all the things you are getting rid of and taken them to the trash or recycling center, etc.

Before you put anything back into the space, “sort like tools with like parts”Look at the tools, gadgets, wood you decided to keep and start sorting them.  This is a crucial part of organizing.   For example:

–        Sanding area with the sanders and sanding paper

–        Sharpening station with sharpening tools, which would include a grinder as well as any sharpening stones.

–        A drill station with cordless and corded drills and drill bits.

–        A routing station with the router bits, well, you get the idea.

Remember your zones and start placing your items accordingly.  Remember how we talked about creating zones for your space,

–        Do you have room for a finishing zone?

–        What about a zone for cutting – table saw, band saw, chop saw –

Place frequently used items within arm’s reach for each of your zones.   This is where you might use peg board or slat board systems for your saws, hammers, chisels, etc.

Place seldom used items up high, down low or in back of your frequently used items.  Don’t take up precious real estate in the cabinets or on your peg board with things you don’t use very often.  Like, for me, I have a 10inch circular saw.  When I need it, nothing will replace it.  I use it for huge slabs of wood, but, I don’t use it that often.  So, I am finding a special place for it.

Think safety for yourself and the prying hands.

  • Heavy items should always go on lower, sturdier surfaces.
  • Sharp items or hammers that can do damage to everything in your shop in the small hands should be put away and out of reach.
  • Stains, paints, and other toxic materials should likewise be out of reach.  You may have to lock them into a cabinet.
  • The same goes for cleaning supplies.

Go vertical for storage.  You can also have multiple layers of peg boards.  You cabinet could include slides.

  • Install shelves above windows to store collectibles and decorative items.
  • Install a fold down workbench from the wall.
  • For the do-it-yourselfer, use up the space between the studs in your wall to create cubbies (or hire a professional)


Consider storing items under workbenches.  The stations I plan on building will take into consideration all possible supplies, so I do not have to hunt all over my shop for that one item.   In other words, the station will not just serve as a place to work on an item, but it will also serve to store everything I need for that item.

Use containers and containers within cabinets.  I obtained a 7 foot tall metal cabinet for free one time.  I bought some $12-$15 storage bins with internal compartments and a handle from Home depot and put misc screws – labeled it with duct tape and black magic marker.

Don’t use up all the space…leave yourself room to grow (or not).  Now that you’ve cleared out the clutter and have started to move things back in, don’t feel obligated to fill every shelf, cabinet or nook ‘n cranny.  Leave yourself space to add items or just enjoy having less stuff.  That is why it is so important to have a plan sketched out ahead of time.

Label everything you can!  Where possible, label your containers and drawers for two reasons:

  1. It is so much easier to find everything and return everything to its proper place.
  2. It is so much easier for your neighbors to return items they borrow to their proper place.

Step 5 – Develop rules and a system to keep your shop simple. Examples:

This is an essential part of getting and staying organized. Some say it takes about 30 days to make a routine habit. I think I take longer, but most likely, it varies for everyone.  Here are a few routines to consider:

  1. One in…one out.  Only buy or add something to your space after you’ve thrown or given something else away.  This really applies to a small shop.

i.          Exceptions to this rule – clamps – Unless the clamp is a cheap one that will not hold up under pressure.

2.  Before you buy that new tool, ask yourself,

i.          “Do I Need it, Will I use it, Will I love it?”

ii.          “Am I going to use that tool, really?” If the answer is yes, but sometime in the distant future, then you have to ask yourself if you are better off spending that money on a woodworking project.

iii.          “Is it going to replace a tool I already had?”

3.  Limit your shopping.  Instead of buying something you want right away, wait a week to see if your “want” wears off.  I am not saying you should not add to your tools to your workshop by any stretch at all.  Just be intentional with your purchases so that you to waste your money on a tool that you really don’t need.  You can instead spend that money on some amazing wood for a project.

4. Establish weekly clean up routines like I talked about in episode # 2

5. Stick to those routines and put everything back in their place.

6. Bring the kids into the work area and explain what is really off limits.  Explain what they can get access to and have a place for them to put it away.  I have a tub of scrap wood that the kids know that they can do whatever they want with when I am not home.




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