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Now that the natural light, after work, is gone for the winter, what is the best workshop illumination?  (Bob Nunn)

    Wish I could help you on the lighting question.  I use both fluorescent and incandescent lights in my little shop.  Neither is perfect.  But as long as I have plenty of light, I do okay, no matter what its source.   (Harry Boyd)

    The shop I work in was a car shop  - It has 6 banks of fluorescent. I never count on it for colors but it seems to be OK.  (Rex Tutor)

      Yeah, fluorescent lights wreak havoc on colors, but they are great for throwing shadows, for lack of a better term, so as to highlight flaws in a finish.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I find a combo of both works well,  and I in a two bulb fluorescent, I use a regular bulb and a bulb designed for use as a grow lamp, gives off a different spectrum of light closer to sunlight, much easier on the eyes.  (Jim Flinchbaugh)

    I use things called 'daylight globes'.  They look like a normal incandescent light bulb, but are supposed to closely replicate natural daylight.  Not sure if they are used as 'grow lights'.  I first discovered them when I was doing my degree back in the early eighties and used to do all-night stints writing papers.  They give off great light and are much easier on the old optics than anything else I've used.  They're available at any decent lighting supplier down here in Oz.  (Michael Roberts)

      The 'grow' lights are fluorescent lights, but there is a bulb sold in the States, manufactured by GE, called Reveal. These are supposed to uncover pure, true light, according to the hype, by filtering out some of the yellow spectrum,  thus producing a cleaner, whiter-looking light.  (Martin-Darrell)


Well, after my rodmaking disasters of the early summer (two broken rods), I took a few months off from making rods.  I reached couple of conclusions during this period of pondering.  First, I decided that I had not previously paid enough attention to my overall work environment, or to my tools.  I reached the same conclusion that lord knows how many of you already told me. This is a job of watching the details.  Every detail matters, and although you can correct some of your mistakes, there is no question that the more you can make each step "perfect" the better the outcome will be. Imperfections tend to multiply.  So, I've developed a plan and started following through with it.

Over the last couple of weekends I made a serious shop upgrade.  I went from dirt floor to a poured concrete floor.  Amazing what a difference that makes.  I also spent some time trying to straighten out and level the workbench I am using.  It's built of 2x8's on top of angled studs nailed to the wall studs, never going to be ideal, but I was able to improve it.  I am building a permanent sharpening station in one corner of the shop.  I spent some time smoothing the jaws of my vice for pressing nodes.  That's as far as I've gotten.  I've decided to make tool and process before improvements before each step in building the rod.  Right now I am building a tip section to replace one that I broke.  I have split the strips, and am right in the middle of straightening and pressing nodes (which is why I smoothed the vice jaws).

My next step will, of course, be rough planing.  I have shop built wooden forms (nonadjustable) for this task.  Before starting this step I plan to (1) reflatten the sole of my plane, it's been done, but could use some more work, (2) finally get a Hock iron, (3) complete the sharpening station, (4) flatten the top of the rough planing form.  I'd appreciate any advice on other measures you all might recommend to improve tooling or environment specifically to improve rough planing. One step at a time.  (James Piotrowski)

    Sounds like you're getting there.   Man, if there is one word of advice I would give above all others it's SHARP PLANES!!!  and sounds like you have that under control now.  I don't know that Hock irons are necessary, but they do keep an edge longer than stock plane irons do, for sure.   I have one hock blade, but sharpening by hand, if figured it was kind of a trade off in time between sharpening the easy to sharpen stock irons more often, or working harder and longer to get an edge on the longer lasting Hocks.  Regardless of which blade you use, well past razor sharp is the key.  You can plane those tip strips down to near nothing when they plane is sharp enough.  (Bob Nunley)

    The best thing I ever did as far as rodmaking goes was to make myself a rough beveller. I used 60 degree side milling cutters (2 of them side by side), a 1" shaft , a pair of pillow blocks and various scrap metal, wood and plastic,  plus the motor from my table saw. It cuts perfect strips in about 30 seconds and I made it adjustable to cut both larger butt strips and smaller tip strips. The next stage of it's evolution will be to cut tapered strips with it. I have about $250.00 invested so far and about another $50 or so in parts to make the tapering bed, mostly what I need now is time to finish it.  (John Channer)

    I would add to the info below, that shop lighting is also critical.  By adding an additional light directly over the workbench, I found that not only was the work more pleasant, but, to put it simply, I could better see what I was doing.   (James Piotrowski)


I just recently moved into a new home, and will finally be able to set up a nice shop and office. I am wondering if any of you have suggestions as to some things I may consider in setting up. The shop space itself will be set up so that I can work in a continuous flow from station to station with out backtracking. It will have benches and machines set up around the perimeter as well as a 4'x12' center island type bench. I will be tearing out part of the wall between the shop and office so that I can install a dipping/drying cabinet that will be accessible from both sides (Dip from the shop side, receive the dried blanks on the office side. The office is where I will do the wrapping etc and I will keep my book collection etc. Any thoughts on other things to integrate? (Paul McRoberts)

    Dip from the OFFICE side for less dust in the setup.  (Larry Swearingen)

    Lots of light, electrical outlets and a dust collection system.  In the area with tools, consider a rubber mat to help cushion the feet and protect those tools you might drop.  (Scott Grady)

      When I was  looking for rubber mats to put on my concrete floor, I found that the ones made for manufacturing companies (to put in from of equipment for assembly line workers who stand all day in one spot), are VERY expensive, hundreds of dollars.

      What I ended up buying are the rubber mats used to put down in horse trailers. A 4’ x 8’ section is about $60.00, I cut mine down the middle for two 2’ wide pieces for 16’, perfect for my work benches and planing area.

      Your feet and lower back will thank you.

      If you live in the part of the world that has a Murdoch’s or country General, they have ‘em.  (Tom Vagell)

        Yes rubber mats will save tools. I dropped a plane on the concrete floor and it cracked. I now have rubber mats I got from Enco and it makes working at the bench more comfortable. I dropped a plane since I have the mats and no damage to the plane.  (Tony Spezio)

          For UK readers you can sometimes get interlocking foam rubber sections from B&Q very cheaply indeed. One side is black and the other is coloured, I leave the style choice to you................

          Mine are now two years old.  (Robin Haywood)

            There are foam pads available at Harbor Freight for $8 per set (on sale). They are interlocking 2'x2' sections that can be made into a long 2x8 or 4x4 mat. I have them running along both sides of my bench.  (Mike St. Clair)

              Those interlocking 2x2's are also available in large chain auto parts stores, such as Strauss, Pep Boys, and so on. They run about $12  a set if they're NOT on sale. I enjoy being in my concrete floored shop a LOT more since I covered the exposed floor with them! The only drawback is if you have heavy equipment on small rollers that's NOT on the rubber (mine is a band saw). It's a bear to get it to go UP on the pads if you need to.  (Art Port)

          I use some old carpet that used to be in the house and had been replaced ....a cheap solution.

          Two layers is great to stand on and protects falling items and tools.

          However the carpet  provides a great  hiding place for small nuts,  bolts,  guides,  etc. that  may happen to leap off the bench (or be pushed off my the goblins hiding behind the cans at the back of the bench)  (Ian Kearney)

    My suggestion for your shop space is to set you work bench away from the wall so you can use both sides.  (Timothy Troester)

      In the center of my shop I have a standard woodworking bench with two wood faced vices and bench dogs. There is  a tool trough on the back side of the bench and I've built a shelf about 2" higher than the bench top for my MHM. The bench top is at 35 1/2."  I am 5'9" and have had a 3 level spinal fusion. Having the mill base at 37 1/2" makes planing painless for me. All the rest of my Toyls are around the outside walls.  (Doug Easton)


I'm in the process of making the transition to full time rodmaking and setting up a new shop after having semi-retired from serving a church full time.  Moving into a shop several times as large as my previous abode is exhilarating, but proving to be plenty of hard work.  For now I am removing all the stuff the building has accumulated over its 50 years as a really, REALLY nice garden shed.  When I get through removing the current contents, what I'll have is a 16x20 red brick building.  The studs and rafters are exposed.  The rafters are 8 1/2 feet from the concrete floor.

My first task was to install more electricity than a single 15 amp breaker.  So earlier this week an electrician ran 50 amps of electrical service to the new building.  There's room for six breakers in the service panel.  I have the freedom to wire it any way I like, and Mr. Nunley is coming down soon to help me do so.  Here's question #1:  Other than planning for twice as many lights and outlets as I think I need, what suggestions would you make on wiring the building?

After wiring, I plan to insulate everything.  But I hate to think about putting in a ceiling and losing the ability to store things like culms of bamboo in the rafters.  The eves of the building are ventilated though, so I'll have to do something up there if I am going to be able to control temperature.  Question #2:  Might you have any ideas on the feasibility of  dropping a ceiling from the roof framework while still leaving the rafters exposed?

Next step will be to cover the insulated walls.  I've considered pegboard throughout, but it's expensive and not quite so attractive.  Sheet rock is another possibility, but I hate the idea of searching for studs when I want to hang stuff on the walls..  Another possibility is 1x8 "shiplap" pine boards since I already have a big pile of them.  I guess even plywood is a possibility.  Question #3:  What have you found to work well as wall boards in a shop?

In my previous shop, everything was against the walls with only a small walkway down the center.  I'm wondering what might be the best way to arrange various work stations, benches, and power tools.  Final question #4:  Beyond the obvious things like placing planes near planing benches, have you found placements and groupings that work especially well in your shop?  (Harry Boyd)

    Just MHO but,  I would dry wall the ceiling and recess some good fluorescent lighting.   Attach some racks from the ceiling for culms.  Use the ship lap on the walls for that quality looking shop.  Install some glass/Plexiglas doored cabinets, and blank / strip racks so you can see the contents at a glance.  Run some cable for a future wall mount TV.  With that much room I would set up the shop so it flows smoothly from one station to the next without any setup.  Install several outlets up higher on the wall so the cords hang down instead of coming up from the floor.  Maybe even a ceiling mounted air cleaner to keep the dust down.  How about mounting a drying cabinet in between studs before you cover the walls?  Take pictures of the walls before you cover them, that way you will  know where everything (studs and wiring) is located.

    Sorry to rattle on but, a 16' X 20' shop would be a dream situation for me.  (Pete Emmel)

    Next step will be to cover the insulated walls.  I've considered pegboard throughout, but it's expensive and not quite so attractive. Sheet rock is another possibility, but I hate the idea of searching for studs when I want to hang stuff on the walls..  Another possibility is 1x8 "shiplap" pine boards since I already have a big pile of them.  I guess even plywood is a possibility.  Question #3:  What have you found to work well as wall boards in a shop?

    The 1x8 would look nice but unless you're planning on the wife decorating and painting the walls just tape and mud then sand the joints of the drywall ... looks nice.  You'll be able to tell exactly where the studs are ...

    "IF" SWMBO is involved and paint is going to mandatory, you can always put a small pencil mark on the ceiling where the wall meets so each stud can be easily found.  (Ron Hossack)

      Are you another one that  doesn't like pegboard?  (Harry Boyd)

        Not that I don't like it but as my wife says, "I'm frugal" ... I just flat out say "cheap"

        But all those tiny little holes are nothing but dust and shaving traps ...

        If you go with the peg board forget the sheet rock and just place it over the insulation.  (Ron Hossack)

          After all of the elegant suggestions for the shop walls, mine is very plebian, but here it is:  particle board.  Cheap, holds screws and nails, and can be nailed to studs over insulation.  Don't paint it and you can see where the studs are.  I have used it for years in my workshop and love the fact that any kind of holder or shelf can be attached anyplace to it without concern about damage.  (Tim Anderson) the bricks show from the inside? If they do it would look just damn awesome! If they don't, you can still make your studs exposed by nailing stringers recessed to allow for drywall to be installed leaving the face of the stud exposed and flush to the wall. GREATNESS I tell ya! Why cover up the studs and rafters unless time is an issue? You might wish you took the time later on. Of course you can always buy a stud finder. I have one, pretty damn nifty. It measures denseness not nails. Finding a stud in my shop is easy because you can see the nails but if you want to make it look like Hoomans live or work there, then you won't see the nails after it's dry-walled. If you decide you have enough T&G to cover walls and ceiling, finding a stud or rafter will never be a problem, so there's that. And it looks pretty neat.

    50 amps "should" do ya. You can leave everything exposed and use the studs to frame in "built-in" cabinets here and there. Leave the ceiling open. You need every inch of height.

    If you feel the need to insulate the ceiling, have someone spray in the spray in crap that expands to fill the space. Trim it off to the level of the rafters and leave the faces exposed so you can hang crap from them.

    You know your procedures better than we do. You know what you do after you finish whatever step. You know how to dance around the s hop. Is your sander (if you use one) near your beveller?

    As for wiring it up...Wire your lights separate from your outlets. If you blow a fuse in the middle of the night you don't want your lights going out too. Try and wire all your walls on separate breakers. If you trip a breaker on a machine you don't want all your other things (stereo or bench lights for example) shutting down too at the same time. Assuming of course you have more than one gadget running at the same time. Consider outlets on the ceiling too. Places where you could drop a cord from to a machine in the middle of a room.  (Mike Shay)

      Geez Mike, all great ideas!  But you forgot to mention the fridge, where Harry'd have to stock yer canoe beer!

      Like Mike said, you can never have too many outlets. When I redid my shop, I added extras, but there still aren't enough sometimes.  I have a 12' bench, with two outlets.  It would have been better if I'd mounted two quad boxes, or four sets of regular outlets.  The quad boxes would have come in handy.  As it is,  I've got three power strips on the workbench.  (Mark Wendt)

        The fridge is in the classroom shop (read "giant garage") rather than the main rodmaking shop.  When you stop by, there's plenty of room in the fridge for a coupla cases of your home brew as well as Mike's, well, other stuff.  :-)

        Now the really important item, the coffee pot, will be in the main shop.  And of course, the only coffee that will be ever made in that pot is Community Dark Roast.  None of this goofy $10 a cup stuff, and no sissy coffee allowed.  (Harry Boyd)

    My suggestions might be: (only listing things I have not seen in other replies)

    Put sheetrock up to a height of 4' and the 1X8 lumber horizontally up to the ceiling. Good looking and especially good if you do not have enough 1X8 to do the entire building.

    Definitely put up a ceiling. The dust control and heating/cooling will be important. Consider making an access door to the new "attic" that is the width between two rafters and 13' long. Now you can store your culms up there.

    Design your worktop benches so that you can place a number of power strips (or wire in outlets) at the front just under the lip of the bench. Very handy and easy.

    Build your own ceiling mounted air cleaner. I will forward some pictures of mine (crude looking but it works) in a different message.

    Have fun with the project. Having read your description of your previous working space it is obvious you will have no idea how you ever did it before when this is done.  (Steve Shelton)

    One suggestion given to me by the guy who rewired our kitchen a few years back - well two.  The first was to put in many, many more outlets that you dream about.  The other was the way he wired them.  The double outlets were wired so that the top plug on one outlet was on the same circuit as the bottom on next to it.  He commented that people tend to use all top or all bottom plugs.  Seemed sensible to me.  (Greg Dawson)

      I mentioned the same thing. After that, I was looking for an example for Harry and discovered that it is against code in some areas. Killing the breaker for one of the plugs leaves the other plug on the same outlet live. Obviously, code can be different from area to area, but worth looking into before wiring that way, finding out after the fact could just wreck your day.

      An alternate method is to wire every other outlet, with the alternate outlet on a separate breaker.  (Larry Blan)

        I recently finished a shop too. . .and my approach to outlets was one every four feet around the perimeter of the shop (600 sq ft), and four-plexes on the three posts that hold up the ceiling.  That way no cords to trip on.  And over light the place with fluorescents .. they add light, not heat, and the more light the better when working with power tools.  (Chris Obuchowski)

    One advantage of sheetrock walls is that they can easily be painted white to lessen dark corners.

    Exposed rafters sound good but they sure are dust traps.  Just a thought....  (Bruce Johns)

    Sounds like you are getting a lot of good advice Harry.  I'd add a stone fireplace with an oak mantle and a wet bar!  {:>)

    Don't forget to have 220v to you new shop too.  (Larry Swearingen)

    I wish I lived closer so I could help with your new shop.  Hey I was a design consultant and have a few skills so here goes.

    I would make a large scaled drawing, at least 1/2" = 1'-0" or use graph paper, showing my interior shop dimensions with door and window locations. Now use the same scale and draw each piece of equipment that you plan on or hope to have in the future, and start moving my scaled equipment drawings around on my shop drawing.  Once I was pretty happy with an arrangement, glue or tape them in place and when finished, you've got yourself a shop drawing.  Next I would do the electrical and lighting drawing.

    Are you going to have a separate room for finishing?  Are you wiring for heat or Air Conditioning?  Does track lighting make sense since you can move the fixtures and direct the light where you want it?

    I think encapsulating the room using pine or drywall against studs and rafters is a good idea as an attempt to keep your room clean and maybe keep moisture out.  Will you need a dehumidifier drain?

    Do you have any equipment that might need 20 amp. vs. typical 15 amp wiring?

    Will you ever need to access your computer from the shop?

    You can always attach stud mounted shelf brackets that height adjust, use with or without the shelves depending on horizontal spacing, that are as much as 22" deep, to hold your 10' culms.  Or you can cut your culms, making best use of node spacing, in half or thirds, taping each culm together and store them vertical.

    One trick we used when building a new home was to mark with a crayon or heavy pencil, stud locations on the floor, knowing carpet would cover this, so when we nailed base trim there was no guess work as to where our studs were.  We also use drywall stud finders for those flooring areas that were tiled or hardwood, and they really work.  Oh by the way, I would not use any carpet unless it is an area rug to stand on for a work station.

    I think the more time you spend designing the shop, the less likely you will be disappointed with the outcome.  On one job similar to yours, I designed a building for a friend who used the 14' X 20' detached building as an artists studio.  The cool part was it ended up on their House and Garden tour. Lighting is critical for any artist so we used lots of glass and skylights but with an existing building you can only do so much ... so I would seek out someone who understands candle watts.

    Harry if you have any specific design or material use questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  (Doug Alexander)

      I agree with most of the suggestions.  A couple of things I did.

      1.  Outlets are all 40" above the floor, and hand electric tools are all on a shelf near the workbench, therefore the cords all hang down with very little length on the floor.

      2.  Separate circuit for each wall, with lights separate.

      3. Wired for 20 amps in the large room which is the wood shop. Fudged a little here, but never have more than 1 machine plus dust collector running, and it is on a circuit that rarely has anything else; never a tripped breaker.

      4. GFCI for each circuit.  Wall mounted cheaper than those integral with breakers.

      5. In my old, tiny shop (8x12+ water heater) I had a 10" wide shelf running around the entire perimeter for stuff that was rarely used, never figured out how the cat got up there.  (Carey Mitchell)

    I wish I had talked to you before your electrician got there, I would have recommended a 100 amp subpanel just for the shop. As it is, you've got room for 2 20 amp circuits for outlets and a 15 amp circuit for lights, fluorescent lights don't draw as much as light bulbs so you'll get by all right even though you're 5 amps over. Put the outlets at 4' off the floor, and 4 feet or so apart then they'll all be comfortably above your workbenches. I don't know what you have or hope to have for power tools, but any shop works better if you figure out your flow of work and position the tools and benches accordingly. My shop  is a 12'x16' glorified garden shed with the door in a narrow end, the walls are lined with workbenches built onto the walls and the center of the floor space has another worktable made out of an old solid core door. Most of the work is done on one long wall with the lathe in the center of the short wall and the bamboo mill is around the corner on the last long wall. I just separated my circuits so I have the mill separate from the rest, with just me working in there I don't have 2 power tools going at the same time. (John Channer)

      Thank you to everyone!  The great ideas I have received are appreciated almost as much as the encouragement.  Responses have been overwhelming, and that's what makes the Rodmakers Email List the most valuable resource around for inquisitive rod makers and potential rod makers.  (Harry Boyd)

        When setting up kitchens, they talk about the work triangle: stove, fridge, and sink. The recommendation is having a minimal amount steps between them; 1 is the preference. It would seem that the same rule would apply to a shop. What are your 3 most frequently used tools?

        220 and overhead outlets are something you should seriously consider. Machines on locking rolling casters is also a great suggestions. My bandsaw is on them and it really makes life easier.  (Rich Jezioro)

        Are you talking about the actual roof framing, or are you just calling the ceiling joists(wall ties)rafters? Roof's are typically triangles, the 2 top chords are called rafters and the bottom chord is the ceiling joist or sometimes they're called wall ties because that's what they do, tie the walls together. Most roofs now on simple buildings are trusses, they have several cross members inside them and are joined with metal plates. If you have real rafters, just drywall the bottom of them and leave the ceiling joists exposed, trusses you'll have to get a bit more creative with, put a nailer on either side to attach drywall to or use drop ceiling grid and panels, you can get those panels insulated, too. In any case, you want to keep the insulation down a little from the roof plywood so you create an air space so the roof can vent properly.  (John Channer)

    I have bought a couple of books on woodworking shop construction and layout.

    What I've done in my second shop, which is still under construction:

    Installed wall electrical outlets all around the shop at two heights, the usual baseboard  level and at benchtop level I even have two outlets in the ceiling for dropping a power cord. Avoid ever having to run extension cords in the shop. I also put 220 outlets in several locations around the shop. I put in lots of ceiling lighting.

    I don't have the water and sewer lines, but if  did, I would plumb in a sink.

    Wood floor or vinyl tile over the concrete to absorb sound, insulate, and reduce damage to dropped edged tools.

    A wall unit air conditioner. I perforated the wall and put in a small window type unit that works well in my 12x24 space. In the winter I use a small electric space heater.

    3/8" plywood works well on the walls, but your 1x8 sheathing will be even better.

    I'm going to put 1x4" rails around the walls to hang cabinets on. Put a 45 degree reverse bevel on the rails and a matching rail on the back of the cabinets. That way you can move the cabinets around without nails or screws.

    A lumber rack on a wall near the door to store wood and bamboo.

    Central dust removal with drops in strategic locations.

    Air compressor outside with quick disconnects inside for compressed air.

    If you use a landline phone, put in jacks in a couple of locations and have a loud ringer for when machines are running.

    Exhaust fan through the wall.

    Ceiling hung air filtration unit.

    Outside slab preferably with a porch, lights, and electrical outlets for doing stuff that you don't want to do indoors.

    Windows with insulated glass and screens.

    Intercom for communicating with spouse.

    Couch or recliner and TV for when you are in exile.

    You are never done modifying a shop, so leave it flexible.  (Steve Weiss)

    You've got a lot of help here. I would suggest you put your primary work bench in the center of the room so you can work on both sides. If you have a little help sometime or in the process of helping a kid you can work facing one another. You can also have two jobs going on your bench. I think locking casters is a great idea unless your floor is not level. I would go to great effort to insure a level floor. I am looking forward to seeing some pictures sometime.   (Timothy Troester)

    You may want to consider using Natural Sunshine Florescent tubes. You can check them out at Home Depot. They not only give out more light for the same wattage but also let you see natural color. Cost a little more but they made a big difference in my shop.  (Don Schneider)

      Those are the same bulbs I have been using in my shop for several years now & man do they make a difference.  (Bret Reiter)

      Even if you have regular tubes, you can buy color temp adjusting sleeves to correct the color.   Most Ace's have them.  There are much like the ones to convert flour. to grow light color.  (Doug Hall)

    Looks like you've received many excellent ideas on specific ways to build your shop.   I would add one overall suggestion if I might.  I do gun work on a part time basis as a business.  (When you've spent what I have on equipment you HAVE to tell your wife it's a business!)  I try and remember that everything I spend has to be justified by what it will return in real dollars.  For example if I think I need a dividing head for the mill I figure what jobs will it allow me to do, how many of those jobs can I potentially get in a year, and how much can I make performing those jobs. Then it's easier to look as the expense realistically to see if it's justifiable or just helps satisfy my desire for a "new toy".  Now there are times when one has to have certain tools if one is going to perform certain tasks, but this way of thinking has helped me from making too many expensive mistakes.

    So, when setting up your shop I would suggest looking at it from a profit/cost view point and not just "I want" or "that would look nice" position.

    Hope this helps some.  At any rate, it's worth at least as much as you paid for it!  (Don Hansen)

    You've got excellent advice from all the others, but don't forget your back and feet.  The interlocking 2' x 2' foam pads on the floor (I got mine from Costco) make a world of difference.  Gives me protection from a cold floor and makes standing for a length of time much easier on my back and legs.  They also provide minor protection for dropped tools.  They still won't protect a razor sharp 1" chisel dropped point down.  That is . . . I . . guess they wouldn't . . if you were careless enough to do such a thing.  Just speculating, of course.  Have fun setting up the shop.  (Ed Berg)

    Foam floor pads... A MUST!!! Your sciatica will thank you...  (Mike St. Clair)

    I agree with the number and location of outlets.

    I have a fairly small shop (10lb in a 5lb sack)  so a lot of my stuff hangs from the ceiling, included my forms when not in use.   I also have 15 or 20 ft (I forget which) extension cord that hangs from the ceiling on a rope and cross peace made from a broom handle.   I can reach up and unwind what I need if I'm too far from an outlet. 

    I'd got with a center workbench.  I have to move my table saw or my drill press, or mill outside to use it.  If I had room I could put the lath against the wall.

    One other thing.  Close in under the benches.  Use doors or whatever.  If you don't you'll store things under there and end up having to move everything out of the room for your once a year cleaning (ask me how I know this).  You really need to be able to easily get to everywhere with a shop vac and not having benches closed allows junk to prevent this.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    I'd like to add the idea of a couple of skylights.  The older we get the better the light we seem to need and a couple of good skylights can make a world of difference!!  (John Dotson)

    I am also busy planning my move to new premises and apart from lighting and power points. I am putting up fixtures on the wall to hold various operation, Binding machine with a perfectly level 6' x 1' granite work top nearby for gluing and straightening, Planning forms where I can stand on either side, fixed on a narrow bed at 90 degree to the wall (getting at the cane from both sides helps scraping that really twisted node) Heat gun in place ready to be switched on at any time. A comfortable binding desk I can sit and work with adequate lights and all the tools at hand.  (Gordon Gove)

    A couple things come to mind.

    First, there was a huge thread on this a while back on "Clark's forum" or whatever they call it now. Lot's of responses, and I did a long list of things to have. As a man of the cloth, you probably would do well to ignore my suggestion of including at least one girly calendar.

    Don't overlook drywall. Cheap, and you can paint it an off-white to brighten the shop. I just redid my shop (mostly for insulation purposes) and went with drywall and painted it "Linen". Not glaring, but it brightened everything.

    As for electric, put in your outlets high- at least 36 inches off the floor. I don't think you could have too many. High placement keeps them accessible and you don't have to get down to plug things in. I split my outlets- each wall on a different circuit. That way you are less likely to pop breakers.

    The outlet that gets used the most is the four banger that hangs from the ceiling at the end of my primary workbench- just like the ones in your junior high school shop. I tie it up when not in use, which is rarely.

    Do you have a shop sink with running water?

    I would think about a 15 foot loft at one end for cane. It should be open so you can slide culms out and lower them to the main floor. Put your desk, computer, and fly tying and wrapping benches underneath where there is less headroom.

    Think about groups of lights spaced evenly for work stations. And of course most work benches should be away from the wall.

    Craig’s list is the best source of ultra cheap tools and materials. Sort of a hippie free classified ad website. Most cities have a web page. I got a fancy Danish Lervaad work bench two months ago for about 1/4 of what they cost new. It was so new it had never even been assembled. Less than half of the cost of the materials I needed to make one from scratch. Google Baton Rouge craigslist to get started if you don't know about the site.

    Ceiling fans.

    Put your dust control system in first. I did not, and curse the oversight every time I need to dip a rod.

    I use fluorescent light, but went with sunsticks for better color.

    Sunken dip tank for soaking varnish off dogs and Nunley.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      A shop is a place laden with dangers.  How about a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, baking soda, and eye washer out kit.  Just a thought: you can expand on it.  (Ralph Moon)

        And those extinguishers need to be next to the door(s).  Please don't ask how I know. Get to the exit, then turn and fight the fire.  (Carey Mitchell)

    In my shop I hang my bamboo from the ceiling, I also have two 4in PVC pipe and two 3/4" pvc pipes hanging in the same general area. 

    The two 4" pipes hold bamboo after it's been split and after it's been run through my rough mill and heat treated.  I leave the strips bound and can have several at a time (if I'm making a 2 tip rod or more than one rid, like I am now)   As the strips are completed they go into the 3/4" pipe. 

    That way all six strips stay together.  I've found that anything that's not in it's place

    goes into the twilight zone, in my shop and I hate searching for a strip when I'm ready to glue. 

    It also keeps the strips up out of harms way.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    As some have already recommended, some kind of soft floors (wood or foam mats) will not only save your tools but also your legs and back.

    Two things I would want in my shop that haven't been recommended yet are compressed air piped all through out the shop with quick connects so you can hook up a hose and nozzle anywhere you need it and a central vacuum system plumbed in much the same.  (Mark Shamburg)

    As we dream of what we'd like to see Harry put in his shop I may have missed this one.

    I personally would like some type of Sawdust Collection system.  Maybe you guys that plane don't generate sawdust but I sure make a mess <G>

    I just found this system from Shop Vac for $40 and ordered it for my garage.

    <>  (Ron Hossack)

      I’m going to add that and a floor sweep too. Easier on the back!  (Ray Wallace)

        If you intend to collect dust from several machines, I would suggest a 4 inch system attached to a small (or large) two stage or even a single stage dust collector. There are several sites on the web that discuss  small shop setups. It is a lot cheaper than it might seem. I have a small singe stage Jet. I have to move the hose between my table saw, band saw and disc/belt sander. The collector sucks dust but changing the hose around also sucks. I just can't find the space for a two stage collector hooked to permanent ducts. Still, my shop is much cleaner now. Muuch quieter too!  (Doug Easton)

          I would love to have a 4" system but the finances aren't there for that project after insulating and drywalling the garage. (snow predicted for thur)

          But I have this 16 gal Ridgid shop vac that I made into a poor man's dust collector.

          My HD was selling their orange 5gal paint buckets with lid for $2.00.

          I cut two 2 1/2" holes in the lid, put one hose going into the bucket and the other from the bucket to the vac.

          It traps all the nice big chunks in the bucket and all the fine dust is sent to the vac.

          Now when I vacuum up drill bits, large pieces of wood it is in the bucket and not the vac with all the dust.  (Ron Hossack)

            That is a really good idea to help your vac or dc last longer. The folks at Shopsmith say that the most often ordered replacement part is the impeller for their dc.  (Ray Wallace)

            You can buy those lids ready-made from Woodcraft or Woodworkers Supply in either the bucket size or a garbage can size.  (Steve Weiss)

          Just thought I would mention that I recently built a cyclone dust collector for small shops that was an article in Wood Magazine. The plans are available on the magazine site as a downloadable PDF file for a few dollars. Takes a sheet of 3/4 plywood, some tin, a trash can and tubing. I used a dust collector motor from Harbor Freight to power the unit. First time I started it up the suction lifted the 20 gallon metal trash can that is mounted on a plywood base and wheels right off the ground. Even before I put the final filter on there was no detectable dust coming out the exhaust port. The plans give 3 different sizes depending on what you need. Cyclones are generally a little high priced, but this one can be put together at a bargain. Might take a look at it if your considering dust collection.  (Floyd Burkett)


Since my 4' florescent light bulb was on the blink, I took a list members advise for Harry's shop and purchased two "Natural Sunshine" replacement bulbs from Home Depot.  They cost about $5.00 each and are rated at 40 watts.  My fixture uses 2 bulbs, so I replaced them both and now my work bench is just like being outside on a sunny day.  It will be interesting to see if these bulbs stand the test of time.  (Doug Alexander)

    You're welcome.

    I replaced all of the bulbs in my shop with Natural Sunshine florescent bulbs over 4 years ago and none have failed. One of the fixtures I leave on all the time 24/7. You may save a few dollars if you buy them by the case. It's nice to not only be able to see better but to see true color.  (Don Schneider)

      Forgot to suggest to you to remove the defuser on your light fixture. The defuser turns yellow with age and cuts down the light output.  (Don Schneider)


After you were so helpful with suggestions on the new shop, one more question comes to mind.  I'm debating whether I want to paint the 5/8" plywood walls in the new shop.

If you have a minute, take a look here and offer your opinions.  (Harry Boyd)

    Paint 'em black.  Everyone knows rodmakers work in caves and holes.  (Mike Shay)

    I just went thru this wth another friend. the wood is woodsy but the amount of lite that is reflected off the painted walls makes a big difference. you might consider a white stain. that might be a compromise. regardless, i would put something on the walls even if it is left over varnish. (Timothy Troester)

    I like the look of the wood but the argument is a good one for painting white for better light. I also think too much wood and you might feel like you are working in a box.

    I would suggest you paint the 2 long walls white and leave the 2 shorter gable walls in the wood or visa versa. I wouldn't varnish the plywood at all. I think a matt finish is much nicer. If anything you could wash these with a very dilute 'whitewash' (1 part white or off-white PVA paint to eight parts water - one or two coats).

    If you go with leaving the gable walls unpainted I would extend the plywood up to cover the entire wall i.e. take it further up into the triangular portion.  (Stephen Dugmore)

    Light colors as others have mentioned for lighting purposes.

    At least one open area wall with "white board" paint for writing notes for you and your students so you have a place to write stuff out or draw demonstrations. Works with dry erase markers.  (Pete Van Schaack)

    I would probably whitewash the plywood or completely paint it.  That way more attention may be drawn to the beautiful shiplap.  If you are anything like me, you will end up covering most of the walls with cabinets or benches anyway.  Plus the plywood (even varnished) looks like it may clash with the shiplap, the whole darker vs. lighter wood thing.

    Wish I had all those decisions to make.  Shoot, wish a had a separate shop.  Oops, my envy is showing.  (Pete Emmel)

      I'd agree with painting the plywood white, probably over a sealer so the grain won't show so much.  I'd varnish the pine, probably with 2 or 3 coats of a matte finish.  (I don't like shiny varnish on old wood, but that's just me.)  If you don't protect the wood, it will get dirty with time.  (Neil Savage)

    I am also in the process of building me a new shop & I have the framing done, wiring done & I am in the process of doing the insulation.  If you don't mind a suggestion from a guy who used to be in the trades here is my suggestion.  I am painting my ceiling a low luster white & then I am going to paint my walls (drywall) an eggshell white. The eggshell will make it easier to keep clean.  I am also going to section off an area with a panel molding & paint a chalk board on this area.I am also going to lay a bamboo floor (over sleepers) in it so I do not have to stand on a concrete floor.

    You will want to paint those walls because of the added lighting that you will benefit from & also it gives you a nice white surface to sight against when straightening blanks.  I have also put in the best florescent lighting I can find for a shop.  You may also use any nice pastel color on the walls.  This makes for a pleasant atmosphere to work in.  Evere wonder why schools, hospitals etc are painted in these type of colors?  It makes for a better mood.  (Bret Reiter)

      Bret has hit the nail on the head, no pun intended Bret. Eggshell finished paint is much more durable, cleans easily, and helps with adding some reflected light. For ceilings I have used both eggshell and satin in white, and I have been pleased with either. I have generally found it necessary to apply either over a primer, depending on the manufactures recommendation.

      The eggshell is not quite as forgiving depending on the level of finish you did with your taping, then again it is a shop. At least one white wall is good, pastels work well for the other three. Anybody remember the "green" of the old drafting tables, it was supposed to be soothing on the eyes, I think the closest color may be called sea-foam. You can always cut the color by adding white. 

      Depending on the grade of plywood, the painting will not turn out all that finished looking. You could sheet it with 1/4" drywall and tape it. The thinner sheetrock will have to come from a commercial supplier, and the stuff is very fragile until installed.

      I like the idea of the bamboo flooring as well, nice atmosphere. I have found that I have to wear work boots on any hard surface, wood or concrete, if I am going to be on it all day.  (Greg Shockley)

    If you sit and stare at that plywood long and hard enough it begins to look like your hallucinations when using some drugs. I know that is what the walls of the hospital looked like a few years back after 7 days in a morphine haze. Of course they were moving as well (the walls that is). Couldn't stand it. I vote for paint.  (Steve Shelton)

    Plain white probably is too reflecting. Ivory? Matt ivory?  (Marco Giardina)

    It's looking great!! It will be really nice comfortable work (play) area when finished. If it were me, the heart pine would get varnished, it is too pretty to cover up. But the backdrop in the area that you will do your planing and the area that you will use for wrapping and finishing, I would paint in order to gather as much light as possible for the fine detail work. It's a trade off though, because the painted walls will show the dirt quicker.  (Will Price)

    Paint and/or varnish. Raw wood surfaces tend to collect dust and webs and are hard to clean.  (Steve Weiss)

    You know, it's humbling to receive over thirty replies to the most basic of questions.  Thank you to all of you.  Even those who didn't reply probably saw that someone had already made a suggestion similar to their own ideas.  That's what makes this list so enjoyable.

    A painter will be here tomorrow afternoon to coat the three walls covered in plywood with an off-white semi-gloss latex.  As soon as I finish installing the shiplap, I'll hit it with the belt sander and give it a coupla coats of leftover varnish from the several cans I have been hanging on to.  Varnishing I don't mind, but painting is drudgery to me.

    Someone asked about a grand opening, and I think that's a grand idea...  My goal was to have the shop up and running by November 1, but you can see I missed that.  What if we have a grand opening later this month?  You're all invited, of course.  Bring your own beverages if you don't want Cajun coffee.  (Harry Boyd)

    Well guys, the painter finally started today.  He got a quick coat of primer laid down before he skedaddled.  Looks like those who suggested painting made a really helpful suggestion.  The shop seems much brighter, and larger too.  (Harry Boyd)


Many of you were extremely helpful when I was remodeling my shop last Fall and transitioning from part-time to full-time rod making.  A week or so ago someone from the list mentioned he was making a move from hobbyist to retiree.  He thinks he's going to have more time for rodmaking, so plans to remodel his shop to make it more enjoyable.  He asked what I learned in the process of remodeling the shop that might be helpful to others.  I've done some thinking, and here are my suggestions.

First, double whatever amount of light you think is adequate.  I ended up with 9 fluorescent fixtures and various drop lights in addition to the two windows I installed.  The lighting is decent, but I often find myself stepping out into the sunlight to get a good look at something.

Second, workbenches should be higher than you might think.  My benches are all at 36" from the floor.  I'm only 5' 8" tall, and the benches are still too short for me.  I'd be more comfortable with them at 40"+.  Even my lathe sits too low.  I wish I could work there without hunching my back.

Third, comfortable floor surfaces for standing are a necessity.  I have a couple of the rubber mats that grocery store checkers used to stand on, and a handful of neoprene-like interlocking blocks.  Yes, all of them catch shavings and dust, etc. but they make being on ones feet for several hours at a time much less painful.  The new shop has concrete floors and they're tough on feet that have been walked on for more than half a century.

Fourth, you should have at least a duplex electrical outlet every four feet.  I'd suggest four outlet boxes every four feet.  I wired the outlets so that no more than four outlets are on one 20 amp circuit, and no two neighboring outlet boxes are on the same circuit.  In the end I came up with 26 outlets in the shop.  Wish I had 50+.  No, you never use more than 3-4 at a time, but it sure is nice to leave things plugged in rather than swap plugs in and out.  What stays plugged in?  Here's the list in my shop:

  • Two shop vacs (one small one for lathe, one big Fein for other stuff)
  • A/C (on a circuit by itself)
  • Oil heater during the two weeks of winter we have here.
  • Lathe
  • Four to eight desk lamps, depending on what I'm doing
  • Bench grinder
  • Drill press
  • Electric sharpening rig
  • Band saw
  • Four over-the-bench 2' fluorescent fixtures.
  • Dremel tool
  • heat gun (2)
  • Boom box stereo (tuned to NPR)
  • Three battery chargers for drills, saws, etc.
  • Dip tube withdrawal motor and lights
  • Belt sander
  • Heat treating oven

I can think of several things that would be on a shop wish-list.  First would be running water.  I have some 5 gallon buckets I use as a sink, but wish I had real-live running water.  Hot water wouldn't be necessary, but rinsing off recently blued ferrules would work better in the shop than it does at my wife's sink.  Also, I wish I had a nice stool with casters that would roll on the floor mats. Ideally the stool would be adjustable height.  I'm still wondering how things would be nicer with a dedicated dust collection system.

Surely there are other improvements that might be incorporated, but they don't jump to mind right now.  I hope some of you find this somehow helpful.  (Harry Boyd)

    One tip you might consider is to take everything off the work bench and tip it on its side and attach some wheels or casters to the legs. That will raise the bench up a few inches which might be just what you need.  (Dick Steinbach)

    I have been in construction for 35 years, and a hobbyist of various types forever (woodworking, metalworking, knife making, rod building, fly tying, antique tool rest to name a few) and having had many shops, I agree with lots of your comments...  (Scot Lewis)


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