Moving a Shop…Got Any War Stories?

Generally speaking, I’m pretty good about taking things in stride and not dwelling on myself. But honestly, this has been a really tough summer. You see, our family is in the process of moving to Virginia. My wife was offered a wonderful new employment opportunity in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and opportunity was knocking loudly enough to pull up roots and move. But therein lies the catch: the “moving” part.

In the interest of saving money, we’re doing it all ourselves using a commercial container system…packing, loading, unloading, unpacking…everything but driving it all there in a truck. The house is finally empty for the most part, so all that remains is to transplant the shop. So that’s what I’m doing each night after work, like a worker bee dutifully tending the hive. I’ve done this once before, but the memory of it somehow didn’t deter me from doing it again. It should have, because packing a full-blown woodworking shop is no picnic. Especially if, for the most part, you’re doing it alone.

Take last Saturday night, for instance…around eleven thirty p.m. My neighbors were probably settled into some good cable TV or maybe even heading toward their first REM cycle of the night. Me? I had four pieces of machinery still sitting in the yard on skids, waiting to be loaded. I had spotlights plugged in, there were bugs flying around everywhere and I was measuring this and that over and over again to see what and how would fit where. The dew was settling in, so I was worried about a fine coating of moisture covering all of that ferrous metal. But even more troublesome was the imminent threat of rain that had been building all day. I was determined to get those machines into the container if it killed me. And, my back tells me it nearly did. Thankfully I managed to avoid the rain. It never rained a drop.

Fourteen hours earlier, while loading my too-big-of-a drill press onto a skid, its center of gravity suddenly went amok — they’re awfully top heavy, you know  — and over it tipped. Thank goodness no one was in the way of that cast iron Sequoia, because it shook the building’s rafters when it hit the floor. My shop floor is covered with plywood, so actually there wasn’t much harm done to the machine. But the accident didn’t leave it unscathed. The top pulley case will never close properly again. My fault…lesson learned.

I’m both happy and sad to say that that familiar 30 x 30 ft. space is nearly empty. It’s been a great place to produce content for our fine magazine (remember the ridiculous photo of my cabinet saw review setup?), improve my own woodworking skills and just get away from it all. I will miss it like an old friend. But I’m anxiously looking forward to building a new shop in Virginia so I can keep the articles coming your way in the future. In the interim, I’ll be using a corner of the basement just as I used to do many, many years ago.

So how about you? Maybe you’ve sweated and sworn your way through a woodworking shop move yourself. Have you worked into the wee hours to get it done? Got any war stories and mishaps to share from your experience? I’d really appreciate hearing them. Misery does love company! And maybe we’d all get a laugh out of it to boot. I’m sure some day, when my arms aren’t sore and the bruises fade, I’ll look back on that dropped drill press and laugh. Maybe.

They say “change” is one of those things in life that’s unavoidable. But I can tell you this: once my shop is settled again, I’m going to avoid “change” for a good long while.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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  • daniel ornduf

    I myself had to move my wood shop by my lonesome and it is not fun. But it wasn’t across the country it was from my garage to the shop in the back part of our property. My wife and i worked an saved an saved till we where able to build a 24/40 building. Now all of our equipment has its own place, makes doing projects alot better and fun. So good luck an wish you an your family all the best

  • Back in 2005, I moved pretty much my entire shop from Goshen, NH to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands!

    I hired a 40′ shipping container to be dropped at my house. What I did NOT understand is that the container is not “dropped”. It is simply parked, STILL ON THE TRAILER!

    I had to load the container while it was about 6feet off the ground. I loaded everything onto my utility trailer, backed that up to the container, then ramped it up into the container. My cabinet saw, Woodmaster, and an 800 pound cast iron drilling machine all had to make it into the container.

    This was all in June, and I also had to load the contents of the house too! When we moved back from the islands, I left pretty much all the tools behind!


    • Chris Marshall

      Ralph, you’ve got me beat. If I had to load at altitude, it would have broken my will, that’s for sure!

  • Chris Marshall

    Daniel, thanks for your kind words! We are lucky to be woodworkers, but the hobby is a heavy one for sure!

  • Jim Severson

    I love woodworking and I love Virginia.

    You sir have picked the best part of the best state to continue editing the best magazine.

    I hope you are able to continue for as long as you desire.

  • Chris,

    One thing is certain… I do not envy you at all! I relocated ten years ago, just across town and it was miserable… I told my wife, this was it! Best of luck!

  • Michael Collins

    I have just retired and am planning to go on a sabbatical for 2 years to repair or replace cabinets for a church farm. I had envisioned setting up a 40 foot container as a shop, and ship it, but the area inside is confining. I like your use of pallets to move the heavy stuff in and out. Enjoy Virginia.

  • Juan Pablo Montano

    I’m sorry yo damaged you drill press. I’m in Woodbridge VA, so if your new place is not that far and you need a helping hand unloading and setting your shop, I can probably help one Saturday.

    Good luck and welcome to Virginia,


  • Chris Marshall

    Shop contents will arrive at my new location next week…just in time for the creaks in my back to go away. Thanks all, for your show of support here. I’m fortunate to be in a beautiful new state and to continue to work for great magazine. Will keep you all posted on how the new iterations of a workshop take shape.


  • Dorald Keefer

    When using a “professional moving company” that shall remain un-named, (big picture of a turn of the century sailing craft on the side of the trailer), loaded us, they put my table saw, jointer and other shop equipment off to the side so they could receive special handling. I was relieved that they would be taking special care of my stuff. . . . Should have kept a better eye on things though. When I went outside to see how things were going I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw my equipment table tops being used as coasters for their drinks, which I had furnished as a favor. I guess the icing on the cake was that the moving company couldn’t or wouldn’t fully understand what their crew had destroyed . . .

    Many years later you can still see some of the marks . . . AHHHHHHHHH ! ! !