Shop Options: Readers’ Responses

In last week’s eZine editorial, Rob mentioned that he’ll be moving shop soon – and asked for any advice from eZine readers. He got a lot of such advice. Some people, for instance, advised him just not to move. – Editor

“Is it absolutely imperative that you move? I would try everything, within my power, to stay where I am. For me, I am old enough that I really should be downsizing anyway. Even if I downsized, I would still not want to give up my 900 square foot shop. Otherwise, find a place with a double garage and take over half of it for your shop.” – Paul Diemer

“I couldn’t possibly imagine moving to a smaller workshop after being so spoiled with my current one. I built it almost eight years ago as my dream workshop. The only way I want to downgrade it is when I go belly-up.” – Greg Little

“When I first started reading this, I wasn’t sure if you were bragging or just trying to piss off the rest of us peons who have not been so blessed with a decent sized shop.  After reading the balance of your sob story, I may have to feel sorry for you.  I have often wanted to have a larger space to practice my wood butchering. That said: just think of the possibilities you have to really acquire a shop to make others drool.  If I don’t die first, or the wife knocks me off because of all the stuff that gravitates to the surfaces of her car, I still hope to have something large enough that I don’t have to move out a vehicle, move the large tools about so I can do the larger projects, and just have some space to really take a large breath, not full of sawdust, of course. Good luck with the move.  I hope you find the space you not only require but deserve so you can continue to provide us with all the projects and inspiration as you have in the past.” – Bob Hoyle

Some shared their own experiences with downsizing. – Editor

“Several years back we moved, and so did my shop. I downsized from about 1,000 square feet to about half that. Large projects are a real challenge, and doing two large projects at the same time is impossible. Most of my tools are on wheels or easily movable, and I do store some tools or supplies outside my shop area (different part of my cellar). Adding new tools is a big decision, not only if can I afford the tool, but where am I going to put it. Overall, my shop is sometimes cramped, but workable.” – Ken Lordy

“We recently decided to downsize and move closer to town.  We currently have 5-1/2 acres, and I have a separate building which is a garage/workshop. Finding an adequate workshop space was a priority for us as well, but we can’t find any land close enough to town that is both within our budget and big enough to build another workshop.  Also, no houses that we’ve seen have anything close to a workshop space.  Although our decision is not one everybody can do, we found two adjacent lots in a subdivision and bought them.  We are going to build again, but since I can’t build an outbuilding, I’m going to put a basement under the new four-car garage and make that entire space a workshop. I love my current workshop, but I have hope now the new one will be even better.” – Shawn Jackson

“We know that we want to downsize in the next year or so, and my shop has to be downsized (not as much as my wife hopes! – if I can get away with it).  Last summer, before the kids came, I decided to start on a triage of the tools and supplies.  My boys are mainly into house repairs and probably will not take up woodworking.  I found that there were tools that they will never use for repairs and the tools they want, they have ‘borrowed’ until the next time we visit, meaning that I have already replaced them.  I have started putting tools on kijiji [Editor’s Note: a Canadian version of Craigslist] as well as donating some to Habitat ReStore.

“The other thing I started a few years ago was to put cupboards and tools on casters, making them easier to move.  Most of my upper cabinets are now mounted to the walls with French cleats, making removal a snap.  I also started making cabinets out of plywood rather than particleboard, reducing the weight.” – Ted Lomatski

Some suggestions were for, it appears, “upsizing” – at least when it comes to the shop. – Editor

“Recently retired and looking for a ‘smaller house and bigger shop.’   My current 300 square foot shop is just too small.  Too much moving stuff around, for both materials and  machinery (and operator). Any house we have found with an auxiliary building is pretty much in the boonies.  And those buildings will need a lot of work in terms of electrical, HVAC, insulation and lighting. Layout is also not quite right.  We have decided to start looking for a house we like with a bit of property that we can add an auxiliary building or ell addition.   Looking for something with 800-1,000 square foot shop. Will be interested to see how you end up.” – Keith Mealy

“If you are building a new house then, while designing, see if the builder can make your garage larger. We added two singles in tandem which started out as 10′ x 20′, making it 10′ x 40′ Then we found that there was still four more feet of side-to-side property available. Now my shop is 14′ x 40′ and the 20′ x 20′ double is available as well, giving me 1,012 square feet. I may have to pull the wife’s car out during the weekends, but that’s what casters are for.” – Dennis Young

“Keep a sharp eye out for the characteristics of the properties you’re shopping for. With the right priorities, you might be able to find one that at least provides shop space comparable to what you currently have. (I wasn’t going to buy a house that didn’t have a garage, and as soon as I saw the basement/garage setup of the ranch, I knew it would be just what I’d need. And, it didn’t hurt that the house’s living and yard spaces were my wife’s favorite.) Happy house hunting, and good luck!” – Mike Weise

And some had suggestions for the destination of any tools Rob wants to get rid of. – Editor

“I hąve been through a few changes. Useful stuff, like circular saws and table saws, are always welcome at your local Habitat for Humanity. Anything they cannot use would go to a Habitat ReStore for sale to help support them. That’s all assuming you don’t have an envious neighbor who might buy some tools.” – Carl Carter

“The best thing I can think of doing is donating the equipment to one of your loyal Ezine readers.  I am in need of a new planer, a jointer, dust collection, an air compressor, and anything else you feel you don’t want to move.  You can send them to Indiana, or I can arrange to pick them up.” – Vince Granacher (P.S.  I’m kidding, of course.)

And, for some, where there’s a will, there’s a way … – Editor

“Even when I lived in an apartment, I did plenty of woodworking, Rob. Tool portability is the key and also a portable workbench. I used to take my table saw and workbench out my slider onto the patio and go town! Kept my tools on wheels for years. Takes time to get things ready to work, but when you have no choice, you just find a way. Built an entire living room set outside once.” -Ed DeMott

“I ąm a retired helicopter pilot, and when I researched my retirement shop options I discovered CU Woodshop Supply – Dreamshop in [Champaign/]Urbana. The shared shop works much better and cheaper than maintaining my own. It might be difficult to find something like this in every city, but if you already have that many tools, you might find others who would go in on a shared facility. It does require a good group of people, but that group can add to the value of the shop by the variety of their expertise.” – Dan Lanier

“If you don’t have space in your new home, you can try to find a ‘buy-in’ shop like the one in Champaign, Illinois, at CU Woodshop Supply.  For a one-time investment of $20,000, you become a member and can use their large shop with all the very latest tools whenever you want.  They call it The Dream Shop.” – Don Craft

Some, who have obviously been following the saga of Rob’s life closely, keyed in to the reason for the upcoming move. – Editor

“I suppose you’ve already discussed with your new bride about how important your job is to the financial stability of your young marriage? And without the Woodworker’s Journal you would be writing sale ads for [local optometrists]? So how did she take it when you told her the new formal dining room was to formally become your new shop? Good, I hope! Good luck, and don’t forget divorce attorneys will take all of your tools away and sell them at Goodwill. Then you would not need a shop.” – Kevin Hanes

“Life and a new marriage is a series of compromises.  I lucked out: my new wife built a shop for me! Awesome!  It is a ‘small,’ to your standards, 24 x 30 building with a two-car garage door.” – Mike Dutton

And, although Rob got lots more additional advice, we’ll let the final words of wisdom go to this reader. – Editor

“Don’t sweat it.  Who said, ‘The only thing constant is change’?  One thing I have learned is that whatever is today,  will be something different tomorrow.  Enjoy what you have when you have it, and make the best of the next thing when it comes along. Fifteen years ago, I used to run weather station-controlled irrigation with a computer from a desk for hotels in Vegas.  Now I’m a commercial beekeeper and teach vegetable gardening to elementary schoolers in Charlotte, North Carolina. Things change in ways you’d never imagine they could.  Hang on for the ride and smile along the way!” – Andrew Thiessen

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