peg board

Make time for organisation

While I was working, there was never enough time to set up or maintain a workshop. Since leaving the rat race, however, I’ve finally been able to convert my garage into a proper workshop which has been a source of enormous satisfaction. Apart from the luxury of being able to manoeuvre easily and find everything when I need it, I’ve realised that organisation + self-discipline = efficiency. It’s ironic, though, that I’ve only become much more efficient since retiring, which gave me more time for my hobby anyway!

Old materials, new uses

Recycling is in my blood, so most of the material for the workshop units came from pallets and other bits of used timber. It may not be the most beautiful material, but I knew I was going to be the only person who’d really see them, so their appearance wasn’t nearly as important as their strength.

While recycled materials may be free, they do often require careful preparation, as they’re not only likely to contain nails, but stones and grit carried in the surfaces will ruin the blades of a planer or thicknesser. I usually clean up the wood with a quick sanding, then check it with a metal detector before machining.

wheel base wheel base
Pic 1. Peter has mobilised his machinery...
Pic 2. ...so that it can be wheeled out as needed

Every little helps

Any available space was fi tted with shelving, usually in areas that are within easy reach, although a three-legged stool, which I found at the dump and repaired, has proved useful for reaching higher shelves.
dust control
Pic 3. Dust control is very important;
this Perspex guard for Peter's tablesaw
attaches to the extractor

Andy King (Good Woodworking magazine) mentioned the advantage of pegboard, and I use it to hold my hand tools, which are arranged in relevant groups — tools for measuring and marking, tools for sawing, screwing, and cutting, etc. — so I know where to find them quickly.

Every machine has its place, and stands on a support that incorporates built-in storage. As Andy also suggested, machines that need more space when in use are mounted on wheeled stands so that they can be rolled into the central space when needed. The drum extractor is moved from one machine or area to the next on a wooden base fitted with castors.

My timber supplies, meanwhile, are stored on shelves in the huge amount of useful space under the workbench, which is lent extra stability by the timber’s weight. The wood for my current project, however, is always stored under the bed in the spare room, so it can assimilate the humidity of the house.

When searching for storage space, don’t overlook the large amount of space in the rafters — if yours are open like mine, that is. However, before you start stashing away those long pieces of wood and rarely-used jigs, make sure you prepare a list of what’s where, or you’re bound to forget and might as well throw them away!

sawhorse aid drill press dust extraction
Pic 4. A rolling pin makes a great sawhorse aid
Pic 5. A box on the drill press deals with dust

Shine a light

In addition to the general overhead lights, each area of my workshop has its own lighting, and you won’t be surprised to hear that most of my lights come from the town recycling site or from charity shops. I favour 60W spots, and mount them in the rafters where they’re out of the way and at a convenient height. Each machine also has a dedicated light to ensure that it’s clearly illuminated when in use.

A collection of helpmates

I have a guard for my tablesaw that’s made from Perspex, with an aluminium angle for the frame attached to the rafters above. It is versatile, transparent, and also attaches to the extractor; dust control is an important safety measure in my workshop, Pic.3.

Cutting sheet materials on the tablesaw can be difficult, but a sled helps with safety and accuracy. It also allows me to attach other accessories, like my tapering jig. I have a second, smaller sled made following one of Bruce Manning’s designs. This is used for thicknessing or sanding narrow workpieces, holding the contents in place with doublesided tape.

To support long pieces as they’re fed through the tablesaw, I’ve also built a handy device consisting of an old rolling pin in a cage that can be clamped to a sawhorse, Pic.4.

The sanding drums, which I use in the drill press, create a lot of dust, so I built a small box to contain the waste and take it straight to the extractor, Pic.5.

As for my router table (Pic.6), it has a guard with an extractor port, a screw for raising the router and a NVD switch from Charnwood. One of the most useful accessories for the router, however, is my ’shop-made guide clamp, Pic.7. When not in use, it hangs on the wall with my other jigs, labelled for ease of location.

One of the most useful items in my workshop is a set of shim samples, each labelled with their thicknesses. I have a small box for 2 x 3in slices of common materials from 1 to 5mm thickness; these are offcuts of pressure laminate (Formica), Plexiglass, plywood and the like.

 
router table clamp guide
Pic 6. The router table has several accessories...
Pic 7. ...including Peter's favourite, a guide clamp

A place to create

It’s taken me four or five years to set up my workshop, but I’ve enjoyed collecting the recycled materials, and buying second-hand equipment from Good Wood readers’ advertisements or eBay. It’s not only been a rewarding task in itself, but the workshop allows me to create some great objects of which I’m really proud.