I’m currently in the third working space that I’ve been able to call my shop. It’s been a little over a year since I moved into this shop and have since moved tools around a dozen or so times. Each time has been in an effort to either gain efficiency in my work flow or to increase the amount of workable space available.
Not every change has been a success though. I’ve completely moved all of my tools around several times only to put them right back where they were when my idea didn’t work out as planned. But the little failed experiments here and there have never bothered me. Mark Twain once said that “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” and I couldn’t agree more. Often times when you delay and delay and delay something to try to find the best solution you end up either talking yourself out of it or never finding a solution at all. When you at least attempt to improve you are allowing far more opportunities to not only find a solution that works but also possibly solve another problem or create another improvement accidentally.
So with all of my failed attempts at gaining ground in the work shop I have found a few things that have really worked out for me. Here are 5 tips that I have found to increase my workshop efficiency and productivity.
1 – Make EVERYTHING Mobile
For anyone in a hobby shop environment I would say making everything mobile will have the greatest impact on your shop. Being able to move all of your tools and work tables out of the way easily is often times required when sharing a space with household needs. And with everything easy to move you will more easily be able to move items around as your shop changes. This doesn’t always mean putting casters on the bottom of your tools and tables. My bandsaw doesn’t have a mobile base on it yet I can easily move it around with a 2 wheel hand truck.
2 – Keep Your Commonly Used Items Visible
An organized shop will have layers of storage. The deepest layers, or harder to reach storage locations, should store your least commonly used items. The middle layers, or somewhat easy to reach storage locations, should store your items that you use but don’t need quick access to. And the top layers, or most easily accessible storage locations, should store your most common used items in visual sight. If possible, keep your most commonly used items visible and within an arms reach of where they will be used. In the following example you can see that while using my miter saw I have super convenient access to everything I need at the miter saw such as a pencil, measuring tape, safety glasses, hearing protection, a square or two, and a place to secure my project cutlist. Also you can see that all of my commonly used cordless tools are in sight. And all of my commonly used countersink bits and drivers are right next to my drill and impact.
3 – Overlap Tool Dead Space
This is something I’ve recently found that allowed me to not only keep my heavy planer out at all times but also freed up enough space for me to add a large jointer to my shop all without feeling like I lost any working or assembly space. Combine or overlap the tool dead space. What I mean by that is every tool has a working side and a side in which you will never be that is just taking up space. For the table saw that space is to the right of the max capacity mark of the table saw fence. For the bandsaw it is the side to the left of the fence. And for my particular planer it is the side opposite of the elevation adjustment. I recently realized that to the immediate right of my table saw was some space that I never used for working or assembly so overlapping a few tools on their dead space side right there actually makes a lot of sense. These three tools are now crammed together yet they do not interfere with one another at all. Try it out in your shop. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
4 – Stack Tools If Possible
Stacking tools vertically will allow you to completely eliminate dedicated footprints for items that can be combined. A lot of people have shopvacs and more and more people are adding some type of two stage separator to them. This typically means two footprints of dedicated space but with something like a shopvac cyclone cart you can store both of them as well as all of the hoses and accessories in a smaller space. Another example of this would be to make a flip top cart that has a miter saw on one side of the top panel and a benchtop planer on the other side.
5 – Use Wasted High Wall Or Ceiling Space For Storage
Think high with your long-term storage. I’ve got several items that I don’t want to get rid of but also do not want taking up working space in my shop. I’ve also got several items from the house that seem to migrate into my shop where they don’t need to be. For stuff like that building wasted space high wall storage shelves is a great way to get it out of the way without getting rid of it. The less non-shop clutter in your shop the more available space you have to work.
Hopefully you were able to find something useful in this article. And I understand I’m not the only one who has stumbled upon useful tips or tricks in the shop so if you have another shop tip you’d like to share please leave it in a comment so we can all learn from it.