My Garage Workshop’s a Fit

Yep! I love it!

What would I change at the end of eight months here? Not a thing. I’ve set up enough workshops in my time to know what I want and what I want is what I need and nothing more. In times past I needed to expand to accommodate additional people to work with me, especially when on production with a line of designs. Add into that my wanting to hold classes in the same facility and the issue adds more complexities. It seems a little incongruous some times when most measure success by some an ever increasing corporate structure. You know, a big building filled with people. I come along and find peace in downsizing to a garage. It’s also funny that on the one hand it has led to me reaching more people than ever from the smallest workshop I have had in decades.

This garage workshop has taken me back to my roots. I should tell you that, at one time, when I started my first proper school as a teaching facility, the workshop floor area was 40 feet wide by 80 feet long. One half of it was walled off in glass for a full machine shop. The other half was a 20-bench-place hand tool workshop for both the craftsmen and the students. That, I see now, was a mere stepping stone. It was where I learned about the needs of those new top woodworking and those machinist types looking for more highly skilled work and knowledge to improve themselves. In those days I taught machining courses too but you can learn all you need about machining in a day. What students wanted was all of the internalised knowledge I had about hand tools. It became my training ground to learn how and what to teach to help hundreds and thousands to become woodworkers following a lifestyle inclusion like me. The complexities of a full scale workshop with staff, customer demand, sales and so on can be a real headache if that’s not what you want. My preference was make one piece and sell one piece. That leads to individual peace.

My garage space now, and, yes, combined with modern technologies, means I am able to both return to my roots of 50 years ago in my first garage workshop next to my house and also reach many a thousands around the world.  Teaching them my craft means preserving everything that I have lived by for five decades. How amazing the two worlds. That early workshop was about as close to the same size as my present garage/teaching workshop as I could be and I remember designing and making my first home workbench in it on my hands and knees (with a Black and Decker workmate, the blue one with thicker metal than today’s version) just as we did a few short months ago for our YouTube series. I owned a three wheel bandsaw that gave me a much deeper depth of cut but was a beast to set up and balance out; bit like riding an adult three-wheeler cycle when you are used to a two wheeler. My neighbours weren’t too happy with me chipping away and in those days I did use a couple of machines and a router too. But came the day when they needed a new door or some other piece making and I obliged them with a quality turn out. Eventually they accepted me as this working-class lad from social housing climbing up in to a new world. It still wasn’t easy though, but the USA really helped me with that too.

My new garage space really fits me. By that I mean it suits me. Just thinking about it when I am not there lifts my spirits every time and when I encounter difficult times I walk inside it and I somehow arrive at pure peace. It is a one-man space with the possibility for a second person. O

Hannah’s workbench and area.

n the other side of the garage door is Hannah’s workbench and workspace, which is about 10 feet by 10 feet, my second bench for general building maintenance on the bigger building, experimentation, trialling and such and then three more workbenches where Izzy and others develop projects for Common Woodworking are all out there too. That’s a different zone with a different purpose. Izzy makes the exercise projects like the tool tote, chisel tray and wall shelf and such. I must say that  is moving along and growing at a steady pace and I am glad we are addressing the need for those new to woodworking. It’s working.

When I say my garage space works for me I mean that it is of modest size and economic functionality. I don’t have to move too far to build my pieces and even sizeable projects seem to come together just fine. MY next project is a sizeable one and it includes using the bandsaw for about half a day. I have already built the prototype and you will love this radically different project. We will shoot the whole project differently and we will enjoy seeing your reaction to the making and the project itself.

What I have enjoyed with this garage space over any other is just taking my time a bit more than with the previous ones and then customising the innards thoughtfully—even to the point of creating working drawings for things too. In the past the demands of providing for a family with four boys still at home meant setting up ASAP and getting into production. The garage shelving in my background is no more and no less than I want. I have  little passage area with storage to take the extra gear I need because of making the videos work. I cannot just nip out for that extra special brass screw or hook or fastening when we have three people hinged to a camera set up. I carry a pretty varied stock. I also carry more wood beyond my garage space because again I need to have a selection in so that nothing is held up. In some ways the garage represents exactly how I am in my woodworking and reflects some of my happiest days fro half a decade ago. today it is how I want to work for the rest of my life. It’s real, unintrusive, simple and clean. I love it.Will I add other machines like power planers and tablesaws? No. That’s all past. I have worked out exactly what areas of woodworking I love the most. I will never go back to what was offered with a full machine shop as part of my production. Even with filming, were I to sell what I can make in a week with my bandsaw and hand tools I can make a very good living. Enough to provide for a family of six people. I believe that, but I do understand that others might not or might not have that as an ambition at all.

17 thoughts on “My Garage Workshop’s a Fit”

  1. Hi Paul, will you be doing a video on the shelves behind your bench or the small table behind you? I’ve made the bench and would love some guidance on these other pieces. Thanks, Tim

    1. Colin Edmondson

      I too have recently finished my bench ( including some of the add-ons & customisations) and am now looking at what else I need to create a workspace.
      Not necessarily looking for full-blown videos but some guidance / pointers on what works and things to avoid would be awesome. As a noob I’ll probably inevitably rehash at least some of whatever I do now, when I know more about it all but trying to get some of it right at the outset seems worthwhile.
      I especially need some wall shelves behind the bench so I’m eyeballing that shelf construction and wondering which joints go where, whether the plywood backed section helps keep it square or is just to keep some items away from the brick wall and which parts are load bearing…. I thought about trying to adapt the bookshelf from Paul’s “Working Wood 1&2” book but not sure how best to deal with the wall mounting aspect.

  2. I enjoyed this Paul. The part about lines of design really stood out to me. I’m beginning to find myself more and more as a woodworker at this point within my journey. I’m figuring out what I could design and make for own functionality in life as well as possibly selling for others. One of my most satisfying discoveries is designing a piece in a certain way that helps the crafting of it more enjoyable as well as putting it together (glue up).

    Currently I’m designing a storage table for dining ware. The design comes from 2 dressers I’ve made for my shop which are very beefy and heavy. The dining-ware table will have more eloquence such as curved legs, an in-layed top, and dovetailed shelf dividers that separate the cupboard areas.

  3. Quick Question which might have been answered already in past blogs. What is the length and width of you present shop. I am just wanting to compare it to my present 2 car garage. Thanks.

    1. Given that Paul said his first band-tool shop was 40×40 and “That early workshop was about as close to the same size as my present garage/teaching workshop as [] could be”, I’d assume approximately those dimensions. I’m not certain, but I am guessing that includes the areas “on the other side of the garage door”, and does not include the additional storage he mentions for spare wood/parts to support the filming.

      Hopefully Paul will correct me if I’m wrong.

      I do find this encouraging. The space I have for my shop is about 18×18 with some obstructions, so if Paul can mostly work in his half of a 20×20 I should be ok if I learn to work somewhat efficiently. The main things my space really seems to lack compared to his are high ceilings, and the garage door access. (If/when I make larger pieces, getting them up the bulkhead stairs may be a challenge.)

      And, of course, my space is lacking a master woodworker. Maybe someday.

  4. someone said that beyond a supply of food and clean water, and protection from the elements, all else is vanity. Your workspace represents the means of achieving the above for you. If it were lined with high tech Festool boxes, you would not be better fed or housed. Ambition is hard to maintain at our age (our “advanced” age) because we recognize that we have all we need, but we can crank ourselves up a notch now and then by recognizing how we can contribute somehow to meeting the basic needs of others. I’ll know PS has gone round the bend when I see him change his shirt to make a video.

  5. What I’d really like to see is a PS “portfolio” of things you’ve made and sold. For example I have searched for pictures of the White House pieces. You say you can make a very good living selling what you could make in a week. What sorts of things would you make?

    1. It wasn’t the White House pieces that earned me a living, I have made much more of my life sharing it with others around the world. Mostly it was love of my craft that drove me and never money. It was skilled workmanship, honest dealing, a modicum of entrepreneurialism, design drive, vision and gutsiness. When others said, “Give in!” I said, “Not likely.”

  6. carl christensen

    Hello, I really enjoy the way you work with hand tools, it really gives a lot of information to the woodworking world. when you make comments that totally minimize what it takes and what it is to operate, set up, and maintain machines to properly use efficiently, and safely, I think you do a disservice to yourself and your followers. If you work with someone that learned it all in a day, you better have the fist aid kit ready and 911 on speed dial.

    1. Nope. Safety is not learning to use machines. Safety and set up is common sense, which people already have after a few minutes in the machine shop. It takes minutes set up a tablesaw, a planer and a jointer and that includes a few minutes on safe use of same. Same with routers. That is the very reason that people gravitate to the easy path.

      1. “It takes minutes set up [machines] … That is the very reason that people gravitate to the easy path.”

        Brilliant point.

  7. Has Paul already posted a sketch/floor plan/discussion of how he has arranged this small space for efficient woodworking? I have a basement workspace which I’m feeling I should rearrange, so I’m looking for smaller-shop arrangements that have actually proven themselves to be practical.

  8. Kelvin G Foster

    Good morning Paul,
    At long last I have began to make my own workbench. I was inspired by your set of videos doing exactly that.
    I am a beginner in the self build arena, I am retired and was looking to have some sort of interest.
    Hence your videos and my attempt to build my own workbench.
    I would like to thank you for showing what can be achieved with a minimal amount of tools.
    Yet still create something that I will be able to use in the years to come.
    Thank you.
    Kelvin G Foster

  9. Paul,
    I am disappointed that you didn’t include your famous hanging tool cabinet in the new garage workshop. Perhaps you haven’t had time to build another one since the move. I would imagine that whatever you show in your shop many of your students will emulate and I fear that not so many will build the Tool Cabinet. –Jim in Oregon

  10. Hi Paul
    Nice to see your back in your garage workshop environment it looks cool and very tidy, I’m working in a 10×8 shed and outgrowing it fast so will be making the move to my garage in the spring I think.
    Could I ask where you get your wood from these days as I find it hard to get decent wood to work with off the shelf?

    1. I use two local suppliers for pine boards, Travis Perkins in Didcot and then Sydenhams in Abingdon who carry both pine and oak. For sheet goods I rely on Powells sheet materials in Oxford and for hardwoods I use Surrey Timbers.

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