How to Set up a Woodworking Shop – A Comprehensive Guide

A DIY workshop is a bit like a kitchen. Small or large, it needs a working table, a cupboard and lots of storage space. The layout must be well thought out to simplify moving around and make it easier to move around in complete safety.


       1.A workshop in the house


How To Setup Your Workshop In A Small Space Under Budget!

The location of your workshop depends of course on how much space you have and on your DIY desires. In an apartment, a well-equipped cupboard will be enough to do small jobs that are not too messy. For creative hobbies (wooden jewelry for example), a small room or even a slightly wide corridor will allow you to exercise your passion.

If you have a house to your disposition, you might even be able to use the cellar or even better, the garage.

Separated from the house, a garage has good air circulation. Also often the outer walls are constructed to bear heavy loads and generally equipped with electricity. 

When the exterior temperatures are getting too harsh outside or/and the tools used are making too much noise for the neighbours, garages are easy to get insulated too. 

To bring in natural light, the simplest way is to install a garage door equipped with portholes.

       2. A workshop in the garden

A garden shed is ideal for a do-it-yourself workshop away from the house, without disturbing others. This small construction from wood, steel or aluminum, available in many pre-made sizes, adapts to all garden sizes. The bigger you can afford to make it, the more comfortable it’s going to be. Included with insulation and double-glazed windows to be able to enjoy it in any season.

Please note that authorization might be necessary from the local authorities when building from a certain size, so make sure to check this out first. Also it will be necessary to convey electricity and to envisage a water point nearby.


       1. Floor, walls and ceilings

Working with wood produces lots of dust, therefore to facilitate cleaning, do not leave the concrete floor bare. The best way is to simply lay a PVC floor, since those are easier to maintain. You can also choose to paint the floor with epoxy. But if you have to handle heavy objects avoid tiles, which can break under their weight. Be aware that a wooden floor is not always suitable for fixing large stationary machines.

On walls and ceilings, simply use white paint. The workshop will look bigger and this will encourage you to keep it clean and tidy!

       2. Efficient lighting

Take care of the lighting in the workshop. A simple light bulb hanging from the ceiling is not enough to light a room, especially if your work deserves a little precision.

Therefore, provide evenly distributed lighting with sturdy, waterproof fixtures with fluorescent tubes or powerful LEDs, properly illuminating the top of the workbench and other working spots.

Complete with focused sources: lamps hinged on a workbench. Their positioning is important. It must avoid shadows without dazzling. Also it’s advisable to get a portable, battery-powered construction-site light. This will give you more flexibility, especially when you need to work outside.

       3. Safety

A workshop is a high-risk room, therefore you’ll need to put a lock on the door to limit access. Store your tools high up and lock your equipment in boxes. Furthermore your electrical installation must be up to standard and grounded.

Increase the number of watertight outlets on the work surface and for the machines in place.

Limit extension cords that snake on the ground and use reels instead. Don’t forget to have a fire extinguisher too.

       4. Noise Reduction

Tools and machines make a lot of noise. To reduce it, start by replacing the seals on doors and windows. If your home is adjacent to your workshop, increase its sound insulation. If the disturbance is really annoying, consider box-in-box soundproofing, because sounds and vibrations are easily transmitted from one room to another.

In the meantime, disconnect your appliances from the floor or wall by placing them on anti-vibration mounts or hard rubber pads. You will appreciate the difference.

       5. Healthy Air Flow

Finally, the workshop must be well ventilated since we work with chemical substances and lots of dust. So the objective is to renew the air as much as possible and eliminate the pollutants emitted by our DIY activities, and when working with wood in particular. One of the simple ways to achieve this is by creating a draught. 

Air inlets should be applied to the lower part of the room and outlets to the upper part of the room, on the opposite wall, to properly sweep the space. Complete this with a variable flow extractor and you’re totally set.


       1. Three Zones 

The ideal do-it-yourself workshop is divided into three zones with different functions. With as objective to reduce the need to move around:

  • Work area: Where you do the actual DIY. In order to create a safe space you could place a fixed worktop along the wall and a height-adjustable chair with a good backrest. Take into calculation the clearances and the distance needed to move boards on the woodworking machine, for example.
  • Utility area: For water (washing tub), for waste (sorting containers for waste disposal and recycling), and for protection (when handling chemicals for example). And don’t forget a designated place to store glasses, masks, earplugs, gloves, first aid kit, etc.
  • Storage area: For supplies. The idea: make maximum use of the space from top to bottom for storage. Hang long equipment items from the ceiling and store heavy tools at the bottom, in their boxes.

       2. Essentials at Your Fingertips

Perforated panels with hooks allow the main tools to be within sight and reach. Those panels are also very easy to attach wire baskets and small shelves. 

Saws (without forgetting to protect the blade with a PVC cover), files, screwdrivers, scissors, pliers, pincers and even some small cutting tools (cutters, pliers, etc.) are all easily attached in this fashion. Thus, they will be easily visible and always accessible.

Pro tip: Avoid rust on tools

Place a few chalk pieces in the toolbox or in the drawers where the tools are stored, they will absorb all the surrounding humidity. This will also prevent rust marks on the shelves caused by the rusting of the undersides of aerosol cans and tin cans, glue adhesive plastic washers under the can.

       4. Sorted Nails and Screws

Group the different fasteners according to their type (nails, screws, dowels, etc) and size, and label their containers, bins or racks. Vertical racks take up little space on the workbench and can commonly hold up to 30 drawers. 

If you’re a recycler, use food jars or even baby food jars. Their format is ideal for storing nails! The best way to hack their full potential:

  • Collect all the glass jars and their lids. Then drill 2 small holes in each lid.
  • Place these lids underneath the shelf and screw them on.
  • Once the lids are screwed on, group the screws, pegs or nails in each jar and screw the jar back on.

This will not only allow you to visualize them and unscrew the jar in due time but will also save you space and money!

These same jars can also be used as a string reel! To do this, simply drill a hole in the lid through which you pull out a piece of string.

       5. Organize Measuring Tapes, Levels, and Other Small Items 

The ideal would be to have a piece of furniture in the workshop with several drawers that you can compartmentalize with boards in order to store smaller tools by category. In the blink of an eye, you will be able to find them again this way.

If your DIY workshop is really tiny and doesn’t allow any furniture, opt for a modular PVC tool trolley mounted on castors. These often come with many drawers and modular compartments and come in many different sizes. Small enough to be effortlessly concealed under a table.

       6. Sander Storage 

The ideal is to store the sanders once cleaned and dry, in their original boxes, on a shelf.

When choosing this shelf, check the maximum weight it can support.

       7. Hand Planer Storage

The best place for storing the planer is on the storage wall, in a toolbox or in the workshop cabinet.

       8. Storage of a ladder

The most space-efficient way to go about this one is to attach a wide shelf to the wall at the height of the ladder. The extremities of this shelf will give support to the ladder. And it will give you an extra shelf for long term storage.

       9. Broom and shovel storage

If you have still a lot of space left on your perforated or mesh panels, you can simply hook them on. Storage brackets specifically for brooms are available. These will allow you to make use of wasted spaces in corners and behind doors.

       10. Storage of opened paint cans 

Here are our tips to preserve paint perfectly in a pot that has already been opened. 

When you want to use a paint that has already been used before, it is not uncommon for a film to have formed on the surface of the paint in the can.

This is due to the air inside the can, which dries out the paint. A can of paint that has been opened loses its tightness and circulating air causes the solvent in the paint to evaporate. It is this oxidation that creates a pasty film on the surface of the can.

Additionally, if poorly preserved, the paint deteriorates even faster. To preserve it properly, the can’s airtightness must be recreated.

(Warning: all paint has an expiration date. Remember to check it before purchase.)

In order to preserve your opened paint cans, it is important to close them tightly in order to restore their airtightness. To do so, here is a simple guide:

  • As soon as your work is completed, carefully wipe off any paint from the cover, including the groove, with a cloth.
  • Before putting the lid on, insert a plastic film to keep the jar clean and airtight and/or wrap the lid with tape.
  • Once the lid is in place (and before adding tape, if you choose that solution) tap lightly along the edges with a hammer to lock the lid in place.
  • Finally, to enhance the airtightness, turn the paint pot upside down. This way, air will not be able to circulate. And even if a small layer has formed, it will be at the bottom of the can.

There are sometimes subtleties though depending on the type of paint needed to be stored:

  • For oil and alkyd paints, it is advisable to proceed in the same manner, but with a sheet of wax paper in between.
  • For latex paint, put a plastic sheet directly on top of the paint.
  • And if you want to store glycerol paints, it is recommended to pour a cap of thinner (of the white spirit type) on top of the jar before storing it away.

These hacks will surely keep the paint fresher for even longer!

Good to know:

The larger the jar is in relation to the rest of the paint, the greater the risk of the paint oxidizing inside. Therefore when there is just a little paint left in the original jar, do not hesitate to decant it into a glass jar with a screw-on lid. This will not only conserve your paint for longer, but it will also save you precious space, and as a bonus will make it also much more practical for the next use. 

Put away the opened jars. Once your jars are clean and airtight, where do you store them?

To ensure good conservation, choose a place that is not subject to extreme temperature variations. For example, prefer a shelf in the house at room temperature to an uninsulated garage closet exposed to high heat and winter frost.

And of course, don’t forget to label them…

Pro Tips

Preciously keep your leftover paint!

Any paint, whether red or green, can be used as an undercoat, even on white or other bright finishes. It will not show. On the other hand, never mix two different types of paint together.

Also if your paint is too thick, don’t dilute it. Instead bathe the paint can, without a lid, in a basin filled with hot water. Keep it this way, until the desired consistency is reached.

       10. Storing Brushes and Paint Rollers

First, clean the brushes by dipping them in a jar of white spirit but do not drop them in the jar as this may crush the bristles. Instead, slide a small rod through the hole of the brush handle and suspend it on the jar sides while being submerged into the thinner. 

If the paint used was a water emulsion-based paint, simply rinse it under the faucet. After which you should lay the brush flat on a newspaper and press the bristles gently with for example the back of a palette knife blade.

Finally, when properly cleaned and dried, wrap the brush in a newspaper so that the bristles stay in shape. Store the brushes either by hanging them on the mesh or perforated wall. You could also use a magnetic knife rack since the metal part of the brushes adheres to the magnet.

If you store the brushes in a drawer or a box, and if the bristles are made of silk, there’s the risk of mold formation. Therefore make sure to dry them bone-dry before storing and add some chalk pieces to absorb the ambient humidity of the room.


  • Never mix chemicals or solvents.
  • Do not smoke when using certain solvents. There is a risk of explosion.
  • Handle white spirit thinner with care. 
  • Use gloves, since those kinds of chemicals can penetrate the skin and pass into the bloodstream.
  • If the paint has stained your hands do not use white spirit. Instead, simply use table oil.

       11. Storing a Brush to Use for The Next Day

Immediately after you use it, pass a stick through the hole in the brush handle, dip the brush in water without cleaning it, then drain it by hanging it over a jar so that the bristles do not touch the bottom. When you pick up the brush again, shake it to make the water fall out: the bristles will become soft again.

Pro Tips

  • Want to recover a brush with hard bristles? Soak it for a few hours in boiled white vinegar
  • In case any residue still sticks to the brush, scrape (carefully) with the blade of a knife, then wrap it with a cloth well soaked in white spirit. Leave it like this for an hour or two and then wash it with soapy water.

       12. Storing Hazardous Products in Your Craft Shop

how to set up a woodworking shop

Glues, acids, gasoline, paint removers, varnishes or any other solvents can be dangerous. The most basic precaution dictates to store them on the highest shelf or cupboard, out of reach. Especially if you have children and your shop is not always locked.

It is also recommended that you store hazardous products only in their original packaging, and never transfer them into containers that could break.

If your clothes are soaked with hazardous materials, do not throw them away wet, wait until they are dry, and then dispose of them in a fireproof, airtight container made for this purpose.

      13. Specialized Furniture

The advantage of specialized workshop furniture is they are specifically adapted to the weight of the different machines, tools and materials. Storage cabinets, high shelves and drawer cabinets with dividers will help you organize everything. There are even high shelves with everything you need: perforated walls and screw boxes.

Are you committed and have the means? Treat yourself to specialized furniture! Available in several sizes and colors, it allows you to organize and optimize your space and available angles.

       14. Working Benches 

Each handyman has his own specific workbench because the dimensions of the table and the load to be supported differ according to the workpieces to be worked on.

  • The carpenter’s workbench offers a surface up to 2 m long, and some cupboards and drawers depending on the model chosen. They are constructed robustly, strong enough to attach heavy-duty vices.
  • The mechanic’s workbench with metal legs often has an integrated rack and adjustable legs to adapt to uneven floors. Its lower part can accommodate storage space.
  • The folding workbench is handy when space is at a premium and for outdoor jobs for when it really gets dirty.
  • The multifunction workbench, also folding, transforms some tools into a designated stationary machining center. Like for example, the table saw with a simple circular saw or a router with a router attached.

If you have the necessary space, place a second workbench in the center of your workshop so that you can turn around it.

       15. Tools that Follow You Everywhere

When you tinker a lot, a regular toolbox is not going to cut it. The best ally in this situation? A tool chest on wheels! In the workshop preferably made from metal for longevity and for on the construction site from heavy-duty plastic to keep the weight down. 

Practical for storing tools in a small space, it will follow you everywhere in the workplace and outside. Some models also integrate a smaller removable toolbox to carry the essentials.

       16. Workshop Machines for Professionals

Working with portable machines is good; working with stationary machines is even better! If you have space and your budget allows you to do so, a proper router, planer-jointer and cutting station will offer real working comfort and allow you to carry out more precise and neat work. 

When connected to a dust extractor, these machines guarantee you a cleaner and healthier workshop too! Another essential piece of equipment: a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner to clean the room and machinery.

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Timberland Enthusiast Jan 1977 – Present Columbia, South Carolina Since graduating from law school I have worked in various capacities within the real estate, timber management, lumber production and pine straw harvesting markets in South Carolina. Newmark Grubb Wilson Kibler May 2016 – Dec 2020 Columbia, South Carolina Det Bowers joined Newmark Grubb Wilson Kibler in May of 2016. Prior to joining Wilson Kibler, Mr. Bowers served as a licensed attorney practicing in Federal, State and Municipal Courts. Other business involvements have included real estate development, retail development and operations, agribusiness, forestry products, outdoor advertising and insurance.

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