For the First Time in Years

This weekend marked a special occasion on the farm. It’s the first time in years (yes, years) that all of my tools have been properly unpacked.


That sounds even to me like it should be an exaggeration. Like, “Oh my god you guys it’s been yeeeeaaaars since I’ve unpacked these tools.” Except my life has literally become my exaggerations at this point. Mind boggling. Let’s talk about fun things in the workshop, shall we?

Like how this is what it looked like a little over a month ago.


Remember that? Holy shit.

I’m going to before-and-after you right now, because, just… there are no words.


My neighbor walked into my shop today and did an actual double-take (how often do you see someone do that in real-life? never)  which is how I knew I’d made some actual progress beyond just painting cabinets and shuffling tools around.

This weekend I finally build a small workbench for this corner of the shop…


If you’re incredibly observant you may notice that there’s already a workbench there, buried under a lot of shit. Also, I’m going to have a nostalgic moment and tell you that I’m pretty sure that workbench is the only thing* in the shop that I built before had this website. Right?

I don’t know that I’ve written much about my life-before-houses, but there was a period of time between college and buying my first house that I lived in an “apartment” above my grandparents garage, and they let me turn their second garage into my very first workshop. I owned zero tools, so I borrowed my grandpas old makita drill and someone showed me how to use a miter saw for the first time, and that workbench and a large storage shelf were maybe the two first “big” things I ever constructed.

Workbenches are incredibly handy things to have so this one came with me to the basement of my first house, then to the garage I live in at my second house, and now here…

That’s crazy. It’s also ugly as shit (made out of the old laminate counters from my childhood home) and some I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-I’m-doing construction techniques, but now I feel like it’s some kind of heirloom I’m going to have to pass down through the generations or something.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words about a workbench when the whole point of the story is… it didn’t fit here.

I mean, technically it did, but it was too tall to hold some of the tools I wanted to put in this area like the drill-press and router table, and it was just slightly too wide to give me proper clearance for the wood stove I’m going to put in this corner. So, I built a new one…


I just talked about how I use the same basic technique when building tables last week, and this was no different.


I only needed to cut boards to three different dimensions: legs, stretchers for the width, and stretchers for the depth.


Then I put everything together with pocket screws.

When I’m building things quickly, I usually won’t bother with pesky things like wood clamps. This is when a dozen years of gymastics and martial arts come in handy.


What? It works.


This didn’t need to be pretty for the shop, just functional. I had the kind folks at Lowe’s rip a piece of 3/4″ ply in half for me because, much to my chagrin, they have a panel saw and I do not.


Since I built the bench to be 24×48, I just had to cut the plywood in half to make the bottom shelf. I marked the areas that needed to be cut to fit around the legs…


Cut them out with a jigsaw…


And had a finished bench, pretty quickly.


It’s the perfect height to allow me to work on the drill press, router table, or jointer (currently on the bottom shelf for storage) which is a million times easier than lugging these things out and then using them on the floor whenever I need them.


I moved the old workbench to the other side of my garage, where it’s now housing 25 gallons of fuel, my chainsaw, and some gardening equipment. Win-win as far as organization goes.


And, while I was at it, I decided to hang some pegboard behind the cabinet workbench as well. A workshop can never have too much pegboard, as far as I’m concerned. It’s also a pain in the ass to cut because it’s so flimsy, so my trick is to put a couple of 2×4’s (or 2×3’s in this case) across the sawhorses for stability on either side of the cut.


Then the weight of the saw can rest on the 2x’s instead of bending the particle board.


To install pegboard, you need to first nail some furring strips (half inch thick, or so) to the wall to create a space behind the pegboard so that you can actually fit hooks on it.


I tacked my strips on every 36″ (every two studs) using a finish nailer to hold them in place. I also forgot to get a picture of just the furring strips because I was SO EXCITED to have the pegboard up. You can see them on the right in this picture…


I attached the pegboard with wood screws that were long enough to go through the pegboard, furring strip, and into the stud, so that’s where the real strength comes from.


And my tools! Where I can see them! This is pretty amazing.

There were some things that I’d packed up when I left my first house that never got unpacked while I was building the Memorial house, and that I basically forgot I owned until I started digging through bags and boxes to get everything organized. (I have two whole sets of socket wrenches… who knew?)

I have just a few small things to do before I’m ready to call the shop “good for now.”

  • Get the table-saw table from my grandparents garage
  • Hang drywall in wood-stove corner (and clear out)
  • Build or buy vertical wood storage for 4×8 sheets
  • Have wood-stove installed

My tools are such a big part of what I do around here that it feels awesome to finally have a functional space to use them in and I couldn’t feel more awesome about the work I got done in here this weekend.

*In re-reading this with the images I noticed that partially-blue-painted stool in front of the bench… that’s a project I started in college (and clearly never finished) which has also made the rounds to all of my houses and workshops with me. I still haven’t removed the masking tape on that thing from like fifteen years ago… that’s nice.

27 Responses

  1. Looks great Kit!!

    My ‘workshop’ is more like a long closet. One day … .

    I’m really loving the quick table building. Very inspiring. (I wonder if the miter saw will wake the family up?)

  2. Awesome before and after! I’ve been spending the last few weeks working on getting my work space (garage)out of the current chaos it resides in. The time spent organizing/cleaning has made my time working on projects. 10x more productive because I actually know were my crap is.

      1. I have a 10,000 square foot barn, so space isn’t my problem, but being short is. 😉 I definitely appreciate the idea of a track-saw, but one of the hardest things for me is handling the saw mid cut. I can’t reach from one side of a 4′ sheet to the other while it’s on the sawhorses without leaning dangerously over the side, which often means making 2 cuts instead of one because I have to walk around the board. I also have to rig up a two-sawhorse-and-roller setup any time I try to cut a sheet that way because I never have another set of hands around to help. I don’t think I’d get much more out of a track saw for what I’m doing (mostly ripping down OSB, T1-11, luan, etc) than I do out of clamping a straight-edge to my board and running the saw across it, for the price, at least. A panel saw has different benefits for me that have a lot to do with my size and how often I’m ripping down 4×8 sheets on my own!

  3. I get so giddy about organization, especially organizing a wood shop! How exciting!

    It looks great!

  4. Have you been pleased with the Porter Cable jointer? I’ve been “fondling” it at Lowe’s but the reviews are all over the place on it. I’d love your take on it. Thanks!

    1. We’ve mostly used it for planning down old barn wood that we’re laminating together into tables for my dudes new bar… it works well for that, but I haven’t used it for anything like cabinetmaking where it would *really* matter.

  5. Hey Kit,

    Did you change your RSS feed? I usually keep up with your posts through Flipboard, but no new post has shown up since your winter list post (Sep 17).

    I’m a 30-something lady who’s recently moved to 100+ acre property in the middle of nowhere and trying to repair/rebuild and populate with critters, so I really love keeping up with your adventures!

  6. I’m so jealous! I can only hope and dream that my next house will have space for a workshop that doesn’t hold the potential of completely flooding out. love the pegboard and new workbench you threw together so effortlessly! looks like you didn’t have any nugget helpers this time, either – they must have been very busy doing important chicken things elsewhere!

  7. I’m not seeing a woodworking vice anywhere in your shop. Is it hiding somewhere, or do you do without? I go mine at a yard sale for $5. I didn’t realize at the time what a find it was, or how much I’d use it!

    1. I have a bench vice hiding in a box somewhere, but that’s another thing I haven’t had out in years (4 maybe?) and don’t seem to miss… although I’m sure I’ll use it a ton once it’s actually installed on the bench again!

  8. Awesome! Such progress! Glad to know I’m not the only one who has a mess for a long time before finally getting around to organizing it.

  9. Ok, gotta ask. What gymnastics club did you go to in michigan? While I love seeing your progress at the farm (very inspiring) we have a gymnastics club in Cincinnati and know many club owners across the country. Which club did you go to? As always, thanks for sharing. Hard to believe you do so much by yourself. So cool!

  10. Hey Kit…what did the measurements of the cut boards end up being for your bench? I am so tired of squatting on the floor to make something.


    1. The total bench dimensions are 24x24x48. Your specific needs will probably depend on what tools you’re using though… those dimensions only worked for the drill press and router bench because they have work areas about a foot above the counter!

  11. Let me get a cloth to wipe the drool off my chin! Can’t wait to build some of those tables for my basement once it’s cleaned out…after the storage shelving!

  12. Hey, I know I’m late to the party on this one… I just wanted to say that this was the most unbelievable, awesome post I’ve read here in the last 2-3 years. Those before/after shots are incredible.


  13. I picked up one of those Kreg jigs last week and banged out a badly-needed workbench almost identical to yours this weekend. Using pocket screws made it super-easy, and now I’ve got somewhere to put my miter saw and my drill press, both of which have bashed my shins in the last two weeks.

    I pretty much cribbed all the assembly plan by looking at your pics (though I couldn’t master the contortionist technique so had to settle for a clamp…)

    Thanks for the tips! I love your blog!

  14. Keeping your workshop clean and tidy is an absolute must. It’s possible to waste a huge amount of time trying to find that tool or the right sized drill bit. Clean is good!

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