Setting Up Shop (aka An Excuse To Buy More Tools)

Call me crazy (that would be a first, right?) but when the new door was put on the workshop last week, I basically thought I would be using the space as a glorified tool closet for the next few months. I mean, theoretically I knew it was an awesome workspace, but I haven’t been compelled to spend a lot of time out there since I moved in. It may have had something to do with this…


Turns out once that I removed the whole creepy-toy-in-an-evidence-bag deterrent and moved all my big tools out there, this is my new favorite spot on the property.


I know I’ve only got another month of really useable time out there before the Deep Freeze sets in, but that’s probably not going to stop me from setting up shop to make the most out of this space while I can use it.

Here are a couple of things on my list:

Shop Lights

Right now I have one light bulb clamped to a cabinet, and that is the sum total of the lighting in the space. Since it’s getting dark way to soon these days, I’m going to need to add some overhead flourescent lighting ASAP…

And I’ve been meaning to invest in a good task light as well. I had access to one of these at the Memorial house and I can’t tell you how handy it was for working at night or in hard to reach spaces…


Basic Storage

I’m hesitant to put too much “permanent” storage in, since hopefully I’ll be tearing most of the walls out to re-insulate and drywall before next winter, but in the meantime I’m going to need some kind of organizational system, because I can go from zero to disaster in under an hour.

I’m thinking of some basic portable shelving, like this…

And then a wood rack, and maybe a portable pegboard.


Temporary Electricity

Right now I’m using one extension cord and plugging each tool into it as I need them, which might be the most irritating thing to ever exist, just after having a splinter embedded in your hand for five days.

Eventually I’m going to run electric where it’s needed but for now, setting up some heavy duty power strips will have to do the trick.


I basically use my car as an extremely large boombox at the moment, which I’m sure is an awesome use of $4/gallon gas. But hey, I’ve got to sing obnoxiously loud to something, right?

This Rigid version will not only play your iPod, but if you accidentally run over it with your car, it’s totally cool. Which means it should be safe in my presence for about twelve minutes.

So, those are a few of the workshop basics on my immediate list. Long term, of course, is a whole different story that involves a drill press, band saw, and mini lathe. But until then, I’ll settle for some shelves, I guess.

Any workshop staples on your must-have list?



35 Responses

  1. Yes, you definitely need a fridge for, yeah, sodas like Ryan said!

    I LOVE that radio! Love it! That may go on my Christmas list!

    My current wish list includes a new 18v drill/driver. My old 12V Dewalt has outlived its life expectancy and is in dire need of replacement! I’m looking at a Hitachi or Porter Cable this time around.

    Then my next wish list item is an air nailer! Haven’t researched that one yet.


    1. Oh yes, you totally need to upgrade to an 18v (or DeWalt makes a 20v now, but I’m holding out for a Makita version)… you cannot imagine the difference!

      1. Sarah, I purchased the Ridgid 18v drill and impact driver from Home Depot for $179. This is a great set and I find that I use the impact driver far more than I use the drill. The impact driver will drive screws all the way through the wood. Anyway it is a great buy and has some really good features and good reviews. Probably not professional quality, but for around the house it is fantastic.

        1. Thank you! I have not researched Ridgid, but I will look into that. We don’t have a Home Depot anywhere near here but that is what the internet is for, right?

  2. OMG I am totally going to bombard you with ideas when we’re there. Planning out Chris’ garage workspace with crazy storage ideas has still been one of my favorite projects to date

  3. I have several of those metal shelves in my shop and they work really well at half height as a small workbench as well.

  4. I hate giving advice via the internets, but why not finish this space off before the ‘deep freeze’? Wouldn’t that extend your working time?

    Also, in my last garage/shop we mounted florescent boxes vertically in the walls (in addition to up top). It sounds f’ing bizarre, but it worked really, really well (i.e. no need for additional lighting anywhere on the floor). Tripping over a hot-as-hell halogen task light after a few beers is no bueno.

    1. You’re so right Chris, it’s just a really big project for me to take on right now. There’s a large propane furnace in the garage part actually, but someone stole all the copper pipe going to it so getting that hooked up is going to be an expense.

      I also want to spray insulate the inside, but I can’t do that until I get the new siding on the front of the garage, and… well, you can see how these things escalate.

      I am really excited to get started on it though. It will definitely be a fun project for next year!

  5. I felt like a genuine Einstein-level genius when I discovered the heavy duty iPhone-able radios. There IS something that improves demolition!

    Also, not to be a downer, but your basic storage solution, uh, well, I will pleasantly await news of any organizational system that stems the tide of disaster from any workshop. My personal system consists of about a hundred re-purposed cardboard boxes from amazon, spread around the room and labeled in sharpie on the box flap with verbs for what the stuff in the box does (stick, screw, cut). My power tools are interspersed in the walking paths between the boxes. So when I need to find things I stand in the middle of the room, spin around slowly, trip over something (preferably the legg of a hot-as-hell halogen light), yell an expletive, and then go to the store to buy a second one.

  6. I would say:

    1. build a charging station for all cordless tools
    2. build a lumber rack or scrap rack
    3. pegboard or french cleat system for tool storage
    4. woodstove!

    Have fun Kit

    1. Matt, you’ve totally given me dangerous ideas. I have a propane furnace in the garage that isn’t hooked up… but I’m thinking I’d almost rather have the wood stove now…

      1. Its always nice to have somewhere to “recycle” all the scrap wood. Much cheaper than propane. And you could probably pick one up off Craig’s List for almost nothing!

      2. My husband built a wood stove for his shop/garage out of 2 55 gal. metal drums. I can’t remember where he bought the kit (feet, door, etc.), but it keeps the shop REALLY warm. Plus it keeps the well pump, which is located in there, from freezing and keeps the dog warm.

  7. We recently purchased a hammer drill to get through some tough concrete (yay!), but I would LOVE a router table and planer. Now I suddenly want this Rigid radio too, so thanks for that! I better start being good so I can make it onto Santa’s nice list. It’s never too late, right??

  8. Exhaust fan or cross ventilation somehow for all seasons. (fumes; or for the muggy summer days when just no air moves or is out of the opposite direction of your openings but heat builds up and makes it just as miserable inside as well as outside) Just as important as heat in my book!

  9. I put 4 light bulb fluorescent in my shop and they’ve been great. I also divided them on 2 switches to better control the lighting. I’ve been very happy with result.

    On my wish list: good router table (I think I’m gonna make my own to get just what I want; and planer.

    Good luck getting it just the way you want it. It’s totally worth the effort.

  10. Those metal shelves are awesome! We have them in our garage and basement. We got ours for free from a local college who was tossing them out, so we had a hodge podge of pieces and that made putting them together a massive puzzle. But it was well worth it. I’d definitely suggest investing in some.

  11. Remind me to take a pic of my Dad’s workshop – it is (in my humble opinion) brilliant. Especially the peg board, where he hangs everything. And the display of antique tools and fishing gear across the top. It is one of my favorite places in my parent’s house 🙂

  12. Keep an eye out in dumpsters or for folks remodeling a retail space. They routinely swap out the old suspened ceiling flourescent troffers for something else. The old ones can usually be had for fairly cheap.

    Also don’t use drywall, use plywood instead. Plain old CDX would work fine. If you can find some 3/4 cheap use it. That way you don’t have to worry about finding a wall stud when you want to hang something.

  13. Costco has those metal wire shelves for not too much and I find them (either as is or with a piece of wood sitting atop the wire so things don’t fall through) to be much sturdier that most everything else, and usually deeper as well. Also, pegboard, pegboard and more pegboard painted a light color…from the floor up as high as possible…I hang anything and everything I can so and it is off the floor and the workbench….a sturdy step stool is a must.

  14. I’m working on getting my “base camp” set up right now too – I second the plywood instead of drywall comment. I usually leave a trail of tools behind me Hansel-and-Gretel style when I work, so every tool has a labeled place on my tool wall. At the end of the day I can glance over the wall and see that I set down that dang hammer (again) and retrace my steps to find it. The system is cheap and fast, and doesn’t require special hangers (nails and a sharpie work great for hanging and labeling).

  15. My shop is a mess and really needs some organization. Everyone’s comments are giving me good ideas. I’ve been working so much OT at work and have gone back to school on top of that, so I don’t have any time for fun stuff right now. Hopefully over the winter when it’s too cold and dark outside to do anything I can get it cleaned up.

  16. I love my drill press. I don’t use it as much as I thought I would, but it is really nice to have when I do need it. I don’t have a router so I use the drill press to do lite routing jobs.

    I’m so jealous of all those barns you have. My garage is so full of tools I have to move some outside to do a project in the garage or I have to do the project outside.

  17. if i had all that space i’d get a cabinet table saw with a 52″ rip capacity.
    from what i hear the makita radio is pretty good and it’s nice and small which is nice for people going from place to place with projects (like you). and you already have the makita batteries so that helps.
    not sure what your electrical is like out there, but i’d say you want 40A or more. having 220v is a good idea.
    lots of lights! a spray room if you’re doing finishing. plenty of room for storage of lumber and sheet goods. looks like you have a lot of square footage so you can do all sorts of things.

  18. I’d love to get a drill press or a router table next.

    No drill press has forced me to learn to drill straighter, for sure – which is good. But I tried drilling axle holes into a couple things, and when that’s not perfect, it just doesn’t work!

    Someone above mentioned a router table, which would be useful, too. I guess it depends on wha goes on sale first!

  19. I usually use it so much, and it is really nice to have when I do use it. Not sure what your electrical is like out there, but i’d say you want 40A or more. having 220v is a good idea.

  20. Have you invested in that task light yet? I remember starting out, insufficient lighting once almost cost me a finger! Since then, i’Ve been super careful since i .. like my fingers xD

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