Working on the Workshop: Finding the Floor

The workshop is one of those areas on the property that has been driving me nuts for the better part of the year, because it looks so horrible but also has so much potential. It’s been continually downgraded as far as projects though, because 1.) it doesn’t house any of the living creatures on this property, 2.) it doesn’t grow any of the food that feeds the living creatures on this property, and 3.) I can actually still work in it without a problem when it looks like this…


True story. I still know where most of my tools are, I have not yet–despite some dire predictions from my father–broken an ankle on any of the debris, and the fact that it’s an unholy mess doesn’t actually stop me from building things in there. In fact, when I started sifting through everything on the floor I found remnants from my barnwood basement door, indoor workbench, chicken coop, and raised beds in various places. Tackling this mess was like an architectural excavation of all the projects I’ve done in the last couple of years.


Oh, see? There’s totally a clear walking path there. (There’s a woodstove and router bench hiding somewhere in all of that mess too…)


One of my biggest problems is that I hoard scrap wood. I actually use a lot of it for various projects, particularly the scraps of old barn wood, but it has gotten a little out of hand. I made some decisions about what may be useful in the future, and what needed to go to the burn pile…


The tractor, as always, was super handy.

And look! All that floor space!


I got to about this part in the project and realized that, first of all, there was no beer in the house. This was obviously a project that required beer, and that’s a mistake I won’t be making again.

Since there was no beer, I decided it would be good to spend a lot of time inhaling paint fumes. Because, you know… cleaning.

Actually, what happened was that once I got everything moved off the floor, I realized that the organization situation wasn’t going to get any better until I had some actual places to put things.


You may be asking yourself (or me) why the hell I don’t put things in all of those lovely, rusted out cabinets, since I have them?


You may also be asking yourself why that cabinet is installed upside down…

These are the great mysteries of the universe, folks. Here’s one thing I know for sure though, I like my tools to be out in the open. You know, not stuffed into a cabinet where I can’t see them. That’s actually a huge part of how I problem-solve when I’m building things… I look around and see what I’ve got that can help me accomplish a particular task, and the only way that works is if I have line-of-site.

So. No problem. I just needed to cut the doors off of all the upper cabs…


These cabinets are actually a fun look back at the history of the house (I assume they were part of the house at one point.) Some of the insides were still the original seafoam green, most of them had been covered by a wood-grained contact paper, and then at some point later they’d been painted white.

Part of me wants to question the use of wood patterned contact paper, but that part of me also knows that in twenty years everyone is going to be giving very questionable looks to things like the “vinyl wall decals” that we do nowadays, so I don’t judge. But I do spray paint.


I had some cans of a gloss red on hand and thought I’d try it out.


Turns out gloss isn’t the right finish for old dented metal cabinets, so I’m going to go over it with a coat of satin, but I like the red. It reminds me of my old red kitchen cabinets (from back in the day where digital cameras left a digital imprint of the date on the actual photo… that’s cute.)

New Red Kitchen

Those cabinets then became part of the basement workshop of my first house. And, holy shit, that feels like such a long time ago.

Anyway, the red makes me a little nostalgic, and I like it.


This is my workshop, and I don’t expect or want it to be some clean, “decorated” space. There will never be paint on the walls in my shop (wood and pegboard will do.) But I do want to to be functional, and I don’t want to have to make a squinch-face at the rusted-out cabinet doors every time I seem them, so that’s what’s up with the paint.

I’ve got some cans of satin to go over that extra-glossy red, and then I can really start putting things away.


There may be some time down the road when I gut this space and turn it into my “dream shop” but the truth is, I’m most comfortable working in spaces that aren’t too clean or too perfect. I don’t want to worry about banging things around or spilling paint, or in general making a mess. But there are a few things I’d still like to do to this space to make it more functional.

Here’s the short list:

  • Finish painting cabs
  • Hang pegboard behind cabinets
  • Sort tools into bins/ figure out where everything goes
  • Build small bench for drill press & router table
  • Pick up tablesaw cabinet
  • Install woodstove
  • Figure out scrap-wood storage

That list gets me a decent, functional space that can actually be heated and used in winter.

The long-term list includes:

  • Installing a door between the shop and rest of the garage
  • Replacing the windows on the north wall when I reside the outside of the garage
  • Spray-foam insulating the entire garage
  • Rewiring electric/better placed outlets for tools
  • Re-“walling” (Not drywall, I actually like the plywood interior walls) + pegboard, everywhere
  • Installing a dust-collection system
  • Possibly building different shelves/workbench

I’d like to get the short list done before we hit the deep freeze around here, but the long-term list will probably take place in bits and pieces over the next couple of years, and that’s okay. I like having a low-pressure space to work on when the mood strikes.

25 Responses

  1. Are those broom handles hiding in plain sight in picture two? I assume they’re leftovers, or did you take it up again?

    I love the idea of cabinets with no doors. So much easier to find what you need, and harder to hide things. Hidden items in a workshop is never a good idea for me.

    1. Those ARE old broom handles I’ve been schlepping around with me for years. I just don’t have time for that kind of project these days… and the pine was great for light use, but didn’t last over time like hardwood. You may see crookedbrooms again someday though!

  2. Oh, don’t throw out THAT piece!!

    I clean up my scrap lumber when I can no longer stand close enough to the chop saw to operate it.

    So did you 20/10 it or just keep going?

  3. Cleaning up my workshop is on my list this week. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a disaster. Mine’s not quite as functional as yours and won’t be the same architectural excavation, but thanks to a big rainstorm a few weeks ago I have a wonderful damp smell, soggy sawdust, rusting paint cans and likely the start of some mold. Yum.

  4. Our garage gets overhauled a few times a year! I love to organize but my husband freaks- he claims he cant find anything! So im leaving everything out and he is as happy as a clam!! I guess creative people need to have everything at their fingertips!!

    1. Ha. I’m exactly the same way. People often offer to “help” me clean and organize this space and it’s horrifying to me. I’ll never know where anything is then!

  5. Oh please tell me you are going to paint the
    Lower cabinets red too!

    I have red kitchen cabinets-and love them!

    1. For sure! But I’m not actually sure if I’m going to keep them. Like one is a lazy susan… that’s not actually helpful in the shop. lol. I think I’ll probably keep a few and reconfigure so I can sit with my legs under the bench as well.

      1. I think it could be supper helpful. I wish I had one for all my wood stain cans. Something you never seem to need out, but a pain searching through when they are all stacked on one shelf.

    1. One reason is for looks… I just don’t want finished painted walls in my shop, but also for durability. You can’t dent or put a hole in plywood, and you can nail or screw right into it without anchors for hanging things.

  6. I just have to say…that cell phone in the kitchen photo…I almost don’t remember those being so…large.

  7. LOVE the red cabinets!!! What a bright splash of colour in your workshop. And I LOVE the open cabinets. Like you, I believe that the workshop should have open shelves of some sort — all the better for finding your tools. I just spent this past weekend adding more pegboard to one wall of our garage and re-organized all the tools that hang from the wall. BTW, I still absolutely LOVE my Makita drill — thank you so much for sending me the specs on your model. I have the exact same one and I couldn’t be happier.

  8. Looks to me like a dream shop as it is Kit,
    sans the dust collection system for air n big tools. Props on the upper cab revamp / more functional-user friendly. Slowly between helping brother build his house/shop building in S.D. and helping the son tune up his first 4X4 600$ Chevy Blazer to use for trapping and Bow hunting in eastern Ia. I’m getting my gar~shop put together and some landscaping ~ yard maintenance done.

    constant growth 🙂

  9. I love the red storage cabs! Between you and Sandra at Sawdust Girl, I am inspired to clean out the basement and get a workshop set up!

  10. Dust collection, definitely. There’s a fine coat of powder over everything in my garage after one of my projects.

  11. We recently bought some adjoining property that included a BARN and a pole barn with a WOODSHOP! I am so excited I can hardly think straight!

    I have already started moving our tools into the woodshop but I am trying to take my time and organize as I go.

    And for the barn I am so thinking…CHICKENS!

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