Setting up Shop, New Benches

May 24, 2016

Blue Spruce Toolworks humbly started in a one car garage about 10 years ago. The garage had a few built-in benches and shelves along the walls and a large steel-framed work bench in the middle of the garage.  This arrangement served well for almost seven years while the business grew and slowly took over the second side of the garage (my wife’s side!). With the addition of some additional equipment, it was bursting at the seams. A move was mandatory.

I suppose that I am like most woodworkers and dream of building a shop that is worthy of my best imagination. My shop would have master grade solid cherry cabinets with raised panel doors and hand dovetailed drawers. Benches would be solid and made from centuries old timbers with hand planed tops. The floor would be vertical grain fir reclaimed from some long ago industrial factory.  Light would be streaming in through numerous multi-pane windows. The sweet smell of Port Orford Cedar would be wisping up from my finely tuned Sauer and Steiner smoother….. ok! wake up Dave!  The truth is, when you are running a business and relying on it for food and shelter, you sometimes need to put practicality before dreams.

When moving the shop into a leased, industrial building, I faced the daunting reality of moving into a bare space with concrete walls and floor, no windows, one dim, overhead metal halide light and a few outlets. I needed to move the shop quickly and get the business back into production. I needed a lot of benches and shelves and I didn’t have very much money or time. I explored many make/buy options including pre-made, “some assembly required”, and store bought units but all were too expensive, not sturdy enough, or otherwise did not fit my needs. Since I am somewhat of a woodworker and had a big open floor to work on, I decided on the “make” option. Additionally, this was a leased space and I plan to move out someday; a modular approach made sense.

I designed the benches and shelving units to make the most out of inexpensive materials and share as many components and design elements as possible. The shelving units and bench shelves are identical and all bolt together with 3/8″ carriage bolts. The back panels add rigidity and are held on with 1″ deck screws that are easily removed if the units need to be disassembled for moving. Below are some pictures of how I use these modular benches and shelving units in the shop. Some have an additional top added to tie them together in a work cell arrangement. I even cut the bottom portion of the legs off and added casters to some. They are still the same height as the other benches so I can easily re-configure a space if needed. The benches are used as extension tables for the radial arm saw and are also the same height as the table saw so they can be used as out-feed tables if needed. The cost per bench is about $30 using current local big box store prices.




Though not exactly the shop furniture of my wildest dreams (or even a daydream!), but it works very well for my current needs. They were built almost three years ago and are holding up well. Perhaps you can make use of some of these ideas in setting up your own practical shop.


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