Workshop renovations part 1

I have been talking about this for several months and now the time is finally here! Over the next couple of weeks, my workshop will be undergoing all sorts of transformations to hopefully result in something more efficient and less dusty. The plan is to a) build a couple of partition walls to separate the workshop from the furnace/utility room, b) enclose the laundry machines in a closet, and c) create new benches and shelves to maximize storage efficiency. Hopefully this will keep some of the dust that I create out of my “clean” clothes and out of the rest of the house. Once I have these walls in place I will also have more spots to hang shelves and tools, so everything should, in theory, become more organized.

My father and brother have generously donated a week of their time to the cause, so this week I’ll be learning how to properly build a wall, hang drywall, install doors, and possibly do a bit of wiring, rather than fumbling around myself as I so often do. Most of the time fumbling around seems to work pretty well for me, but other times, like today, I slip with a hammer and punch myself in the face.

Before they arrive I wanted to get the demolition part done and start on a few of the smaller things so that we don’t waste too much time on things that I can do myself. I’ll also be moving a lot of the stuff temporarily out of the workshop, but I haven’t yet decided where to put everything, and I don’t want to make Craig climb through my workshop mess for too long!

On the topic of workshop mess, I started this reno project about 2 weeks ago with a bit of a clear out. Over the 2.5 years that I have been here, I have managed to amass an awful lot of junk, scrap parts, and cardboard boxes, so I made a few trips out to the dumpster with armloads of unnecessary clutter. I am sure that there is more to go, so I’ll spend a bit of time this week getting rid of things that I don’t need or use.

Here’s what my shop looked like in the middle of that first clear out day:

Yes, I had my computer down in the shop and was listening to a video while tidying up – not a great habit, but it did make cleaning more fun. At some point I’ll install some kind of CD player or speaker in my workshop so that I can listen to music, but that isn’t top of my priorities at the moment.

What I’m working with

My workshop is in a 14′ x 17′ rectangular basement room with no windows and a few significant obstacles. First off, there are a couple of low ceiling/unusable areas due to stairways. Secondly, I have my furnace and water heater in the same room as well as the washing machine, dryer, and laundry tub. It is great to have the water source right there for clean up, but I do worry about dust getting into everything. For the past couple of years I have been using old sheets to cover up the machines, but that is not always practical, and I can’t do a whole lot about the furnace due to things like fire.

Because of these obstacles, as I said before, the plan is to build a couple of partition walls. Once this is done, I’ll end up with a lopsided T-shaped workspace with about 140 square feet of space. I’ll sacrifice some floor area, but I will gain an awful lot of wall space, which is almost as valuable in a workshop.

I am going to keep my main bench in the same location that it has been, but I will shorten it from an 8 foot bench to a 6 foot. I wasn’t using the full 8 feet anyway due to the washing machine location, and this will give me a little bit more floor space (likely for bike storage in the winter). I am also going to add a second, slightly smaller bench on the other side of my shop, which I think will be incredibly handy. Both of these benches will have smooth plywood tops, which will be a significant upgrade from the uneven slatted bench I have been using.

The drill press and bandsaw aren’t going anywhere, but I am going to add another piece of equipment in the next couple of weeks – a proper dust collector. This will go in the low ceiling corner where I used to have piles of wood.


The first thing to go was the rough shelving unit on which I had been storing my wood. I moved the wood out of the workshop and gave the structure a couple of taps with a hammer, and the whole thing just about fell off of the wall! I think it was a good thing that I took it down – not sure how much longer it would have lasted!

I then used a bunch of scrap wood to create a scrap lumber bin to replace the old cardboard box. I created something out of all sorts of random offcuts, so it looks rather rough, but is quite serviceable. At some point I’ll add wheels – it is just about impossible to move around at the moment!

In the picture below you can see the corner where the shelf used to be and can catch a glimpse of my lumber cart beside the drill press:

After this was gone, the next thing to go was the bench, which was a physically demanding task due to the size and weight of the structure and how tightly it was tucked in between a post and the wall. I managed to get it apart for the most part, and also took down the shelf that was above the bench so that I would have a clean slate to work with. I don’t have a very good hammer or a pry-bar, so the bench top had to stay in almost one piece. I used a hand saw to cut it into 2 pieces so that I could lean it up against a wall to get it out of the way.

Getting rid of the bench meant that I had a lot of tools and junk to find temporary homes for…

It still looks almost like that – tomorrow’s task perhaps?

Construction part 1

I have not done much as I am waiting on a delivery from Home Depot, but I did manage to get a start on some basic tool storage. I decided to hang some plywood behind where my bench will be so that I have something solid to hang tools from. I started by strapping some scrap 2 foot long, 1 inch thick lumber to the studs in the wall, and then attached a piece of 2′ x 4′ plywood to the straps. This piece will be off-centre of my 6 foot long bench as I have a little shelving unit to fit on the left end. I used dowels and nails to create hooks for my favourite and most used tools on this board. I also hung another plywood board to the right side of the bench location where I can hang larger tools and things that I don’t need as frequently.

Finally I put a 4 inch piece of wood on top of the ledge above the plywood boards to create a narrow shelf for glue and finishes to have them easily accessible. I set up a temporary bench on a couple of saw horses so that I can do a bit of work this week.

And that is the current state of my shop. In about a week it will look completely different – I can’t wait!


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I play guitar. I build guitars when I can. I enjoy all sorts of music, but Baroque, 'classical' guitar music of the 19th and 20th centuries, and jazz music hold special places in my heart. I am using this blog to document some of my adventures in guitar building, performing, and teaching, and hope to give my readers a bit of a look at the world inside a guitar.

6 thoughts on “Workshop renovations part 1”

  1. Looks good! I’m trying to reorganize my Lutherie atelier ( a shed in the back yard) too. I’m a little anxious about putting the tools over my bench as I don’t want to drop tools on the guitar I’m working on. I think I may put them on the wall on the right of my bench like late Robert Lundberg’s Shop in The Guild Of American Luthier’s book “Lutherie Tools.”

    1. Good point about the tools above the bench – I’ve never had any issue with tools falling so far, so hopefully that trend continues! I’ve made the hooks fairly deep and secure, and I’m also planning on a pretty deep bench, so I’ll have a good buffer area at the back if anything were to happen. I used to keep all of my clamps hanging above my bench (not at the back, literally above the centre of the bench), and I am definitely not repeating that in the new layout- between dented wood and bruises on my head, I realized that this was a really bad idea!

    1. thanks for this David! Yes, one day I will have a workshop with a view… I finally got my living situation out of a basement a couple years ago, so the next step will be to get the shop out of the ground (and preferably out of the house…)

  2. looking good, Emily. I was planning new bandsaw purchase a bit bigger than the one you have there, as I was worried about being able to rip largish pieces of wood, now I see what you use I wonder if that size is fine. Do you find it meets all your luthier needs?

    1. Thanks! So far, mine (a 14 inch King Industrial saw) does the trick for me, but I am not re-sawing anything large. I have sawn up to the width of a neck blank (so about 3 1/2 inches tall), but haven’t had the need to do anything bigger than that. I do have a riser-block kit for mine, so when I get that set up, I should be able to do larger pieces – maybe sides, but I can’t give you an idea of how that works at this point. As far as the depth goes, mine seems to give me enough room to cut out backs and tops, which are probably the biggest things I’m dealing with for curved cuts. Because I don’t have a table saw, I occasionally use mine to substitute, which is not ideal of course, and the depth does limit the size of wood I can deal with. This is mostly a problem for non-guitar building projects however. Of course, I still have my handsaws, which get anything done that my bandsaw can’t do.

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