My name is Derik VanVleet, and I'm a woodworker. Kind of sounds like the start of a recovery meeting, but any woodworker out there knows what it means to be a woodworker. Endlessly collecting tools, finding fancy ways to store the tools, forgetting you had some of those tools and sometimes just standing in your shop doing nothing but looking around. Kind of a like a King in his castle. Oh, and occasionally things get built; we always have a "few things in process."
I live in Atlanta, about 1 mile from Highland Woodworking (jealous?), but my shop is at our family retreat on Lake Martin in Alabama. I got into woodworking, probably like most other people: I bought a house. A fixer-upper to be exact. From that point on began the endless purchasing of tools; all for the sake of remodeling right? But, as the remodeling progresses, suddenly you build a bookcase, or a cabinet of some kind. Then, next thing you know you are building tables and desks and before you know it, you're a woodworker.
People ask me, "How did you get into woodworking" and I don't really know how it happened, it just kind of happened. You know, when you build that one thing and then someone says "I didn't know you were a woodworker" and you think "huh, neither did I, but now I'm a woodworker!" I've been woodworking now for about 15 years. I recently had the opportunity to build a dream shop, from the ground up. When I designed the shop, I wanted three basic things. First, I wanted it to be big enough, but not crazy big. So my shop is 32' wide by 24' deep, plenty big enough. Second, I wanted high ceilings so I could handle long pieces of wood without banging rafters or lights. So I built the ceilings to be 10' tall, which thus far has been perfect. Lastly, I wanted plenty of power and outlets. When I had the building put up, I had a separate power service run to the building, 100 percent dedicated to the shop. I also wired the shop to have outlets at cabinet height, so no bending over, and every outlet box is a quad box so I have plenty of 110V outlets all over. I also have some 220V equipment so I have those outlets all over as well. I also wired some power exhaust fans into the ceiling so if I am doing anything that is too dusty, or has many fumes, I can turn the fans on and vent the place out.
In terms of layout, I have two garage doors on the front; one is a goes-inta, the other is the goes-outta. Rough wood comes in and gets stacked on the wall; I chose vertical storage to save wall space, and the high ceilings accommodate that. From there, I have a mobile miter saw stand, that also houses my circular saw and track saw for breaking down larger pieces where they are then milled on my 8" jointer and my planer which are close to each other and create a natural flow. Once pieces are milled, I can take them to the bench and use the table saw to cut everything to final dimension, lay out joinery, sand, etc.
I have 2 dust collectors in the shop. One is only connected to my table saw and band saw. The other has a chip separator and primarily handles the jointer and planer, but I also have a floor sweep near the bench to pick up shavings from any hand tool work. I put all my clamps on racks near the bench so they are easily accessible and all of my marking, measuring, layout and hand tools are stored in the bench. I also have a sharpening station near my bench that includes a wet grinder and other sharpening stones. Just about everything in the shop is on wheels so that if I do not like where something is, I can move it. I can also wheel out certain tools, use them and then wheel them back.
This is how my shop is currently. It still is not "done", but I don't think a shop is truly ever done is it? I hope not, because this is too much fun! Thank you for touring my shop with me.
Derik can be reached directly via email at
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