Starting out to set up a new shop? Already have one you want to update, enlarge or reorganize? Well, have I got a deal for you. Sandor Nagyszalanczy's Setting Up Shop, an authoritative guide to all things woodshop is just the ticket to guide you through the many things you'll need to consider. This guide thoroughly examines the full range of issues entailed in setting up and equipping a woodshop. I can't think of anything he's overlooked. Recently updated, it's current with all the latest developments, with the exception of LED lighting and CNC machines.
The book begins by citing the advantages of a home workshop over one located a
distance away. It then assesses the range of workshop types — attic, basement,
garage — and how well they handle issues of dust, space, heating and cooling,
headroom, access and structural limitations.
Structural issues are considered next. The author recites how his own woodworking
career started in an open tent with a dirt floor, an experience that gave him an
appreciation for the value of walls for protection and comfort. Insulation requirements
will differ from one region to another and a table compares recommended insulation
across areas of the country. Other issues he discusses are installation, moisture
control, doors, security, flooring and sound abatement. Subflooring systems for wiring
and dust collection are also reviewed.
Next up is electricity and wiring. Items taken up in this chapter include working safely
with electricity, updating a shop's electrical system, working in the service panel, adding
outlets, lighting, circuit capacity, working with 220-volt circuits, and using natural light as
a part of an overall illumination strategy. A series of helpful tables aid planning for
circuit capacity, the maximum length of extension cords, and the types of lights, among
Heating and ventilation are treated in the next chapter. How much heat is needed in
each region for insulated and uninsulated shops is shown in a helpful table. Another
table compares the BTUs and cost of heating across various heating sources. The
author assesses the relative merits of a variety of heating sources, including wood stoves, gas heaters, hot water heat, portable heaters, propane and kerosene heaters.
Ventilation is an issue as well, both for exhausting heat from attics and also for venting
finishing areas and minimizing dust. Finally, controlling moisture and humidity are
Once the basic structural considerations have been addressed, it's time to equip the
shop. Nagyszalanczy offers a recommended set of basic tools before going on to
consider stationary tools — including space-saving, benchtop and combination tools for
space-starved shops — portable power tools, and hand tools. Specialty shops, he notes,
have specific requirements others may not have, such as carving, woodturning and
marquetry tools. He recommends essential tools for daily use, as well as a buying
strategy to balance affordability with obtaining tools of lasting quality. A table
enumerates recommended accessories that include protective gear, clamps,
sharpening, finishing, and sanding equipment.
Shop layout is taken up next. Nagyszalanczy offers guidelines rather than
prescriptions, given that no shop organization scheme will fit all shops. Among the
issues he considers are machine placement, machine proximity, shops that serve
multiple purposes such as garages, and strategies for gaining additional space within
the confines of an existing structure.
The most essential tool in the shop is the workbench, and they're considered in the
subsequent chapter. The author offers guidance for setting the height of the bench to
achieve the best comfort in use, the importance of a flat top, vises and holdfasts,
portable work surfaces, assembly tables, and other portable work centers such as
Storing tools is a perennial concern. Toolboxes and tool chests are the next subject,
and a variety ranging from portable toolboxes to large cabinets of varying sizes and
configurations are reviewed. Stock must be stored as well as tools, and a range of
options is considered. Other storage issues are for glue and finishes, the types of
shelving, storage cabinets, and storing sandpaper.
All shops produce dust and this, along with the use of compressed air, is the next topic.
Nagyszalanczy compares different strategies for controlling large chips and fine dust.
Options for dust management include primary and secondary dust collection, shop
vacuums, single and two-stage dust collection, central vs. portable systems, and plastic
vs. metal ductwork. A helpful table shows the CFM requirements for dust collection
from each type of machine. Grounding is likewise a consideration, as is ventilation and
air filtration. Compressed air systems are a part of many shops, and Nagyszalanczy
considers the installation of a compressed air system, the CFM requirements of various air-driven tools, filtering compressed air, and the relative merits of coiled vs. straight air
A final chapter takes up issues of shop safety. First comes fire safety and the
recommended type and size of fire extinguisher to have on hand. Shop cleanliness as
a safety factor is stressed. Personal safety — protection for eyes, ears, and lungs — is
discussed. A final warning is issued about kid-proofing a woodshop to keep little ones
safe from harm.
A key feature of this book are the many helpful tables laying out technical alternatives
and requirements that will help underlie planning the most effective shop layout. Also
valuable are the many color photographs that show how other woodworkers have
organized their shops and addressed these issues.
This guide will be useful, if not essential, to any woodworker setting up a new shop,
planning a major reorganization or making modifications to an existing shop. But even
for woodworkers whose shops are already well-established, it's a useful reference guide
to the many issues involved with maintaining a safe and well-functioning shop. I think
that many, if not most, woodworkers will find this book a valuable addition to their
Find out more and purchase Setting Up Shop
at Highland Woodworking
J. Norman Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of
Choosing and Using Handplanes. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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