Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 174, February 2020
Book Review: Setting Up Shop
by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
Review by J. Norman Reid

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 other issues.

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 considered.

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 equipment carts.

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 lines.

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 woodworking libraries.

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 nreid@fcc.net.

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