Today I’m sharing 7 tips with you to get the most out of woodworking in a small space.
Think you need a big, fancy woodshop to start woodworking?
Regardless of the size of your work space there are ways to make it work.
I started my woodworking hobby in a very small space – a 1 car garage so full of stuff you couldn’t walk through it. It wasn’t ideal, but I was still able to build some of my very first pieces in that tiny woodworking shop!
I still build all of my projects in a crowded garage where I share space with my husband and all of his hobbies, kids toys, outdoor equipment and lots of storage boxes.
Woodworking in a small space is totally doable if you’re more strategic about how you use that space.
Woodworking in a Small Space
Put your tools on wheels
The main way I’ve been able to consistently do woodworking in a small space is by putting the stationary tools that I use most often on wheels. For the types of projects I do, this is my miter saw, table saw and air compressor.
With everything on a stand that has wheels it’s easy for me to push my tools out into the driveway to work. Working in the driveway gives me much more space and also helps to control the amount of sawdust in the garage. When I’m done working I just push my tools right back into the garage to their spot against the wall.
When we purchased our table saw I was insistent that we also purchase a folding stand. I absolutely love having the table saw on a folding stand. It takes up so much less space to store and it’s very easy to wheel out into the driveway. We got ours as part of our table saw purchase at a local home improvement store, but it’s very similar to this folding stand.
Temporary Work Surface
If your workspace has multiple uses it’s great to be able to set up a temporary work surface when you need a little more room to work on a project. My workbench is often too small to use for assembly, so I usually set up a quick temporary work station to use instead.
There are 2 ways I set up a temporary work station while woodworking in my small space. I either use folding table (like this compact one) or I set up a quick table using sawhorses and a scrap piece of plywood.
When I’m done I just take down my work table and the garage is open for everything else we need to do in there.
Keep it Tidy
One of the best ways to get the most out of your small woodworking space is to keep it clean and organized. Tools and items get lost in a small space just as quickly as they do in a large space if they’re not put away.
Plus, if you’re working in a shared space like a garage it’s easy for the space to quickly get overcrowded when it’s not clean.
Put things away at end of day
When you finish your work at the end of the day, put all of your tools away. I can’t tell you how many pencils and tape measures I’ve lost because I didn’t put them back where they belong. Having a designated spot for each of your tools and accessories will not only help you work more efficiently, but it will also save you money because you won’t constantly be buying replacements for the tools you can’t find.
Managing sawdust is especially important in a shared space. I don’t have a dust management system, but it is definitely on my list for my dream shop.
Instead I do my best to manage the sawdust within my small woodworking space by doing much of my work in the driveway instead of inside the garage. I also sweep the floors regularly and all of our storage items that we don’t want dusty are stored inside plastic tubs or big plastic bags.
Clear workbench at end of project
When you finish a project, tidy up your workbench. This means putting away all of the little accessories that always seem to pile up there like drill bits, screwdrivers, wrenches and anything else. Sweep off the bench top and put away any scrap wood or finishing supplies that you still have out.
Having a clear space will get you ready for your next project and make your small space feel bigger.
Use Vertical Space
When woodworking in a small space it is even more important to keep as much floor space open as possible. You need floor space to fit together large projects, move tools around and work safely. Trust me, you want more than just a walking path if at all possible.
There are a few ways we use the vertical space in our garage to store our woodworking supplies.
We built a simple lumber storage system on one wall of the garage when we moved into our home. It takes up a lot of wall space, but it is totally worth it to keep the lumber off the ground while still giving us quick and easy access.
You can buy premade lumber storage racks for about the same price as we spent building our homemade one.
Another option for lumber storage in a small space is a rolling lumber cart. We decided against this because, even though it has wheels, it takes up a lot of floor space. Additionally, we wanted to be able to easily store boards up to 8 feet long and a rolling storage cart didn’t seem efficient for that.
Your tools can also be stored on the walls using either a peg board or a french cleat organization system. We use both in our small woodworking space.
The pegboard is used for small tools and accessories like hammers, speed squares, tape measures, extra jigsaw/skillsaw blades still in the packages, etc.
The french cleat wall storage is stronger than the pegboard and holds our small power tools like sanders, drills and handheld saws.
Using wall storage makes it easy to access tools. I like it better than using drawers because it’s too easy for items (especially small ones) to get lost in the drawer.
Other items in shared space
Since all of our woodworking happens in the garage we also have a lot of home and outdoors items stored in there. If you’re in the same situation, I highly recommend installing overhead storage over your garage door or around the perimeter of the garage. We have both.
Using vertical space to store household items keeps them out of the way for the things we regularly use the garage for. They’re also items that we don’t need regular access to so it makes sense to store them above and keep items we use more regularly at ground level.
Just remember that if you don’t want sawdust all over your stored items to put thing in tubs or cover them with plastic. Big trash bags work well for this.
Only Buy What You Need
When you don’t have a lot of space it’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much stuff. Resist the urge to buy in bulk and stick with buying just what you need.
This may mean making trips to the store more often, but it will save you from having a cluttered, unworkable space.
Be Smart About Your Scraps
Let’s face it, you’re always going to have scraps. There’s nothing wrong with keeping lumber scraps, but if you’re woodworking in a small space you need to be strategic about how you store them and what you choose to keep.
Use scraps often
Save your storage space by using scraps often. Check your lumber pile before diving into a new project to see if you have any scraps on hand that you can use instead of purchasing more lumber.
You can also use scrap wood often by regularly building small projects. You can find several scrap wood projects with printable plans here.
Committing to using your scrap wood regularly will save you both space and money. Two things woodworkers love to save – at least I do!
Limit how much your keep
This one is so hard for me, but it’s so important for woodworking in a small space! I love to keep every tiny piece of scrap “just in case”, but it takes up a lot of room in my garage woodshop.
I’ve been trying to follow through with a new standard of only keeping scrap wood 12″ or longer unless I can think of an immediate need for it.
I also have a designated shelf and storage tubs for scrap wood. Once these get full I know it’s time to use it or get rid of it.
Limiting my scrap wood stash is far from a strong point for me, but like so many other things, it’s a work in progress.
Woodworking in a Small Space
Many woodworkers pursue their woodworking hobby in a small space. While it’s not ideal, it is totally doable. By being strategic in your use of space you can build beautiful things while woodworking in a small space.