Well, Dear Readers, this time comes in just about every woodworker’s life: the time to move the wood shop. In our case, we are moving in about 6 months which means the shop has to be moved lock, stock, and barrel to the new house. Not only that, we are going from a cushy basement shop, back to a garage shop since we are on a path to downsizing and minimalism which we’ve written about earlier. Kudos to Mrs Woodworker for letting me monopolize the basement as long as I did. Unfortunately, in the garage during certain weather we’re just going to have to suck it up. If I figured right, this will be the fourth time moving the shop and there are definitely some tricks to doing it wisely. When it comes to woodworking, we can’t let obstacles stand in the way as we wrote about in our Ode to Ralph the Woodworking Cat.
Sequence Your Projects
I read a great book early in my Air Force career called Lean Thinking, Banish Waste and create Wealth in Your Corporation by Womack and Jones. One of the concepts in the book was to start from the end of the process and work backwards to pull resources through the production process. Lean thinking helps us in this case of moving the shop as well. One way to make the move as efficient as possible is to only move the tools, raw material, and project pieces that are required to the new house then only bring others as required. This keeps the production line going smoothly. However, this only works if you have some overlap while you are in both houses AND the houses are relatively close together.
In addition, the work should be planned so that large projects are completed and delivered to clients before the move, then other large projects started after the move is complete. For example, this week we received a commission for another large gun cabinet (we’ll be writing a post about that soon). I don’t want to move a cabinet with that much glass twice (from one shop to the other, then to the client), so I’ll press to deliver it before we move. Smaller projects like our cornhole sets can easily be moved while they are in progress to the new shop.
Adjust to the Environment
The new shop will be in a garage which does have its advantages. One advantage is that we can bring in lumber much easier through the large garage door or stage large or unwieldy pieces near the outside of the garage as they are being assembled so they can be easily loaded into the pickup for delivery. I recommend having some lumber racks immediately inside the large garage door to minimize the movement of lumber around the shop. As soon as you bring a load from the hardwood dealer, you can stack the lumber right on the rack.
A second advantage is that when the weather is nice, you can open that large shop door to let in the fresh air and see some grass and trees. On nice days I also like to move the Festool MFT/3 table (where I do much of my work) out onto the driveway to catch some of that great sunshine. If you are doing a finishing project this also helps greatly with ventilation.
A third advantage is when the shop door is open the neighbors can see you are working on something and stop by. I’ve had many conversations over the years that were started because I had the garage door open and a neighbor would yell “what are you working on?” It’s a great conversation starter and this is all about that great community we wrote about in an earlier post.
A fourth advantage is the symbiosis of having the shop in the same room as our favorite mountain bike. As we’ve written about earlier, that bike can be a real problem solver when it comes to woodworking. Having it at the ready will make it even more likely to be used.
One disadvantage of a garage shop is the temperature variability which adds some Clausewitzian friction. This is not such a big deal during the summer, but if you are doing finishing work in certain climates, cool weather may put the kibosh on adding varnish or paint to a project until the temperature warms up. I bought an inexpensive digital clock with thermometer so I can make sure the piece I am finishing is in the right temperature zone before I start applying finish. Be sure to read the required temperature ranges on the can so you know if it is warm enough to wipe on that oil and urethane mix.
Related to that are the human factors working in temperature extremes. Northern Virginia is pretty mild in the winters, but I still need to wear a light jacket and gloves in the winter while I’m working in the garage or my fingers will get numb. Try to find some gear to wear that you can sacrifice to the woodworking gods because it’s going to get a lot of finish, wood chips, and paint on it. Likewise, in the summer it can get to 100 degrees around here which is not conducive to long hours in a garage shop. On those days, I try to work early and late, but not in the middle of the day.
Use This Opportunity to Start With a Clean Slate
Moving a shop also creates a golden opportunity to rethink how to design the tool layout to optimize flow and increase efficiency. For example, think how the wood moves through the shop. It’s going to come in through the big door, so why not just stack it by the big door as mentioned earlier. What is the most likely next operation? For me, that would be the TrackSaw (Festool TS55) or Kapex (sliding compound mitre saw) so I should probably have those lined up next. I love the router, but that doesn’t usually get used until later in the process after the boards have been squared. That means the router can be shoehorned into a corner. Oh, and I forgot about the planer. That’s probably the first tool that’s going to touch the wood. So given the sequence the wood is going to go through, you can lay out the tools so the wood can flow from tool to tool to tool.
If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t worry about it. Remember when we wrote about failing fast and failing cheap? Try one iteration with the tool layout and if that’s not working for you, try another one. If you don’t have enough space, just tell your spouse their car is banished from the garage, too. After all, why would you have cars in your garage when it could be a wood shop???