How To Keep Your Small Workshop Running Well

Those with small workshops know what it can feel like if working space is at a premium. When things get crowded, finishing a project can be more like playing a high-stakes game of Jenga than an opportunity to show off one’s handiwork. And that is one expensive and painful game to lose. So, what can one do to keep a modest workshop functioning well? 

The keys to keeping a small workshop running at optimal efficiency are staying organized, investing in the right tools, focusing on one task at a time, and knowing what you’re doing. Of course, having multi-purpose tools and space can also be a big help, as can practicing good habits around the shop.

There’s more to keeping a workspace in peak performance than just the brief synopsis above. And there are more details to come, so please read on for six tips that anyone can use to keep their modest workshop running right.


Organization is Key

Staying organized is a sure-fire way to keep even a tiny workshop running well. And the best part about a sound organizational system is that once it is in place, it will be easy to maintain and build on good habits. The simplest piece of organizing advice is to have a home for everything in your workspace.

Sort items you use more often in handy locations. This means storing hand tools above your workbench and other accessories near the machines where you will use them with. You can even get inventive and utilize your table saw’s outfeed table for more storage.

This doesn’t mean you must spend a casino to get all new storage lockers for your workshop. Feel free to build storage capacity if you need to. Most handy DIYers can easily put together cabinets and shelving.

(This can even be a great excuse to knock out some easy test projects to practice using your space.) This issue of Workshop Solutions (page 14) has even more ideas for utilizing a small space—approximately 160 sq. ft—while remaining fully functional!


How To Keep Your Small Workshop Running Well


Invest in the Right Tools

As the above section on organization has hopefully made clear, having the right tools in the right place can make all the difference in the smooth function of your smaller workshop. But what exactly are the best tools for a limited workspace?

The first workshop apparatuses that most will want to make sure that they have room for are big-ticket items such as table saws or a drill press. These are good tools to have but don’t overlook the importance of tools that will help keep things tidy.

This includes items such as self-dumping hoppers, a quality shop-vac, adequate ventilation, and other refuse-related items. Having these items is just as important to maintaining a workspace functioning efficiently as any power tool could be.

Focus on One Task at a Time

While it can be hard to do, try to focus on the task at hand. This means breaking larger projects into smaller, more manageable pieces. Don’t flit from task to task like a hummingbird, be deliberate and thorough with each of your undertakings. This will also keep you from filling a small workshop with many half-finished projects.


 How To Keep Your Small Workshop Running Well


Know What You’re Doing

We’ve all been there. A project seems simple enough that thoroughly studying instructions seems rather pointless. Guard against this instinct. It is always best to know exactly what you’ll do, from start to end. This means reading instructions from start to finish, gathering all the materials you will need, and ensuring you have adequate time to finish what you start.

After all, being unable to complete a project because you have to run to the hardware store for screws or you’ve run out of time can be more than discouraging—it can leave you with a half-finished mess that will make using your workshop harder in the future. 

Prize Utility and Functionality Over All Else

Multi-purpose tools are a godsend for anyone struggling with a more modest workspace. Using a space for combined purposes can make a small workshop much grander. And room for more tools should save on expensive rentals from the hardware store for things you don’t have. You’ll be able to get more done in the available space as well.


How To Keep Your Small Workshop Running Well


Practice Makes Perfect

Even industry veterans will tell you that they change their standard techniques and tools from time to time. Sometimes it can be a shocking change, such as from a handsaw to a table saw. Other times you may change how you do things around the workshop because you find a more efficient procedure.

The point is, don’t expect your workshop to function perfectly overnight. This will take time. If good habits are built, such as cleaning up after yourself, progress will be made. And the more you use your workshop, the more you learn to live within its limitations.


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