Setting Up My Own Wood Shop

So much has been happening that I haven't had much time to blog, but I am finally putting down my thoughts about putting my wood shop together. By the time I found the space that I am in now, I had been searching for a space in which to work for almost a year.  I was (and am still) in school at El Camino College and found myself manufacturing things in class instead of learning new skills.  I was treating my school as my own wood shop, which really didn't work for a number of reasons.  The school is a pretty far drive from where I live, I only had access to the shop while class was in session, and I had to share all the equipment with the rest of the students in the class, which frequently meant waiting to use machines.  I was getting an increasing amount of project requests, and I needed a space of my own.

I didn't expect it to be so hard to find a woodworking space.  I found that: 1.)It's hard to find a place that is willing to take a woodworker because of the noise, dust, and electricity concerns, 2.)Industrial artists who do find a space rarely leave those spaces, and 3.)The spaces I found were pricey; on average $2 a sq. ft.  I wasn't sure how steady my work would be and I didn't want to get in over my head.

My patience and Craigslist lurking paid off, because in November 2013 I found a new place that was opening up to all different kind of artists.  It was a huge warehouse that was to be subdivided into smaller spaces.  The spaces hadn't been built yet, so I was able to get exactly what I wanted.  I considered myself very lucky to get in on the ground floor.  The guy running it had opened up several of these spaces before so the process was pretty smooth and the price was only $1.25/sq.ft.  And it was biking distance from my house!  It was perfect. I signed a lease to move in December 1st.

C.C. Boyce standing in the Few Bits Wood Shop
C.C. Boyce standing in the Few Bits Wood Shop

I finally had the space, next step was to fill it with machinery.  Luckily, I had just finished a project for an interior design firm for some restaurant tables and had a chunk of money to buy the big stuff.  I thought about what projects I had done and what I wanted to do in the future and decided I needed a cabinet table saw, jointer, planer, drill press, sliding chop saw, bench top belt sander, and band saw.

An empty wood shop and one planer
An empty wood shop and one planer

I learned so much while looking for and buying equipment.  Here are the biggest lessons:

1. Take Your Time

There will always be more equipment on Craigslist or eBay.  Do not rush to buy anything because you think it's a great deal.  There will be something else just as good or better in a week or two.  People are constantly selling old machinery and you can afford to be patient.

2. Stick To Your Budget

People have a tendency to overvalue what they have.  Do not accept a price that you think is too high.  (See #1.)  Generally, the going rate for used equipment in good condition is half of what the piece of equipment goes for new.   I found a used Delta band saw that was in great condition on Craigslist for $500.  The guy said he'd sell it to me for $450 if he didn't get a better offer.  He sold it for asking.  I ended up getting a new, larger bandsaw that was on sale for $400 a couple weeks later.  I was glad that I passed on that used Delta.

C.C. Boyce Using a Rikon Band Saw
C.C. Boyce Using a Rikon Band Saw

3. Do the Research & Don't Afraid to be Picky

Know what you're looking for and inspect the machinery before you commit.  Don't be afraid to be picky or ask a lot of questions.  Do research on what you're looking to buy.  Read reviews.  Ask other woodworkers what they use and what they like.  At the beginning of my machinery search, I bought a 8" Powermatic jointer from a guy on Craigslist who said the machine was single phase, and I took him at his word.  I got my 220 electricity wired up about a week later and when I plugged the jointer in, discovered that it was in fact 3 phase.  I ended up having to take the guy to small claims court and it took 5 months to get my money back from him.  If I had known to just open up the back and look at the motor to see if it was single or 3 phase I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. (Or, you know, if the guy would have known what he was selling me in the first place.)

A Three Phase Powermatic Jointer
A Three Phase Powermatic Jointer

4. Know Where You're Buying Things From

eBay may be more pricey than Craigslist, but worth it if you're not sure.  eBay has buyer protection policies in place and most sellers will be helpful because they don't want to get a bad rating.  With Craigslist, you're on your own.  I did buy my table saw from a guy on Craigslist, but I took my time with it and had very good communication with the seller,  I went to see it, tried it out, asked a lot of questions.  The table saw was the last piece of equipment I bought, and by that time I was very comfortable being picky.

5. Prepare to Assemble

Buying new often means assembly.  Assembly often means better understanding of the equipment.  At first I wanted to buy everything used so that it was all put together for me.  But after buying my drill press and band saw new and assembling both, I am glad I did.  I have more confidence in fixing and adjusting those pieces of equipment.

6. Dust collection is key

I didn't really think about dust collection at first.  thought I would just use everything and sweep up every day.   That was dumb.  I soon realized that sweeping that much sucks, and also breathing in all that dust sucks.  I got a dust collector for the jointer, plainer, and table saw and use my shop vac for the band saw and sanding.  Muuuuuch better.

A Clean Wood Shop
A Clean Wood Shop

I'm still making adjustments to my shop, installing more storage and trying to get stuff up off the floor, building an out-feed table that doubles as storage and a work bench.  I'm discovering how I use the shop decides where everything goes.  I'll post some more pics when I get it all sorted out.  In the meantime, follow me on Instagram to follow my progress!