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How to Set Up A Workshop

Nov 25, 2007
Setting up a workshop usually takes a long time and it is not easy to plan beforehand to suit everybody's needs and circumstances. All I can hope to do is to pass on the knowledge I have acquired from messing about for some years. I believe it is every handyman's ambition to have a workshop of his own some day, so here goes.

I am going to assume you have decided to buy one of the larger types of lathes of approximately 48 in. overall length, to take up turning quite seriously. With this type of lathe, we shall probably have floor standard lamps in mind and these have to have a hole bored through their entire length, using a 24 in. auger, which will be passed through the tail-stock or similar attachment.

To use the auger, we shall require nearly 2 ft. for elbow room. Coming to the other end of the lathe, the headstock end, we shall also probably want to do some bowl turning, so again we want another 2 ft. for elbow room. All these distances added together will give you the actual length of working space required, which is about 10 ft.

Woodturning can be quite well carried on in a narrow passage, as it is really the length of the workshop which matters. A very nice shed for turning would be one about 10 ft. long by 6 ft. to 8 ft. wide, with a 2 ft. wide bench running the whole length of one of the longest sides. Make this bench as strong as possible, preferably with 11/2 in. thick boards to form the top.

You may think this is rather extravagant, having a bench of this length, but until you have actually done some turning, it is difficult to realize just how many bits and pieces you get around you. Fix the bench firmly to the walls and floor, so that it is perfectly rigid, and any vibration in turning operations (and believe me, you will get plenty), will not shake the whole bench and fitments to pieces.

The height of the bench cannot definitely be laid down, as this depends on the height of the lathe itself, and on the height of the person using it. However, the combined height of bench and lathe should be arranged so that the headstock is level with your elbow. If the bench is too low, you can soon develop mysterious pains in your back, which will make turning a real misery. Bearing in mind that you may stand for a considerable time at the bench, a nice comfortable working position is to be aimed at.

We cannot always choose the exact position for a shed to be built, but we must have plenty of light. I prefer to have a window in front of the lathe facing away from the sun, if possible. A northern facing window is ideal. You may think that this is all wrong, but working with the sun streaming into your face in the summer is most unpleasant, and, furthermore, it plays havoc with any partly turned articles which may be lying on the bench.

In front of you and just below the window, arrange some simple clips, or nails will do, to hold your various turning tools, and above the window, put a nice long shelf to keep your different turning attachments, such as faceplates, drills and chucks. To your right and left above the bench, have more shelves on which to keep partly turned articles, screws and miscellaneous odds and ends. Underneath the bench, it is a good idea to have still more shelves on which to keep your wood of various types and sizes, all together.

This gives you some idea of a satisfactory workshop set up for turning. Of course, it may be possible to improve on it, but after some years of turning and rearranging my own workshop, this is the pattern I have found to be most practical. You may fancy a larger workshop, but where turning is done, it is a case of the bigger the shed, the bigger the mess.
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