Introduction: Design a Workshop

Picture of Design a Workshop

How I designed my new workshop.

Step 1: Make a Model

Picture of Make a Model

I have been a fan of this site for a while and never contributed before but today browsing one of the projects here I was struck by the crudeness of one craftperson's workshop, so I am posting this to maybe inspire some others to get their stuff together.

When I had to move all of my stuff out of my old place to my new place I became somewhat concerned as to where I should put everything. I really did not want to have to move things around too many times. Most of my stuff is heavy, some weighs upwards of a half a ton. So I knew what I had, and I knew where it all had to fit, so I made a model of it all.

The first time I was exposed to this idea in a book I laughed at the fellow doing it. When it came my turn to setup a new shop it didn't seem so funny after all. It is way easier to move little cardboard models around than full sized objects! Oh, and for all you graph paper cutout types out there it is far too easy to lie in 2D. I have gone the graph paper/cutout route before. That has never struck me as being very silly, just not as effective.

I used the architectural scale 1/4 inch to the foot as my scale. Heck, after a while it was sort of fun to make scale models of all of my junk. In the process I even remade a few of the models nicer than I had initially. The models are made out of scrap cardboard, and toothpicks, hotglued together, then painted with craft paint. Nothing too fancy there. But everything is to scale.

See the little scale me in the model? It was a handy visual aid for me to see height relationships, or how I'd fit in the environment. OK maybe the minime was going a bit too far? All I wanted was sharks with laser beams, whoah wait a minute. That is another story.

Step 2: I Started With a Blank Canvas

Picture of I Started With a Blank Canvas

Starting with a blank canvas I did what most artists would do, I painted it! You can paint your workshop any color that you like as long as it is white. 15 hours later, I primed, then painted, so really I painted it twice, I had a very bright reflective area to work with.

Step 3: The End of the Beginning

Picture of The End of the Beginning

All painted up and much brighter. There is nothing worse than working on a project in a dingy, dark workshop, thinking of how good a job you did, only to take your masterpiece out to someplace with good lighting, and see how crappy it really is! This has happened to me in the past.

Step 4: Models to Reality

Picture of Models to Reality

Here is the shop with things placed as per the model. The bench in the foreground of this picture is a direct result of the modelling process. I would have never thought to have made it except for messing with the model. See in my design criteria I still wanted to be able to get a vehicle into the garage. So, that meant I could only dedicate half of the garage to my work area.

But in arranging things with my model at one point I kept moving the one bench back and forth, back and forth, saying I'd like it here, but I need to have it here. I showed someone the model and their comment was, what is this piece of cardboard here? Then it struck me! Yes, what is that piece of cardboard? It was the dolly for my milling machine that did not figure into the new shop at that point. But it did represent about $160 in heavy duty castors, which I was loathe not to put to good use.

So I decided to make that rolling bench, and now just like I did in the model I can move that bench back and forth, back and forth ... For that one idea alone the time I spent in making the model was time well spent I feel. With the bench rolled in, as it is in this picture, everything only takes up about a third of the garage. Really, had that bench been fixed at halfway it'd have been tight to have gotten a vehicle in and out of the garage. As it is, it is easy now.

I am not done yet completely setting up my workshop, I mean when is anyone ever done with such a thing? But I have a solid foundation to build on, and additions I have have made have worked out well so far. It really is a joy to work in too. I feel that the planned setup enhances the work I perform in my shop.

Eventually when funds permit I am going to build a detached outbuilding, and have that as my dedicated workshop, so all of this is just temporary, but we all know how long these temporary situations can last. And you know I'll model that too! Really, remember the nutcase in the book I read about in the beginning? His models were these little wooden models of his tools, yeah mine will be too I think. It is fun to make stuff in my new shop.

BTW, I have finally figured out exactly what the word workshop really means. You see it is a compound word composed of work, and shop. You're always working on it, and constantly shopping for new things for it too!


This is a great effort you put in  here, my hat off.
It looks like it worked for you very well, but I find it much easier to work on a 3D CAD software to design a project like this.
Accurate in dimension down to the mm, detailed a much as you like to do it, and allot faster if you want changes like e dust collector network system.
Personally I prefer it this way.
Great job 

I made my model in some spare time I had over the course of two days. Though I messed around with it for about two weeks. It worked for me a lot better than not doing it. Everything fit where planned on the model so accuracy wasn't an issue. I can imagine too much detail leading to losing clarity. I don't see gluing on that dust collector taking me more than a moment. I don't find 3D CAD particularly easy to work with, and even professionals use physical 3D models for their well substance I suppose. 3D computer models are still sadly represented in 2D even today.

suzannejb (author)pfred22012-03-11

as a miniatures enthusiast myself, I would not find the table power tool you have there nearly as appealing in a 3D computer model - you can't really hold the computer model unless you "print" it (see 3D printing)

pfred2 (author)suzannejb2014-09-06

I'm with you there. There is just something much more tangible about a solid physical model, as opposed to computer modeling. I'm not saying that computer modeling is completely worthless. But for something like this I think physical models have some kind of a perceptual edge to them.

Being able to pick them up, move my head around, etc. just allowed me a greater insight during the process. It's just more natural I guess? Beats me, but I'm convinced there is an advantage in this instance with using actual physical models. Something in my head tells me that is true, and that is good enough for me. In fact that alone might just be justification in, and of, itself right there. The mere fact that I think it is better makes it better.

Because this is all just a thought process aid anyways. So whatever allows me to think better is better. For me this is it too.

nickjohnson (author)2007-01-22

I can't believe the detail you put into this! wow!

pfred1 (author)nickjohnson2007-01-24

The reality has become more complicated than this model represents. But I attribute the overall success of my setup to the solid foundation I was able to assemble by following the plan I designed with this model WHen I take some new pictures I will have to post them here.

suzannejb (author)pfred12012-03-11

pfred1 vs pfred2 - alter-egos?

pfred2 (author)suzannejb2014-09-06

More like when I moved my email address changed, and I was unable to recover my original account. Not the worst thing that happened moving, I can assure you! I broke my digital camera in all of the excitement. So dumb how it happened too. But then again, isn't it always that way?

Doc Holliday (author)nickjohnson2008-04-12

It's not "detail" when you can organize principles; and reuse them. Think about that. pfred recognizes model failures, and discovers principles.

rhoddity (author)2012-06-21

I took one look at the main photo of the model and was hooked. It didn't matter what you were using it for after that. =)

I just got into making miniatures not too long ago, and although I used to build stuff out of cardboard a lot when I was a kid, I've been making my models (starting with a two-story house from a dream I had earlier this year) out of plywood and balsa wood.

I build in 1:72 scale, which kind of worked out great, since a kit of my favorite helicopter (AH-6 Little Bird) is found in this scale, and many of our old Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars are supposedly in this scale as well, which allows me to use them as vehicles in the model itself. =D

Also, this line had me dying of laughter. -> "You can paint your workshop any color that you like as long as it is white." xD

pfred2 (author)2010-10-13

I just put up a kooky video about this model on YouTube:

Go check it out!

suzannejb (author)pfred22012-03-11

seems to have been removed?

pfred2 (author)suzannejb2012-03-11

Some of the music I used was banned in some countries so I had to remake it:

A few folks have cracked on my sound track, but I like it. I used a really primitive method to make the whole video, which made it sort of tricky to put all together. For what I worked with well it is what it is.

Knuxz (author)2011-06-25

You, my good sir have done a great job. When I EVENTUALLY move and have a bigger bedroom, I shall design it this way. You see, I am a high schooler, and my bedroom is my mancave, and my workshop. It's approximately eight feet by nine feet. My desk, and bed taking up most the room. Well, enough about me, I am about to read your instructable, and due to pure boredom will critique (in the most respectful way possible) your work here.
Page One: Good first page. And congrats on this being your first contribution. It's contributy. :D
I'll just shut up here. Great instructable. :D It was perfect. Like the perfect skirt, long enough to cover everything, but short enough to make things interesting. Keep on making!
-Al, a bored student over summer

pfred2 (author)Knuxz2011-06-28

Plan the work then work the plan.

Knuxz (author)pfred22011-06-29

Well, ironically the day after I made my post, I found out that we are going to be converting a ten foot, by ten foot section of the garage at my Dad's house into my bedroom, building a complete wall and all. Once I have the time to make a model, I shall post pictures of my finished plan.

pfred2 (author)Knuxz2011-06-29

Well just don't put too narrow a door in that wall you're building. You never know what you might want to get through it. Make a case for an exterior entry door, (they seal better, they're better insulated etc.) they're wider than interior doors.

Good luck and remember sometimes it is more important what you don't do than what you do.

Knuxz (author)pfred22011-06-29

Well we actually are using an exterior door. We're replacing the door in the kitchen, not a sliding glass door, just a regular door. (Cause when I'm not there the cats tend to take my bed, and it has a cat door) >.>

vincent7520 (author)2011-01-11

I love the model !!!…
Maybe I'll stick to that !…

Wish I was 10 again !!


 I have tried to upload some images to show you what I mean, but they won't upload, neither with IE8 or Firefox or Chrome (win XP) they all give problems.

That is very nice. I can never do stuff like that on a computer. What did you make that in?

with Google SketchUp, try it out and have fun.

Last I looked they do not support my Operating System.

Doc Holliday (author)2007-02-21

This idea works really well for other structures too. In my case, not just the workshop, but a greenhouse and a model railroad room. The latter was critical in determining areas used up by switches and curves while allowing access to everything. Building a model of a model in 3-D is fun, and you can cart it around to get other people's ideas; which is REALLY hard to do with the "real thing"

rrrmanion (author)Doc Holliday2010-09-22

did you just say you build models of models? do they models in them, like some bizarre infinite model loop?

pfred2 (author)rrrmanion2010-12-18

And that is why I posted this Instructable to begin with. It may sound bizarre but it is the right thing to do. As apparently so few are aware.

pfred1 (author)Doc Holliday2007-02-21

Good point Doc Holliday. I must agree that modeling any design idea is helpful. Lots of people know the value of modeling, but some have stated here that alhough they recognize the value of modeling, they never quite came around to the thought of meta modeling a larger situation, like in this case, a workshop, prior to exposure to this instructable. My intent here was threefold, one to expose people to the idea, two, to show just how accessable it really is, and three, hopefully to explain how well it works. And thanks for leaving the tip that this idea can be expanded successfully to other situations. I hope everyone agrees that good model is an accepted planning method in lots of projects.

Doc Holliday (author)pfred12010-09-22

You're great for recognizing and sharing the value of physical models.

It should be noted that knowledge models are good for capturing complex ideas.

If I can't get something on to one piece of paper, I've not done due diligence.

Warlrosity (author)Doc Holliday2009-03-16

I make little rooms for easter chickens and I have mini lights

woodknot (author)2007-01-09

Great instructable. Nice job of preplanning space. I wish we had. Our access door in in the lea because of high winds, but that means a 90 degree turn. Never thought about how to get the big stock in and had to add a large swing window. Our second shop arrangement follows the work flow. We made a house full of cabinets carcases (for the in-laws) in a 20'x20' area.

pfred1 (author)woodknot2007-01-10

Hey thanks for the compliment! You wishing in retrospect you had done some planning seems to be more the rule than the exception to me. Your unique access door layout problem should have presented the impetus for one to do a bit of planning. Every situation is unique, and can benefit from innovative, thoughtful solutions. For me my prime motivator was simply my concern to get all of my tools and equipment into the new space allocated for them. The improved efficiency I enjoyed as a consequence was simply an unforseen byproduct of my planning process. Now while I grouped tools of like function together I do feel as if I did not dedicate quite as much attention to work flow myself as I should have. I also neglected to add work flow to my instructable here. From the glimpses I have caught of others setups here in various instructables I figured that the community could benefit from any suggestions I could provide. The method I present in this instructable can achieve impressive results from a simple procedure. Honestly I shudder to think where I would be today without having expended the effort I did in planning. Your 20'x 20' area, if it is dedicated exclusively to your shop sounds to me to be just about the ideal for a shop. But to realize its full potential a well formed plan is still essential. My present space is in a 19.5' x 19.5' attached garage, that I still wish to be able to get a vehicle into from time to time. So really I could only take up less than half of the entire space my shop is in. That was my dilemma that I needed to overcome. I believe that my method performed well.

Doc Holliday (author)pfred12010-09-22

OK, last post for a while.

WHY would you create any facility other than to be USED?

"Used" implies process or workflow or whatever people are DOing there.

So, before you build a 3D model, build a 2D process model. Then attach all the attributes to each step and flow to validate your model.

Hint: work backwards from your goal to where you are to make sure your model is complete..

CreativeChick8 (author)2007-02-11

kinda cool, but there are some free softwares out there that let u design floorplans virtually... maybe they're better

pfred1 (author)CreativeChick82007-02-12

Hey how about a link to some of this free virtual floorplan designing software? Although I can tell you right off the bat that computer output can still not compete with actual physical models which are true 3D. Not simply perspective 3D like is all that computers can do today. Something tells me that I could be done with my junky model before I ever learned the interface to a software package I was unfamiliar with too. This is only kinda cool until you actually have to setup a workshop. Then this is sorta necessary. I have seen what people have ended up with without doing this. That is what prompted me to contribute this instructable to begin with!

Doc Holliday (author)pfred12010-09-22

There is software out there to carve or cast 3D objects.

I don't think most of these products are ready for prime time, but I'm betting we'll have good quality at a good price in less than five years.

xZCodmaNZx (author)2009-07-23

good idia

shooby (author)2008-03-26

I'm studying architecture, and definitely didn't laugh when I saw your models, actually I was impressed. As you discovered, making models is a very time efficient way to design something (anything), whether the model is life-size or 1/4" scale.

dentsinger (author)2007-10-10

Awesome job on the mock-up!

true_geek (author)2007-04-30

I have to be honest when I started this I was laughing syaing w"wow this guy built a model of workshop", but probably like many others here I started reading and said to my self "self, this is what you need to do to figure out where to put the rest of the things remaining in the house". You see My wife and I bought a new house about 2 years ago and well we have never found a place for everyhthing yet. You see she is very petite so most of the moving of furniture must be done by me, many times over. Now I can make a model of our house and have her place the stuff where he wants it and save my back and probably alot of time also. I am glad you posted this!

strowbali (author)2007-03-30

reminds me of science of sleep...

SugarTeen52 (author)2007-03-05

Wow, that little model is sooooo cute. I want to know how to make that!!

ididntdoit52 (author)2007-03-05

This reminds me of those CSI episodes. and ya that would be fun to set on fire :)

Chris Bilton (author)2006-12-23

Sheds, otherwise known as workshops, are big (as in popular) here in Britain. A place where you can dissapear, create anthing with the tools and materials at hand. And olso drink beer and talk about women. Ho yes and make stuff...usualy a mess, in my case. Happy Christmas to all insrtuctables

pfred1 (author)Chris Bilton2007-01-01

Hey! I want to see some pictures! It sounds like grand fun to me. I've been known to toss back a few brews in my workshop from time to time. Who says playing with power tools is no fun after a few beers? I got all of my fingers and toes still, knock on wood. I plan on going into a dedicated detached workshop at some future date. As in after I build said detached workshop. With that I plan on drawing my own plans that I will submit to get approved for my building permit. I am going to call my workshop a "detached garage" to the code board cough cough. Yeah right, like I plan on ever parking a car in it.

gdawg (author)2006-12-26

At first, I thought this was silly. But upon further reading I do see how it can be really effective and admire the detail in the models. Typically, how long did the little models take to create?

pfred1 (author)gdawg2007-01-01

Oh I'd have to say that the whole model building I did took place over the course of a period of time of less than 2 weeks. You see I am in the process of moving to where this new workshop is, and I go about every other week there now. So I have a bit of time to plan inbetween each trip. This is to say that in the evenings I would spend a space of time on the model in that total time period. Really, as I got into making the model I scrapped some of my inital crude models, for better made more detailed ones. I was having such fun making them! The scale models themselves are made out of scrap cardboard hotglued together, with some masking tape here and there, then painted with acrylic craft paint. And maybe the odd toothpick thrown in for good measure. But everything is to scale. I used the 1/4 inch to one foot architectural scale for my model. As far as tools go a pencil, scissors, a ruler scale, a straight edge, a craft knife and a small brush are about all I used. Most of my tools are over 200 miles from where I made this model. Making the models was rather fun, running around getting all of the dimensions was a bit of a bore and a chore though.

mud_dann (author)2006-12-22

hello...1st time posting...Wow...a scale thats a dedication!

pfred1 (author)mud_dann2006-12-31

Well the whole point of my instructable is if you don't make a plan you're up for more work! And a much less than optimal setup. As involved as the model I display in this Instructable may seem it is well worth the effort it takes to do. And really, it isn't all that difficult to do if you just get down to doing it. Trust me, I've done it :) I just got back from spending some time in my garage, it is such a pleasure to be there. I finished up the shelves over my welding table, and made a new grinder with a different spindle size than all of my other ones. Oh the joy! Oh yes, and I moved my wire feed MIG welder (the little green box to the right of the right hand window) exactly where it is in my model. Some of what I am doing now is beyond my original plans, but I feel it all stems from the initial planning stages I did. Which is to say that if I did not have the solid foundation to build on from the outset I would not be as far along as I am today.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a construction worker and I like to make things.
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