Canadian Woodworking
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Workshop on wheels

Author: Dan Dupak
Published: June 2024

Even a small space can be productive if you’re organized and have a way to create a dedicated area to work. This is how one Torontonian converts a 10′ × 12′ garage into a cozy woodworking shop when he wants to build something.

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I have been an amateur woodworker for almost 50 years and in that time I’ve always been faced with a small workshop. Since retiring 14 years ago, my workshop has been my garage which measures 10′ × 12′. In that space I have a table saw, mini-bench, benchtop planer, mini-lathe, bandsaw, scroll saw and jointer. Also critical to my shop work is a pair of sawhorses to help form a larger work surface when needed. Plus, I have a cabinet for incidentals, a mechanics chest for hand tools and a limited amount of wood stored on wall racks. The drill press is in a small basement furnace room. The tricky part is that I need to fit three bicycles, a lawn­mower and a snowblower into the garage as well.

To pack all of this equipment into such a small space, every machine needed to be on wheels so they can be easily moved. Their plywood machine bases all have shelving to store portable power tools, a grinder, sanders (ROS, belt and tabletop), drills, circular saw and router. I have arranged the more commonly used machines upfront so they can be easily accessed.

Wheels work great when I’m trying to move a machine around the shop, but when I want a machine to remain stationary so I can use it, I simply place a piece of 3/4″ × 3/4″ wood on the floor and butt it up against the wheels. The piece of wood does a great job at keeping everything steady while I work. I’ve ripped 4×8 sheets of plywood on my table saw using this approach and have had no problems at all. It’s a simple and effective way to prevent movement.

Make room, then sawdust

Typically, I move the bikes and lawnmower to the side of the house before I start working. Next, the bench and table saw are pulled out onto the driveway and the others are rolled out as needed. Doing this gives me adequate space to work. For the win­ter I have a radiator space heater which keeps the garage somewhat warm, but with the garage door closed the work area is limited to 5′ × 8′. This means it’s small projects only during the colder months.

It’s All in the Dolly
It’s All in the Dolly – The key to Dupak’s storage approach is to have all the medium- and large-sized machines on a plywood dolly with castors so they can be moved around. This makes both setup and takedown easy and quick. Dupak has even sized each dolly to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, to make the most efficient use of the space he has.

Obviously, the issues faced with such a small space are the con­stant moving of bicycles, lawnmower and equipment, but the weather also poses a large challenge since I do most of my work outside on the driveway. When it rains I simply do something else. Also, I can only undertake a few smaller projects at a time, as there is very limited ability to store work. Spray finishing must be done in the backyard with a spray tent. This is weather-dependent and can’t be undertaken in the winter. Scheduling of projects for specific sea­sons becomes a major consideration.

Closed for Business
Closed for Business – This is how Dupak’s garage workshop looks when it’s not in woodworking mode. The machines and tools are tucked away towards the back and sides of the garage, and the bikes, lawnmower and any other household items are stored in the centre of the garage.

The process of moving machinery out of the shop to use, and then back into the garage when the work is done, doesn’t take long, but it’s a lot easier if the tools, material and workspace are all clean and organized. Keeping things tidy goes a long way to making this approach possible.
Typically, I build accent, console or coffee tables, and shelv­ing units. Once I built a large dining room table, but that scale of work quickly became heavy and cumbersome to handle in my small space, especially for a 74-year-old guy like me. Offcuts are used for wood spoon carving, Christmas ornaments, coasters and other small projects. I try my best not to waste material. Each project is unique, custom designed and, as I say, something you won’t find in a store.

Some Stationary Storage
Some Stationary Storage – A tall cabinet and a number of tool storage cabinets stacked on top of each other provide a lot of storage for hand and power tools. Although the tool storage cabinets generally don’t move, they could be rolled out of place if Dupak were undertaking a large project.

I have built for family, friends, neighbours, tennis clubs, churches, a few local contractors and the odd person who walks by, sees me working in my driveway and wants something built. A few of my projects are in the U.S., Ireland and Germany. All my work is done on a volunteer basis; if I do happen to sell anything, it’s all donated to local charities. Working wood keeps my mind working and gives me a lot of joy, so I do what I can to ensure my time in the shop is enjoyable.


Dan Dupak - [email protected]

Dan was a design engineer and has always liked making things. Now, his payment is seeing the smile on someone’s face when he makes something for them.

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