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Following on from our guide on How To Set Up A Small Workshop we’re now going to look at what you can do if you have a little more space to play with. Too often garages or garden buildings get stuffed with clutter slowly filling up over time with storage boxes, old bicycles and those secondary items you just might use in the future. If you don’t need the space for your car, a garage or cabin makes a natural place to house your tools and the solitude needed to concentrate on those near woodworking masterpieces you’re going to create.

If you’ve had a clear out and are ready to start, having your own personal workspace will make all the difference to the way you work. Using a single garage workshop or larger exterior space however still needs careful consideration about how to maximise the floor space.

Garage workshop


When planning the layout of your garage workshop, it’s worth thinking about what tools you’ll need for each stage. Also consider where the outfeed from tools such as the planer thicknesser will go so they’re not obstructed. This is when a mobile base for machines can make moving much simpler. You can then set them up in the optimum position for a streamlined workflow. Other areas you may want to look at are where to put your clamps. Supposedly you can never have enough right? So think about where you’re going to store them upfront. Then allow for additional space to hang them as your collection grows. Storing fixings and glue near your assembly table is another sensible way to keep groups of tools close to hand.

If you’re hoping to have your garage workshop resemble a smooth running production line having commonly used groups of tools within arms reach will help to save time. Mapping everything out on paper first is another way to help save time in the long run. Graph paper can be printed out online for free and this is a good place to start to lay down your provisional plans. Alternatively in each of our Axminster stores there is a Live Workshop where you can see the tools set up in a workshop environment. This helps you to see the size and scale of the machinery plus you can also get hands on with the tools and see if they’re right for the space you’re working in.

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Tool storage

In any workshop having plenty of storage can make such a difference. Making the most of your walls is key as it’s otherwise redundant space. In this workshop the turning tools are all housed next to the lathe. This makes a clever use of space so the tools for the work you need to carry out are easily accessible.

Underneath work surfaces is an obvious place to house sundries. As a result, drawers make a good addition if they’re available for your workbench. Nails, screws and hardware will quickly start to build up as invariably you’ll always have a surplus after completing a job. Garage workshops cry out to accumulate clutter but making allowances for this and actually leaving space will prevent your workspace looking like a hoarders paradise. Also to help with organising your garage workshop, look out for our upcoming article on how to build your own tool storage cabinet.

Which machinery for a garage workshop?

Naturally people start hobbies at different stages in life. The list of tools we recommend here range from the hobby to the professional. Whether you’re an apprentice just starting out or if you’re retired and perhaps have more disposable income then match the tools depending on your budget. If the machines are receiving medium use then a hobby machine is fine but if you think you’ll be using a particular tool for extended periods you might want to look at the trade/professional rated tools.

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Tools to consider

Having a decent planer thicknesser allows you to buy rough timber cheaper than pre-planed. Plus you can then prepare wood to the correct size to match your project. Our guide to planer/thicknessers has more information on which models to choose from to best suit your needs.

With any machine it’s important to have it hooked up to the right extraction. Above all else safety in any workshop is paramount. Again the dust extractors guide helps to provide some guidance on the range of extractors available. Plus there are hints on the factors to consider when choosing the most suitable extractor for your needs.

One of the most used tools in the workshop, a bandsaw is an absolute must. Many tools make a claim to being the most versatile but the bandsaw is definitely in the top ranks of multi functional tools. Make cross cuts, curves, thin veneers, all from a machine that takes up limited floor space.

For some the table saw is the centre piece of the workshop. Cross cuts, ripping or preparing sheet material it’s a machine for a variety of jobs. Look for features such as a cast iron table which will provide an accurate surface to work from and help to reduce vibrations.

When you have some more room to play with like in a garage then a pillar drill is indispensable. It will give far greater accuracy than drilling by hand. Plus the ability to set the depth and angle means it’s a real time saver when drilling repetitive holes.

Combining a belt and disc sander into one machine lets you tackle more projects. Run the belt sander for removing large amounts of wood in the early stages of sanding. Then switch to the disc for sanding smaller components.

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Room for one more

After thinking about the core machinery that leaves the power and hand tools. Along with the machinery you’re not buying everything at once. As the jobs dictate you can build up your collection. Power tool systainers do start to take up room as do chisels, saws and planes so again leave space for these. One option is to use filing cabinets which make a simple solution to neatly pack everything away.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for creating your own garage workshop. Remember mapping out the space at the start will make a significant difference to the ease and the way you work. If you’ve set up your own garage workshop please let us know of any of your own tips and how they’ve worked best for you.

A note about power supply

All Hobby Series machines come fitted with a 13A plug, so will run from a domestic 13A outlet. Many Trade Series machines are much more powerful and so are fitted with the blue 16Amp 3 pin plug which will require a suitable outlet to be plugged into. Having a 16A outlet fitted can in many instances be just an extension of the 13A ring main in a workshop, or may be a dedicated circuit, any qualified electrician will be able to advise and fit a suitable outlet. The main circuit breaker protecting this ring main or dedicated circuit should be of the B or C type which gives surge type protection rather than the A type which is an instant overload trip. The surge protection copes with the short but heavy start up demand many larger machines have.
We are not going to talk about 415V 3ph as 99% of domestic premises don’t have access to this supply. Unfortunately, second hand 3ph machinery is quite cheap to buy, especially at plant and machinery auctions, but can present some headaches trying to get it to work at home using cheap inverters.


  • Stuart Nagle

    fantastic if you have the space, even in your last article on setting up a workshop, there seemed very little actually in it… I’ll have to sned you some photos of mine, perhaps you could help me re-design the layout to creat alll that space…

    • Rob Stoakley

      The most critical thing is to plan out the layout with the machine tools or prospective equipment that you hope to buy. That said, THE most crucial thing is the floor space that you end up with to assemble your projects as it’s this that determines the size of the stuff you can build. Time and again I’ve seen workshops beautifully equipped but there’s nowhere left to build anything. That said if your workshop is properly organised you can, at a pinch, build some decent sized furniture. My first ‘shop was a 7’x5′ garden shed and in it I built a pine refectory table (it was the 70’s!) for my parents that would comfortably seat five people, so it was around 5’x3’.

  • David G Rogers

    I find it interesting, and just a little disappointing that the majority of discussion, advice and guidance focuses on woodworking. It’s almost as if metalworking doesn’t exist!

    • Gaz

      Axminster is predominantly a woodworking tool specialist…

      • David G Rogers

        Thanks Gaz (I think), but presumably Axminster, since it does both advertise and sell metal-working machinery, tools and miscellaneous related items, does HAVE an interest in it, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

        I too do the occasional bit of wood spoiling as well, but my main interest lies in working (in all ways) with metal/s.

        • John Noden

          interests are the other way round i.e. predominantly woodworking with
          occasional metalworking. The issue with doing both is they are somewhat
          incompatible with wood dust mixing with oil to produce a real mess! I, therefore,
          maintain two separate workshops. The wood shop is in a purpose built ‘shed’ and
          the metalwork section is a corner of my garage. Although oily the mess from
          metalwork is easily contained and, therefore, is very compatible with the
          garage and its residents (motorcycle etc). I can get the car in there for
          servicing etc. The only real machine in there is a Myford ML7. This uses a 3
          phase invertor which provides variable speeds forwards and backwards. The rest
          consists a decent workbench, a few small mains powered tools and a good array
          of hand-tools. Lighting is good being provided by 5 fluorescent tubes.

          The wood-shop is housed in one of the log cabin kits. The height of these means
          that planning permission will generally not be needed (check the rules first).
          The ‘logs’ are about 80mm thick and use double mortice and tenons to join them.
          Once I had sorted out a good base the workshop was up and weatherproof in a
          weekend and by the second weekend had a shingle roof on and its first coat of
          preservative/finish. The inside is varnished. I spent a long time working out
          the machine positions, both is store and in use (most of the machines have
          wheels). Once this layout was determined I then worked out where I needed

          Power in this shop is provided by its own consumer unit. There are two separate
          ring mains in the workshop. The first is conventional and all the sockets on
          this circuit are red (to indicate they are always powered on). These are used
          for battery charges etc. that need to be left on when the workshop is not in
          use. The second ring main plus separate supplies to commando sockets are
          supplied by a contactor. This contactor is powered on by a push button and
          released by a series of normally closed push buttons. One of the buttons has a
          lock so that it can hold the whole circuit off (safety with kids etc.). In two
          places this circuit is externalised using 3 pin 2amp sockets. Shorting plugs
          are normally left in but allows the attachment of a pedal etc. so that the
          emergency power off (EPO) can be operated by the foot when using a lathe etc.

          Machinery wise I have the following (most of which has been supplied by
          Axminster over the years):

          1) Axminster 12″ table saw with scoring blade

          2) Kity 637 planer

          3) Kity 613 bandsaw

          4) Kity 419 saw

          5) Kity 429 spindle

          6) DeWalt 721 RAS

          7) Record CL4 lather

          8) Record morticer

          9) Ryobi pillar drill

          Axminster was a main dealer for Kity products. They produced really good
          machines for the serious amateur and light trade. They were bought out by
          Scheppach some years ago. It is a shame that Scheppach has not produced a range
          of machines that use the Kity non-ferrous cast beds.

          The Axminster saw bench uses aluminium extrusions for its bench which, when I
          purchased it, concerned me a little but it was the small additional cost to add
          the scoring unit that persuaded me to buy it. This was one of the first
          machines that Axminster sold in their now very familiar white paint jobs. My
          concerns were totally wrong; the machine has proved very reliable and accurate
          over the years.

          The key bit of kit I have missed out is the dust extraction system. This is
          based on a home-brew cyclone system. I designed this using the US Cotton Mills
          calculators. This is powered by a snail blower powered by a 1/2 HP motor.
          There is an air bag fitted to take out any small particulate and to handle the
          situation if I forget to empty the waste! Fed initially with drain pipe and
          then down to smaller pipes. Axminster supplied all the adapters and blast gates
          etc. This really works well; the particulate caught by the final filter is so
          small it appears to be liquid!

          Finally lighting is the high frequency fluorescent type. This seems not to
          produce the stroboscopic effect that the normal tube lighting has. Special
          areas such as my router station has LED lighting.

  • graham clark

    Great article came just in time as I am moving from current workshop to my garage and building a 14x10ft shed to use as for finishing and hand work, garage will be machinery.

  • John Blagnys

    I agree – a great article, but…..
    before investing in all those time saving power tools we should all consider the noise (esp. if the tools include a planer thicknesser which I’ve found runs at in excess of 100db!). Some advice on soundproofing would be helpful here.

    • Pete Ravenscroft

      I put rockwool insulation in my walls and ceiling and 18mm ply inside. makes fixing tool racks etc easy and helps with sound insulation quite a lot. but to keep the neighbors really on side, I plan my day so the bulk of the noise is between 11am and 4pm, hand tools only after dark not much more can be done really.

      • Rob Stoakley

        My ‘shop is reasonably well insulated with 50mm of Rockwool in the walls and 100mm fg in the roof space. Two other very important things to consider are adequate lighting and ventilation.

  • Pete Ravenscroft

    Something to consider is get some decking or general outside space, much easier to persuade the wife to have a nice deck in the garden than an extension to the workshop… it makes a good space for reducing large bits of timber to a size that can be worked on in the workshop I can’t sensibly get an 8′ x 4′ into my workshop but the deck outside gives me workbench space that is level with the floor of the workshop (be sure to give a decent slope away from the doors though, rain needs to stay outside!) I can then if I need to bring machines out, or more often use the track saw, chain saw, or whichever tool is appropriate to make the timber fit into the shop for further work.

    The other thing to plan for early is dust, if you have a pile of sawdust safely tucked away in the far recesses of the workshop, it will become air born about 30 seconds after that perfect coat of varnish has gone on…

  • Terry Smith

    I agree with the comments on the need for ‘space to build’ and improved my workshop when I realised that nearly everything could be put on wheels. I have a fairly large combination machine (saw, planner, spindle moulder etc) which is pushed into a corner when not in use and can be easily rotated to cope with various shapes and sizes of materials when in use. I don’t find that the machine moves when pushing material through the machine but if it did there is little extra cost in fitting the locking type of wheel. My cupboards and even my scrap bin are on wheels. As a bonus it makes cleaning up easy as well.

    • Rob Stoakley

      Some stuff can go onto wheels, but then you have the problem of trailing cables. I hate cables, end of story. If you position your machines with due care, you can generally get round the problem of leads.

  • Sam

    Hi I am at the planning stage of a garden workshop. Due to the garden layout I have to build close to boundary on 3 sides which means non combustible materials. That rules out timber unless coated with an approved fire retardant.
    I have room for approximately 9×4 meters but then this takes me into building regs territory and restricted to 2.5M overall height without planning.
    I could go roughly 7.5×4 and stick to 2.5m height I think this avoids nth PP and BC. Do you think this would be a workable space? Or should I bite the bullet and apply for the larger options. I would have liked a partitioned section to house some weights and bench.

    • Rob Stoakley

      When I built my workshop I made an appointment to see someone in the planning dept. who told me exactly what I could and couldn’t do. If you’re in an area of ‘outstanding natural beauty’ you’ll need PP regardless of what you want to build. With my current ‘shop, the most important thing was that it had to be more that 5m from the house, so I laid the foundations out 5.2m from the back door, whereupon a planning inspector arrived to check that everything was according to the regulations. Apparently, he had been summoned by a ‘kindly’ neighbour; he stayed less than 15 seconds when he saw that what I was building was kosher. If in doubt, pop round to your planning dept. and they’ll set you straight.

    • Campbell Rowe

      Built (building) mine on the boundary and used corrugated metal cladding which cost around £10m2 so far cheaper than timber. There is a timber panel to be added as well as a feature (where you see the timber battens) and the plywood you see has an aluminium wrap to go around it. Mine is 45m2, roof at the highest end is 4m and I went for full planning permission. It will have a bathroom and kitchenette in it….