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Kiwi Bloke14/09/2018 03:25:53
706 forum posts
1 photos

Here's an unanswerable question - but don't let that put you off; I need help.

I'm 'between workshops' and need to build a new one. Space isn't an issue and hopefully, neither is budget. As a retired friend, who had led an equally prudent life, remarked, rather bemusedly, "Time is running out, but the money isn't". So we might as well build the dream workshop.

The trouble is, without the usual constraints, how do you set the limits and make any decisions?

OK, easier questions - and the ones about which I really would like to hear others' opinions. What shop dimensions and proportions 'work', for our sized machines? Long and thin, for maximum wall-space, or square-ish? Machines 'in the open', or against the walls? How wide should 'corridors' be between rows of machines?

Yes, I know these are 'How long is a piece of string?' questions. Also, I've already got to the answer that the shop should be as big as possible - and then you fill it up. But there has to be a more sensible approach. I'm not expecting definitive answers, but there will be gems among the wealth of wisdom in this forum, so please let us know what you think.

David Taylor14/09/2018 04:57:20
134 forum posts
39 photos

I have just finished this exercise. I reused the slab of the existing double garage so about 6x7m. I would like to have gone bigger but didn't want to extend the slab.

The new workshop is brick, with double-glazed windows, big barn doors so I can get big things in and out, and the next owners can get their car in if they like. Heaps of windows for light. One wall just has high windows to leave most of the wall space free for storage. There is as much insulation as I could fit in the walls and a lot in the ceiling.

I have the bench along the wall and a new milling machine takes about 1/4 of the floorspace. The lathe is between the two because I couldn't find a good place along a wall for it and if that floor space was left blank it would probably get filled with junk anyway. That leaves a corridor of about a meter either side of the lathe, which seems plenty.

I've only just got the machines back up and running and no proper storage yet so it is still a mess.

The double-glazing and insulation are excellent. It gets cold enough for sleet and a bit of snow (not enough to settle) so the winters are cold. I don't have a heater in it yet and by afternoon on a sunny day it is perfectly comfortable. A dull day is different.

I wouldn't go any smaller.

I guess long and thin gives you plenty of wall to put things against.

Have a look in my photo album for an idea of the size, layout, and natural light available.

Pero14/09/2018 05:26:38
163 forum posts

Quite right it is like a piece of string - but elastic as well.

When I built my (combined) workshop and double garage many years ago I thought the workshop part at 4 m by 7 m would set me up for life. I have recently kicked the last car out of the 6 m by 7 m garage and am still having trouble finding room to move. Apart from drowning in bits for unfinished projects, both large and small, I have along the way accumulated more and larger machines for metalwork and woodwork than I had ever anticipated. It's not only the space for the machines but room to get at the ends, and possibly the back, as well as the front that takes up much of the space (or should if I didn't have things all over the floor).

So, some things to think about:

  • What activities do you intend to do in the workshop - turning and milling being only a small part of the activities usually conducted.
  • How many machines do you have or envisage having in the future.
  • Will you be having metalworking and woodworking machines and if so what sort of separation do you want between the two activities.
  • What size machines will be accommodated and how much working space around them do you require.
  • Will you need to get at the back of any of the machines for any reason - in the case of big machines it is easier (possibly essential) if they stand away from the wall and you can do whatever needs doing without the need to move them.
  • What ancillaries will be accommodated - brazing hearth, grinding area, painting zone etc.
  • How much bench and storage space for tools and materials will required.

In my case, the 6 m by 7 m garage is ideal for my woodworking activities as it allows sufficient room for the free standing machines (planer, thicknesser, router table and saw bench and assembly table) in the middle and plenty of peripheral storage. Even so the machines have to be mobile so they can be moved out of the way to allow working room around the one in use at the time. Large pieces of wood and timber sheet take a lot of room to handle safely.

In the metalworking department 4 m by 7 m is definitely not sufficient for two lathes, two milling machines (one of of each of which is on steroids), a bench and limited storage. And that is without addressing additional needs for brazing, painting etc. Two large windows in one wall plus doors in two of the other walls are a further constraint.

If the workshop was a little wider, the option of putting the machines in two rows back to back would be well worth considering (does need pre-planning for electrification however) as it leaves the wall free for benches and storage.

So, do you need a workshop the size of mine (either in total or the two separate parts)? Probably not. If I cleaned up and disposed of some of the machines and materials I could probably manage in a smaller space. But since I have the space I might as well use it (but hopefully a little more efficiently in the future).

For your purposes, once you have worked through the dot points above, I would suggest the old graph paper method (or graphics package if you are one of those up to date people). Make to scale a cutout of the footprint of all of the machines and other space requirements lay these out on a sheet of graph paper in your preferred arrangement - not forgetting to allow sufficient space for movement and machine access - and measure the total required area.

Remember this is the inside dimension - you also have to allow for wall thickness if looking at external dimensions.

I am not sure whether this qualifies as a gem of wisdom but it does indicate how I would have done it if I had had a long distance crystal ball some thirty odd years ago.

Now looking at a rather reduced time span I think I could apply the above fairly successfully to come up with a sensible plan to meet my requirements.

If you have the land area available my advice is to go larger rather than smaller. It is better (and safer) to have more room to move in the workshop, even if the floor is not cluttered!

Regards, Pero

pgk pgk14/09/2018 06:26:55
2605 forum posts
293 photos

I was thinking on this topic recently. I built my hobby shed 7x3m when it was just going to be a hobby shed.. a place to do a bit of woodwork, keep my r/c helis and dry storage of diy tools and a place to escape with woodburner and comfy chair.

It's totally inadequate as a metalwork hobby place as well. I have the machines against one wall with a broom width free behind, the other long wall is kitchen-style diy storage and there's tables and table saw down the middle. I really need 4 such sheds interconnected . One just for metalwork, one for woodwork, one to store dry household DIY stuff and the comfy chair and a sightly bigger one with a car hoist. Lastly a similar area as an open covered space shuld you ever want to mess about forging or casting etc - if nothing else keep the BBQ there.

Keep the swarf and sawdust separate, ditto for the seeds, household paints and electricals, hedge trimmers and the like and the comfy chair....


Sam Longley 114/09/2018 07:08:53
948 forum posts
34 photos

I think one big one is a mistake. Firstly because it lacks wall space for shelves etc & secondly because it is difficult to divide junk from the good working space.

A double garage split in two does not leave enough space for the machines in a half garage so my solution was to use my double garage (split in two) as a store for tools of a general nature (cut off saw, SDS drills, routers & other wood tools plus a miriad of tools gained over the years) on one side with stuff like pillar drill & grinder in there as well.That has shelving & is really full up with a 2.6 ft space down the middle. On the other side I store stuff that has to be stored that gets infiltrated like bikes, mowers etc that will get put in YOUR space if you are not carefull

Then I bought a concrete garage 10.6 * 22 ft for the actual work area. This I fitted with good insulation in walls & roof & plenty of electrics & it still is a bit small. The work bench is a mobile table in the middle that can be moved if needed to & There are even more tools in a large steel box lockable ) on wheels which has the vice on it That can be wheeled out of the way if I want to get something large in there to work on it down the middle.

The up & over doors are useful for getting large items in & out & the side doors are metal so one does not get doors sticking in the winter & are good for security.. The double doors have extra bolts & Chubb padlocks as security is always an issue.

Mark Simpson 114/09/2018 07:41:05
111 forum posts
30 photos

Space- the more the better.easy to fill!

Enough headroom for a runway beam (or two in my case). I have a chain block on one and a small electric hoist on the other; both on trolleys. I can lift the bigger lumps around easily and will continue to be able to do so as I get older.

The chain block has lifted lathes and a milling machine off trailers and pallets, and as my 6"traction engine (very) slowly grows will pick the bigger bits up.

The hoist runs over the milling machine table and lathe bed,so is used for lifting the Big rotary table (40Kg), Dividing head etc. as well as steadying bigger lumps whilst you get hold of them in the lathe.It is a £40 aldi special; money really well spent.

Sam Longley 114/09/2018 08:30:13
948 forum posts
34 photos
Posted by Mark Simpson 1 on 14/09/2018 07:41:05:

Enough headroom for a runway beam (or two in my case). I have a chain block on one and a small electric hoist on the other; both on trolleys. I can lift the bigger lumps around easily and will continue to be able to do so as I get older.

Being 6.6 ft tall I would have liked to make my concrete garage taller. I has a pitched roof & steel trusses to support it. This gives me just under 6.6ft so I placed a 50mm treated timber down under the walls first to raise the roof so my head comes just under the trusses. A flat roof garage can look a little unsightly.

in England one can avoid having to make a planning application if one keeps below 8ft so I made it so that the ridge comes dead on 8ft

Edited By Sam Longley 1 on 14/09/2018 08:36:06

David T14/09/2018 08:30:44
76 forum posts
14 photos

Nature abhors a vacuum; no matter how much space you have, you'll fill it. My workshop is 5m x 3m, and is split between woodwork, metalwork, household DIY stuff, gardening tools...... I look upon your workshops with envy. What I try to remember is that some amazing work has been done in tiny sheds, with not much more than a 3-1/2" lathe.

Alan Waddington 214/09/2018 08:33:53
523 forum posts
88 photos

Bigger the better, not a fan of long and thin personally, you can always add nibs of walls near machines to provide extra shelf space etc.

Only downside to big is heating, had a barn as a workshop at one time 100ft L x 40 ft W x 30ft H.......bloody freezing in winter, and damn near impossible to heat, eventually split it up into smaller areas which was much nicer.

Whatever size you build, insulation is paramount for both summer and winter use.

Nice dilemma btw

David T14/09/2018 08:49:00
76 forum posts
14 photos
Posted by Alan Waddington 2 on 14/09/2018 08:33:53:

Whatever size you build, insulation is paramount for both summer and winter use.

Nice dilemma btw

Without wishing to derail the thread, what's the consensus on insulating a wooden workshop (shed)? I could quite conveniently fill the gaps between the shed framing with insulation then board it out. However I've read that an air gap is necessary between the insulation and the outer cladding......?

Muzzer14/09/2018 10:24:27
2904 forum posts
448 photos

I thought about wooden, then steel (industrial) installations but finally went for a proper brick cavity wall construction, with double gazing, full insulation, central heating and wiring. Got it all approved and signed off by the planning department so that it can be sold as a living / working area. Sounds extravagant but in reality it can be reused as a space for a small business, a granny / teenage flat or indeed a multi-vehicle garage with little significant work. On that basis, it seemed more likely I could recoup the investment when we sell, whereas a dedicated workshop shed would be an expensive indulgence.

The original plan was for the whole extension (about 6m x 15m) to be workshop but I hived off just over 1/4 of it and made that a dining room / sun lounge extension opening onto the existing kitchen space. That leaves "only" 3/4 of the outline in an L shape but the narrower part with a single roller door provides access and plenty of shelving etc space and could be partitioned off later as a single garage. The remaining space is about the size of a large double garage and is good for my milling machines, lathe, welders etc, as well as several benches.

Ideally I'd have kept the whole outline for workshop use but it has to be part of the overall domestic plan (approved by the Domestic Manager of course). Next time round I'd like a bigger plot of land so that the final workshop area would be bigger....

The key to making a workshop function adequately for my purposes is to be able to move stuff about easily. So I have a large Weber crane that can lift and move all my heavy machines if I fancy a reorganisation of the layout, to focus more on one particular technology. That allows better use of the space that is available.


Hopper14/09/2018 11:31:57
6709 forum posts
347 photos

You can adapt your layout to suit just about any size and shape of shed. More important, as Muzzer has touched on, is making it useable all year round (time is running out faster than money remember, so make the most of each year). Insulation is vital in hot or cold climates. As is heating in the cold, industrial strength fans, or even air-con maybe with solar panels to power them in hot climates. The older we get the harder it is to keep punching on in extreme weather, hot or cold.

Very important too, I reckon, is a carport roof attached to the shed so you can do dirty stuff out there, like welding, grinding, painting, woodwork etc. without getting detritus all over the well oiled machines within. It also makes a relaxing outdoor work area (and/or beer drinking area) for the the nice weather part of the year.

Speedy Builder514/09/2018 13:22:42
2653 forum posts
219 photos

You need a machine shop, a woodwork shop, stores and assembly bench, then add a canteen and first aid post, reception area for all those visitors. If you like that sort of stuff, mechanical separated from electronic. However for me, I have everything in a 5m x 3.5m wooden shed with machines and bench against the wall with stock all down at one end.
Boxford AUD lathe, small wood turning lathe, Warco Mill Drill, bandsaw, grinder finisher etc. Propane stored outside with torch etc inside and a couple of fire bricks. Compressor under the bench, circular saw on wheels in the centre of the workshop, wood and bar stored on the rafters of the pitched roof. 3Kw portable electric fan heater and automatic fire extinguisher hanging from the centre of the roof.
Hobbies include 5" steam loco, plumbing, furniture making, electronics, wood turning - Oh the list goes on. No room for the 3D printing though.

Bazyle14/09/2018 15:19:42
6387 forum posts
222 photos

Is it just me or is everyone having to convert all those metric dimensions into feet to get a proper feel of the space?
For information we built our Men's shed last year dimensions based on 8x4 sheets so 24x16 and traditional 4x2 framing and tin sheets on pent roof, sheeted inside over free rockwool. It also has a veranda and some paving. Cost was about £8k materials (some discounts because we are a charity) plus extortionate £350 planning (no discount from council though to be fair they did give us a couple of £K in grants) , about £300 on electrics all labour free.

I think a 'fatter' shed is better because if you decide you wanted lots of wall from a long thin one you can always put a wall down the middle but you can't do the opposite if you start off narrow. If you put the machines along the walls a big island bench in the middle is easy to get all around your masterpiece but you can't have tools conveniently on a shelf at the back. If you have the machines in the middle the feet of an engine crane can get round them if needed.

Planning permission is not needed generally just below the size of a double garage for each shed plus a carport is allowed. However a new restriction prevents significant sheds further than 60ft from the house This is an odd requirement which I think has been introduced to stop people making it difficult for developers to grab the bottom of your garden to fill with rabbit hutches.

Joseph Noci 114/09/2018 15:20:52
1099 forum posts
1317 photos

My 'shops' are split in three - actually a tandam double garage,with another garage at the side.

Each is 3.6meter x 6.6meters. One is 'metal' shop, lathes, mills, etc, another is metal and woodwork - circular saw, bandsaw, radial arm, belt/disc sander, etc, and Alba Shaper, Box and Pan folder, CNC router, etc, and the third is Welding, grinding, painting, plasma cutting..and shared with a small runabout.

Each shop shares some walls so has interleading doors. Brick walls and concrete cast roof with Pratley Pearl (100mm thick) on the roof, and same 30mm thick as wall plaster on outside for insulation.

workshop layout.jpg

The Box and Pan folder - it is 2.1 meters wide


the two EMCO mills back-to back. In front of this one is the EMCO 14D lathe

mills back to back.jpg

The EMCO 14D


The ALBA NC-Shaper


And a home built Spot Welder fits in as well...

spot welder front oblique.jpg

There a quite a few machines in the shops. They are not so small so innovation in use of space is needed - placing machines back-to-back with others then on the front side - front-to-front so-to say, saves on passage space and dead space.

Also having space around machines like the mills and lathes is useful in order to get to parts that may need working on for maintenance, or for plain cleaning up of swarf, etc. ( or finding that thingy that fell..)

Nick Clarke 314/09/2018 18:01:45
1476 forum posts
64 photos

If you have access to the back issues (club or local library??) Tubal Cain (Tom Walshaw) described the dream workshop he built for his retirement in ME 1971 Vol 137 3425, 3426 and 3427.

Green with envy is not the word, but the one thing I have tried to emulate is his separating the blacksmithing/welding/hot stuff from the machine tools.


Bob Brown 114/09/2018 21:55:59
1021 forum posts
127 photos

I took the view when I was creating my garage/workshop (4.5m x 7m) that I would build it to current house standards e.g. cavity walls with insulation and roof with 120 mm of Celotex insulation. Double glazed window and door with insulated electric roller shutter. It has been cool in the summer and warm in the winter with no issues with rust as it is like keeping stuff in the house. Made sure the electrics were over kill in terms as current 16mm feed to fuse board even if to date only a small % of the capacity has been used. dscf0442.jpg

Trevor Crossman 114/09/2018 22:28:14
152 forum posts
18 photos

When we moved to our present home 22+ years ago I built a 24ft x 16ft timber workshop, lined and insulated, and it was big enough then. Since then it has grown another 5ft on the pine end and a 4ft lean-to along one side, double door on one end and a single door on the other and in the middle of one side. It is warm, dry and well lit BUT, it seems to have shrunk over the past couple of decades!

Previous posts have listed some fantastic advise and if I were starting from scratch now, I would do as Muzzer, and a nearby friend of mine has done, and that is to build it as large as possible and to housing standards as part of the main house. It might cost more in the short term, but is more efficient to run and eventually becomes a more valuable asset than a stand alone building.


Steve Fisher 415/09/2018 08:48:43
4 forum posts

Hi, just want to answer one question you had, "How long is a piece of string".

About 40 years ago in a cartoon, Scrooge McDuck had to answer the final question in a competition being run by Donald Duck. Now if he answers incorrectly Donald Duck gets all his money, so he asks the question, how long is a piece of string. Donald Duck gets all excited because he thinks he has Scrooge M stuffed, but the answer he gets is the correct one, "Equidistant from the centre to both ends". I hope that claifies it for you.


James Alford15/09/2018 09:26:14
465 forum posts
79 photos

And I aspire to a larger garage sized 9' by 16' to house a workshop, bicycles, an Austin Seven and sundry garden bits and pieces...... Some of the workshops described sound about the same ground area as our house!


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