How to Build a Space-Saving Workshop

The Building where Stefani Bachetti, who does research for an industrial-design firm, used to work had housed a large shop outfitted with a table saw, an assembly bench, and a drill press. So Stefani decided if she could no longer go to that shop, she’d bring one to her by converting her brick-walled one-car garage into a workspace for building small-scale furniture projects.

Filling her garage with saws, clamps would have been easy, but because t has to pull double duty, storing tools and her car during the winter, the layout required some problem solving. that’s where Tom Silva stepped in.

The solution focused on mobility. “Stefani has a long, narrow space, so we made the big tools easy to move around, letting her squeeze her car in,” explains Tom. He added a folding stand to a table saw she had placed on a work bench under the window, where it was too high to use comfortably. Tom shifted the saw to one of the long walls and, in front of it, built a Murphy table that folds up and out of the way when not in use. “The new bench is lower, about 32 inches off the ground, making it more comfortable when sanding or using hand tools,” he says. “But it also works as an outfeed support that prevents plywood or long boards you’re cutting on the table saw from falling down.”

Create Efficient Storage

This shop is short on space, but Tom added a few details that a workspace of any size can benefit from. He and Stefani hung a 2-by-8-foot strip of pegboard that she had attached to a frame of 2x4s and leaned up against the wall. “It was tucked behind the workbench, so you couldn’t access the lower part of the pegboard”, says Tom. Mounting the pegboard to the wall with masonry screws though a frame of 2x4s is the most economical way to keep frequently used tools close at hand and off the floor.

Install Soft Flooring

Inexpensive 2-foot-square foam floor mats keep your feet and back happy during long shop sessions and prevent dropping tools from crashing onto the concrete floor. The price: about $1 per square foot for 3/4-inch-thick foam. The interlocking tiles are easy to remove to make room for a car.

Add Ventilation

Tom fitted the top of a metal box fan with two threaded hooks that attach to two more hooks screwed into a 2×4 stretcher that spans the window. This will allow Stefani to pull fresh air during warmer months and blow out sawdust and fumes when she’s working.

Build a Murphy Table: Make the Frame

Start by making the tabletop support and legs. Build a frame from 2x4s and deck screws; this one is 46 by 34 inches. Add a couple of 2x4s across its width for stability. Cut a pair of 2x4s to 31 1/2 inches for legs so the table’s height is just below the saw. Screw utility hinges to the legs and to blocking between the frame and first joist. 

Attach the Frame to the Wall

Add three evenly spaced hinges to the back of the frame, then screw the other leaves to a 2×4 cleat. Holding the frame 3/4 inch under the finished height, temporarily support the cleat and drill five pilot holes. Fasten with masonry screws.

Top with Plywood

Tom sized the frame to support a two-piece top made with easy-to-transport 2-by-4-foot sections of 3/4-inch plywood. Lay down the first piece, as shown, then pull it away from the wall to create a 6-inch overhang, which will provide a surface to clamp to.

Attach the first section

Countersink pilot holes in the first piece of plywood, to prevent the screw heads from damaging chisels or a circular-saw blade. Fasten through the top into the frame.

Add the second section

Measure the distance between the first piece of plywood and the wall, and use a circular or table saw to rip a second piece to width to fill the void. Position the second piece of plywood, and drill countersink holes; fasten with screws.

Secure the latch

Fold the table up and mount a gate latch’s striker arm to a wood spacer that extends just beyond the frame front; fasten the space to the top’s underside next to the frame. Slip the latch behind the arm, so it catches. Drill pilot holes, then fasten with masonry screws.

To save floor space, Tom suggested a sliding miter saw with an articulating arm, instead of rails that stick out in back. The saw’s design lets Stefani make crosscuts in boards up to 14 inches wide with the saw resting up against the wall. Its wheeled stand has outriggers to support long boards or lengths of molding, is easy to move around, and folds to store flat against the wall.

Source: This Old House