How do I find wood-working space?
April 13, 2010 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Mr. bibbit loves wood-working, and used to do it back when he had access to a shop. He has most of the tools that he would need to start up again, but he doesn't have the space. I know nothing about wood-working and space requirements. I want to get this ball rolling for him. What do I need to know or do?

What types of places should I be looking at? We're in Chicago, if that matters.

I doubt we're going to be able to afford renting a space on our own, and he'd be interested in splitting the space with another 1 or 2 people. How do you find interested parties? How well does this generally work out?

If I'm googling space in Chicago, what type of search terms should I be using? I'm not sure what the restrictions are on what space can be used for what things.

What else am I not thinking of?
posted by bibbit to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're probably looking for a shell building with sufficient ventilation equipment installed. Some might only be the shell (walls, ceiling and a floor, lighting and a bathroom), others might be more polished. If it's the former, he'll need to do tenant improvements (TIs), and he probably will have to talk to the local building department, to ensure his upgrades are up to code. These shells might be cheaper in industrial sections of the city. If he wanted to sell his creations, those sort of places might not be ideal, but that is one way to save in rental costs.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:53 AM on April 13, 2010

Do houses in your neighbourhood have detached garages? Twice when I've been without shop space I've rented someone's detached garage for personal workshop space. This is a pretty cheap way of going though the draw back is usually barely adequate power at best. This won't work very well though if your husband wants to use the space commercially.

If your husband is a table saw oriented type of wood worker he probably needs at minimum a single car garage sized space (IE: 10X20). However it'll be pretty cramped and awkward. Personally I'd want at least twice that much space; my new shop is 24X28 and I would have went 24X32 if zoning permitted it.

If he's turning pens he can get away with a lot less space. Most activities are going to be somewhere in between.

Ideally you'd want to work from what stationary tools he currently has or anticipates buying. If he regularly uses a tool (EG: jointer, planer, shaper, band saw, drill press, lathe, radial arm, chop saw) then he is going to want space to have that tool permanently set up plus in feed and out feed.

Also take a look at what sorts of projects he wanting to work on. Canoes take less space than boats but more space than furniture but all would take more space than bowl turning.
posted by Mitheral at 8:59 AM on April 13, 2010

Here is some mention of "Park District" previously?

Also perhaps you might want to check out Pumping Station: One, though this may be more of a hackerspace then a shared wood working space.

Perhaps a monthly storage rental unit?
posted by peegee at 8:59 AM on April 13, 2010

My husband is a woodworker (furniture, mostly) and works out of a corner of our basement. However, he does 99% of his work with handtools and doesn't have a lot of big equipment taking up space.

My father is also a woodworker and used to run things out of his two-car garage.
posted by Lucinda at 9:36 AM on April 13, 2010

My father's shop is in a 2+1 car garage. He has workbenches along the back (opposite the doors), which include a space for a radial arm saw, drill press, bench grinder, miter saw, etc. The table-saw is positioned in the space between the 2-car door and the 1-car door, with fold-down infeed/outfeed tables. When he wants to use the saw, he pulls the cars out. He also has a lathe of dubious quality and a jointer, which are on rolling bases and spend most of their time wedged in the back corner. Wood storage is along the far wall, and general storage cabinets are on the near wall. This space does super-multipurpose duty as a wood shop, metal shop, small engine repair, big engine repair, lawnmower/etc storage, etc. He's in his 60s, though, and has been collecting tools for about 40 years. You could definitely make do with a 2-car garage, and probably get by with a 1-car garage if you had mobile bases on all your large tools.

Wood Magazine did a great article two or three years ago on isolating a shop from the rest of the building in terms of dust prevention. It came down to keeping the shop area at negative pressure, having a completely separate HVAC system, and really good dust collection. Not too practical if you're renting, but good to know.

Re: obtaining space, I don't know about woodworking spaces, but you might google "hackerspaces." The DIY movement has set up a lot of these, often as nonprofits or small companies that rent space to users. Typically the tools are more electronics-oriented. You might be able to set up a similar group for woodworking, finding people via facebook/craigslist, although then you have some risk of dingbats wrecking your tools or hurting themselves. Do not pass go on this one without consulting a lawyer first -- if you can find a local hackerspace, they probably went through the same challenges, and can refer you.
posted by Alterscape at 9:46 AM on April 13, 2010

The equipment that I know my husband is going to want to use includes a table saw and a lathe. He loves to turn bowls, but he also wants to make small pieces of furniture (i.e.: nightstands, end tables - not couches!).

We live in a condo, so space in our building is not feasible. He does not want to use the space commercially, only have room to work with his tools.

Peegee, thanks for finding that previous post - it didn't pop up when I was looking before, and I'll look into those suggestions.
posted by bibbit at 9:50 AM on April 13, 2010

Doesn't exactly answer your question but this is a great book and extremely cheap on Amazon used. If nothing else, it would give him some nice daydreaming.
posted by sully75 at 9:55 AM on April 13, 2010

A note of caution on looking at storage spaces: I've heard of people/companies using rental storage units for long-term file storage, with a desk kept out there for any work that needs to be done on those files, but 1) it might not be legal, and 2) paperwork doesn't create the noise and dust/debris that woodworking does.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2010

He'll probably want at least a couple hundred square feet, heated in the winter and with electrical service to facilitate the machinery and good lighting. The more sorts of projects he wants to take on, the more tools and space he'll need. He could do all sorts of turning with just a bandsaw and a good lathe. Furniture work requires relatively more tools and space -- besides the table saw, a jointer and surface planer, a dust collector, plus a solid workbench and some tool cabinets at a minimum. Plus enough floor space for the furniture itself. If he wants to do both small furniture and lathe work, a 1 1/2 - 2 car garage is about right.

It's easy to become transfixed by the fantasy of the perfect shop -- all sorts of equipment, the ability to make anything. Resist this. I believe there's more joy and possibility to be had in specialization. A lathe and a bandsaw that you can actually have, in a space you can actually afford, is far better than a full, professional-grade shop that's stuck in your imagination.
posted by jon1270 at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2010

This post on this woodworking site's forums suggested doing a search on "woodshop" under the housing section of craigslist.

Here's a spot for $425 a month
. Tha one might be a bit much, but you might want to check for woodworking clubs in Chicago and see if anyone might be interested in sharing.
posted by forforf at 12:53 PM on April 13, 2010

Here is some mention of "Park District" previously

Yeah, if you're anywhere near Lincoln Park, definitely check out their shop. You basically sign up for a class in woodworking, but it really just means that there's someone there supervising while you do your own thing. Very cheap considering what you get access to, and the other woodworkers there can be a great resource.
posted by svenx at 8:17 PM on April 13, 2010

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