Making a Makerspace: Shop Tour 2015

Most of the time on this blog and @woodshopcowboy or WoodshopCowboy on Facebook, I showcase student-centered projects and articles. Sometimes I make projects for my own enjoyment and personal needs in my own personal makerspace/workshop. Here’s a peek behind the curtain.

Storage Solutions:

Steel Tool Box: A ten-year old Craftsman model in “on-sale red”. This is a mid-price model, and it’s built very well. A few years ago, I bought six black cheap models from Craftman for my shop at work, and those are some el-cheapo models I do not recommend for a nice shop.

The 12’ Shelving Unit: Holds up well in a garage space such as mine. It’s a bit crowded now with supplies and one off tools. A well curated junk area is the sign of a great shop.


Tool Stand: A solid storage design. My original design called for 2×4 posts, but I’ve found 2×2 posts maximize the use of the wood. I use ¼ in or 1/2 in plywood to “skin” the carcass frame. I use the cheapest stuff available, so it’s pretty darn tooting cheap. Throw in a complete don’t care attitude about fit and finish, and these puppies slap themselves together quick. A pair of cheap 2” castors keeps everything on the mobile.

Click to download the Sketch Up model!
Click to download the Sketch Up model!

The Lumber Cart: A pretty popular design I picked up from Woodsmith and some examples I’ve seen around town. They take a day to make and are worth every penny you spend on wood and castors. Use 2×4’s to frame the bottom and minimize flexing. Buy big beefy castors (4” or more), as this gets HEAVY once it’s loaded with wood.



Table Saw: My table saw handles the bulk of my milling, sizing and project-collecting duties. My particular saw has a sliding table feature which goes unused most of the time and a 52 inch fence. I do not recommend a sliding table (even though it works awesomely) if you only have one saw. Removing the miter guide for rip cuts is annoying and re-installing it perfectly square is impossible. I would rather have my second miter gauge slot.

The 52 inch fence rocks and rolls. Jet makes a solid stock cam-lock fence with four T-slots in it. It locks easy and square every time. The safety guard works well, and removes and installs with little trouble.


Router Table: I built my own router table from scrap wood and a few sections of T-slots. This set up allows me to share both the fence and my miter gauge from the table saw, generally making life pretty simple. I can say three things I don’t recommend. First, buy or make a rectangular metal plate. My circular plate allows the machines torque to spin it in the table, which renders it unusable. I’ve fixed it with a set screw, but really, that’s just one extra step. Next, buy a Porter-Cable or Porter-Cable compatible machine. My Craftsmen routers work fantastic (8 years and counting) but they only work with Craftsman-branded accessories. Porter-Cable is the industry-standard brand, and when I improve this space, I will make a smarter purchase. Next, build your router top from strong ¾” solid wood plywood with supports underneath your router top. You can’t tell in the pictures, but MDF sags over time. So far, it hasn’t sagged enough to interfere with my work too much, but I will eventually replace it.

Band Saw: A cheap craigslist find, missing a proper fence. This machine works well enough for the moment, although it tends to drift during larger cuts. Proper sized blades and tension appropriate for the work limit this tendency.


Miter saw: I still swear by my little 10” miter saw I bought ten years ago, but I have upgraded to a true miter saw stand recently. I built this table using the same 2×4 stick and screw technique I use to design all of my tool stands. I really like building cabinetry in this way. It minimizes my investment in materials while maximizes structural space. Best of all, but using two of the most common sizes (2×4 stock & ½ plywood) I can use salvaged/reused materials and save money.


Lathes: I have two craiglist finds. I like this paring as both machines sport ¾” x 16 tpi headstocks with a #1 Morse Taper. This makes it easy to switch accessories between the two lathes depending on the size (medium or small) of my work. Not many of my bowls are worth showing off. I’m still learning to match speeds, sand correctly, etc. Soon though, I will be able to showcase more small projects on this blog.



Bench Sander: A cheap bench top sander for under $60 at Harbor Freight, this little sucker packs a big sized wallop. If it breaks, it’s quickly replaceable. I’m pretty sure the sandpaper itself will cost more than the machine….

12” Dewalt Planer: This is a pretty accurate machine, although replacing blades stinks. There’s a few sharpening jigs out there which can resharpen these blades, but in reality I’ve paid for the cost of this machine two times over in blades. I bought this machine before I became a member of TX/RX Labs. Since becoming a member there, I have done a majority of my milling operations in their facilities. I much prefer large, freestanding models,


6” Grinder: A Porter-Cable version from Lowe’s. In order to sharpen and grind tools, a person needs a grinder, so I bought one. I’m currently building jigs and such to actually sharpen tools.

Drill Press: Another cheap find. This particular drill press came so cheap because it’s nearly unusable by hand – works fine, but the chuck issticky. I don’t use the drill press a ton normally, so having a non-optimal set up works fine right now.
Roubo-Style Workbench: The last fixture in the shop. This workbench has been under construction for any number of years (I think two) and is STILL unfinished. At some point, I need to sink a large groove on the top in order to install a sliding deadman. Which is a great name for a punk band, and probably an extravagance, considering how I’ve used my front vise only a handful of times since I built it! I flattened the top using a home-made router and sled jig, I liked the rough feel of the piece.

I built this particular bench according to the plans found in Christopher Schwarz’s book from old rafters of a commercial building in Houston. I reused almost every piece of lumber in this build, hence its beat up look. The front and tail vise are cheap Grizzly/Lee Valley versions I’ve installed.


Laser Cutter: My latest and greatest tool. A hand-me-down from a local hackerspace, a similar rigging would cost $2500 new. So far, I’ve used this rig to engrave a variety of materials, as well as put together a sculpture piece. I will go into this machine in a longer post, so I’ll keep it short. You always get what you pay for in tools. The cheaper you go, the harder you work getting the machine to pro usability standards. As a hobbyist, though, I’ve found both this tool and its software package extremely approachable and needing only minor tweaking. It’s a bad mamba jamba. If you can invest, do it. It’s pretty incredible.


Thank you for visiting my practice zone and project showcase.  If you wish to lend your support for this site, please like WoodshopCowboy on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.  If you are interested in making and education, why not check out Work Notes, a curated set of articles from the web, published every week?

Make it safe & keep the rubberside down.

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