View Full Version : Shop layout - decisions, decisions

12-31-2008, 12:20 PM
Wouldn't it just figure. I get a week + off from work over the holidays and now I'm so run down I can only get about 1-2 hours in the shop before I'm exhausted. I was planning to rent a trailer and move my machines but.... Since my body is telling me that I need to ride the couch for a while, I was thinking about where to put the machines when they are moved from the old shop to the new.

Suddenly it dawned on me. In the old shop, the lathe was near the door and I could see anyone who walked in. The wife knows that she is not to approach but instead wait until noticed while machines are running. I don't have visitors for the most part and if I do I know when they will be there.

A lathe seems to sit nice with its back parallel to a wall about 2' away so one can broom behind it as needed. As well as any needed repairs can be made without hiring a contortionist mechanic. But in the new shop, this puts my back to the door. Sure I can install a mirror and I am thinking about that. Maybe a door switch with a blinking light on each machine.

Installation of the lathe perpendicular to the wall would require me to blow a hole through the wall for long items to hang outside the shop. Sure this saves space but it might tick off the neighbors. Plus it would let all that cold air in during winter. Flip that 180 and I could possibly save some space by moving a mill to the back side of the lathe and parallel on the same slab. Now the tail of the lathe is close to the wall and I would have 2' space between the tail and the wall.

I was in a shop once looking at a lathe and noticed that they had it set so that the operator had his back to the wall and only about 3' of room to operate between the two. I was not keen on that. If I need to leave the area quickly, I don't want to find the wall on my way out. I'm ugly enough and don't need a wall jumping in my way to make it any worse.

Maybe I'm being too pissy about it but I know that I hate being startled. And avoiding the same issue with the mill being in the corner would be difficult as well but I like the mill in the corner now. Keeps me from putting junk in the corner and with a little space between the mill and the walls, it just seems to fit nice.

I have all the grinding and welding equipment over in one area. There will be a barrier between that and all else. Material storage is on the other side of the shop with the wood working equipment. Keeping the sparks and combustibles at opposite sides. Machinery was planned against the walls between the to other items. Open space in the middle for a layout table and general work area. The rest of the plan is that the space is accessed from a man door inside a large barn type sliding door. A trolley hoist will run from the drive in bay of the garage to the shop through that door. (Maniacal mu-ha-ha-ha laugh here)

I marked all of this out on the floor with chalk and it walks out nicely. Good flow, I can get machines in and out easy without moving other things out of the way. All electrical drops and air drops are from ceiling with quick disconnects and twist-locks. Man I'm almost there.

So - I think that I just typed myself into a decision but... I understand that some here don't have a choice on where the machine can go because it has to go where ever there is a space. Thats what I'm moving out of. But for those of you who have rearranged your shop more than once (moving all that iron will make you remember) how do you like to have the operation side of the machine placed?

Thanks, rock~

12-31-2008, 01:27 PM
Seems like I do the great shop re organize bi-annually. Every time I swear that's the way it will stay, but then I add a machine or get a bigger one, or have a brainstorm and start all over. Just finished my 2008 fire drill this morning in fact.

Startle reflex may be a complication, but I vote for the 2' from the wall idea. I could squeeze in one more lathe if I could stand the back to the wall theory, but I don't like that plan either.

I've come to the conclusion I should have concentrated my machines in the South-West 1/3 of shop instead of the North-West, but two years ago I put 60 linear feet of pallet rack along the South wall because my utilities were on the North wall and now it's going to be a ridiculous amount of work to change over.

12-31-2008, 01:48 PM
I'm with you on 2 feet from the wall but will add that I have a shelf from the back chipguard to the wall that is real handy. With 2 lathes, back to back at a 90 to wall (if you don't plan on hanging long stuff out of the headstock of the one.) or out in the middle of the floor makes good use of floor. I currently have 3 lathes, a HF 12x36 with it's back 2 feet from the wall, a Elgin opposite it forming an aisle, and a Hardinge back to back with the Elgin.

Some old pictures are on my PM blog. Link in my signature. I now have a Burke hand mill in pieces in there as well.

12-31-2008, 02:33 PM
You might try this,


12-31-2008, 08:26 PM
You might try this,


Nice link, I have been pushing things around in AutoCAD. But sometimes I have to chalk it on the floor and walk around. I imagine that I working on something and think about how I would move around the shop. Weird, I know.

Its tough when your trying to keep a lathe on only one slab at a time.


john hobdeclipe
12-31-2008, 08:57 PM
I wish I had room to pull my lathe out from the wall a couple feet. It's a mess back behind it. But to do so would mean pulling the big work bench out also, and that would get too close to the drill press, which is bolted down in the only workable spot for it.

But I've been able to keep most everything else mobile...I can move cabinets, work tables, woodworking table saw, etc. with a pallet jack. That was my wife's idea...she's much smarter than I.

Nice link, I have been pushing things around in AutoCAD. But sometimes I have to chalk it on the floor and walk around. I imagine that I working on something and think about how I would move around the shop. Weird, I know.
Not weird at all. I've often done the same thing. No matter how good your layout looks on paper, a real time walk through will show some problems.

Doc Nickel
12-31-2008, 09:21 PM
You might try this,


-That's a cool little planner. I wish they'd at least give length/width of the tools though, so I can more accurately use a stand-in. Grizzly doesn't have a Logan lathe or Nichols mill in their catalog this year. :D

But I have a tough setup; the actual "machine room" part of the shop is barely 30' x 12', and there's a door on every wall. One whole 'long' section is taken up with a workbench and the rollaway, leaving three walls.

Right now, one short section has the Logan and the mill-drill, the opposite corner wall has the Griz Bridgy clone, the Sheldon and the Rockwell drill press. The short side of that same wall for the moment has just the Nichols.

But I still need to jam two shapers- one pretty big one- and a tool grinder in there...


12-31-2008, 09:51 PM
A light weight chain strung accross the door way with a snap hook lets people know not to enter un-announced.Either that or a Dutch door?

How about setting the lathe at a 45* to the wall with the tailstock end to the wall?Barstock in the head can end up out in the middle of the shop and the space behind the lathe can house a grinding station or other small machine.

12-31-2008, 09:53 PM
I keep as much stuff as I can on wheels (bandsaws, shaper, welders, and soon to be drill press. It makes it much easier to move things around for different projects, considering I have about half as much room as I need. The really heavy stuff I have along the back wall (VMC and 15x50 lathe). One reason is that it fits there and the second is that I really do not plan on moving them until I move, so no use in wasting space by the big door. Pretty much anything under 3000 pounds I consider portable in the shop, that is easy to move with the gantry or a pinch bar and a beer.

01-01-2009, 12:52 AM
I keep as much stuff as I can on wheels...that is easy to move with the gantry or a pinch bar and a beer.

I never have trouble moving beer. But I too have seen the advantage of wheels on equipment. Anything not top heavy. All the wood working equipment is mobile and I like it like that. The planer is a bit top heavy but a little concrete in the mobile base takes care of it.

Happy New Year everyone!
rock~the new year.

01-01-2009, 03:39 AM
I wish I had room to pull my lathe out from the wall a couple feet. It's a mess back behind it. But to do so would mean pulling the big work bench out also, and that would get too close to the drill press, which is bolted down in the only workable spot for it.

I feel the same, but I've got it worse. Not only do I only have about 18" between it and the wall, but you can NOT clean out the chip bin from the front. The bed and chip collection bin are all one huge massive casting. And the auto-trip rod prevents even getting an arm through from the front! I've seen others like it where folks removed the auto feed stop rod just so they could clean out from the front. I'm not there yet, but may be one day. At the moment I'm planning a 3 phase attack before giving up on the feed stop.

1) I have a chip shield to restrain the rooster tail of chips this thing spews when doing 0.500 reduction at 0.023 feed. The rear post that holds it is getting a cross bar with "curtains" to reduce the rear ejection as well. That should cut dramatically on the rear floor cleaning.

2) I'm making a small tray to fit in the top of the bed, between the ways. For the small jobs I do most often, it will easily hold all the chips from the job, and it can be easily lifted out and dumped.

3) A secondary slide in tray that goes under the feed stop rod and allows moderate chip loads to be collected and moved out the front before growing too large.

We'll see. Unfortunately, I have only walking room between it and the main fab/work table, and no way to move anything else in my cramped shop, so I will have to find some compromise to make that fit against the wall work...

Good luck on the new shop layout. A layout can make or brake a work environment. Mine works well with the exception of some issues with longer stock on some machines (band saw and drill press primarily) and the aforementioned lathe chip cleanup...

Your Old Dog
01-01-2009, 07:23 AM
My lathe is mounted mid wall and my floor drill press is just to the left of it. This allows me to rest long stock on the drillpress while feeding it through the quill of the lathe. Mine is about 2 feet from the wall for cleanup. I have a pair or 18" folding shelf brackets that will one day be mounted on the wall behind the lathe. You can do something similar using a cabinet makers trick for hanging cabinets.

You might try putting your back to the door but then putting a full length mirror horizontally on the wall behind the lathe to avoid surprises.l

Ed Tipton
01-01-2009, 08:23 AM
Just as there is no such thing as the perfect "do everything" tool, neither is there the perfect "works for every job" shop layout. You will never find the shop layout that is perfect for all occasions. The best approach is to set your shop up for the most advantageous locations based upon what it is that you will be doing most of the time. On those occasions where you're doing something out of the ordinary, you will just have to live with the problem until you get back into your regular routines, and take solice in the fact that for most of your work, your shop is set up for maximum efficiency. I think most people like to think of themselves as being primarily either a woodworker or a metalworker, but while that may be true, I've never met any craftsman who does it all. People tend to specialize in those areas where they are most comfortable, and where they feel they do their best work. Just because you might consider yourself a woodworker, that does not mean that you will be doing everything that can be done with wood. Same thing goes for the metal munchers. Trying to set yourself up to do everything requires too many tools, too much money, too much shop, too much knowledge, too much time, and too much studying. I'd rather spend my time making chips and enjoying the capeabilities I have. If you get bored, you can always expand your horizons, but you can never do it all.

John Stevenson
01-01-2009, 08:41 AM
Last place I worked was always moving shops around as they downsized and setup new lines in existing shops.

Our 5 shops had to downsize to 3 to free 2 up for other departments.

We were told the drawing office would help us if needed but they were useless, too slow and you couldn't make a slight move by yourself.

We solved it by sticking graph paper onto a large board and drawing each shop out to scale. We then drew each machine on another sheet of graph paper to the same scale but drew it as extents so the footprint was the maximum that it took, support cupboards and benches were drawn the same way.

They it was simple to just lay these out on the main shop layout and shuffle them around as we wanted to play what if.

When we had done the big boards were stored behind a cupboard in the office and all the 'machines' were put in an envelope for future use.

So much quicker than laying out in CAD.