In a small shop, space is always at a premium. Most of us use a garage or basement as our shop, so we are already in tight quarters. The tools you buy can have a positive or negative effect on this space, and bench top tools go a long way to make a difference in the feeling of your shop.
Tools for Woodworking
Woodworking tools come in all shapes and sizes. There are massive floor standing machines that can handle full sheets of plywood, and very tiny machines that seem like they would struggle to cut a popsicle stick.
In between these machines are a special class of tools can accomplish a lot of the same things that the big tools accomplish, but also do more than the really small tools. These middle of the road tools are a blend of both worlds, and they can help you in a small shop.
They are not going to allow you to create huge pieces from large sheet goods, but if you are not doing that anyway, you really don’t need the tool. Getting the right size of tool can do a lot of things for your small shop, and here they are…
Bench Top Tools Save Money
I cover bench top tools in 29 Ways to Maximize Your Small Shop Layout and they are great for space, but they are also great for saving money. Bench top tools are less expensive than floor standing tools, which is a double win if you don’t need anything that is really big.
It makes no sense to pay for a tool that you will not use. It also makes no sense to pay for size and capacity that you will not use. While it is nice to have a big tool that can handle big stock, the fact that you are never planning on using the capacity is something to consider.
Lastly, when a bench top tool gives up the ghost, it’s not as much of a hit in the wallet replacing it. My bench tools are all around one hundred dollars to four hundred dollars, so if one of them dies I can easily buy another. If I had a few thousand dollar tool, it could take me years to save up for a new one.
The Tools Have Good Capacity for the Size
Bench to tools also tend to have a fairly good cutting capacity even for their small frames. Most large table saws have ten to twelve inch blades. The bench top tools have similar blades, and even my bench top table saw has a ten inch blade.
My mid size band saw has a fourteen inch throat, and can be fitted with a riser block for a taller depth of cut. Even so, the tool is small enough for me to lift it myself, and it was a fraction of the price of a bigger model.
My belt sander is the same. It’s a four inch belt and a six inch disc. This is more than enough for anything I have ever needed in the shop. The belt changes easily, and the replacements are not expensive, which is great.
Look at Where to Buy Woodworking Tools for some tips on finding bench top tools on a deal for your shop.
Smaller Tools are Less Expensive to Maintain
Big tools come with big price tags for maintenance. Blades cost more, bits cost more, and parts cost more. Any time you are dealing with a larger and more expensive tool, you are going to see a much higher cost to maintain it typically.
Now there are some exceptions of course, but in general mid sized tools are going to be easier to maintain and keep working well. Sanding belts are a good example, and the common sizes are usually a lot less expensive than the really big belts.
While it can be nice to have a really big sander, if you are making smaller projects, then it is not necessary. All you are doing is using a smaller section of the big belt, and paying the price for the whole thing.
Bench Top Tools Save Space
Above all, the reason that most people get smaller tools is to save space. In a small shop, the floor space is at a premium. You should think about any tool that you are going to introduce before you bring it in. This way, you know you are making the best decision.
If you can do everything you need to with a bench top model, then buy and use the bench top model for your shop. You will save a lot of money, and you will be just as happy. It will not be as big, but you will be glad that you are not climbing over your tools in the future.
Use that saved space to arrange your shop well, and give yourself some more room to move around. The layout of your shop should be inviting, and having smaller tools gives you the ability to arrange your shop really well.
Your homework assignment is to take a look at your tools and think about the size. Do you have tools that are too big for your shop and you don’t use the full capacity? Maybe you can trade them for several smaller tools, or sell them and get a few new tools that are a different size.
Also, when you need a new tool, research first and find the smallest version that you can get that will still do what you need it to. Many times, the big tools are too much, and a smaller tool will give you more shop space.
If you do end up switching out tools, find a space for them that you can use the tool without moving it around. This is a good way to help a smaller shop, because not only are the tools smaller, but you don’t have to move them around to use them.
Bench Top Tools Wrap-Up
Smaller bench top tools are a great way to save space in a smaller shop. If you are just starting your shop, you have a huge opportunity to get smaller tools right out of the gate, and save yourself a lot of space.
Smaller tools are often less expensive, the maintenance on them is also less, and they are lighter and more portable. All of these things, plus the capacities being similar even for the big size reduction are great reasons to use bench top tools in a smaller shop.
Finally, if you can, work on getting some bench top tools into your shop, and replacing some of the bigger tools. You will open a lot of floor space, and make your workshop far more inviting in the process.
Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks
You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.
A Beginners Guide to Woodworking is a great start for any new woodworker, and can help you make better projects faster.
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If you have any questions about Bench Top Tools Help Conserve Space in a Small Shop, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy Building.