I thought I’d take a brief aside to talk about trying to do woodworking in a garage that you actually park cars in.

I do it because I cannot bear to not do woodworking.  It’s a curse I guess.  But I also cannot bear to leave my cars out in the driveway.  Parking inside is one of the great luxuries of home ownership in which you don’t have to scrape ice off the windshield in winter, any built up snow that accumulates during your commute will melt off overnight, your car doesn’t get beat up by hailstones, and it’s not unbearably hot in the car when you get in it during the summer. All of these things are likely where I live in Oklahoma; I’ve had each of these things happen – usually at least once a year.

But it does limit the woodworking you can do.  It would also be a great luxury to be able to simply walk out into a shop and start to work rather than having to make space to work.  I know this because my Dad had a large shop when I was a kid (and I guess he was about my age now at the time). Because the cars are in my garage, it’s a huge pain to even get to my bench, table saw, or router table.  As a result, instead of putting things away, I will often just stack things onto one of the aforementioned flat surfaces and so when I do get time to go out and build something, I end up having to back the cars out (and I have a teenager who parks behind me so I actually have to move three cars) as well as cleaning up and putting things away before starting work.  I can never just walk out and do something.  And when I do attempt to work with the cars in there, I end up with a rear view mirror gouging me in the back while I work. 

It’s actually a bit worse than that.  Because of the cramped space, I can usually not get to my shopvac or even to a broom; therefore, my bench ends up piled high with chips and dust.  So there’s that to deal with before working or, as frequently happens, I just work away in the filth. If I drop a small drill bit, I’m in trouble.

And I actually have a slightly larger garage than normal.  Most garages I see on new construction are barely large enough for the two cars that they are advertised to hold.  Mine actually has about four feet on either side that I can use and (much to my wife’s chagrin) I have those spaces filled up with my tools.

This is why every woodworker (or any tinkerer in general) needs a dedicated space.  My experience is that in the dead of winter, it’s miserably cold and in the dead of summer, it’s unbearably hot.  So any workspace really needs to have a heater and air conditioner.  This has me wishing for a house with a basement. 

I don’t know where in the United States houses have basements but it seems like any house above the approximate latitude of Kansas has basements.  Those that are south of there do not.  I’m not sure why homes began to be built without basements but when they did, we all lost a lot of storage space (and of course, workshop space).  A very few older homes in Tulsa have a basement and of those that I know of personally, about half have problems with water coming in and are equipped with sump pumps.  So maybe water infiltration is always an issue and is just something you plan on. 

This is enough of an issue that I’m actually willing to move.  My wife is OK with this since she’s never liked our house too much anyway.  We bought in haste 15 years ago when my job moved me here and she’s always wished we had bought somewhere else.  So we’re looking for something with space for a shop.  This can be tricky since some neighborhoods have regulations against any buildings in the back yard but I think I can probably win approval for such a project by calling it a “studio” rather than a “workshop”. Even in my own mind, the word “workshop” calls to mind a pole-barn or cheap outbuilding from Home Depot while “studio” calls to mind a quaint little creative space.  I think I could sell that to a lot of homeowners associations by just promising to make it look like the house.

But until then, I work in the garage and to do anything meaningful I have to back the cars out.  But that’s better than not doing woodworking at all. I’d be curious as to how others deal with cramped spaces like this.  Besides putting your tools on wheels (which I’ve already done) I’m not sure what else to do.

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