What Do You Need For The Perfect Workshop?

Cobra naked

One of the work areas at Katz’s marina, and yes thats another Cobra!

Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Bob Russell who is planning out a wood shop emailed me yesterday with this shot email. We had never really done a story on this, and to be honest, I don’t have a clue. OK, I know you need a clean room! Which none of mine are. And you need to be organized, which I am not, and you need good tools.. OK.. And… Well, i will let Bob ask…take it away Bob.

“I am planning on building a “Wood Boat”  (maybe a barrellback) and am in the process of tooling up my shop.  How about an article of what a Woody Boater/Rebuilder/Builder needs in the basic Wood Boat Shop?”

There ya have it. Lets build a dream shop in the comment section!


We all of course assume that Zip here is the shop foreman!



41 replies
  1. Brian K
    Brian K says:

    Don’t buy anything until your beer fridge is properly Feng shwei’d into place. Then move on to hanging Steve McQueen pictures. You will of course purchase tools that cost an arm and a leg only will be used two or three times. As long as it makes you happy and you think it will help with boat, that’s what you need.

  2. Bob Barnett
    Bob Barnett says:

    Fire Zip you don’t need anyone smoking in the shop.
    Lots of temperature controled space!
    Dust Collection Systems. Note the “s” on system
    Band Saw
    Thickness planer.
    Table Saw
    Chop saw
    Very long work bench
    Cordless drills lots of them
    Hand planes. Several of different sizes and multiple #4 and block planes.
    Sharpening station.
    Bevel gauges of different sizes
    OK that will give you a good start for other people to add to, now go fire that smoker before he sets your new shop on fire.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    A lot of space.
    More space
    A roof that sheds snow.
    High ceiling so you have space for winches and chainfalls and room to roll a boat inside.
    Insulated and moisture barrier in/under the floor. Makes keeping temp and humidity levels manageable.
    Lots of power.
    A lot of lighting
    More lighting
    A comfortable dog bed for your “helper”
    Vintage Bettie Page pinup posters
    At least one large door to get things in and out.

  4. Fred B
    Fred B says:

    If you shop is big, a great idea is to build a rolling workstation for the most common power tools you will be using. About 3 feet square and height whatever works best for you personally, put your drill press on one side, band saw on the other, sander, vise, whatever. Now you roll it to where you need it and plug it in there and save yourself the thousands of hours spent walking back and forth across your shop to your various stationary tools. It’s gotta be heavy and have locking caster wheels.

  5. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    A great way to make a clean area when you are ready for final varnish, is to construct a 2 x 4 frame screwed together and cover with 6 mil clear visqine. If you make the space 10′ wide by 8′ high by 25′ long, buy the large box at Home Depo (10′ x 100 yards). For ventilation use simple box fans pushing and pulling thru a paper hvac filter taped tight to the plastic. Be sure and number the frame pieces so you can take apart and store for the next varnish project. Take pics with your phone so you can reconstruct next time.

  6. Steve Moreau
    Steve Moreau says:

    Great question Bob R. I’am also remodeling and adding on to my work shop/barn, this will be a very interesting day for me here in woodyboatville! Guys and gals what about the library what books would it be filled with.

    Thanks Steve

  7. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    good hand tools and a the equipment to keep them sharp. never had them until working on boats. But found them a must have. a bright and long space as cutting wood on a table saw our band saw can chew up 30′ real quick. That said I dont have a good shop so my boat is at a friends this winter. Hes doing a wonderful job. Matt, he also has a lot i mean a lot of cupboards to keep organized

  8. Warren
    Warren says:

    here is a pic of my skiff in my shop under construction.You need at a minimum 3-4 ft around the boat to work.(my shop tends to get pretty messy and I take time to re-organize when it’s too bad)

  9. Warren
    Warren says:

    Also a cradle on wheels that you can roll the boat outside when at that step is great for doing sanding etc to keep more mess out of everything in the shop. Pic of semi-finished skiff

  10. Carl Smoot
    Carl Smoot says:


    Go into this with the mindset that you are going to be at it for awhile and won’t need some of the things you think you need either at all or until later.So spread the costs out over the length of the build (buy as you go).

    The perfect shop full of equipment you need would be great, but very few of us actually have that. I’m building my 21 foot cabin cruiser in a 21 and a half foot garage. The tools are purchased when needed keeping me from going into hock . At the end, you will have a beautiful boat that is paid for.

  11. R Daley
    R Daley says:

    I have built and outfitted a couple of shops over the years.
    What I have found to be very functional and extremely cost effective is to use old kitchen cabinets for work benches and wall storage. They are usually of solid wood construction modular in design and thus easy to install and hang on the walls. counter height is correct with in most cases arborite surface intact. Doors and drawers are great for storage and keep the dust and dirt of what is inside. They are easy to purchase of Craig’s list either already removed or in some cases which makes them less expensive is for you to remove them. They also provide that nice finished look.

  12. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Good mobile bases for your equipment and a good sharpening system. I finally sprung for the WorkSharp and I love it.

  13. Rich Stabler
    Rich Stabler says:

    OK all the comments are great but the question has not been answered. I’ve built 3 Glen-L boats and am not considered an expert but the tools I’ve found helpful were as follows.
    A good 10” table saw with an even better miter gauge like the Incra 1000 HD http://www.rockler.com/incra-miter-1000hd-miter-gauge
    A good router (2-1/2 hp.) and table. I made my table and added the universal positioning jig http://www.rockler.com/incra-universal-precision-positioning-jig with a few flush trim and round over bits. The flush trim bits are great for duplicating the many pieces you will be making.
    A minimum of a 14” band saw and the deeper the cut the better for re-sawing. I found my 1958 Craftsman band saw was a little bit shallow (5” cut depth) for some cuts and I had to use the table saw at max depth (3-1/2”) and rip both edges then used a hand saw to finish the cut.
    12” surface planer. I also have a hand power plane that worked quite well rough shaping the wood after it was glued into place and then using the belt sander for final sculpting.
    Drill press with a good set of bits as well as fortsner bits. Cordless hand drill
    Palm, belt and a good bench sander. I found I always turn to my Ridged oscillating edge/belt spindle sander http://www.homedepot.com/p/RIDGID-120-Volt-Oscillating-Edge-Belt-Spindle-Sander-EB4424/100061671
    After that it’s just a few miscellaneous hand tools of your choice, lots and lots of sandpaper and if you don’t mind the cleanup a good shop vacuum will do.
    As far as a containment when it’s time to apply paint or varnish I made an inexpensive containment out of 1” PVC pipe and fittings covered with visqueen, it all comes apart and can be stowed easily for the next time you need it.

    • warren
      warren says:

      Rich,from your original question,it could be taken several ways.
      It sounded like you had never built one before and are considering doing a first one. I would have never replied like I did knowing your skills and experience.
      BTW, I have always admired your beautiful Squirt and Zip builds from the forum,just didn’t recognize (or remember) your name

  14. Charlie Coldren
    Charlie Coldren says:

    What you need is a cabinetmaker / woodworkers commercial shop setup like I’m setting up for my retirement. Budget about $10,000 for the tools plus a 26×40 slab heated building (another $25,000) or just buy a boat someone else did for much less and enjoy the beer! No cuts or wood splinters. I should have.

  15. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I’d like to see the 26×40 heated building you can put up for only $25,000!!! I would suggest triple that budget including site prep, insulated slab, insulated building with heat and electric, insulated doors, a basic loft and not too many extras. If you can do a lot of the work yourself, that will cut it down some, but I think the materials alone for my barn were more than $25k and it is only slightly bigger at 32×48.

    • Phillip Jones
      Phillip Jones says:

      Does Charlie think there is retirement income in cabinets?????? This has become a cut-rate business, where everyone is doing it almost by the hour rates. But I guess that’s as good a line as any to tell the wife to get away with getting a new shop ( 40-50,000) to work on a completed boat worth 30 K. We are all delusional, but I love it. Think Ill go out and buy another tool tomorrow.
      I am almost finished with my boat, anyone want to buy 5oK worth of equipment:):):)

  16. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Wish I had a sink or lav in my shop. A good first aid kit and some tweezers are good to have in the shop.

    • Phillip Jones
      Phillip Jones says:

      My first aid kit consists of duct tape, because most of my F*&* U***) require compression to stop the bleeding

  17. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Here’s how you build a 26 x 40 for less than $25,000. See attached phote. Right click and view larger image for details. Double up 1×2’s with blocking in between bent on a jig to a desired arc, then screw thru the blocking. This makes one rib. Multiply by length of building needed. Join at top with plywood gusset notched for a 2×2 ridge. Cover with reinforced plastic draped over ridge down to base and capped with lattice stapled over rib to hold down plastic.

  18. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Here’s your base detail. The ribs set on a 3′ 2×4 scrap built knee wall sheathed with plywood. The outer rib extends down the outside of knee wall and is tacked to the plywood surface over a stud. set the knee wall directly on ground or on concrete cap blocks. Drive 3′-4′ rebar thru bottom plate into ground after tack welding a cap washer on top or bending top into “L”. Note the diagonal wind bracing and channels to run electrical wiring. put shade cloth over top to reduce summer heat, add barrel stove on one end for winter heat, So bright inside no lights needed. I have larger detailed digital photos if anyone wants them to expand and study details using microsoft picture viewer.

  19. Brian Aiken
    Brian Aiken says:

    Did I miss the part where everyone said CLAMPS? C clamps, Jorgenson clamps, bar clamps [at least one pair.. and yes a zillion dollar budget would be nice but I didn’t have that.. Still I DO have a good collection of tools.
    Here are a couple of work-arounds for the non-wealthy:
    First, you WILL need a band saw, but it doesn’t need to be huge. Re re-sawing and planing; job it out. You are not likely to need enough to justify the expense of really good tools and doing with weak tools will wear them out quickly.
    As for a building, I used my double garage. If your boat is too big for that either cobble an extension with tarps or buy one of those temporary tarp garages, about $200.[ I stash my semi-collectable car in one while the boat’s in the garage for bottom paint etc.]
    Instead of gantries, if you have access to the attic over your garage, you can install 4×6 strongbacks over the rafters and then drop a loop of chain or bolt a slotted 8″ wide piece of 3/8″ steel through the ceiling [ Since I have sheetrock, I recessed mine in a plastic box meant for washing machine faucets]. The only problem with this is getting the trailer out if the front one precludes opening the garage door. One option is to remove the top two sections of the door and then lift it up enough to slide the trailer out. Remember the restoration is going to take some time so a few hours on the door is pretty minor. I welded a simple gantry for the front. It disassembles but I just leave it in place. Note that it’s stabilized on top with ratchet straps which go to screw eyes in the garage wall studs.]
    In any case, enjoy, get plenty of advice and buy good tools but only when you need them.
    Here’s a photo of my setup:

  20. Wolfgang
    Wolfgang says:

    I was wondering when someone would say clamps. All kinds and many different sizes. A couple hundred would be a good start. I was just at a gents shop and he bought out a hardware supply of sand paper for $25. He is planking a Garwood. Lots of 40 ,60 ,80 and 120 grit. 220 for finish work or maybe 320 are needed. You will need epoxy and all its great fillers, plastic cups, small acid brushes (144 per box) and those great surgeons gloves. I think someone else mentioned face dust masks. They are very important.

  21. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    Been in to working for a while and this is what I have accumulated over the years, every piece came in very handy for my boat project. A lot of good suggestions here but you can’t say enough about good old hand tools.
    This is my shop where I spend most of my time.
    BTW, you got to have a few old signs.

  22. Brian Aiken
    Brian Aiken says:

    I’m impressed that Floyd R Turbo recognized the Wooden Nickel.
    I’m putting up this photo which shows the “Trojan Sawhorse” in more detail in case someone wants to make their own version. The main feature is that it breaks down into three semi-manageable pieces. [I have always put it up alone.] That way it ca be stored outdoors until needed.
    Looking at the photo, you can see the seam 12″ from the top of each vertical post. The 10″ piece of pipe below that is just a stop collar.
    The horizontal pipe is welded to those 12″ pipes near the ends, which slip over smaller diameter vertical pipes.
    The other neat feature is that the legs rotate so the whole thing gets assembled flat on the garage floor. [the” feet” lay parallel to the top bar]
    It is then hoisted until it’s upright. At that point, the flat “feet”, 6X42 X3/8″ bars can be rotated 90 degrees as shown.
    It can be lifted by a couple of strong folks or pulled up the a come-along.
    I’ve used this set up for 35 years and so far so good.
    In any event, properly welded, it’s a great set-up.
    Disclaimer: I can’t know how well someone else welds or designs so I’m only saying that this worked for me.

  23. Mark walker
    Mark walker says:

    Looking for information on the vice that I thought was featured on the subject of the perfct shop.

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