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Ideas for a Multipurpose Garage Workshop? 55

WTFmonkey asks: "Having looked at several woodworking websites and magazines, I've got some good ideas for the woodworking part of my planned shop. Sadly, I can't find any shop ideas specific to electronics and computer repair. What is considered essential for a good workbench? Dinner-table height or counter-top height (I'm 6'2"), and what is an adequate depth? Lighting strategies, handy equipment, organization issues? To put it succinctly, what are the most comfortable and effective benches you've worked at, and why?"
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Ideas for a Multipurpose Garage Workshop?

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  • One tip.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hookedup ( 630460 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:33PM (#7941586)
    You may want to have a rubber top of your work bench. Keeps things from slipping around, doesnt stain, and nonconductive :) If you can't get a bench with it built in, buy yourself a rubber mat, the type hockey rinks use would suffice.
    • Re:One tip.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by mistert2 ( 672789 )
      I found that rubber truck mats from farm supply stores are cheap. They come in all sizes.

      I like a good maple bench top is the best, think shop class pre-90's.

    • Re:One tip.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by pagercam2 ( 533686 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @12:29AM (#7942474)
      Rubber is an insolator which means that static can't disopate, anti static bags have conductive stripes or surfaces to help conduct static away from sensitive parts, if you buy a real anti static mat you will find that it has a conector to gound the pad an remove any static. Using an insolator is a common mistake that should be avoided. Anti static mats are one option and the fact that they are soft allows one to press on boards for cutting and stops small parts from sliding or blowing away. Professional setups usually have some sort of masonite top and then an antistaic mat with grounding points for both.

      Other that that, lots of electrical outlets is a must bolting down a few outlet strips works well escpecially if you can find the industrial sort where plugs are a few inches part, nothing sucks worse than having six outlets but only being able to use 3 because the plus and transformers are too wide and block outlets on either side.

      Most people seem to prefer the raised workbench, but that requires a raised chair .....
      I prefer a normal height table with as much depth a away from the wall, a few items like osilicopes, bench supplies and a PC take up a lot of space and while you don't touch them that often you still want them within reach, ossilicopes are ussually pretty long.

      Some sort of tool holder is important, for screwdrivers, dental picks, pens, and all the little tools that you need to keep handy.

      Lots of space is needed so you can leave out data sheets, manuals etc.. I have had good luck with two tables in a corner and a pivoting chair so that you can have as much stuff within arms reach as possible.
      • Most people seem to prefer the raised workbench, but that requires a raised chair

        I find when building computers that sitting at a chair limits me too much, as I must keep standing up to reach parts of the chassis or other tools/parts. I find that the easiest setup is a desk with anti-static matting, roughly 3' from the ground. A deep desk is good for fitting all the parts and the chassis on, and if you can get to all four sides of the desk then testing becomes a little easier. Power sockets all over the

  • > Sadly, I can't find any shop ideas specific to electronics and computer
    > repair. What is considered essential for a good workbench?

    Think about what you're going to do on this workbench, where you're going to
    want to place things, and what you need as a result. For example, you will
    very likely want to be able to slap a motherboard tray on there and have a
    place to stick drives and a PSU where the cables can reach. Little shelves
    for the drives maybe. Similarly, you're going to want a place to put a
  • Get an adjustable height workbench, with mountable bins. Most catalogs have them, and they work really well whether you need to be standing elbow deep in a machine, or just sitting through an install. Include a monitor arm with keyboard tray, and you're set.
    • Re:height? Neither (Score:2, Interesting)

      by NoStrings ( 622372 )
      If you have the room, you might want to use 2 benches. I have one tall bench (good for use standing or sitting on a stool) & a desk that can be used sitting in a regular chair. This is in my basement, and the way its set up, the desk is away from the wall (next to a telepost). This works great because I can easily access the back of any boxes I'm working on simply by walking around the desk - no need to swivel the computer around, pushing other stuff off the desk, tangling cables, etc.
  • If you are actually going to use your workshop for extended periods of time, do you want to stand on cold cement? If you are in California ..maybe, International Falls..No Way.

    I recommend at least a piece of plywood on the floor in colder climates. I like the Epoxy floor covering for clean-up .

    • I prefer to carpet my workspace for warmth (Rhode Island, is 25-degrees right now) and comfort. If you lay down a dark carpet that extends a few feet beyond the work area in each direction over hardwood or cement you can hear if a screw gets away and which direction it headed.
  • Workbenches (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:47PM (#7941666) Homepage Journal
    Be plentiful with power outlets. My office has a workbench with a whole lotta plugs right along the surface of the table. Be mindful of wall-warts (Power supplies with huge ass bricks) as well.

  • You can't beat Masonite for a good light work benchtop. If you were doing heavy metal, I'd suggest something else, but for electronics and wood, Masonite is best.

    For the height, first pick your chair. I like roll-around stools so I need a high bench height. Pick your chair, sit in it, measure from the floor to about 2-3 inches above your lap. Thats the bottom height. If you're doing electronics and need to use a microscope (don't laugh, I do), you'll have to take that into consideration.

    As to the d

    • I will second the masonite. You can always tear it off and put on a new sheet when it gets toated. Stuff is cheap. Tempered masonite is the best.

      I would buy the sheet at your local lumber yard, if they will cut it to the size you want with their panel saw. Countersink a couple of drywall screws in the corners and done.

  • Build you own workbench out of Lego's!
  • I moved half of my workshop into a back bedroom so I can have a phone line, decent lighting, electrical outlets, and LAN connection. I fix a lot of crappy computers for people to keep out of landfills, and I just need phone lines, ethernet, electricity and lighting.

    I like non-halogen bulbs on goosenecks on my work table, and regular light bulbs in enameled metal lamp shades above my head. I don't have as much flickering of light.

    I would recommend an ogg/mp3 jukebox with a tv tuner card to watch The Gr

    • And I hope that you will be watching the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES kick some cheesehead kiester later on today. Philly doesnt take to kindly to outsiders coming in to oust us from the playoffs...

      -Proud Eagles Fan
      • I hope that it is a good game. I think both teams have had a Great season. I will be cheering for my Packers. Have a beer for me, and may the best team win.


        • Yeah, it was an awesome game. Wasnt there myself, but have a few friends who were. It was a real nailbiter, and the entire game kept me on the edge of my seat. Maybe next year Packers, maybe next year.....
  • by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @10:17PM (#7941818)
    While this is not necessarily what I'd recommend for serious metal work or case modding or anything, the following is basically what I'd want in a computer area in my garage (a place where I could repair, upgrade, build, tinker, etc.). It'd basically jive with what I have at the repair center I work at.

    First thing: get yourself an anti-static countertop. If you poke around, you may find that it'll cost you basically as much to get a decent anti-static counter as to get a halfway decent metal or laminated wood area. Static isn't a huge deal where I live (my part of Texas is humid enough that I never even bother at the house), but it is nice to have, particularly if you are in an area dry enough to worry about it. I actually prefer a countertop over a desk-height area, with a nice bar-stool height rolling chair. I'd go for flourescent lighting for power consumption, and get a good pull-down incandescent (the hooked sort that have a semi-retractable cable to take them up out of the way when not needed) for when I really need some brightness.

    Get a large file cabinet. Fill one drawer with a big-ass, multi-tier toolbox with the assorted big 'n' small screwdrivers, nut drivers, pliers, dremel bits, etc. that you need. Get one of those small, sectioned tackle organizers designed for small hooks, flys, etc. Use it to compartmentalize your screws of different size and type. Fill another drawer with large capacity file dividers (the big, say, 2" sort), and fill those file dividers with anti-static bags with spare components (the assorted video, LAN, RAM, etc. that you might use for trouble shooting). Get some of the gallon-size freezer bags and use them to organize your cables. Unless it's something very non-prone to tangling (IDE ribbons, for example), stow each cable in its own bag. File these.

    Get a cheap CRT, a keyboard with zero "grandma" buttons, and a basic, 2button + scroll optical mouse. If possible, have both KB and mouse use USB with PS/2 adapters, that way you're set for whatever randomness comes onto your bench. Get a cheap set of speakers (but make sure they're powered units). Run these into a KVM switch, and have a throwaway old machine with a big-ass hard drive in it for when you need to dump everything off for whatever reason (or preferably, have a file server and never have to worry). Get a cheap 10/100 hub (not switch) for checking LAN functionality and for the occasional time when you might want to sniff packets coming off of a machine you're troubleshooting. Oh, and order a notebook IDE->full-size IDE adapter. You never know when you might need one, and although they cost next to nothing, I never seem to be able to find a local vendor that carries them. If you're planning on, I don't know, tinkering with the neighbors machines for the hell of it (God help you), I'd tell you to snag a cheap PCI IDE card with a couple of controllers, for those times when you need to pop a drive in to pull some data off or check whether the problem is drive, board, or cable.

    If you're the type of person who tends to work on a lot of things at a time, just pick-up a wire rack shelf to have some place to stow projects while you work on them.

    Note: A lot of this applies to the fact that I work on other people's machines day in, day out. I don't have anyhting near this level at the house, but if I were going to build a small workshop anyway, the costs for equipment mentioned here would be in line with what I'd expect to spend.
    • Also, get an AT to PS2 adaptor - I came across a rig that was the right price, but uses an AT keyboard... arrgh! My Model M is even PS2 (I think you can get an AT cable for it, but I'd rather get an adaptor)!
      • So right. I was actually going to stick in a tip to pick up those goofy adapters, but I got called away for a moment, then forgot when I had returned to finish the post.

        I do keep some around for repairs, but it's generally a non-issue. 9 times out of 10, I simply refuse to repair or upgrade anything with AT, since it basically means "old crap that's not worth the time I'll sink into it trying to get some random PCI USB card to actually work".
  • Several Power Oulets, both above and below the benth.

    at least 1 switch above the bench, I would put a small one (4 port) below as well.

    cable holes on either end of the bench, and prolly on in the middle (along the back of it obviously) to string up a monitor/keyboard/mouse.

    A good desktop computer with various removable media (zip, cd-rw, diskette, etc...), so that you can get drivers from the internet to whatever your working on. LCD monitor on a swing arm. Wireless keyboard and a trackball for a mouse (
  • Well for a budget anyway.

    Work Bench (put in your zip for the price and details... 98022 works if yours doesnt) []

    Just hang power strips and cables and tools on the peg board. 15" crt on the top on either side and a couple cheap KVMs and you can service 4 towers on this thing at once.

    I have used these in my business and other companies I have worked at before for years.

    • Wow, and to think the 8' one a buddy of mine and I built cost about 1/2 that and took us maybe 2 hours max from start to finish (complete with pegboard and outlets).

  • You must have: (Score:1, Interesting)

    -Music. Whatever kind you like. Preferably off of a HDD MP3 player

    -TV. If you want it (sports?) Not a must-have though

    -Stable box. You can play your MP3s from it. Use for downloading drivers, etc

    -Generic K, V, & M. Nothing with special drivers. USB and PS2 for the K and M sound good

    -KVM Switch. Go from your stable box to whatever your playing with. Put the cable in an easily accessible place

    -Outlets. Can never have too many

    -Light. Can never have too much, IMO

    Just remember what YOU find comfortabl
  • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @11:21PM (#7942109) Homepage
    I have some ideas after using several inadequate electronics benches. Some of these ideas I've put into practise but some are still on my wishlist.

    Make sure the bench is not too deep. Deep benches accumulate more clutter and it's too difficult to reach the back to retrieve things. Sit down and reach across a table; the depth you can reach to is how deep the bench should be.

    A bench is most useful when you can use it sitting down or standing up. So make the bench high and get a stool, rather than making it the height of a desk and using a desk chair.

    Powerpoints! Lots of powerpoints, each with their own indicator light and switch. These need to be off the bench and within arms reach.

    A grip (ie, a vice) on a movable arm. This can be mounted to the side of the bench, just so long as the arm reaches to where you work.

    A shelf about 1 foot above the bench to hold all your test equipment, power supplies, etc. It must be within arm's reach so not too deep and not too high.

    A flouro just below the shelf to illuminate the whole bench. Make it bright. Put a thin strip of wood in front (attached to the shelf) so the flouro doesn't shine in your eyes.

    A second much brighter lamp on a movable arm (eg, halogen). Attach it to the shelf to keep the bench space clear.

    A vertical rod coming out of the bench, off to one side, to hold spools of your most commonly used wires, solder, etc. About a foot long is all you need.

    Attach a raised lip (about 1cm high) around the entire bench. There's nothing worse than crawling around the floor trying to find tiny pieces that rolled off the bench.

    A kickback across the back of the bench. Same idea as the lip but go all the way up to the shelf. It stops tools falling behind the bench.

    A sliding drawer under the bench, off to the side, with compartments to store all your most commonly used tools (eg, side cutters, needle noses). Btw, don't go overboard with things under the bench (eg, drawers, cupboards, etc) because they just get in the way of your legs.

    I hope some of this has been helpful.
  • Tall Height Help (Score:2, Informative)

    by akudoi ( 568104 )
    I'm 6'4 and I can tell you DO NOT put it at counter-top or table-top height. I dont know how much of a difference 2" will make. But I find that my back really gets sore after in the kitchen for longer periods of time.

    I recently built a work bench in the garage for multi purpose things and I set it fairly high up. So that if I'm standing at it with my elbows bent it feels confortable. I'd say about 2" - 4" below your elbow. Trust me, you dont want your back bent if your going to be standing there working.

    • That's where most surgeon operate, and that's where efficiency experts found that people are most effectively are able to work. Get a tall chair so that when you sit the bench remains at the same relationship to your elbows when you sit or stand. I'm 6'4" too and I would love to have a "higher" house/workshop too, the kitchen sink is just too low.
      • My wife's parents and sibling are all about as tall as you guys. If you ever get a chance to purchase/build your own house, look into raising everything. They did this customization to their home to everything from the kitchen counters to the bathroom toilets, and loved it.
  • Electrics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @12:29AM (#7942475) Journal
    Don't forget a big-ass emergency stop switch in a very obvious position, that does the *whole* bench.

    This way when (not if!!) things smoke you only have to slam that button down to switch it all off, rather than the find-the-right-powerboard-that-feeds-the-burning-i tem approach.

    Oh, and a good residual current device (earth leakage) can save your life as well, so don't forget that.
  • Most of this comes from building biomedical research laboratories, but the principals still apply. I'll go from top to bottom.

    1) Ceiling/Lighting: A light colored ceiling will help with indirect lighting. A couple of coats of paint will make a HUGE difference in how you see things - literally. Use long, narrow light fixtures - fluorescent, cool white. The fixture should be over the benchtop with the outside edge of the fixture lined up with the outside edge of the benchtop.

    2) Shelving. Use unistrut/
    • 3) Electrical/Communications: Across the bottom of the Unistrut standards, run surface mount electrical raceway aka Wiremold. Try getting the stuff that has 2 separate raceways - 1 for wire, one for communications.

      No, no, no. Data Cabling 101: Never run communications copper parallel (when its not separated by a considerable difference) to line voltage. Any throughput you might have had will be shot to hell from the EMI generated by the line voltage. If your data cabling must be near your power cabling, us

  • Considerations. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @12:38AM (#7942528) Homepage Journal
    Have you considered how you will keep the sawdust from leaving the woodshop side and entering the computer side?
    • dust collection

      air filtration tm
    • actually...I just thought of another consideration...power interference. What impact will his shop tools (e.g. table saw, band saw, dust collector, etc.) have on his computers that are running in the same room? I'm not talking about everything running on the same electrical circuit...I'm wondering about interference due to proximity...those tools put out a lot of energy and they have been known to mess up wristwatches.
      • As long as you have good power going to your outlets, you won't have a problem. I have had two houses with would/electronics benchs. One place I put up a bisqueen wall to seperate the two, and my new one I would throw the bisqueen over the top of my electronics. The cover the electronics worked better than the bisqueen walls.

        The National Electric Code (NEC) probably wants you to have your table saw, drill press, bandsaw,... on seperate circuits. Realistically, you just have your big equipment on whee

  • no matter how many workbenches I build or buy, I always seem to end up at the kitchen table or the dining room table...

    We have an old huge Library Table for the "dining room" but it ALWAYS gets covered with projects.

    hey, its comfortable.

  • I built one for my office not too long ago: 85" long x 24" deep x 30" inches tall (standard height for most tables). I'd build one slightly taller for your needs. I made mine using face frame construction via pocket holes and a prefab glue up top from home depot. I added an extra half depth shelf under for all of the boxen, printers and scanners that I work with (keeps them out of the way). I have a large space dedicated to build area for new machines and an extra KVM cable for testing them out on an old mo
  • For me in my last house, my computer workbench was between the height of my navel and sternum. high enough that I could see and reach into a case laid down on it's side without reaching too high, but low enough to reach the top back when a tower is standing. I built it out of OSB, and found some non-static "rubber" mats to top it with. don't forget to run plenty of power receptacles (or mount a good power strip or two) and phone jack, maybe an rj-45 jack also if you have your home wired for a lan. Also,
  • ...especially if you'll be doing any extensive soldering work.
  • First problem... The people you are asking know only two things... Keyboard and video screen..... Computer science and programmers aren't fixers. Call A EE. Oh I'm a EE and I'm OK I fix circuit boards and I desolder pins. I snip and jump I heat my wick I work in a laboratry. I wish I was ME just like my dear mama
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you can get them, old solid core doors are a gread addition. You fix hinges in the usual places (a additional couple is a great help) and fix drop-down legs on the opposite side. Screw the hinges to the walls of your garage at the appropriate height. When not in use, you lift them up against the garage wall and fix in place using a slide bolt fixed to the wall locking into a hole neare where the lock mechanism was.

    This way you get the benefit of additional work space, while still being able to pack t

  • "Ideas for a Multipurpose Garage Workshop?"


    Full Bath


  • In addition to the rubber mat on the workspace, get rubber matting to stand on, for comfort and insulating safety. Consider a workbench height of 34 to 37 inches. I google'd to a thorough site about work ergonomics: Great that you're thinking and planning all of this from the start. Good luck.
  • I recently split up my workshop. I do all the woodworking and metalwork in the garage, an I just moved my electronics bench into my office in the house. Wood, cars and metal work can generate a _lot_ of mess, but electronics is quite and "clean" and can be done in the house w/o too much trouble.

    For the electronics bench I'm using a hollow-core door and two trestles from Ikea. It's cheap and I can adjust the height to where I like it. (I'm tall, so I like most table tops higher than average.) I don't really
    • Not a bad idea. I like the "clean-room" aspect of keeping electronics seperate from the rest of the projects-- I've got a '69 Chevy C-10 stepside, along with the tools so I know all about the mess.

      I think I saw the magazine you're talking about; it was the recent "Tools & Shops" edition of Fine Woodworking. The problem I had with that design is that he had his tools resting on those rolling units, and open shelves and drawers on the side of them. No dust collection system is perfect, and that seems l

      • I'm not really big on the open shelves thing for wood working so I'm putting in drawers. The drawers on my table saw base are going to be more like a machinists chest, with a couple of 1"--1 1/2" deep drawers at the top, gradually getting larger further down. Once it's fully built, I'll post something to rec.woodworking.

        As for the bench, I think that a rolling base is going to make cleaning up shaving and other junk a lot easier! I can just roll the whole thing to the side and grab the shop vac!

        I like the
  • the only thing I have worth adding that I find helps me get stuff done a lot easier is having the bench in the middle of the room, not against a wall. being able to walk to the back of whatever you're working on can save you many errors and perhaps some time, too. my office is also my bedroom, but being a nerd bachelor means this is just an office with a bed and a bin of clothes next to it. there's an 8x4' formica table at desk height. i find that keeping it completely clear and pulled out into the cent

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal