Creating The Perfect Carpenter's Workshop:
Power, Lights, Ventilation

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Now that you know where everything belongs, it's time to power it up. While it's one thing to be able to check the tool manuals for the power requirements, it's quite another thing to go about hooking up that power yourself. If you're uncertain about adding new breakers or running wiring, we recommend you get a licensed professional to help you out. But you can help them out by determining the voltage requirements for your tools, whether 110 or 220 volts, and also how many amps each tool requires.

You'll need to provide adequate amperage for each grouping of tools. A contractor's saw will usually require a 110-volt, 20-amp connection, but you can use that same circuit for your planer or jointer because these machines are seldom used simultaneously. Band saws and drill presses can also share a circuit. Another way to improve motor performance and safety is to use a heavier-gauge wire (12 gauge versus 14 gauge) for your stationary tools.

Other things to include in your power requirements are lighting, bench outlets and any ambient air cleaners. Even if you're blessed with lots of windows in your shop, we all work on cloudy days and in the evenings. So proper lighting can be critical. Make sure you have plenty of general lighting throughout your shop, and add task lighting over dedicated work areas, such as your workbench, and over tools that require careful attention to detail, such as the band saw or scroll saw.

Don't skimp on power outlets. Heck, put one everywhere you can imagine plugging in a tool, radio or fan. Make sure a good power strip with numerous outlets is mounted near your bench because cordless-tool battery chargers will use them up fast.

Wood dust is bad for your lungs. By properly using dust collection to keep the larger dust particles out of the air to start, and air cleaners to pull the smaller particles out of the air, the workshop can be a safe and lung-friendly place.

Dust collection is usually set up one of two ways - either with a central collection system using metal or plastic ductwork and a single large dust collector, or with multiple dedicated collectors (though often these can be shared by more than one machine).

Above: A good workbench is one item you should build into your plans from the start. We've put the bench in this shop so it's central to all the activity. It's just a short step away from the saw and planer, and only a few feet away from all the hand tools and other bench-top tools. And with it isolated in the center of the room, all four sides of the workbench can be used.

A central dust-collection system is a fairly involved topic that entire books have been written about (see Controlling Dust in the Workshop by Rick Peters [Sterling Publications]). You need to determine the amount of air movement required to collect from the many different machines, make sure your collector is capable of that performance, and locate and use blast gates in the ductwork to maximize the performance of the machine. If a central dust-collection system is your preference, you should spend some in-depth research time on the topic and maybe even consult a professional for advice.

Smaller, portable dust collectors are often more affordable and can provide adequate collection for a couple of machines. By using multiple hoses and closeable gates to control which machine is being collected, one machine can do double or triple duty. Each machine is rated by the cfm (cubic feet per minute) of air that it is capable of handling. We've included a quick reference chart that rates each machine by the suggested cfm required to extract dust. By using the chart, you can easily determine the size and number of dust collectors you need.

Ambient air cleaners pull the dust from the air that the dust collectors miss. They are designed to exchange a specific amount of air determined by the size of your shop. Choose the air cleaner (or cleaners) to best serve your space, then let them go to work. Air cleaners require less attention than a dust collector, but you do need to clean or change the filters on a regular basis so they operate properly.

Another air-quality decision is finishing. Because of the volatile and harmful vapors given off by solvent-based finishing products, they will be labeled for use in a well-ventilated area. Whether that means a dedicated finishing area with appropriate air-extraction equipment, or just making sure the garage door is open and a good fan is in use, finishing should take place in an area that ensures safety from explosion and from inhalation of fumes.

Here's a little closer look at the interchangeable drop-in panels and dust-collection hook-ups for the benchtop tools:

Drop-in panels dust collector

Dust-Collection -- What to Look for Based on Your Shop's Requirements:


12" Planer (350)

13"+ Planer (400)

Shaper (400)

Band saw (400)

Radial-arm saw (350)

Table saw (350)

Disc sander (300)

Jointer (350)

Drill press (300)

Scroll saw (300)


4" Duct (0.055 in./ft.)

5" Duct (0.042 in./ft.)

6" Duct (0.035 in./ft.)

7" Duct (0.026 in./ft.)

8" Duct (0.022 in./ft.)

Dust Collection

Dust collection systems from Jet and Delta.
Dust Collection Hose & Fittings and Accessories
Dust Collection Hose & Fittings and Accessories
Dust Collectors & Air Filtration
Dust Collectors & Air Filtration

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Modified: Monday, 2010-08-23 16:29 PST