WoodSkills Issue 02 - Page 27

THE FOCAL POINT

OF A FURNITURE MAKING STUDIO IS THE VERSATILE WORKBENCH

Invest in a high-quality, rigid bench or custom build

your own.

Each machine requires space around it for safe operation and maneuvering boards within its radius. In many furniture making environments, machine and bench areas are separate. The noise and dust associated with machines is then isolated from the bench area of the shop. Dust reduction can be accomplished by installing a swinging door or heavy, overlapping, vertically hung plastic strips. A best practice is to locate the bench room in its own enclosed room or space. Another component of a furniture making shop is the assembly area. This is where furniture is dry-fitted, assembled and later glued together. An area in the shop also needs to be reserved for applying finish to furniture. This finishing space needs to be relatively dust free.

Stickered lumber is stored in another area of the shop. Stickering allows each board to be separate from the other or laid vertically against a wall in bins. Lumber can either be laid flat or vertical. If vertical, the lumber is more accessible and individual boards can be more easily separated and pulled out. It is critical to let the wood breathe and acclimate to the furniture making area. Therefore, plenty of open space surrounding the wood is necessary. Other considerations in furniture making are higher than normal ceilings to swing longer planks around without hitting light fixtures. In my studio, nine foot ceilings have been installed. It is also recommended to have copious amounts of ambient and artificial light in your shop.

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There are banks of dual fluorescent fixtures in my studio. The banks are switched separately depending on the amount of light necessary at any time of day or evening. An investment was made in several large windows to bring in as much ambient light as possible. The large windows cut down on the need for artificial light. When light is necessary for a bench operation or when using a machine, task lighting can be set up to provide additional lighting. Task lighting eliminates the need to turn on the main shop lights. The overhead shop lamps are connected in two separate banks in my furniture making studio. To summarize, a furniture making shop can operate in as small as 200 sq. ft. or ideally in 600 sq. ft. space and above. Depending on your workflow, if working on a single furniture piece at a time, a small space will suffice.

If you intend to work in multiples or small batches with several furniture pieces at a time, a larger space is necessary. Also critical in determining workshop size is the ratio of hand tool use to machinery in your furniture making. Machines demand more space while hand tools are limited to a workbench or two. To make the most effective use of a space, my furniture studio comprises two levels one above the other. This allows me to maintain a defined square footage and instead build vertically. This is something to consider in the design of your own furniture making studio. In recent years, I have also embraced a minimalistic view of things. It is preferable to leave open spaces than to fill every nook and cranny with a machine or bench and create clutter in the process. An open and clutter-free environment lends itself well to a more efficient and productive workflow!