Shop ideas/pics

Hi everyone,

This is my first post - thank you for all the great advice I've found lurking around!

I am about to start my first build (a dory or a skerry, still deciding) but before I do, I need to set up a shop.

We are moving from an apartment to a house where I will have half of a two car garage to set up as I please.

Do you have any advice for setting up a shop? Any suggestions on tools that I shouldn't skimp on?

Thanks all!

26 replies:

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RE: Shop ideas/pics

 Clamps.  Start collecting clamps.  All kinds.  Little ones, big ones.  Spring clamps, C Clamps, D Clamps, bar clamps, homemade PVC clamps.  Did I say clamps?  Horses.  I like the store bought ones because they are easy to take down and store, the metal ones support an insane amount of load.  I have like four pairs.  But you could make your own.   They will support a work bench/table/boat and are portable for outside use.  A good Japanese saw and shinto rasp.  Sanders -hand and power.  Sand paper.  A good random orbit sander to go with the paper.  Thats about it.  Oh, and get more sand paper, and some more.  You can build a boat with those tools.   And then spend a lifetime collecting more tools as you need them, like every day.  Oh and most important - one thing I have not purchased yet- a really really good dust collection system!  Mine is basically the outdoors and a leaf blower but winters are tough where I live so I have to sand indoors and then clean for days and days before any finish work can be done, not to mention the health implications.  Which brings up the other very important tool.  Good respirators.  For some ideas on tools just look at the CLC Boat building supplies pages.  As you build your shop you will always be modifying it to accomodate all the tools you collect.  So that being said, tool storage is key.  Dont skimp on any tools but get what fits in your budget.  Nothing worse than buying a crappy tool.  I bought two hand planes from Harbor Freight once for $5 each and ended up throwing them out they were so bad, was worth a good laugh over my stupidity though!  Hope this post helps get you started! ps - my favorite shop tools are the stereo and the fridge.

RE: Shop ideas/pics

I'll add 2 more to Bill's list. Good lighting and heat if needed so the epoxy cures. One other one is the boat cart on casters so you can readily move the project around including sanding out doors like Bill mentioned. Good luck.   

RE: Shop ideas/pics

I think one of the shop tips on this site recommends attaching a shop-vac to the dust-collection port of the random orbital sander. That's what I did, although the cheap $25 vacuum makes a pitiful whining sound now when I turn it off (after a year of hard use building a Pocketship).

Since I built from plans, my tool purchases were: cordless drill, circular saw, router, block plane, and buckets of the $0.99 clamps from home depot. That's all you really NEED, although I must admit that I've somehow justified a few other tool purchases to my wife.................. haha


RE: Shop ideas/pics

+ 1 on good respirator. Epoxy sanding dust + lungs = very bad.

I'll plug carbide edged paint scrapers again. Cabinet scrapers and regular paint scrapers dull immediately on epoxy. Carbide goes and goes. They come in several sizes and blade shapes. I use a 2.5" straight and a 3/4" straight but my go to is a 2.5 cambered (curved) blade. Great for focusing effort on high spots without cutting into glass or wood in the low spots like sanding can.

Also, search on username Moonchaser. He posted links to build pics. Somewhere in there you'll find a nifty sling/pulley system for turning your boat over single handed.

Most important thing though is to have fun! Clean up and walk away when you get frustrated. Stand back and marvel at how that box of plywood turns into a boat shaped object and then into an actual boat.


RE: Shop ideas/pics

   Dust control..........a cheap dust filter can be made with a box fan from Walmart, Big K, etc and some AHU filters.  Fasten the filter to the intake side of the fan. Run the fan and it will pulll air through the filter and provide some cooling. Of course down here we need cooling more than heat.


Lights....... of course the lights in the garage are needed but you may also need some task lighting on the area you are sanding to find peaks, drips, etc that may be in the shadows from over heat lighting. Stand lights are good for this.


Plastic wash tubs.....plastic wash tubs from the dollar store are good to use as organizers and containment systems. I have a large one that holds the epoxy and hardener with room for the mixing cup to go under the pumps.  It keeps the two items together and contains spills.


Layout Table.......when you are at the stage where you need long flat work surface to join scarf joints, puzzle joints, etc a simple 2x4 frame with plywood top supported by some of those saw horses is nice to have. Screw it together and it can be repurposed afterward. The horses can be reused. the 2x4 frame stiffens the plywood and makes a long enough surface, flat. 


Clamps......what he said. "A man can not have too many clamps". OCD people excluded. Some bar clamps with rubber on the clamp feet help when setting up the hull on the horses.

Trash can.......near the mixing table, near the sand paper, near the stirring sticks.... with plastic bag....near the glove box.....30 gal is a nice size.

Shop Vac......cleanliness is a good thing. You wilalso need a way to get dust off the boat and out of the hull.  Broom and dust pan should be understood.


Extension cord with multi plug always changing plugs between tools. The kind with built in GFI is my favorite.  

RE: Shop ideas/pics

   If you go to the boat building class listing and select a model you're interested in there will be a list of what you need to bring to the class and what will be provided. This should give you an idea/shopping list of the basics. Harbor Freight Tools is a good source for expendables, squeegees, etc. Do Not however buy anything electric at HFTs unless it will only be used once. 

I would start saving plastic yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine tubs. They have many uses. Clear plastic cups are great for mixing. Also wooden tongue depressors are great mixing sticks, filleting tools and, wrapped in clear packing tape, clamp pads.

RE: Shop ideas/pics

   Not mentioned yet, a thinking chair. A place to sit and admire your progress, scratch your head, re re re read the manual and perhaps the partaking of an adult beverage.

Remember to enjoy the experience but beware, it is addictive.

RE: Shop ideas/pics

Grumpy wrote - Plastic wash tubs.....plastic wash tubs from the dollar store are good to use as organizers and containment systems.

Do not put your woodflour into a plastic wash tub if there's a cat who visits your shop. The rest is left to your imaginations.


RE: Shop ideas/pics

I agree with - Lighting, a bench, safety (dust control, vapors protection..), cleaning. It can not be said too many times dust and VOCs are dangerous to your health!

   I find that too many tools just adds to the workshop clutter, and can prevent good work! I try to buy tools after I have discovered that I do not have the correct tool. It is certainly way too easy for the hobby of biulding to degrade into the hobby of tool collection.

Start biulding and you will discover very quickly what you need. The tools can then magically arrive over night. Then be patient with the delay of how to use them (always practice on scrap first!!! I learn this mistake over and over!) and how and where to store then - sometimes a whole little biulding project in itself.

Enjoy, Joel

RE: Shop ideas/pics

 re cat ....your fillets will be shitty...

Yes!  Always a good comfy thinking chair in the shop!  I was going to add that!

Some luxury items: I use my table top belt/disk sander a lot too, table saw, and drill press. More for making custom parts.  Also, a few good long levels and straight edges for checking twist in your boat.  And why only half of a two car garage??  No cars allowed in a boat building shop!  A vice for the work bench?  A chisel  and file set.  A shop dog?  Air conditioner?  A shop girl?  Long winching straps come in handy for single handed flipping and holding long planks in place too.  the list goes on and on....

RE: Shop ideas/pics

  You will need several planes and a cabinet scraper or two. There is a Stanley bullnose rabbet plane on eBay right now for around 10 bucks which you will need to cut the gains. The thought of doing it while building my Skerry scared me to death until I actually did it. Also something like a Stanley No. 4 for tapering several parts. Learn to sharpen and use your planes and scrapers on YouTube where you'll find lots of videos.  

RE: Shop ideas/pics

I have really enjoyed reading all of the above.  But let me note a different approach:  I very successfully built my dory outdoors in the backyard, on two sawhorses, under blue tarps hanging from fences or tree branches.  That pretty much solved my ventilation, lighting and dust control problems.  Boat floats, and it only took a year for the grass to come back!    

RE: Shop ideas/pics

Nobody posted pictures so I will.  I build in a small two car garage.  Much of the time I can leave enough room at the end of the day so the Admiral of the Fleet/CFO can park inside.  That solves the whole "rain messes up my hair problem" and significantly increases the probability of funding for future builds.  HD sells a 300 watt CFB designed to replace 100 watt incandecent which greatly increased lighting.  I also bought a cheap three lamp pole light from Wally World that I can move around as needed.  Here in N FL, a small electric heater does the trick on cold (for us) winter mornings.  I sand outside under a tree.  For a work table, I cut a 4' x 8' x 3/8" sheet of good quality plywood in half length wise and screwed it together with a couple of 2'x4' on the bottom.  It sits on saw horses when in use and stows easily when not.  With a table cloth, the Admiral even uses it as the food table for pool parties.  My last suggestion is a Jambone Jamebox.  It is a bluetooth speaker that also acts as a speaker phone.  That way I can play Bluegrass Gospel to keep the nosey neighbors away and answer calls from the Admiral when she wants me to move my crap so that her hair does not get messed up..


RE: Shop ideas/pics

FrankF and others,

I'm trying to decide about where to build a boat, likely a Skerry 15. We have a sunroom ( with AC) that would accommodate the build but would also bring some degree of marital strife due to the dust, fumes and clutter. I have a barn of more than sufficient size but which also has a few leaks when it rains. That can be overcome by repairing the leaks ( a not insubstantial project in itself) and I can certainly cover the boat with a tarp when not working on it, but I've also wondered if high humidity can be a problem, either with the wood itself or with the epoxy. Any insight there? Thanks.

RE: Shop ideas/pics

   I built my Skerry in a one car garage in southwest Florida, where humidity was invented. In the summer we have 90pct and up 24-7. I had no problems with epoxy, varnish or paint. I read somewhere to apply epoxy in the evening when the temps trend downward and this avoids out gassing of the wood and bubbles in the epoxy. As far as where you build there is someone out there who has already done that. Christine DeMerchant built a Skery in her living room and removed a window to get it outside. People have built in basements, second floors, under trees and just about anywhere you can think of. I'm waiting to read of someone building one on a boat. 

RE: Shop ideas/pics

 As far as dust collecting and dust management I recomend configuring a vortex style dus separator between a common shop vac and your tools for an economical solution. There are many options out on the market under $75.00 and all will greatly reduce the need to empty your shop vac and clean or replace filters. I have a 10 gallon unit in my shop connected to a 5 gallon wall mounted shop vac that is dedicated to my sanders and general clean up. Under heavy use I have not yet needed to dump the shop vac and have only replaced the filter once in 5 years.  

I do have a recmendation for a particular unit but don't think I can list the name per the forum rules. . . It's blue and on sale right now for $60.00.


RE: Shop ideas/pics

   <<<Under heavy use I have not yet needed to dump the shop vac and have only replaced the filter once in 5 years. >>>

That's a typo. . . It should have read 3 years . . 


RE: Shop ideas/pics


A lot of great ideas!  Obviously, experience is a good teacher.

The single best investment, aside from the CLC Peeler Skiff kit itself, I made was to buy good sanders (1 orbital and 1 finish) integrated with a vacuum HEPA dust collector.  I know that one can cobble together a solution using an inexpensive shop vac, but I would suggest that if you can afford it, get the real thing.  Our shop was entirely dust free through almost the entire building and finishing process and we only needed respirators for the small amount of hand sanding near the end.

The quality of the sanders themselves also made a big difference.  Before starting construction, we asked a lot of builders at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic, CT, what they recommended for equipment and many swore by Festool products, which definitely worked well for us.  The other major theme was clamps, clamps, and more clamps.

My building buddy and I are in our late sixties and early seventies.  Our knees and backs do not like to be abused.  We built a platform of two 3 X 6 foot folding tables topped by cheap 4 X 8 sheets of 3/4" plywood.  It made an excellent building surface and let us do much of the work standing.

Have fun,


P.S. Catboater, is right about Harbor Freight and cheap electric tools.  It's a false economy.

RE: Shop ideas/pics

   I'll also vote for a shopvac with a real HEPA filter.  I just got one for my Skerry.  I couldn't get the right filter for my ancient vacuum, so got one of the low priced 5 gal. shop-vacs, but also bought a pricey ($30+) HEPA filter to replace the standard one.  It will only be for use with my sander and is already proving itself.  Epoxy dust goes everywhere, and there is much less of it now.

RE: Shop ideas/pics


   After reading this thread I realize that for me the shop stuff that is most important:

1) Every time I see a clamp(s) on sale I buy it

2) I dont toss old pants and shirts till I use them one last time sanding or glassing

3) Thre is no such thing as enough sandpaper

4) my shop Stereo has speakers I bought in high school  - still sound great cranked (but my choice of music has changed)

5) I have not put a car in my shop (garage) in years  - especially big this winter in the NE

6) I have three places to sit, one nice little fridge and a good mask (respirator)

7) My lighting is bad and my dust collection is worse

8) Heart - overcomes - and my wife forgives me for having to leave the car outside - every time she goes paddling


RE: Shop ideas/pics

Wow - thanks all for the amazing suggestions. I'm proud to say that I have a shop cat, a toddler to chase me around, and a CFO...but nothing else. This will at least give me a break from looking at CLC's website to start looking at either building a shop table or buying one.

It looks like I'll start saving for a great sander/vacuum/filter, as well as picking up clamps wherever I can...

This is my second time thinking, "this may be more than I can handle!" - the first being when I stopped by the CLC site and saw how big a 15 foot boat is. Yikes.

I can't wait =)

(I'm also thrilled to check out the Mystic show this summer - and thanks for the pics!)

RE: Shop ideas/pics


Thanks for the thread. Like you I get intimidated but am thinking one step at a time. 


RE: Shop ideas/pics

Car Wash matter what proceedures I use the admiral's car usually gets dusted.  Then.......well you know.    

RE: Shop ideas/pics

   Just go for it. We all have had that "I've bitten off more than I can chew" moment - more than once. Don't succumb to paralysis by analysis. This web site has a wealth of info and CLC is very supportive of its' builders.

Remember, you're not building a piece of furniture (although you can). Many of us build to the "Ten Foot Rule". If it looks good from ten feet away, it's golden. If you use it, your boat will get scuffed but each ding is an adventure. 

Finally, your boat will look big in the garage but all boats shrink when they're put in water. Have courage, good luck, deep breath - enjoy. ( repeat )

RE: Shop ideas/pics

   One more and I'll shut up. Safety glasses - Safety glasses - Safety glasses. The one tool you can't replace with overnight shipping is the M1 eyeball. I have about six pair of safety glasses ( goggles fog up ) so no matter where I leave them I always have a pair at hand. The one time I walked through my shop ( garage) and picked up some bits of ply to toss - Bingo - crap in the eye. I looked like Popeye for three days.

RE: Shop ideas/pics

Amen to the safety glasses, and add in hearing protection. Shop vacs, sanders and saws will wipe out your hearing and good quality hearing aids are priced at 4 CLC kits (2014 prices).



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