My Sunny California Garage Shop!

by Dan Phalen
My new garage shop is so-o-o much better

After seven years in Oregon I'd had a snootful of clouds, cold summers, and rain, rain, rain. So my wife and I sold two Oregon properties, moved my shop 700 miles south to the Sierra Nevada foothills, shopped for and bought a house, and moved our household goods. All in 90 days. And believe me, it wasn't as simple as it sounds.



The house is a triple-wide Silvercrest manufactured home with attached garage in a lovely tree-lined retirement community. Hey, we qualify, we're entitiled, even if we're not licensed to operate walkers yet.

The finished 21 x 23 garage offers an extra four feet of width for shop use, plus a window. It came with a horrible built-in bench (has to go), some funky cabinets, and a fluorescent light over the work area. Oh, yes, and attic space with built-in ladder.

Merely A 39-Step Procedure

(Just joking--I won't drag you through the whole process. My insurance doesn't cover reader exhaustion.)

First major change was this 100-lb overhead MDF cupboard, which I pulled down by myself and hauled across the floor on a hand cart. BTW, by that time the previous owner's yard furniture and vintage appliances were gone.


Below. Lower cupboard is the old with fresh paint and new door pulls. Upper cab is all new. Love that laundry sink in the back corner. Former garage had no water except an outside hose bib.


Finally! A place for my Shopnotes mags and WW books.


Step No. 17 1/2: Re-hang the Old Shop Cabinets

Next, I hauled the shop cabinet out of ministorage and affixed it to the back wall. This effort entailed the fourth unload-transport-load cycle for all sixteen drawers, including Oregon shop to Oregon ministorage to UHaul truck to Calif. ministorage to new house. Thank Snap Fitness for two years of pumping iron.

How they looked in the old shop. Unhooking all this stuff did NOT happen overnight.


Pretty much how they look now.



Yep, I finally got a serious saw, a Porter-Cable from Lowe's. Fits the budget and the shop. Solid performer and quiet.

It didn't last long on those legs, though. I wanted it on a cabinet at 35" off the floor, not 37 1/2 ", because the outfeed/assembly table I intend to build will be at 35". You can see the start of the cabinet build directly behind the saw. You can't see any outfeed build because it hasn't started yet.


How The Saw Cabinet Evolved

The idea came from Lanie Shaughnessy (thanks, Lanie!). Used a remnant of maroon laminate from my 2008 router table build for the new wings. The wheels and base are from my old lumber cart.


...but still not finished. The garage floor has a 1 : 24 slope back-to-front, hence the levelers on the end panels.


Ceiling-Mounted Dust Collection System

As I was building the cabinet, I realized I needed to get that huge python-looking thing off the floor or I'd kill myself, and wouldn't that look stupid. So, another week planning, assembling and hanging the ducting I transported from Oregon.


New 240V Garage Subpanel

The house was running propane for cooking stove and oven. ExpenSIVE. So we opted for electric and, wouldn't you know, no 240VAC for the kitchen. So we had a 240V outlet installed behind the stove.

While the guys were at it, had them run a Romex line UNDER the house to the garage, install a subpanel, and take a further line across the garage attic to the far wall for my DC.



Here's my pride and joy, a remote switch for the DC. Click it on or off from anywhere in the shop. Now, where'd I leave my dang switch?


The Mess

The right side of the garage/shop is a work in progress--I keep telling myself. I've been using the shop for projects for the house, including about 200 linear feet of 5.5" baseboard and 15 polycarb panels for the patio. Plus a slideout cupboard drawer for the kitchen. Plus a lumber cart. Plus, plus, plus. Can you blame me for putting off a wholesale reorganization here? Including a new REAL workbench, an assembly/outfeed table, and...and...


A Minor Gloat

Our new home is a city block from an OSH store, a mile from Lowe's, two miles from an Ace Harware with huge hardwood lumber stacks, and about two miles from all the big box stores, groceries, and several eateries. I can walk to Lowe's provided I'm not hauling back a load of 4x8 maple ply.


With all that, it's quiet here in the neighborhood. I'm afraid to run warped mahogany thru my planer. Will the sound of my dust collector drown out Mrs. Smith's bingo club? What if a neighbor calls the noise police when I resaw a 4/4 piece of jatoba? Can a screeching drill bit disrupt Mr. Levine's pacemaker?

I'm not sure I can handle the pressure. I mean, this could finally drive me to the brink—using *gasp* hand tools!

My Philosophy Is Unchanged


I've got more space than I had before, which is still more than a lot of woodworkers have, not as much as some. You appreciate what you have. I still operate a roll-out, portable workshop setup. The pleasure is in what these tools can put out.

Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed your visit.



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