Last Updated on April 12, 2023 by Barry Gray
With so many individuals living in apartments, it does mean your opportunity to go ahead and have your own workshop in your yard will vanish. However, the question I want to answer today is whether or not that means the end of your woodworking adventure.
Well, allow me to set the record straight right here at the outset. Just because you live in an apartment does not mean you have to forego your desire to indulge in woodworking as a hobby. Instead, it simply means you need to adjust how you do it slightly.
I know this will throw up several different questions, but don’t worry. I’m going to guide you through how you can manage to still involve yourself in woodworking while living in an apartment. Honestly, it’s a lot easier than you may have initially thought.
Where to Begin – The Space
I would first determine where in your apartment you have space to set up tools and work on your hobby. I promise you won’t require as much space as you fear, but I do accept you need to reduce the size of your projects because of these constraints.
What you are looking at here is to think of where you can place a small wood shop. Ideally, it would be in a spare room you don’t use, and that would be the perfect answer. After all, it would mean your workshop is at least away in its own space and doesn’t run the risk of interfering with the rest of the flow of the house.
But I know that’s not always possible either. So, even designating a corner of a room that becomes your dedicated workshop is something you may wish to consider.
Now, I know this opens up the question of just how much space, and I feel I need to answer this by saying….how much do you have?
Working Out Your Space
Let’s presume you have identified the room where your workshop will be located. It would be best if you now looked at working out your space and even the precise location of your workshop.
For this, I would suggest getting a bit technical. Measure your room and the area where you think you will locate the workshop. Even draw a layout on paper to better understand how everything will operate.
The key here is to ensure your workshop does not interfere with how the rest of the room works if it shares a space with other functions.
Speaking of functions, you also need to understand how the workshop space will work with the different things you want to do. For example, you need some space to work, but you also need space to store tools and equipment. However, I’ll help you with the tool aspect later.
But thanks to space limitations, you need to get clever with your approach to ensure you get the maximum possible usage out of the space available.
Get Real with What You Can Do
I do need to stress the importance of getting honest with what you can do in the space you have. Chances are that you will need to throw away your idea of having that table saw with 55” run-offs.
Also, forget to have space for a band saw, a large lathe, and anything that takes up space. Instead, the key here is staying compact with benchtop tools, compact power tools, and even mini power tools. You see, there are more than enough tool options for you to have an entire workshop, just without the ability to carry out the biggest of projects.
Instead, what we are talking about here is keeping things nice and compact. However, that also means you miss out on spending a fortune on some of those larger tools that you simply do not have the room for in your apartment.
But at this point, I want to mention something that may help, and that’s the issue of portability.
One problem people tend to have when thinking about a workshop for woodworking is the belief everything needs to be permanent. Well, that’s not the case.
Instead, I want you to think about things from a different perspective.
Thanks to so many modern power tools being lightweight and easy to move around, it’s very easy to just have a place in a cupboard where you can store your tools and take them out when required. Honestly, you can work on so many projects from a folding table that you just then bring out when you want to work on something, so your workshop can basically vanish without a trace.
I feel that individuals in very small apartments could benefit from this approach. It means you do not feel as if everything is taking up too much space and interfering with the everyday running of your apartment.
I also need to mention materials, as you will find that there may be some limitations in that area as well.
Thanks to the space limitations, you won’t be able to bring in large boards or sheets of plywood and cut things down to size. For that, you need to have things pre-cut elsewhere before bringing all the individual pieces into your home.
This means you need to plan ahead even in this area, but I don’t see that as a real problem. After all, making those cuts elsewhere does mean your apartment workshop will have the ability to work on slightly larger projects thanks to specific tasks being completed elsewhere.
Getting to Grips with Tools
So I’m not going to put forward an example of a particular size of the workshop and the tools you could fit into that space. In all honesty, that’s an insane thing to do because any workshop, no matter the size, is actually a very personal thing.
However, knowing that space is limited makes me feel the need to suggest several tools I think you cannot be without.
First, you need a drill and an impact driver. Those tools needn’t use up a lot of storage space, and if you have cordless versions, then you don’t even need your workshop to be next to a power source.
I would also opt for a circular saw, and a miter saw. Once again, they don’t have to take up much space, and yet it does mean you have the ability to make a number of cuts when required. Alternatively, you may wish to go for a 10” Skilsaw, if space is available, as this can do something sort of similar to a table saw without taking up as much space in your apartment.
In addition, I would add some sander to the mix. A small handheld sander does allow you to work on various projects without taking up a lot of space.
With these few tools, you can indulge in so many projects. However, I understand that you may have had more specialist ideas in mind, but those projects still do not require too much space.
If you want to work on wood-turning projects, you would need a lathe. Clearly, some lathes can be large and impressive machines, but as you know, you will be using only smaller pieces of material, then I’d opt for a benchtop version or even a mini lathe.
Also, perhaps the projects you have lined up require a router or a jigsaw rather than a circular saw. In the case of the router, just be aware benchtop versions are out there, and I would always opt for those versions over and above anything else for this particular setting.
The final thing I may consider trying to incorporate is a drill press. Here, you would opt for either the 10” or 12” version due to space constraints. However, this tool should only really appear if you plan on keeping your workshop set up all the time in your apartment. It’s kind of tough packing all of this away on a regular basis.
But you can see here that you still have a number of options when it comes to tools in your apartment workshop. Yet the main thing is to anticipate what you intend to do in your workshop to ensure you have the correct tools to perform different tasks on various projects.
Other Things to Consider For Your Workshop
Hopefully, I’m starting to show how it is indeed possible for you to go ahead and have a workshop in your apartment. However, there are several other factors you need to think about before you go ahead and start setting everything up.
One of the things I love about a workshop is how you gradually build up your selection of different off-cuts and random pieces of wood. After all, we all want to keep those scraps as you can never be quite sure when they may prove helpful.
Well, I know you will fall into the same trap even with your apartment workshop. So, that means you need some storage.
I recommend some boxes in which you can put the wood to keep it all together. It would be best if you had other boxes to store the different saw blades, router bits, and anything else you use. This becomes even more important when your workshop is effectively a pop-up version in the corner of a room.
Storing tools is easy if you keep in mind you need to perhaps store them in a cupboard or in boxes on top of the cupboard. However, people tend to forget all about those other things we tend to gather together when working on our different projects.
Ventilation is another key issue, and it’s one you really cannot overlook. Now, I know you can go ahead and buy power tools that manage to do an excellent job of keeping that dust to a minimum, but some of that stuff will still get out there.
That means you need to ensure the room containing your workshop has good ventilation. You need a window you can open as an absolute basic part, but I would also check if I could install even a portable dust extractor.
The last thing you need is for your room to fill with dust. That’s hard to clean, which is acceptable in a workshop away from your home, but it’s not so cool when the workshop is in your apartment.
For that reason, I would certainly focus my attention on getting a high-quality dust extraction system.
Noise can potentially be a major issue, especially in an apartment. You have to consider the people around you, so that may mean some restrictions on the times you dive into your projects.
However, if you use a spare room as your workshop, you have another alternative. That alternative is to look at installing some soundproofing. Yes, it can be expensive, but it will make a massive difference in how the sound is perceived by others around you.
As you can see, those are three vastly different things, but it shows the range of issues you need to consider when starting your workshop in your apartment.
Key Questions Answered
Finally, I’m going to answer a number of the key questions people tend to ask when it comes to potentially setting up a workshop in an apartment. Hopefully, I will come up with answers to questions that are currently on your mind.
What is the Best Bench for Your Workshop?
I would say you can use almost anything for a bench in your apartment workshop, from a folding table to a work stand. The key is having the space to carry out your projects and also that the bench you use is stable and capable of dealing with you, adding some force and pressure to it. The last thing you need is for your work surface to be capable of moving.
I do love how there’s no need for the bench or work surface to be constantly sitting there. I think it’s excellent you can basically have a pop-up workshop in your home where you can still go ahead and work on a whole host of projects.
Best Materials to Use?
I wouldn’t say it was really a case of knowing the best materials to use but rather ensuring you have materials cut to the correct size. This is especially important when working on slightly larger projects. At that point, you do need the material to be cut to more manageable sizes before you get to your apartment.
However, one thing I would try to limit my use of when working in an apartment is MDF. This is even more important if you do not have an above-adequate dust extraction system. The problem is that MDF contains many chemicals, and even formaldehyde is used in its construction, so you don’t want those types of things floating around your home.
If you need to use MDF or even some particleboard, I would strongly suggest getting it cut to your exact measurements elsewhere. After that, you only need to attach the board to whatever your project may be.
Apart from that, any form of wood is perfectly fine, but be prepared to clean up a lot of mess after it.
You have so many options available to you regarding potential projects. However, the projects you can work on depend on the available space.
Also, one thing I would recommend is to only work on one project at a time. You just do not have the storage space to work on several things. The key here is to plan ahead to ensure you can complete everything you need to do before moving on to the next thing.
Constructing storage boxes, turning out utensils via a small lathe, and even making furniture such as cabinets is still possible even in your apartment. As I said, you just need to know if you require pieces of wood to be cut elsewhere to then allow you to get them into your apartment in the first place.
So…Just Get Started
Doing woodworking in an apartment is not only possible, but it’s also exceptionally easy to do. As you have reread time and time, it’s all a matter of planning and being aware of the limitations placed on you. However, those limitations do not lead to you being unable to do anything.
Do yourself a favor and look closely at the location of your workshop and how big it can be. That is the key to determining what your workshop can handle and how many different tools you could have set up there.
Even a small workshop has so much potential, as does a pop-up workshop which you can fold away entirely to such an extent that people wouldn’t even know it existed.
Just because you live in an apartment should not mean you are then required to stop indulging in woodworking. Thanks to the size and capabilities of modern tools, you don’t need to own too many items taking up too much space to still have the ability to produce some fantastic end results.
All you need to do is look at your space, plan it out, and then start. It really is as simple as that.