Mobile shop?

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  • Mobile shop?

    Does anyone have a truly mobile shop with full sized tools?

    My wife's next assignment puts us back in the DC area for at least 2 years so all those wonderfully large tools I have in storage will be delivered to our house. This house has a large 2 car garage but my wife definitely wants to be able to park at least one car inside. In my last shop, I had the whole garage and we parked outside.

    All of my tools (TS, BS, jointer/planer, lathe, etc) are on mobile bases but I never moved the TS and only moved the other things about a foot from where they were setup. I can still keep the TS fairly stationary in half the garage. My lumber will also have to live on that side of the garage.

    ​​​​​​​Anyone else dealing with having to share their shop with a car? Any advice on what works/doesn't work for you?

  • #2
    I keep everything on mobile bases. Benchtop tools - belt sander, scroll saw, etc. sit on the top of roll-around drawer cabinets. Most cabinets have square footprints, others are exactly half as big. This way they line up nicely along a wall. Tools that don't need "outfeed" area behind them are ideal candidates to position along a wall. The one oddball cabinet is a smaller (and shorter) cube-shaped cabinet for a radial style drill press. It lives on the end of tool row where its smaller cabinet lets me stack BT3 infeed/outfeed tables between it and the wall. The BT3 and a set of half-rail extensions (with the router table) is on a mobile base. I added a small outfeed table (probably similar in size to the one Ryobi offered) that just clears the bed of my lathe. The lathe and BT3 are thus back-to-back along one side of my "U" shaped work area. That area is roughly the footprint of half a 2-car garage. For a long time I had the BT3 parked against the wall, underneath shop-built overhead cabinets. I'd pull it out and rotate it 90 degrees for most cuts. It would then be in the way of almost all other tools. I finally got smart and moved it to the free-standing row of tools instead (basically flipping my "U" layout), that let me use it for most cuts without moving it (or the lathe). Some benchtop tools now along the wall can be used without moving them at all; others (thickness planer) just need to be pulled out about 2 feet to be used. When I need the lathe I pull the BT3 about 2 feet into the central work "U" area so its outfeed is no longer covering the lathe bed. The lathe faces away from the "U" area so it can be used without having to move it at all; a car might have to be moved instead.

    I also have 4 long infeed & outfeed tables that slide into the bottoms of the BT3 rails; I made them long ago for handing sheet goods; there are pics elsewhere on this site. Now I use a circular saw and a Bora Centipede to handle sheet goods (outside the shop); the Centipede also supports a sacrificial 1/4 inch hardboard 4x8 foot piece for my finishing table. This would be a good way to "borrow" the other half of the garage for a few hours when you can move her car outside. The Centipede collapses easily into a small bundle that stores easily. One of my near-term plans is to cut the 4x8 hardboard sheet in half to make it easier to store and lighter/easier to move when I need it. Since buying the Centipede I've rarely used the big infeed/outfeed tables; instead I made and use the smaller permanently attached outfeed table that just clears my lathe bed. That serves for the vast majority of cuts. If I need to cut big/awkward pieces, the smaller outfeed table slides off the rails and I can install the big infeed/outfeed tables... after I roll the table saw to the middle of the "U" area again.

    The router table is on the end of the BT3, in the extension rails as so many others have done. When the BT3 is parked in its usual spot, the router table is blocked by a tall storage cabinet that holds my router gear. Moving the BT3 into the "U" about 2 feet is all it takes to make the router table useful.

    My jointer is the most uncooperative tool. It is on a mobile base but not on a storage cabinet. It hogs a lot of wall space; the area below the jointer tables is wasted space which bugs me. A small portable heater or A/C unit can fit into those wasted spaces... In its parking spot it is not really usable except for very short pieces. For most work I have to roll it to the center of the "U" area. Not a big deal. I use Bora PortaMate bases mostly. These have two fixed wheels and two casters... for a few tools (like the jointer) I need 4 casters.

    Near the main workbench I have a machinists roll-around tool chest, a larger U.S. General model from Harbor Freight. It is very handy for pens/pencils, stencils, drafting triangles, combination squares, tape measures, spring clamps, tool manuals, etc. The top is a good place to pile stuff. A ton of storage - several shallow drawers are great - for the given footprint.

    Dust floats around my shop quite a bit, even with my overhead air cleaner unit and a hard-piped dust collection system. The car parked in the other end of the shop ends up with a fine layer of dust on it; I never park it with the windows open! You may want to hang a curtain of some sort between your shop and her car when you're working. I use a Ryobi cordless leaf blower to blast the worst of the dust off my car... it doesn't get it all though. Speaking of her car... it'll track snow and water into the garage. How water tolerant are the wheels of your mobile bases? Feet/legs of things not on mobile bases such as the work bench? You may want to run a bead of caulk or adhesive on the garage floor to make a small barrier. Hopefully the garage door seals well too so water doesn't enter during rain/snow storms.

    Electrical power: my shop building was unfinished when I bought the house; I had outlets placed along the walls several feet above floor level before I installed wallboard. Thus the outlets are not blocked by the roll-around drawer cabinets and benchtop tools. For the other part of the "U" layout - for the BT3, router, lathe, etc. - there is no wall so I need extension cords for those tools. Years ago, Home Depot had an interesting Husky brand indoor/outdoor rated extension cord on sale. It uses very beefy wires and has outlets spaced every 6 feet or so along the cord. I tacked it to an overhead beam in the shop with the ends hanging down (zip-tied to dust collection drops) near tools and the wall outlet. So it makes it easy to power the BT3, router, lathe, etc. along that "U" arm. And easy to reach those cords to unplug the tools when changing bits/blades for safety rather than having cords on the floor.

    Any idea where you plan to live yet? I spent a few years in the DC Metro area back in my high school & college days. A few years in northern Virginia (Alexandria area) south of DC, then a few years north of DC in Silver Spring Maryland. I hated the weather and left the area as soon as I graduated college.

    Last edited by mpc; 11-02-2021, 10:46 PM.


    • #3
      I used to have to deal with getting cars into the shop, using the garage as a shop depending on whether you talked to me or my wife. I kept most of my tools stationary and had them along the outside wall. My table saw were on wheels along with some of the other stationary tools so those were the things that got rolled out to the center of the garage when in shop mode. For me it was just a matter of finding storage positions and working positions for each tool.

      I used old banquet tables as a work benches because the collapsed and could be stored in very little space. I later found space for an ultimate tool stand as well.

      It used to take me about 15 minutes to set up the shop, and half an hour to 45 minutes to tear it down.

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      • atgcpaul
        atgcpaul commented
        Editing a comment
        What kind of mobile base do you have under your TS? I think I have a Shop Fox under my Grizzly, but it's not very mobile. My TS also has the wide table to the right. I always had the feet extended so it wouldn't slide during use and to level everything out. That wasn't an issue for your base?

        My garage is supposed to fit an extended cab truck, too, but I haven't seen it in a year so I forget how things look in there. I do have a lot of nice windows on the left which is where I planned to locate the "shop" and keep the right side of the garage for parking.

      • mpc
        mpc commented
        Editing a comment
        To keep my BT3 mobile - along with the half-rail extensions and support legs - I use the older Delta kit under the BT3 cabinet and I fitted two small locking casters to the support legs after shortening the legs a little. I rarely lock the casters; just having the Delta base in the locked position is sufficient. The Delta kit I have is the one with two non-castering rear wheels plus a single front-and-center caster wheel under a large foot lever. All get connected by customer supplied wood pieces roughly 2x2 in cross section. I've had the foot lever function wear out - pushing the lever down didn't quite lift the saw as far as it used to. The underside of the lever rubs against metal bits that in turn push the wheel down; those metal bits wore away a bit as did the underside of the lever. Two of weld beads on the underside of the lever would fix that issue; I had a spare so that's what I used.

        My BT3 is one of the very original 13 amp models with the rectangular box frame, not the splayed-leg setup of BT3100s and the Craftsman variants. I built a storage cabinet that fits inside the frame so my BT3 setup is fairly heavy now.


    • #4
      I think it is more of a "mental" thing or "attitude" adjustment, if you will, but yes it can be done and be fairly productive at the same time. When I lived in Osaka, we had two car garage with only one vehicle. I had to pull the TS, BS, lathe (for small bowls - before pen making) compact planer, table top drill press and mobile work table - had to pull them out to use effectively. Then I moved to Nagoya (Toyota City) and was presented with the option of a 10x10 storage shed or building my own, which I did. I made it into a 9X12 with an 8x8 flat work area outside the door made of 2x4s. When in Japan, I was thankful to have a space for tools and accepted that they had to be pulled out to use.
      . . . It always meant that on a medium to major project, EVERYTIME, I had to spend 20 to 30 minutes getting everything set up correctly and at the end - spend 30 to 45 minutes cleaning up and putting everything back. THE POINT is that in order to use mobile tools, - time to set up, and put up - ADDS to project making time and needs to be figured into the equation, EVERYTIME. That is not hard once that concept is accepted.
      Last edited by leehljp; 11-03-2021, 06:59 AM.
      Hank Lee

      Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


      • atgcpaul
        atgcpaul commented
        Editing a comment
        The "mental" thing is so true. My last shop wasn't attached to the house so the activation energy had to be pretty high during bad weather to dress up, go across the patio in the rain or whatever and work, or grab a tool. At this garage is attached but now I'll have to formulate more of a game plan before I start working on a project.

        One silver lining I see, though, is that I hope this arrangement forces me to be more neat and tidy. I tend to spread out if there is any open space.

    • #5
      I have a detached dedicated shop so I don’t have to share space with the autos, but I do use the shop for mechanics stuff. I still hold out hope that someday we will find the place we would like to live and don’t want to have to spend months loading and unloading my heavy equipment. Every tool I own with the exception of a bench top milling machine is on some sort of wheels. A couple of my workbenches are also on wheels.

      When the question was first asked I assumed it was talking about the whole workshop. The answer to that question is no, but almost! Years ago I helped a friend that did all the race car mods, building and campaigning for a Lawyer that raced IMSA with a highly modified Mazda RX3. They had a 34’ Champion motor home that was purchased for a race car support vehicle that had no finishing inside, just a large door in the side for setting heavy stuff in/out. It was set up with toolboxes and everything needed in a racing pit. Like every other occupation, the mechanics seldom have a reliable vehicle of their own, and this motorhome soon became unreliable. I recieved the motorhome as payment for building them an enclosed race car that housed car, tools and spares. At this time I did not have a dedicated shop and shared a 2 car garage with my wife’s car. I had full intentions of making this motorhome my workshop. I was getting near early retirement age and we were considering buying and flipping houses so the mobile workshop would have been ideal. The housing market took a dive and ended that though. I believe a double wide connex box would make a suitable workshop but wouldn’t be go over well with folks that live in HOAs


      • #6
        Originally posted by mpc View Post
        My jointer is the most uncooperative tool.
        I have a Jet jointer/planer combo on a pretty good mobile base. I need to make a new bench. My old one was on wheels and also served as my outfeed table. I'm debating whether to make a "forever" bench or something temporary because of our transient nature. If/when we move again, all the stuff we accumulate counts against our total shipment weight.

        Originally posted by mpc View Post
        Dust floats around my shop quite a bit.... Hopefully the garage door seals well too so water doesn't enter during rain/snow storms.
        Yes, I'll have to be better about dust control, and that's a good reminder about rain/snow melt. I need to remember that caulk bead trick a year from now. I didn't notice any water getting into the garage during heavy rain last year and luckily we have space for a mudroom when you enter the house from the garage (yeah, new project!).

        Originally posted by mpc View Post
        Electrical power
        That's half sorted. The electrician who powered my last shop installed new subpanel in this garage. I have a 60A sub waiting for me. After I get a lay of the land, I'm going to surface mount Sch40 conduit around the perimeter of the shop. The walls and ceilings are already drywalled. The TS, BS, and Jointer/Planer need 220.

        Originally posted by mpc View Post
        Any idea where you plan to live yet?
        We bought a house just southwest of Frederick--better schools and we have a large lot. It's also in the country and close to the C&O Canal which is good for my other hobby--cycling. The commute is going to stink for my wife, but she loves the location. We lived in Gaithersburg for 12 years before we decided to sell before moving overseas. I also grew up on the East Coast. I only hate the summers. However, we are now in Dallas visiting family, and the 50deg and wet weather is kind of a shock after living in the tropics for a year and the Middle East for 2 years before that.