6 Essentials To Start Your Workshop

workshop with tables,tools, and power saw
  • 1-40 hours
  • Beginner
  • 200-20,000

Having the setup, tools, and supplies you need makes your hobby or side hustle more efficient and enjoyable. In short, the contents and setup of your workshop can mean the difference between frustration and masterpiece.

1. A Workshop Plan

The first essential you need is a plan. Ideally, being able to plan out your workshop from scratch will provide you the best setup for your space. If possible, plan it on paper before moving workbenches or heading to the home improvement store.

Think about the space you’ll need. Be realistic about how much room you’ll need to store and move materials. For example, if you’ll regularly use a table saw, make sure there’s room around it to maneuver sheets of eight foot lumber.

In addition to the movement of materials, you’ll need room to store tools and other supplies. This can be on a workbench on a lower shelf of the workbench, on the wall, hanging from the ceiling, sitting on the ground, or wherever else works.

Think about your processes. If you make a particular product over and over, you’ll know the workstations you need. That might mean including a cutting area, sanding space, and paint or stain spot.

If you’re more of a Jack of all trades or simply want your workshop to be ready for DIY home improvement action, sort and organize the space so you can always find what you’re looking for.

2. Workshop Essentials

When it comes down to it, it only takes a few tools and supplies for most basic household tasks. If you don’t have a lot of room and don’t plan to spread out in your space, keep the basics in toolboxes or on shelving.

workshop storage and tools


Start with hardware. Collect nails and screws of different lengths and finishes. You’ll find there are specific types for decking, interior woodworking, masonry, roofing, drywall, etc. Also save up hooks, chains, brackets, countersinks, knobs, and other useful hardware.

The more projects you tackle, the more hardware you’ll acquire. Just focus on keeping it organized after each job so you have an inventory to choose from when you need something.

Basic Tools

If you’re just starting out, focus on the tools you’ll use the most. Save the specialty tools for when a project arises or someone asks what’s on your gift wish list.

Common essentials include a hammer, pliers, a wrench and socket set in both standard and metric units, Phillips and straight head screwdrivers in various sizes, a cordless drill with bits, tape measure, and Allen wrenches.

From there, you might need to expand your tool selection to include options for woodworking, metalworking, painting, etc.

Woodworking Tools

Woodworking can be done by hand and some people even prefer it. At the basic level, you’ll need a handsaw, planer, and sandpaper. However, you’ll likely want to upgrade fairly quickly once you realize how much easier it is to achieve the results you want when using power tools.

The first power tool any workshop needs is a cordless or corded drill. This little workhorse will aid in every task having to do with drilling a hole or mounting a screw.

Also get yourself a level that reads both level and plumb. You’ll use it frequently whether you’re hanging a picture or building a door frame.

A square is another useful tool for many different projects. A small one is essential when marking and making cuts on plank flooring or lumber. Larger squares help line up cuts on sheet lumber.

tools on a pegboard wall

Power Tools

At some point you’ll want to upgrade to all kinds of power tools. Start with a circular saw and a jigsaw to help you with most home improvement tasks.

Then invest in a reciprocating saw, table saw, and miter saw. You’ll also find work is easier with a drill press and band saw or scroll saw.

With this selection you can complete a wide range of DIY home improvement projects, from building a playhouse or shed to framing in a room or installing hardwood flooring.

Painting Aids

Nearly every surface of your home can be painted, including the common surfaces like walls and ceilings. You can also put a coat of paint on many types of floors and even on upholstered furniture.

The kitchen or bathroom cabinets might need a coat or you may be painting trim or wainscoting before installation. Don’t forget about the outside of the house either.

With all of these potential projects, you’ll need an assortment of quality paint brushes in varying sizes. The same goes for rollers. Remember not all paint supplies are created equal.

For example, rough surfaces require a deeper nap on the roller. Similarly, an angled paintbrush works better for edging. You may need a one-inch brush or a three-inch brush.

If you work on crafts, you’ll want an assortment of small brushes as well as a variety of paints or stains.

Spray paint is another useful material that can be put to good use when it’s readily available. It can come in handy to resurface the house numbers, light fixtures, or that old brass chandelier.

Spray paint is also great for small projects like freshening up the mailbox, birdfeeder, or patio chairs. Since paint helps prevent rust, it’s a way to introduce a fresh look and protect your metal or wood surfaces.

Supplies for Other Hobbies

Of course, there’s no shortage of hobbies that require specialized equipment. You might be into leatherworking, metalwork, furniture building, upholstery work, lawnmower repairs, mechanical work, or inventions.

Whatever the calling, plan for the associated tools and supplies.

painter smiling in her studio

General Workshop Essentials

If you’re going to spend time in the space, you’ll want it to accommodate your activities. That means you’ll need the right workbench and tools, but the surrounding area needs to be safe and comfortable too.

Unless your work is entirely manual, you’ll need access to power. That might mean running extension cords or rewiring the circuit box. You may need to add outlets or rely on a solar-powered generator.

Also consider temperature control. Few workshops are heated and cooled with a central system. Instead, most rely on space heaters for warmth and fans to cool the area.

Good lighting is also essential. In addition to central lights, rig up some task lighting above your primary workspaces.

With the space comfortable and well lit, it’s time to think about other essentials you’ll need.

This will likely include clamps for holding materials in place and ladders for reaching greater heights. You’ll also want rolling or stationary tool chests and shelving for storage.

Cabinets are another nice addition, as well as pegboard, wall hooks, and other aids for making the best use of wall space. Also invest in a shopvac to make cleanup easier.

3. Upsize Your Workshop

Although there are a vast range of sizes, the above suggestions apply to them all. Even a simple table in the corner of the garage can function as a workspace. Inasmuch, it will require proper lighting and access to electricity. It will also need storage for necessities.

A slightly larger workshop means you have room for larger tools, and more of them. Beginning DIYers and hobbyists often start with very basic tools and upgrade as they learn more and are able to financially handle it. Sometimes, space is more of a defining factor than the budget.

For example, a small shop or low budget might start with a portable table saw and grow into a full-size one later on.

If you have a huge space for a workshop, you might want to consider a central vacuum system for dust removal as you work. This not only helps with cleanup, but also makes the workshop safer with less risks of slips and falls.

A larger shop also means more outlets, more lights, and more fans or heaters. Plus it leaves room for indoor construction or bringing vehicles inside for repairs.

large workshop with tools and storage

4. A Finished Space

Depending on your needs, you may want to convert your garage or shed into a finished space, complete with insulation and central heating.

To do this, you’ll tap into the home’s HVAC system or provide the workshop its own mini heating and air conditioning units.

While an unfinished space may be left with the studs showing, a finished workshop will benefit from finished wall materials where you can hang tools, ladders, air hoses, electrical cords, and pegboards.

A finished space is much more comfortable than an unfinished one, making it more inviting during cold or hot seasons.

5. Organization

Regardless of the size of your workshop, organization is essential for a variety of reasons.

The first is simply so you can find what you’re looking for when you need it. If everything has a place, you know where to put tools and supplies when you’re done with them. This allows you to take inventory and also easily see what supplies need a little TLC.

There are as many ways to organize as there are tools themselves. Start with the biggest objects in the room. This might be the table saw, air compressor, central vacuum, hydraulic lift, or shop vac.

If the item is stationary, like a lift, use it as a central point to work around. For other large items, place them in a stationary spot that works for that item. For example, make sure the table saw can be used without repositioning.

Readjust shelves to make room for the paint sprayer, pressure washer, or other large tools. This way they can sit on the floor without being in the way.

In the case of shelving, work your way up to the top. With the shelf placed for the largest items, think about supplies you use the most often or that are heavy. These items should be placed at hip to shoulder level.

Above that, use the remainder of the available shelf space for items that are used less often. For example, if you only weld once a year, the gear can be stored out of the way.

To make the best use of space, line up totes that are similar in size. This will allow you to fill the opening between shelves all the way across. Totes can be plastic, canvas, leather, or any durable material.

Smaller items should be organized in cabinets. If you have the choice, avoid deep cabinets for your workshop unless you have supplies that require the depth. Most of the time, deep cupboards become cluttered and inefficient.

Narrow cabinets provide ample space for organizing assorted hardware, cans of paint, hand and power tools, electrical supplies, and plumbing tools.

To make the most of all your organization tools, label each space. This means making labels for the outside of cabinets, on the edge of shelves, and on each tote or bin. For pegboards, a paint outline creates an instant way of knowing what goes where.

Organization is the key to an efficient workspace. Take the time to set up your space in a way that works for you. Prioritize tools and supplies you use the most often. Set up stations in the order you use them.

Also, take care of your tools and supplies. Clean and put away your materials at the end of each day or when you complete your project.

workshop tools hanging on wooden wall

6. Workshop Safety

Safety is another essential element of your workshop. Always make it a priority.

When you use glues, paints, stains, or sprays, wear a mask or respirator.

Wear eye protection anytime you use a saw or chemicals.

Also protect your ears when using loud tools.

In addition, make sure to practice safety tips when using power tools. Don’t wear long sleeves or jewelry. Tie back long hair and never reach across a saw.

Rely on push blocks instead of your hand to feed wood through the blade.

Your workspace should also be free of sharp objects that can cause injury. Create storage spots for saw blades of all sizes. Also tuck away razors and similar supplies.

Keep it clean too. A workshop can be a dangerous place. It’s full of potential hazards to watch out for. Take preventative measures by taping down or picking up extension cords that cross the floor. As an alternative, run extension cords across the ceiling to avoid the tripping hazard.

Keep your floors clean and wipe up spills as soon as possible. Even sawdust can be a slipping hazard, so vacuum, sweep, and mop frequently.

With these essential systems and tools in place, you’ll be ready to get to work. Check out How To Design A Workshop Cabinet and 9 Ways to Go Green in Your Workshop to help in the planning process.