The Bare Essentials (Short, Text-Only Version)

Welcome back to The Apartment Woodworker! In this week’s installment, I will share (in two parts) the contents of my recently-condensed workshop and why certain tools made the cut and others did not.

Monday is my first day back at the office, so in the spirit of brevity, this is the relatively TL;DR version. Later this week, the full version (with all the pretty pictures) should go live.

Although markedly less organized in practice, the process of downsizing my workshop was in three steps.

Step One was easiest. I asked myself, “What large items will I simply not have space for in the new apartment?” Seven foot workbench? Out. Miter saw? Out. Thickness planer? Out. All three were no-brainers. Also falling into this category was my rolling tool cabinet, although I briefly entertained the idea of keeping it, as the compact cabinet I made isn’t MUCH smaller. It’s not like I own a table saw or a jointer in the first place.

Step Two was also relatively straightforward. I thought, “What tools are essential for me to prepare and join two pieces of wood together?” In other words, “What are the basics of my more traditional style of woodworking?” Hand planes, hand saws, chisels, marking tools, sharpening implements, a few essential clamps, glues and finishes. Add in a solid work surface (Milkman’s Workbench clamped to a rock solid table) and a shop vacuum for cleanup and I have the essentials to keep making furniture. Period. Full Stop. From here on, nothing was included without justification.

Step Three was the most difficult and (potentially) dangerous. “What else, other than the above, do I need in practicality and can I find space for?” I definitely need my power drill for the household, although I do have a brace. And some screw drivers/socket wrenches also for the household. Sandpaper too. Okay, but what else? I do all my roundovers and chamfers by compact router, so I guess that’s in. So is my random orbit sander, which serves so many purposes. Now I need my dust extractor because I’m inside. Why not jig saw and circular saw, too? After all, they take the same batteries as the power drill and I have a few inches of shelf space left over. Then, just as I was running out of room, I struggled to justify any other big items. I just filled up the corners with some odds and ends (READ: other mallets and adhesive tape), some straight edges and essential safety equipment.

I don’t think I went overboard and it all fits.

Making due with less. Or, rather, making due with just enough. What a brave new world.

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