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Bench and Shop layout

When I have the chance to watch TV I usually watch DIY or HGTV.
Those that don’t know, these are home improvement shows for
do-it-your-selfers. Anyway, I came in on the tail end of a program
and they were talking about their shop/woodworking area and mentioned
something about having the different areas and pieces of equipment
laid out in triangles. This was supposed to make the area more
efficient, handy, yada, yada.

Any body have any insight into this or some success stories with how
they have their bench areas setup? I’m moving to a new location
after the first of the year and would like to have some ideas to

The Dr.
(Director of Romance)

 Any body have any insight into this or some success stories with
how they have their bench areas setup? 

The thing I did that might be of help is this: I mounted two shallow
cabinets (c.5" deep, about 3’ by 4’) on top of cheap TV cabinets,
which roll. The backs of the cabinets are made of pegboard. So my
tools hang in them, and the arrangement has evolved as I see what
works best for me, plus I can move them around. I find this very
handy. Other than these, my “bench” consists mainly of two old desks
at right angles to each other. Not perfect, but very affordable, as
I’ve had one of the desks since my teens, and one since college
(class of '72). Good luck!


One of MY own pet peeves in this jewellery trade building here in
Toronto is electricity outlet location. No matter what machines you
are requiring, please make sure that you have enough outlets. Can the
main fuse box be upgraded to withstand the higher demand of
electricity…? Are the locations of these little plugs within easy
reach to your specific machine in question…? For my problem I have
too many machines and not enough outlets, I have more wiring in
behind my bench than a regular sized airplane…:>) So “Big Daddy” it
ain’t the machine layout, its the scource of power to feed

They were talking about what is called a “work triangle”, and is
used in interior planning. There are different dimensions depending
on what your are “working” on, but are designed to make maximum
effective use of space. Have no idea how this would translate into
jewelry workshop design - when I did interior design back in the dark
ages it was strictly houses and kitchens! You might try googling
"work triangle" plus workshop, or something similar, and see what you
come up with. HGTV also has a website, and often has info from its
shows on there, so you might try that also.

I have found over the years that what “they” say is ideal in a work
triangle for the kitchen, and what I personally prefer, are not the
same. I happen to prefer walking a bit farther and being a bit less
crowded, than the “ideal” dimensions call for, so take whatever
"rule" you find with a grain of salt and adjust for your work style!

Beth in SC where we finally had our first frost of the season

When I set up my studio, the most important thing I did was to
determine the best height for the tables and workbenches. I
customized the height to fit my height comfortably, whether the work
would be done sitting or standing. For example, I built a bench pin
"stand" that was the perfect height to work efficiently and
ergonomically. My shoulders are much more relaxed as a result.

Before building or buying anything, I sorted all my tools and
accessories into groups that are used together. I divided them into
"clean" and “dirty” processes and set them on the floor of the
workspace in an orderly fashion. I then went through the processes
required to create a “typical” piece to see if the organization made
sense and reorganized it until it did. This visually helped me to
see how much space I needed for each work area as well as what kind
of storage or display units would best organize them methodically.
Having all related items together really reduced the amount of time
I spend looking for things or just retrieving them from a "distant"
cabinet or shelf.

Lastly, I reviewed the storage and display cabinets and cases I
already had and determined what I needed to buy or make. My planning
worked out very well, but required some minor adjustments once I
started working. It was much more organized and easier to work in
than my old space.

I hope this gives you some ideas. Good luck with your new


One of MY own pet peeves in this jewellery trade building here in
Toronto is electricity outlet location. No matter what machines
you are requiring, please make sure that you have enough outlets.
Can the main fuse box be upgraded to withstand the higher demand of

In a small workshop you can get away without increasing the size of
the power supply if you use ‘fused spurs’. It is important to have
sufficient outlets at conveniently safe distances from your machines
(i.e. close enough to not need long trailing cables) but, if you
think about it, one person can only use a couple of machines at any
one time so the power supply only really has to deal with this. If
you carefully consider what machines you are likely to want to use
together - say the kiln, worklight and handpiece - vibro-polisher
and buffing spindle etc., you will find that there are some functions
you are unlikely to want to use together (or simply can’t because you
don’t have enough arms!!). These items can be electrically grouped
together and fed off one fuse - or sub-fused circuit. Of course, the
important thing with this is to keep a note at the fuseboard which
sockets are so grouped and also, if you are wise, you will indicate
on the socket itself where it is fed from so that, if you need to
isolate it, you can be sure which fuse to pull. I tend to use the
four or six way extension socket blocks for smaller equipment - the
type which are designed to plug into a socket as a trailing lead, but
I fix them to the wall so that I have a bank of sockets which are
protected by the fuse in the plug head which goes to an adjacent
’normal’ socket. In this way, even though there are maybe six
sockets, I can’t take more than 13 amps in total from them without
their own fuse popping. Another thing which is worth considering in
most electrical installations is future maintenance. A lot of smaller
houses these days have all their sockets fed from a single ring main
or, at best, one ring main for each floor. This is simple and cheap
to install but, if you need to work on it in future with the power
off, you can’t use power tools!! However, if in each area, you have
sockets fed from different fuses, you can still get power for your
tools from one set of outlets while the power is off on the others.
When I used to work on big building installations, I always designed
’service sockets’ into or adjacent to the control panels and it is
amazing how many engineers would comment on how unusual it was, not
to have to run extension leads through the building for their test
equipment and tools.

Best wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

When we built our house with my studio room 8 years ago, I began by
nailing a piece of plywood to one wall and putting 4 brass screws
into a cherry wood duct housing. Needless to say, My spouse, being
somewhat protective of our new dream home made a new rule. No more
nails or screws in the walls. Not realizing what a favor was being
done for me, I was concerned that I could not build my dream studio
without nailing things to the wall.

Since then, I have found that with a little thought, I can use
wedges, and c-clamps to hold things in place. I can even hang
things on the C-clamp handles. Some things stay in place because
their geometry will not allow them to move once screwed together in
place. The beauty of this is that as I have mobility when I have
new ideas for shop arrangements or replace old methods with new
ones. I can easily disassemble parts and move them to a location
that better suits my needs.

Today, my studio looks considerably different than when a posted the
photo on tidy bench a year or so ago. I have made room for placing
a considerable number of new tools within reach. Improving the shop
arrangement is nearly as much fun as creating jewelry.

Have fun…
Howard Woods
In the beautiful foothills near Eagle Idaho

The work triangle described was made famous by Lillian Gilbreth’s
(of Cheaper by the Dozen fame) use of it in laying out the galley
kitchens. In a kitchen, the cooking sequence went from refrigerator
to sink/prep area to stove.

Refrigerator sink/prep stove When cooked, the food and utensil went
back to back to sink/prep or refrig…

By using cabinets to hold the utensils around the prep/stove area,
she was able to make an efficient work space. It is a simplification
of the string method of determining proper layout of a task sequence.

You can use the same methods to determine how to layout your work
area: Get a ball of twine and tape and a marker. Start making a
typical something. Every time you change area, tape the string down
and number it. Be careful! Don’t make a costly item, because you
will have a spider’s web as you cross over and back and forth doing
things!! If you are being very detailed, also note when you change
tools and supplies.

When finished creating, look it over your area. If possible,
diagram it (a standard layout diagram is done on quarter inch paper -
put in windows, doors and nonmoveable items - make a to scale master,
diagram the string bit on a copy) or take a picture or make a
drawing. Then analyze it. (if you made a layout diagram, you can make
scale models of stations and move them around. Some software does
this stuff also) The objective is to lay things out using as little
space as possible without crossing over too many times. (Purists say
you should never cross over, but I never got that to work) If you
did note the supplies, see if you can build in cabinets above, below,
or beside to hold them where they are used. (Yes, it is common sense
but then this method is very old.) If you are interested in that
sort of thing, look up work simplification methods.

hey all, I just want to say thanks for the tips on setting up your
workshops, as I am in the process of setting up my own. I added a
second 2.5 car garage to the front of my exisiting 2.5 car garage so
I could use the back quarter as my workshop. drywall is up, dropped
ceiling in and now wondering about the flooring material I should
use. the cement is textured and I wonder if it would be better to lay
down an industrial tile over it… my concern is easy clean up of
spilled chemicals and the residual dust of the casting plaster
getting caught in the texture. I know this really is probably a
stupid question but I am sure somebody out there has come across this
issue, maybe there is no issue at all and I need not worry about it
but any advice would be great, thanks!

Mical in Michigan

the cement is textured and I wonder if it would be better to lay
down an industrial tile over it... my concern is easy clean up of
spilled chemicals and the residual dust of the casting plaster
getting caught in the texture. 

Mical, Plaster, especially casting plaster (investment) is extremely
hazardous to your health. If you have any dust from it around you
there is danger. Whatever you do, find a way to make sure all
plaster, even plaster that has gone through the kiln, is cleaned up
before it gets stepped on, dried out, ground down and thrown back up
into the atmosphere. The particles are extremely small and will
cause lung damage after prolonged exposure.

Make sure you use really good ventilation when you weigh out the
plaster, mix it and devest your flask so that you do not throw any
plaster into the air. This is extremely serious. When you get a
spill or clean up dried plaster, make sure you wet it down first so
that it doesn’t become dust. If you don’t have ventilation do all
work with investment outside where the dust can’t blow into the
enclosed area where you work.

A soft, smooth flooring is best for many reasons, not just cleanup.
A piece of jewelry or stone that falls on the floor will more likely
survive the fall if it lands on a softer surface than if it falls on
concrete. If you can put down a 1/4" plywood floor under the tiles
that is even better. Besides, if you have a textured floor, you’ll
probably never recover the metal filings that may fall from your
bench, filings that can be reclaimed for cash!

Take great care,

    ...and now wondering about the flooring material I should use.
the cement is textured and I wonder if it would be better to lay
down an industrial tile over it... my concern is easy clean up of
spilled chemicals and the residual dust of the casting plaster
getting caught in the texture. 

We’re just now getting around to doing the concrete floor of our
house, and decided on using concrete stain. (I know guys, but my
husband is an engineer, and he thinks in terms of thermal mass,
radiant heat for a cold climate, durability and low maintenance.) You
might want to check out H & C or American Tradition concrete stains
for do-it-yourself applications. It’s kind of strange stuff, as it
actually sinks into the concrete, but it also has an epoxy-like
surface that fills in small texture and pores. The texture is still
there, but softened. Comes in a variety of colors. With patterning,
it comes out looking similar to saltillo tile or stone. For more
money, you can have contractors do another type of stain with the
InCrete, where the stain is added after the pour, but polished, and
the effects look like marble.

I am also interested in ideas for floor covering over cement. Four
years ago, I put twelve inch “press and stick” floor tiles on the
work area of my garage. They made it easier to locate dropped
items and prevented the “dings” in my metal that the occurred with
the concrete.

The tiles were fine until this summer. After an unusually heavy
rain storm in the heat of the summer, portions of three or four
began to bubble up. No water got in the garage and there are no
apparent changes to anything else. The garage also has a new roof
and there were no leaks. Home Depot and Lowes said that moisture
must have gotten under the slab and that I should have installed a
vapor barrier under the tile. Only problem is the vapor barrier
can’t be glued to the concrete either. It must be attached and
they had no suggestions for doing only part of the garage.

The process to remove the tiles and the glue is horrendous. I have
just been replacing the tiles one at a time, but it takes about 30
minutes a tile to remove. The parts of each tile that haven’t
bubbled up are really stuck to the concrete. The lumber yard
suggested putting tempered masonite over the tiles, but so far I’ve
drug my feet on doing that. Dragging my feet is what worries me.
It seems like the masonite would be a real trip hazard unless I did
the whole garage rather than just my work area. The lumber yard
suggested making a 1 x 2 perimeter border to hold the masonite in

Right now I just wish I had never put the tiles down and just
learned to be more careful. It would have been a lot easier. If
anyone has any ideas, they’d really be appreciated.


Jay, Get a heat gun or a propane torch with a fan shap tip and heat
the tiles. They should come up easily if you do this. Joel

Joel Schwalb

The process to remove the tiles and the glue is horrendous.  

I’ve seen professional flooring people use a machine that is on
wheels and has a blade in front that vibrates and it pops the tiles
off like nothing. I don’t know if such a machine can be rented from a
tool rental place or not. In my own DIY projects around the house
I’ve used a large ice scraper (the kind that is a blade on the end of
a shovel-like handle) and elbow grease to remove old tile.

Perhaps painting the floor with concrete paint could help with the
moisture problem if you are going to try tile again.

Sam’s Club sells what’s called safety padding. It comes in packages
of 8 two-foot squares and is about 1/2 inch thick. The edges
interlock together. I use it in may garage around my lapidary and
buffing equipment. It helps with leg fatigue and cuts down on damage
on dropped stones and jewelry that occasionally flys out of the
buffer. I don’t know how well a chair would roll on it though…

You might also look into woodworking or machinists suppliers for
anti fatigue matting. I know Woodcraft sells them if there is a
store close to you. I did a google search on “anti-fatigue mats” and
found many websites. looks interesting with many

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Colorado Springs, Colorado

regarding removing old floor tiles. Hello, I’ve had good luck
removing old tiles by first taking an old electric clothes iron to
them first. This helps loosen the glue for easier scraping. Just
remember, the iron will never again be used on clothing !

Hope this helps.

Hello All,

Well this is what I am planning to do in my workshop after the first
of the year. Right now I am on painted concrete. I am going to put
down PVC flooring. This is a snap together interlocking tiles. This
flooring can be taken back up if you move. The are resistant to most
chemicals and flame resistant. There website is I am no connect just someone who reads too
many remodeling magazines.


Rodney Carroll
RC Gems


You wont’t believe this, but I can guarantee you that you can get
that tile up quicker than a hillbilly going to visit his two new

Get a 5 gallon bucket and fill with hot water. The hotter the
better. Pour it on the tile. Let it set for 15 minutes or so and
start scraping.

Hope this helps.
The Dr.
(Director of Romance)

I saw tile scrapers at Home Depot. About 3-4ft long, with a big
heavy duty scraper on the bottom. It looks like it would be bull
work but I don’t think it would take 30 mins per tile. Why don’t you
put Pergo over your tiles? Do the border thing and cut back peeling
corners of the tiles. That’s what contractors would do. I don’t
think I’ve ever seen any of them peeling tiles. They just cover them
up. My whole house has a second layer of plywood under the ceramic


I just took a look at this thread and must comment on this last
mention about covering up tiles and going over them with plywood and
then new tiles. What causes a tile floor to crack is not the tiles
being defective but a poor sub floor underneath. To break up an old
floor is not as daunting a task as you might think. Once the old
floor is up you can pour a masonry sub floor (like a thin layer of
smooth cement) to smooth out the rough spots or lay a fresh sub floor
down on top to put the new tiles on. You will get much better wear
if the sub floor is done well. Mark

Ps Stanley, you should find a new contractor.

I would not lay any kind of flooring over buckling or loose tiles.
You need to have a firm, solid base on which to lay any new flooring
material. Although I have not tried it myself, I have heard that
another method of removing old tile from concrete is to use dry ice.
You put the dry ice on the tile. This causes it contract from the
adhesive and/or concrete. Then use a scraper such as others have
suggested and it is said that it will pop right off. Might be worth
a try.

Best Regards,