Shop Visit: Allen Danskine

What’s an engineer to do when he loves metalworking and woodworking projects, but he’s confined to a shop with a meager 26x27-foot footprint? Oh, and did we mention this guy has amassed a respectable collection of tools?

Yes, his situation can seem problematic. For instance, he only uses his table saw occasionally, but when he does, it needs to be in the center of the shop. Otherwise, it’s shoved in a corner with items stacked on top of it.

But there is hope for our engineer. For example, he often does projects with a friend who manages a metal fabrication shop, so jobs that were once cost-prohibitive–like metal cutting, bending and shaping–are now feasible.

And the small shop space still has potential. If it can’t expand outward, it must expand downward. He has two vaults installed, one 5x10 feet and the other 6x12. A bridge crane is added to ensure access, but this still leaves problems. The vaults have lids that must be stored out of the way. Taking tools in and out of the vaults individually is cumbersome, and the goal is to have a fully functioning wood shop within 5 minutes.

The solution is to leave a slot in the vault to store the lid, build a second bridge crane to handle a platform, and mount everything to the platform. Installing dust collection and electrical before pouring the slab is an easy choice.

To ensure that dust doesn’t get everywhere, the engineer adds enclosed cabinets. Numerous bins keep small items handy and organized. The large air compressor and dust collector are banished to a shed outside. Two workbenches–a roll-around one for wood projects and another with a half-inch, steel-plate top for metalworking projects–allow for easy reconfiguration depending on the project of the day.

To round out the work environment, a two-tap beer refrigerator (for the end of the day, of course!) and a vintage Carver stereo system are musts.–Allen Danskine

Dig Deep

Allen has some tips you to create a dream workspace.


The shop space is for projects, tools and materials, not for long-term storage. Items rarely used go elsewhere so I’m not tripping over things that I don’t need very often.


Use a minimum of built-in cabinets and maximize roll around benches and work areas so that the space can be configured appropriately for the project at hand. I can finish a dusty, grimy project, roll everything outside, blow everything off, mop the floor, and build an engine the next day in a near-clean room.

Wires and Ducts

Plan ahead with ducting and wiring. My dustcollector ducting is buried in the concrete, as are the electrical ducts. This means I don’t trip over wires and ducts while working. I have 20 electrical circuits for my little garage–both 220 and 110.

Noise Levels

Put the dust collector and air compressor outside in a lean-to so you don’t have listen to them.


Cabinets should have doors and should extend to the ceiling. This keeps dust out of everything being stored, keeps you from being tempted to store things above the top of the cabinet, and makes cleanup much easier.

Hand Tools

The hand tool storage area should be well laid out to hold the tools and should be close to the action. When mid-project, you use a tool for a second, then need to put it down. If it’s easy to simply set it where it lives, then it’s easier to find it next time. I hate the find-it game.


Uline sells bins; many, many bins makes organizing the myriad of small items a snap.


I made the gantry cranes using standard I-beam trolleys and off-the-shelf items in lieu of creating things from scratch. Don’t reengineer things that already work well.

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