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    Tom Davies

    There are some interesting suggestions in this thread. I am in a similar position, but I have space to store a small workbench under the stairs. In the opinion of the forum, what’s the smallest practically useful size for a workbench?


    Tom, I don’t know if there is such a size, as it depends on what kind of projects you want to do and how you want to work. In traditional Japanese woodworking, they often sit on the ground for most tasks, and don’t use benches of any sort. I’ve seen amazingly skilled carvers (IIRC they call themsevles “whittlers” in that area of the USA) who just hold their work in their hands.

    Heck, it seems that in almost all of Paul’s videos he’s working off about a third of a bench, because the rest is covered in tools, coffee cups, etc, etc 🙂

    For the general topic of apartment woodworking, here’s a video of Chris Schwarz working on a portable workbench called the “milkman’s workbench” which is really just a clamp-on surface to turn your kitchen table into a workbench temporarily

    Where there’s a will there’s a way


    One more thought about apartment woodworking…if you live in a big city, you might consider not doing your woodworking in your apartment, or doing only some steps in your apartment.

    The rise in popularity of so-called “maker spaces” (and similar buzzwords) would seem to offer options to urbanites. We are all probably familiar with Tom Fidgen; well, now that’s a large part of what he does. He has his set up in Toronto, IIRC, and one of the services they offer is that you can pay a fee to use their workshop. So you can do some or all of your woodworking in a full-on, hardcore, dedicated workshop with massive workbenches and tons of space and no worries about neighbors or dust or etc.

    Even here in San Diego we have a similar business. They offer monthly memberships or just a pay-by-the-day rate, so you can show up, pay a fee, and use their benches, tools, etc to get your work done. They even have tablesaws, thicknessers, jointers, CNC machines, etc, so if you don’t enjoy milling your lumber, or perhaps that’s the dusty, noisy part you’re reluctant to do in the confines of an apartment, you have the option of banging out that part of the work elsewhere, then doing the joinery and finishing at home. They also offer lockers to store your lumber and tools for an additional fee if you don’t want to lug it all back and forth, and they offer an email service for their CNC and 3-D printers, where you can email them the computer file for a CNC job or 3-D printing job, and they’ll have the job done on their machines, and you just show up to pay and pick up the finished product.

    I know of such a place in Brooklyn, NYC, and I imagine every city of modest size has something along those lines.


    Ed, which place in Brooklyn are you talking about? I’ve looked into a couple, but they’re prohibitively expensive—like $400/month.

    David Perrott

    Some of the maker spaces it includes machinery use, so hence the price. I can’t remember what places are left in brooklyn. There one in hoboken. Can’t remember the name. The thing with those, the benches may not be real suitable to you and/or hand work


    Ed, which place in Brooklyn are you talking about? I’ve looked into a couple, but they’re prohibitively expensive—like $400/month.

    This was on a long weekend my wife and I took a few months ago in NYC, visiting some old friends. They were considering such a membership, and showed us around a place called Spark Workshop in Brooklyn — I’m sorry, but I don’t remember the price. I thought they were about 150 bucks a month for the basic membership — I could be wrong on that, but a quick Google will doubtless reveal all.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by Edmund.
    Tom Davies

    I can manage a 2′ by 2’6″ table, 3″ high… I’ll be using it for making things like sideboards, cabinet doors, window shutters, shelves. My woodworking up to this point has been done largely with power tools like routers, chop saws, table saws, with portable Black and Decker workmates. I’ve managed to make my kitchen in this way, but I’ve increasingly found the power tools unpleasant to use. Also, the problem with completing the renovation of a house is that the room you used to use for woodworking is now a bedroom! This is part of the reason I want to switch to using primarily hand tools only, as I can no longer tolerate the noise and mess created with power tools.

    Not only will I enjoy learning the traditional techniques, but it’s something I can do in the kitchen, requiring only a broom to clean up with.


    MY bench is only 20 by 30 and the only issue I have with it really is a lack of weight. I plan to add a 7″ eclipse vise in place of the current 7in vise, which is a cheap Lowes Record vise, partial because it will add about 20lbs to the dead weight of the bench. For long pieces I have a deadman that is the same height as the bench to clamp or wrest the end of a board on.

    If you build a small work bench I think it is well worth the effort of adding a low shelf to set a couple cinder blocks or dumb bells on to give it extra mass.

    Tuscloosa, Alabama
    Lung T'an Hu Huesh Kung-fu Woodshop

    Debra Jenney

    Just a thought, have you considered making a new dining/kitchen table that is a workbench? Make it at a comfortable working height and make bar-style chairs for it.

    Bill Barry

    I’ve been slowly amassing tools, slowly putting together a PS workbench, in a spare bedroom. Right now it’s basically just a laminated benchtop on some sawhorses, but it’s working all right.

    The real question I have, given the name of this post, is does anyone ever have any problems with your neighbors in your building complaining about the noise? I live in the second floor of a two family, and while I got some gym mat type flooring to try and deaden any noise, I feel like when I start sawing or hammering I’ve got to be making a racket that the people downstairs have to deal with.

    Does anyone have any experience with this? Any thoughts on how to keep the noise level reasonable?



    @billbarrynj — to keep the noise level reasonable is most easily done with the liberal application of dollars…spend enough money and you can host a rock concert in your apartment. Night clubs are 120 db inside but just outside all you can hear is a dull thump.

    This website sells all that sort of thing, perhaps you can put together a solution that won’t cost a fortune if you do all the installation yourself?


    I was also thinking about the stuff audiophiles use in their cars to dampen road noise. Maybe you could cover your walls and floors with it?


    Debra Jenney

    I think it also depends on your neighbors. If you haven’t done so, this would be a nice opportunity to meet your neighbors before you become a nuisance. People can be very forgiving if they have a name and a friendly face to go with the noise. After that, I wouldn’t worry about noise. The kind of woodworking you’re doing makes less noise than a typical home theater system.


    Any thoughts on how to keep the noise level reasonable?

    Sharp tools, good clamping to a object with high mass, and sell anything that runs on power. And look into how sounds travel in the kind of building your working in.

    I’ve put my workbench on dense rubber foam pads. It’s probably not an ideal solution, but it did miracles to dampen sound projecting into the floor. With some added weight to the bench, its not horrible to work at.
    Tapestry on the walls helped too, that reduced the echo in the room; shorter noise is less annoying than long ones.

    Richard Duffy

    Good afternoon,

    I have access to only 60 ft2 of workspace (my front porch). If the apartment is not rented, or if it is, and with the permission of the landlord you could turn a small closet space into a workshop. You could have a small custom-built workbench that suits your needs. Small workshop space is not ideal, but it can work. I’ve used the bench grinder in the hallway, the kitchen, and even on my desk. The question is one of safety, especially in a residential area. An alternative, but in my opinion, not ideal, would be a foldaway workbench, maybe a black and decker workmate with a new top. I’m aware that space in NY is very expensive and cost can be a prohibitive factor so there might not possibly be a factor of renting workshop space, and you don’t really want to commit if you’re just starting out. It’ll be interesting to see what my fellow woodworkers on here have to say. Best wishes, stay safe.



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