The results are in. We received dozens of responses to our invitation to show us your home boatshops. We saw a great variety of shops, including a hand-hewn log cabin, a refurbished Wisconsin dairy barn, a garage and basement shop in South Africa that utilized two levels, a converted worm barn in Alabama, and much more. Here we present three of our favorites: a free-standing shop, a basement shop, and a garage shop. We hope you’ll enjoy touring these three boatshops and pick up some ideas that will be useful in your own shop, too.

Jake Haar

The Free-standing Shop

Taking inspiration from Norman-style buildings he saw while traveling in northern France, Tim Warden designed this 34′ x 32′ shop and design studio. Warden and his wife, Laurie, built it over the course of two years, working weekends. The wood-heated shop has plenty of elbow room for small-boat building.

The Wardens have dedicated a 32′ x 10′ space (within the shop’s total footprint) as a design studio. This area, which is completely walled off from the rest of the shop, has oil heat, a couple of couches, and two drawing boards. The solid wall keeps the design area dust free and gives it a different personality from that of the workspace; it’s more like a sitting room. Both drawing boards are placed near windows that face northeast, looking out onto a peaceful, wooded glen.

Inside the shop, the tablesaw is placed near the door. That way, when Warden works with long boards, he can get needed space by simply opening the door. To utilize this same efficiency, he keeps his planer on a mobile base.

Tim Warden is a firm believer in the benefits of having a good outfeed table, and his 4′ x 8′ one is a prominent part of the shop. When not used for taking up slack on long boards coming off the tablesaw, it makes a great worktable. He has outfitted its far end with a vise to make the most of it.

Also, there is a 2’x 10′ workbench along the southwest wall. While a boatbuilder’s bench can never be too long, Warden finds this length handy for working on planks, gunwales, and other long pieces. Hand tools and paint are stored in tall cupboards positioned along the wall that is adjacent to the design studio. There is ample space for wood storage under the outfeed table workbench and in the second-floor attic. The attic is also an excellent place for drying lumber.

While the Wardens are happy with most of their building and organizational decisions, if they had it to do over again they would make a few changes. Their wish list includes a wooden floor (theirs is concrete), some type of constant heat source, a built-in dust collection system, and making the shop about 4′ bigger in both directions. We think it’s pretty nice, just the way it is.

Jake Haar

Tim Warden makes his tablesaw’s outfeed table earn its keep in a number of ways. He has installed a vise for benchwork (above) and uses the space beneath it to store tools and wood. The shop’s floor plan (below) shows a space that is able to accommodate the long pieces that are needed for smallboat building with room to spare. Drafting studio (not shown) is to the right.

The Basement Shop

Many a cartoon has been generated around the subject of basement boatbuilding. Still, Bob Brett has successfully turned his 1,200-sq-ft basement into a functional home boatshop, and so far (knock wood), he has been able to get each of his finished boats out the 6 1⁄2′ x 35″ door.

Of course, a basement shop has some major limitations. Besides the obvious need for an exit strategy, there are other issues and restrictions that go beyond those of many other shops.

Bob Brett

Bob Brett has made the most of his basement space. Content to build shallow-draft boats with a narrow beam, he can tip them on their side for easy removal from the shop.

Dust is a problem for any shop; this problem is intensified if the shop is connected to one’s home. To quell the dust and fend off a potentially serious marital infraction, Brett has installed a well-integrated dust-collection system. He rigged rain downspouts and elbows that fit perfectly on top of the foundation and underneath the windowsill. The curve of the elbows eases airflow. He cut blast gate holes exactly where he needs them, and placed his ductwork behind benches and along the wall instead of threading it along the ceiling. This approach is neater, keeps the system within reach, and preserves headroom.

Another challenge is lighting. While basement shops are notorious for having less natural light than their above-ground counterparts, one way that Brett makes the most of available light is by painting his walls flat white, and, for the most part, by leaving wall areas that fall between head and waist height (the majority of his line of sight at the bench) bare in order to better reflect it. He also arranged his workbenches along the windowed walls in order to capture natural light and to enjoy the view of the nearby creek.

Needing to maximize efficiency while working on long boards, Brett experimented with tablesaw and miter saw placement. He can cut 16′ planks on either saw. But 16′ is about the limit for working comfortably with the tablesaw or to cut either end of a long board on the miter saw. He can cut slightly longer boards on the tablesaw by angling the machine, but he rarely finds it necessary to do so.

Brett likes to build courting boats. These boats have an LOA of 17′ with a 39″ beam and a freeboard depth of about 27″. Since he can easily remove the boats from his shop by tipping them on their side, this arrangement works well for him. By understanding the limitations of available space and having a willingness to work within them, Bob Brett has successfully turned his basement into a well-functioning boatshop. The cartoonists will just have to look elsewhere for material.

Outfitted with very few industrial tools, this shop proves that you don’t need to go large scale (or have a huge budget) to have a pleasant and useful workspace. The floor plan shows plenty of elbow room for building, and open areas provide a pathway to the exit.

The Garage Shop

Bill Carley’s boatshop is a no-nonsense garage. If it strikes a familiar chord, that may be because the rig he designed and built to roll his boats appeared in WoodenBoat No. 203.

In this shop, Carley has ample space for working on two boats. He has restored boats that are up to 23′ long with plenty of walking-around room. At 24′ x 36′ and with a 10′ ceiling, Carley’s shop is larger than a lot of garages, but his use of the space will apply to more modest-sized

The shop gets good natural light from the four 6′ x 4′ double windows on the northeast and southeast walls, as well as the extra-large (8′ ) garage door, when open. In addition to natural light, Carley has developed a movable indoor lighting system that he has mounted on ceiling tracks. Four-foot lights hang from a carriage that can move along a track on fixed casters. A small block that rides in the carriage track allows each light fixture to pivot. The two tracks run the length of the shop, about 30′. These tracks allow him to reorient the lamps in great variety and concentrate the light where needed.

Bill Carley

Bill Carley’s shop is an extra-large garage that is stocked with an array of shopmade tools and accessories. The bandsaw is just one of many examples of the builder’s ingenuity.

Carley built a dust-collection system, built his own bandsaw (from a kit), put his tablesaw and bandsaw on home-built, retractable, swivel casters, and uses home-built roller stands for ripping long pieces or milling wood. He also built the shop itself—all but the concrete slab that it rests upon.

Carley’s boat rolling and lighting rigs solve some tough problems that boatbuilders face. Every shop owner can benefit from this shop’s outstanding solutions and details.

Bill Carley

This shop can comfortably hold two boats at a time. Having most stationary tools on casters enables the heavy equipment to be moved at a moment’s notice. The utility and adaptability of this home shop inspires contemplation of the possibilities.

A Builder-Friendly Floor

Of the many shop submissions we received for inclusion in this article, only one had a wooden floor. While concrete offers obvious practicality, a wooden floor is easier on your legs, a dropped tool landing on wood will not chip as easily as it would on a concrete floor, and you can drive screws directly into a wood floor, making it easier to anchor your strongback setup and bracing while building a boat.

Greg Rössel, a popular instructor here at WoodenBoat School and a contributing editor to this magazine, offers two solutions to the problem:

“One remedy is simply to build a ‘floating’ or unanchored wooden frame that covers the entire floor, and then deck it with 3⁄4″ plywood. A few coats of deck paint, and you’ve got a deluxe building environment—and you’ve removed those nuisance automobiles that are always taking up too much room anyway.

If your shop floor is concrete, consider installing simple subflooring to make building more comfortable and enjoyable.

If (for whatever reason) the full Monty deck is not a possibility, why not at least a wooden decked ‘stage’ to build upon? This can be built of 2 x 4 framing stock (sort of like a horizontal wall) and, again, decked with 3⁄4″ plywood [or 7⁄8″ shelving board]. This smaller version floor can be easily leveled with shims and anchored to the concrete with either concrete anchors (some drilling required) or with angle braces that are fastened to wooden blocks glued to the floor with epoxy. You’ll still be able to easily and firmly affix your setup, and when the job is done, the floor fastenings can be pulled or chipped off, the stage removed, and the space can resume its mundane role of motor car stable.”

These home boatshops represent some of the best elements found in the many submissions we received. There were so many great ones, it was very difficult for us to choose only three. You can see more home boatshops on our web site at <> (click on Getting Started in Boats).