World of wheels

With limited shop space, placing a new piece of stationary equipment has to be very well thought out, unless you make it mobile.

With unlimited shop space you don’t have to worry so much about machine placement. Essentially, you put it wherever it fits best into your workflow. But when space is tight, the best placement for maximizing the workflow for machine A often gets in the way of the best workflow for machine B. Add machine C and D to the mix and it can become difficult to move, much less get anything done.

I recently added a floor model drill press to my shop, and the first issue was deciding where to put it. With my layout – already maximized for efficiency – there simply was no good spot to park it permanently without compromising something else. The best solution was to put the thing on wheels.

Like many of you, I’ve permanently placed my table saw in the middle of the shop. It (and its matched outfeed/assembly table) forms the centerpiece, and 90 percent of the work I do takes place on or around it. I don’t use my jointer as often, so it’s on a mobile base parked adjacent to my assembly table. Unless I’m cutting extremely large stock on the saw requiring the jointer to be moved out of the cutting path, or jointing long stock requiring me to angle the machine for feed-path clearance, it stays put. I use my planer less frequently, so it rests on a wheeled cabinet parked in a corner nook and gets rolled out when needed. Ditto my combo disc/belt sander.

I’ve decided to do the same thing with that drill press, and stationed it a couple feet from the infeed side of the jointer. For most of the workpieces I joint it’s fine where it is, but if I need to run something longer than, say, 4 feet through the jointer, all I need to do is roll it out of the way for plenty of elbow room.

I’d be curious to hear how you factor mobility into your shop workflow processes. What arrangements work best for you, and what workflow problems have added mobility solved?



  • Scott Ekman says:

    It’s amazing how hot workshop mobility is right now from a product perspective. For instance our new workbench casters ( hit a chord with customers who are posting many reviews and pictures of how they are mobilizing what used to be a very stationary shop component: the workbench. We’ve seen similar adulation for our heavy-duty all-terrain mobile base: One customer (see review #5) has bought 7 of them to completely mobilize his garage shop.

    I love how creative woodworkers are in using whatever space they can to get their woodworking fix. Thanks for the article, A.J.!

  • Gary says:

    Funny you should mention this: I’m just about to buy a new band saw and it will have to be on wheels. To bring it in, I need to place my scroll saw on wheels and move it to a “less used” corner of my shop to make room for the band saw. And where the band saw will fit will be perpendicular to running long boards through it. So, if I want to re-saw, I need to rotate the saw 90 degrees.

    FWIW, my table saw is also on wheels but I only use them to move the saw further from a wall when I’m cutting wide boards. For most of my cutting near a wall is OK. Thus, my need for wheels is for subtle movements for specific operations.

    I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t need the wheels for big movements, just subtle ones as needed. But I still need the wheels.

  • Your points about mobility are well taken but another factor is height. My shop is narrow and as you say the table saw is the center of attraction but my workbench is prominent also. The trick is it is anch lower than the table saw and acts as an output table. My radial arm saw is before the table saw to the right and is a few inches higher. You get the drift.

  • Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts for Rockler’s Buzzsaw Blog on shop mobility, exploring different types of tools and various options for caster and mobile bases.

    My ENTIRE shop is on wheels now. Partly because I have a small space and being able to arainge it for the job at hand id convenient. But I also shoot a lot of photos and video for articles, plans and videos that I produce for myself and my clients. I created a “studio” space in one corner of the shop so I can roll a tool in, shoot with good lighting and an attractive backdrop, then roll that one out and the next one in.

    The big unexpected benfit I found was that cleaning up is MUCH easier since I can just roll tools and even my work bench out of the way to sweep or vacuum the floor.


  • I have a Bandsaw and Drill Press on wheels: longer lengths of wood require some repositioning in my 10′ X 16′ workshop. The dust collector is in a seperate outside box on a small concret pad I built with 16′ of hose coming through the wall. I can disconnect it to be half as long when cleaning with a brush end. I am a wood carver so the shed gets messy anyway. In my garage (90 ft from my house) are a few tools that are rolled out on the apron for the dirty job of sanding: the garage is my “Clean Room”. I drop the door and work outside on the apron. Understand that I am usually doing carvings smaller than 2 ft in legth, but this setup works nicely for me.

  • Mike Smith says:

    I’m blessed with a three car detached garage that is totally dedicated to my shop requirements. Even with all this room, I have all of my equipment on some type of mobile base. I haven’t had to move my table saw for years, but if I had to, I can. Practically everything else needs to be moved at some time. If you build your basses correctly, they can be very permanent when you want them to be and easy to move when you need to move them.

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