If you don’t know who Dominic Chinea is by now, you must have been living under a rock. Dom burst onto our screens in 2017 on BBC One’s Repair Shop and has been inspiring the UK public to get involved in home workshop crafting ever since.
Week after week he has shown the nation that with a little love, patience, skill and the right equipment and surroundings, anyone can bring a broken item back to life.
So where do we start? You might have an old storeroom, shed or garage piled high with paint pots and rusty bolts – desperate for a makeover, but you have no idea where to even begin your craft cave transformation. Luckily, Dom is working with industrial and homeware solutions supplier BiGDUG to ensure everyone is able to transform their impractical rooms, on every budget. Bursting with practical tips and advice, the TV presenter explains how to get the best from your space...
Think about the layout carefully, just as kitchens have a standard triangle layout between the sink, fridge and oven think of your equivalent for your workshop space. Which are the areas that you are likely to need regular access to and between? Is there enough space around and between large tools? For example, if you are cutting long lengths of wood then store them near the saw, and make sure there is room to manoeuvre them, or make sure you are not passing past flammable stores with hot items. Taking time to really think about this beforehand and plan the layout carefully will help so much when you are using the space.
Use the height, in both the ceiling space, eave’s, above doors, even on the roof if needed for storage. Large lengths can be suspended from the ceilings, shelving above doorways, unused or inaccessible spaces can all be utilised in some way or other.
Always install more plug sockets and power than you think you’ll need. When planning your layout, you can see which items will need power, and potentially more than one circuit but then add more. There are always batteries to charge, kettles to plug in and even taking the radio to the other side of the workshop needs a plug.
If your workshop isn’t a comfortable place that you want to spend time in then those projects will never be completed. Put up posters, take a favourite mug or chair, make sure it is warm, light, and you have a radio or tv. It doesn’t all need to be functional or utilitarian to be a working environment.
A good height working surface, sturdy, large enough and clear enough for various projects is essential. This could be a central table or a desk against a wall but think how you like to work, standing/seating, overlooking a window etc and plan accordingly.
I’m probably biased but I think a vice is essential no matter what your craft is. They look great and are so useful for a variety of purposes. Even if you just use it as an extra pair of hands to hold something still, they are so useful, and you can find them very cheaply online or at car boot sales in so many different sizes and finishes depending on your craft.
A good height adjustable stool or chair that fits your workbench is so important. You don’t want to be constantly straining your back or neck, working at the wrong height, or having a chair back or arms that restrict your movements. A tall stool you can move to wherever is needed is always going to be useful.
You have to be able to see what you are doing! Think about where you may need direct lighting, above the workbench, near specific tools, and also have a bright lamp, even daylight if needed, that you can move about with you also if you really need a detailed look.
Regular storage and shelving are important but racking I think is just as essential, long lengths of wood or metal can be kept out of the way, large tools kept off the floor and racking can be adapted to so many purposes. Or even if it’s just to hide all of the bits you had in the garage before converting it!
You will want to use your workshop year-round, so a heater is essential. If the space is cold and damp glues and paints just won’t dry, and also you will be less likely to want to spend the day in the workshop in the middle of winter.
A flammable cabinet, large or small is important in any workshop. No doubt there will be some form of white spirit or paints. Make sure you place this in a ventilated area, not near the heaters or blocking an entrance (just in case!)
Keep small items organised and labelled in a pigeonhole unit. These are great to keep different items and uses together and to keep the place tidy and things easy to find. Whether it is screws or spools or thread they really can be used for any items.
Some kind of notice board or place to pin and write notes up is important. The phone number for a supplier, last order dates, or even just the local takeaway menu. I find myself scribbling on my actual workbench or scraps of paper everywhere whereas an actual note board would be much harder to then lose!
A toolbox for your most used essential tools is vital, you can carry this around the workshop with you, take on location, keep under your bed at night… that collection of tools will become very precious!
Dominic has been working with BiGDUG to encourage the public to transform their empty garage spaces into fully fledged workshops this Spring – prices start from £43.99 www.BiGDUG.co.uk/workshop-workbenches-c348