Have you recently gotten an itch to start a hobby into woodworking? Perhaps you have watched some YouTube videos or attended a craft show recently and become inspired to learn how to make things from wood. If the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, you probably began researching the needed tools and then realized some of these items can take up a significant amount of space!
Can I do woodworking in a storage unit? Yes, it is possible for you to do woodworking in a storage unit if your lease allows it. However, there are several things you should consider before doing so. We will cover these items in this article.
Type of Woodworking
Before making any tool purchases or finding a space to rent, the first thing you should decide is what type of woodworking you are interested in getting in to. There are numerous options available, and this decision will ultimately determine what tools you will need as well as how much space will be required.
If you are just beginning to learn woodworking, perhaps one option is to learn the basics of a sector of woodworking that primarily requires the use of hand tools. The positive to this is that it will require a much smaller setup. As you practice and gain experience, perhaps your space limitations will have changed and you will have the space to take on larger tools and expand into other areas of woodworking.
A survey conducted by Sparefoot.com reveled that approximately 20% of storage unit renters, use their unit as a means for work or to practice a hobby. However, before engaging any in type of activities beyond the actual storing or items, it is highly important that you review the terms of your lease and possibly talk to the manager over the facility.
The activities that are or are not allowed within a storage unit are not always put in place by the company you are renting from. Many times, there are laws put in place by the state or local municipalities that dictate what you can or cannot do within the unit.
It is very common for federal, state or local laws to be in place that make it illegal to store petroleum or gasoline, anything that can be corrosive, or anything that gives off dangerous fumes.
In addition to these laws, a storage manager may limit what is allowed in their units. It is high recommended that you speak to the property manager should you be renting the property with the intent to operate power tools, conduct sales from your unit or make any changes to the electrical layout that is currently in place.
Other Potential Problems
Outside of the laws and property manager’s rules within the lease, there are other things that need to be considered before attempting to setup your workshop in a storage unit.
Lack of power – Most people do not realize that many storage units do not have power supplied to the actual units. There may be plugs in the hallway or outside, but many times there are none in the unit itself. It is unlikely a storage manager will allow you to run extension cords to your shop in order to operate your tools. If outlets are present your unit, it is important to not overload the circuit. Doing so could lead to an electrical fire.
Ventilation – Working in an area without adequate ventilation can cause a serious health hazard for not only yourself; but those around you. This includes paints and stains that you may want to store in your unit, as well as saw dust from cutting wood.
Dust Collection – you will not win any “tenant of the month” awards if you are cutting wood in your unit and allowing saw dust to spread from your unit to others. This will be a quick way to get your lease canceled. The dangers of not having dust collection in place goes much further than just having a shop vac. The tiny wood dust particles that you can’t see are some of the most dangerous. For a excellent, budget friendly air filtration system, check out my article here.
Lack of space (and cost per foot) – Even if you find a storage unit that will allow you to do woodworking, there’s a chance it still won’t be enough room for you. On top of that, it may become cost prohibitive as well. In some of the larger cities in the US, it’s difficult to find a 10×10 unit (100 square feet) that is available for rent. The space in a 10×10 will disappear quickly once you start laying your tools out and bring in your pieces of wood.
The average cost per foot varies significantly around the United States. Below is an idea of the cost of a 10×10 unit in various parts of the country.
|City||Cost||Price per Foot||Annual Cost|
|New York City||$391||$3.90||$4,692|
Even though it may be difficult to find a storage unit you can rent that will allow you to practice your woodworking hobby; there are some alternatives that may be better and cheaper than doing it in a storage unit.
Rent someone’s detached garage – Put an ad on Craigslist list asking to rent someone’s detached garage. This may be more popular in neighborhoods where there is are older residents who may not be using all of their garage space. Many people would love the idea of having the extra income that their empty garage could bring in. It also might be worthwhile to drive through some neighborhoods and look for people with detached garages and leave a simple note on their door describing what you are looking for.
Hackerspaces – These facilities can go by different names, but they are growing in popularity especially in major cities. Hackerspacers are community areas that have different tools that allow people to come in and work on their hobbies or crafts. The tool offering in these setups can vary from Woodworking to 3D printers and other setups. This would also be a good way to go about trying out different tools before actually purchasing them. There are usually membership costs to join and it’s common for their to be tiers that get you different levels of access.
Colleges – Another option is to look at your local colleges. Many times they offer woodworking courses thus requirement them to have a wood shop. Some offer access to these shops to the general public. I’ve even heard where some people sign up to take a woodworking course solely to get access to the workshops.
Local Woodworking Clubs – Most areas of the country have local or regional woodworking clubs. It wouldn’t hurt to reach out to these clubs to see if they know of any local workshops that offer availability to the public. There’s also a chance that if you join the club, a fellow woodworker would invite you over and lend some of their experience to someone just starting out.
Renting condo with an optional garage – If you looking to rent an apartment or condo, try to find one that has optional garages available for rent as well. This option makes it more convenient because your tools are located at your residence, and it’s likely to be cheaper than renting a storage unit.
Small Space Woodworking
Not all types of woodworking require large machinery setups. It’s possible to some types of woodworking on the kitchen table of your home. Below is a list of some of the common types of woodworking. Everything in this list can be done while sitting at a kitchen table. Storage for these items are easy too, and most should fit in the bottom of a small closet.
Carving – Tools needed for this are chisels, mallets, sharpening stone and sandpaper. Material used for this is typically smaller blocks of wood. Surprisingly, learning how to wood carve is not as difficult as you may assume. Here’s an article I wrote that covers it.
Wood burning (Pyrography) – Pyrography pens and tips. Typically, small pieces of wood is used for this. This is a very affordable type of woodworking to get started in. Here’s an excellent beginner set to get started with.
Small Wood turning – By purchasing a small wood lathe, you could begin make wooden bowls, pens and table legs. A basic version of a small lathe can be found starting about about $150 and up. This option would require a vacuum and some at least basic form of dust collection.
Basic Sign making – One of the most popular trends in woodworking right now is the use of barn wood to make signs, however, any wood can be used to do this. Most common tools for this would include paints, brushes and perhaps a hand saw to cut boards down to size. Though more equipment and space is required, you can also look into getting vinyl cutting machines and apply those to signs rather than painting.
If you really want to dive into the sign making world, you can look at buying or building a tabletop CNC machine. These machines can be purchased in varying sizes that allow you to easily fit them onto a table top in a small area. I wrote an in depth article on CNC machines and how much I enjoy mine here.
The question of whether or not you can do woodworking in a storage unit really comes down to the terms of your lease. The likelihood of a storage unit manager allowing it is rather limited and having the necessary ventilation and electrical systems in place reduces the chances of this option even further.
Fortunately, in today’s world there are far more options available to those entering the woodworking industry that in years past. There are entry level tools that allow people to do their hobby in very small spaces. The recent increase in popularity of Hackerspaces also provides more opportunities for people to enter into this awesome hobby.