The Glass Workshop

Glass StudioSomeone recently asked about advice for setting up a glass workshop. My work space was more of an evolution than a thought out plan. In fact, when I first started doing stained glass, my “workshop” was a plywood board on two saw horses in the breezeway between our house and garage. That changed the day I was cleaning up after a day of leading glass and saw a big snake coiled up under my table. After that I insisted on space in the garage!

My husband will say that my workspace is like a fungus. It keeps growing and taking over more and more of the garage. It’s a good thing he loves me! What started out as a work table and a few shelves in the garage has evolved into a pretty functional work space. Yes, I’d love more space, who wouldn’t, but all in all it works quite well. The picture above is an overview of the space. I have included several more pictures at the end of this post.

My workspace is a combination of shelves, old re-purposed furniture pieces, and work carts that my husband built. The sandblaster sits on top of an old computer desk. A mid-century modern book case holds molds. An Ikea unit, from my daughter’s college days stores frits. Wooden boxes fit on the shelves and make it very easy to move the frits to my work table. Then there are wheels, wheels, and more wheels! The tile saw and wet belt sander are on carts with wheels. They roll to wherever I need them to work on and store out of the way when I don’t. They all have shelves under them to hold whatever needs to go along with these tools. The rolling cart at the end of my table was supposed to be thrown out. But it has been sitting there and come in quite handy when I need to quickly clear my table to cut a large sheet of glass. My husband also built the glass storage unit. Knowing what I know now, I would make a few tweaks to this. The bottom shelf area needs to be high enough to store a half sheet of glass and I would make more space for full size sheets. It is on wheels but can’t be moved when fully loaded. We recently moved it to make room for the frit storage unit and only had to take off about half of the glass to move it.

The heart of the space is my work table. At 36.5” it is just the right height for me to comfortably cut glass and build glass panels. It has a plywood top that was screwed down. The idea was when it gets bad enough it can come off and a new sheet of plywood screwed down. It has shelves underneath which stores kiln shelves, lead and tools. I have small baskets that keep tools and items separated by function: cutting, leading, soldering, puttying. I have a second table that is a dedicated glass cutting area. It is an old folding table that is raised up on wood blocks. It also holds my very first baby kiln.

Here is what it boils down to:

  • You need as much table surface as you can get. Particularly if you work with stained glass and/or work several projects at the same time.
  • Shelves, shelves and more shelves. Can’t have enough of them. I definitely need more of these for my growing mold collection.
  • If you don’t have dedicated space for equipment, put what you can on wheels.
  • Good lighting is a must. I have several reflector lights including one on a pole with a cement base that I move around to wherever I need it.
  • If you are lucky enough to be setting up your workspace from the ground up, get lots of electrical outlets on separate circuits. If I could I would put each kiln on a separate circuit and then have two more circuits. Can’t tell you how many times I have thrown the circuit breaker when I am using the heater or air conditioner in the garage.

I’d be happy to answer any specific questions if you leave a comment.

9 thoughts on “The Glass Workshop

  1. Tom says:

    I always love seeing how other people have set up their studio and how they try to make the best use out of the space they have. Thank you for sharing all that as well as the photos. Definitely gives me some nice ideas! 🙂

  2. Gale says:

    awesome set up. I am lucky to have a room in the house (warm!) fit cutting and glass storage. The kiln and coldwork gets done in the garage. I definitely need more shelves also. Would love another kiln to! Thanks for sharing your shop with us.

  3. Lesley says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have a much smaller space and your post gives me great ideas for when we move to someone where I can have a proper workshop.

  4. Jo says:

    HI Margot, your space is a dream! Can I ask what kind of sandblaster do you have, I can see it on the right side of your photo, I am looking for a small one like yours.

    • Margot says:

      The sandblaster is by Cyclone. I have to say that I am not totally in love with it. The sand does not feed down well. I have to stop every so often and use a spatula to push the sand down to the bottom of the cabinet. A real pain.

  5. Cathy says:

    Hello. I’m building a workbench. Although you give the height of your bench, please could you also indicate the height in relation to you. Is it at waist level for example?

    • Margot says:

      I am 5′ 6″ tall. It is definitely lower than my waist. I really think it is an individual preference on table height. My criteria was that I wanted it low enough that when I cut glass my arm is positioned at an angle to have control of downward pressure. If the table is too high my arm is level to the table and cutting glass becomes difficult. On the other hand, you don’t want it so low that you are hunched over all the time when constructing things. The only time I wish my table was lower is when I am cutting a large full sheet of glass. I sometimes get on a low step stool for that.

  6. Kim Gordon says:

    Thanks for your sharing – helpful. I’m making plans now for glass fusion workshop and someday may do stained glass. Good advice. Is your space “about” the size of a 2 car garage? I have stand alone option or attached to house option – trying to decide. Thanks, Kim

    • Margot says:

      My space is in a two car garage but it is over sized – several feet longer and wider. So while there is still room for me to park my car, I pretty much take up the rest of the space. Someday, I may decide not to park my car in the space. Seems like I always need just a little more space. Personally I prefer the stand alone option as long as it is not two far away from the house since you will probably be going out to check on firing progress often. I guess it depends on where you live, but I love having the workshop open and getting the natural light. Having a large 2 car garage door also makes it easy to move equipment in and out (saws, belt sander, etc.) If possible have running water. I miss that. If I could create a space from scratch I would also have a work sink with a drain out to back somewhere; not into the sewer.

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