Today we’re talking to Stephen Watson from Stephen’s 8×6 Workshop in the United Kingdom. Despite the small size, his 8 ft by 6 ft (2.4m by 1.8m) woodshop doesn’t restrict his woodworking at all thanks to some ingenious organizational strategies and careful planning.
Check out the full interview below, and be sure to visit the Stephen’s 8×6 Workshop YouTube channel for build videos and more!
What do you make? What do you consider your best or favorite work?
I predominantly make turned wooden items (bowls, platters, decorative objects) but also other woodworking and non-woodworking projects.
My favourite work is not necessarily my best work or the most technically challenging, but it’s the ‘Bowl of Sunshine’. It just clicks.
How long have you been doing your craft? Who taught you or where did you learn?
I have been playing with wood since my dad bought me a woodworking set when I was nine years old. It had real tools (not plastic) and my mother expressed her concern that I might cut myself badly. My dad told her not to worry and that I would only do that once. He was right, once was enough to teach me to respect sharp tools and always keep both hands behind the blade!
Old Mr Davis, the secondary school woodwork teacher, went out of his way to tutor those students who expressed an effort in learning. He was well past retirement age but he knew his stuff and how to teach it.
Thanks to him I can still put a keen edge on a chisel by hand. This was decades ago when there was no gleaning instant knowledge available via the internet so information from magazines and discussions at the local woodworking or woodturning club was the norm.
Once you have a basic skill set for the standard range of tools that you use for your hobby the only restriction is your own imagination and creativity.
Tell us about your tiny workshop
The actual building is a little under 9ftx7ft but inside, when you take into account the brick, insulation and plywood lining, it is slightly under 8ft by 6ft hence the name 8×6 workshop. It is situated at the bottom of my small garden and has been in use as a workshop since I renovated the building in 2016. Before that I used the back of the kitchen as my work area which was very restrictive.
I had big plans and the desire to acquire larger machines but originally considered the mere 42 square feet of workshop space a disadvantage but with some careful planning and stealing a few ideas from the tiny homes movement I began to realise it was possible to have a workable space in such a small area.
It then became a challenge and, since it’s conception, has continually morphed and organically grown into the layout it is today. I suspect as my needs change, it will continue to change and adapt so using French cleats to hang everything on the walls allows me to totally re-arrange as required.
You should never feel the lack of space is restrictive.
What tools are most important to your work?
Everyone’s goals are different but for my work the most important tools would be, starting with the essentials, a lathe with a range of turning chisels and essential accessories (chuck, drive centres etc).
Key lathe features which will allow you to express your creativity are electronic speed control, a standard headstock thread suitable for many fittings and a depth of swing no less 150mm as this will allow work with a diameter of up to 30cm. All of this is achievable on most mid-sized lathes.
Another essential requirement is a method of sharpening for the tools I use. After that I need my table saw and bandsaw in order to process the wood to get it ready for the lathe, plus a basic set of woodworking tools for joinery work. The rest has grown as a need was recognised.
Any advice for beginners to your craft?
Don’t be drawn by the range of specialist tools. A lot can be done with just a basic set of hand tools, power drill, saw, a few homemade jigs and a little imagination. After a while you will soon know if a specialist tool would be worth the investment.
Even if you are on a budget don’t buy cheap! Supermarket brands may be tempting but a tool from a reputable maker is a worthwhile investment if you are serious about the hobby. If you decide it’s not for you it will still have value and can be given away or sold to recover some of your money back.
Before you start buying, put the word out amongst friends and family that you are looking for tools and it can be surprising who is sitting on equipment they inherited from their parents or grandparents and they may be more than willing to let you have them. Old hand tools are well made and it would be good practice for you to learn the skill of putting an essential sharp edge on that plane, chisel, saw etc.
Other sources are car boot sales, charity shops and antique dealers. It’s surprising what you can pick up and this is where most of my hand tools came from. As you develop and your knowledge grows you will be able to form better judgement on what machines and specialist equipment would be right for you.
Finally, imagine, design and make what you desire and let the passion grow how you want it to. It’s your hobby so you don’t have to reach the expectations of others. Start making, prime the pump and see how it develops. After all Mozart didn’t sit at the piano and wait for inspiration to come, he randomly started slamming keys until something twigged which then developed into a beautiful symphony.
Once you start flexing that creativity muscle you will have more ideas and concepts than you can possibly keep up with. It does not matter if your passion is for woodwork, metalwork, pottery, sewing, pyrography, video making, story telling. It’s addictive and size definitely does not matter.
Who or what inspires you?
The turning basics series of videos by YouTuber Mike Waldt gave me the essential skills for working on the lathe with inspiration coming from the antics of Jim Overton and Martin Saban Smith both also of YouTube fame.
But inspiration can come from anywhere. A walk in the park, an old photograph, another piece of artwork that sparks an idea, it’s just a case of looking with an open and enquiring mind.
Anything else to share?
The inspiration for the humour in the video’s I create for my YouTube channel is drawn from the antics of Wallace and Gromit or Tom and Jerry but with a woodworking angle applied. Anything in life I experience can be thrown into the mix. Every video tells a story and there are no rules.
More woodworking Tiny Workshops interviews
Henry Neville infuses narrative into his detailed wood carvings to give them a mysterious, other-worldly feel.
Dominic’s years of experience helped him make the right tool choices for his return to woodworking.
Stephen’s small 8 ft by 6 ft workshop doesn’t restrict his woodworking thanks to some ingenious organizational strategies and careful planning.