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In response to my Show us your shop! piece (which is a contest, BTW), Jeff Duntemann posted a link to an amazing article filled with great tips on setting up a shop. One of the smartest articles I’ve seen on the subject. Below is an excerpt about power outlets, followed by a picture of a shelf with cut milk cartoon bins. What a great idea!

You Can’t Have Too Many Electric Outlets

If you’re going to work in electronics, you’re going to need electricity. Duhh. Actually, you’re going to have a whole wall full of gadgets, all of which need their own place at the electron trough. On my bench I have (at last count) thirty-three separate devices with 110V cords. Fortunately, I don’t need all of them on at once–and if I did, I’d need fifty amp service, which I don’t have in that part of the house.

What I do have is dedicated 30 amp service to a 16-foot-long “plugmold” strip on the wall just above the benchtop. The plugmold has its own breaker in the service box, and an outlet every twelve inches, for a total of fifteen outlets. Everything that I use regularly is plugged into the plugmold: Soldering station, oscilloscope, signal generator, high-voltage DC supply, 12V DC supply, audio generator, frequency counter, drill press, belt sander, and Dremel tool. My ham station is housed on a separate Melamine particle board shelf unit that itself has two short plugmolds, one for each shelf. The whole station is plugged into one outlet on the master plugmold. This works well because the way I operate, I rarely have more than one radio turned on at a time, except for the modern 2M mobile, which is on squelch most of the time and draws very little power.

I deliberately did not put a plugmold on the wall behind my short bench, because it has a sink and I did not intend to use it for electrical work. There are outlets on the wall, but they are all GFI equipped, as they must be to pass code.

I didn’t put 220V in the shop, because I really don’t use anything big enough to require it down there. I have 220V in the garage for my lathe, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever had that needs that kind of power.

If you’re a computer guy designing a shop, consider putting network cabling in, at least so that you can have a small computer or laptop somewhere to look things up on the Web when you need them. I arranged it so that the terminus of all the CAT5E running throuough the house is in the shop, along with my cable modem. I built a Melamine board shelf to hold cable modem, router, and a spare computer, as well as my homebrew vacuum-tube stereo amplifier.

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Jeff Duntemann’s Shop Tips

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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