Shop Tour: Mike Pekovich, Part I

Mike Pekovich’s shop is a model of both woodworking and building efficiency. More than just the Art Director for Fine Woodworking, Mike is one of the most productive and efficient woodworkers I know. His shop, in the detached two-car garage behind his suburban Connecticut home, it the front-line tool in his efficient work.

The Pekovich Workshop
You first realize that there’s something special about Mike’s shop even before you enter. As part of his 2011 total shop renovation Mike built new, insulated doors from scratch. In one garage bay opening, he made traditional barn doors. In the other he made fixed panels to narrow the width and then set a standard, insulated exterior door between the panels. The custom doors and panels were built utilizing wood frames filled with polyisocyanurate insulation and skinned with plywood. The outside of the doors are trimmed in a traditional arts and crafts door pattern.

The work Mike did on his doors is representative of the entire shop. Between his CMU block exterior and 1/2” drywall interior, Mike has built the walls with 2”x3” and 2”x4” framing, filled in with a double layers of 11/2” polyisocyanurate insulation. This gets his walls to about R-20. When combined with the insulated ceiling and floor the well insulated walls allow a simple propane heater and window air conditioner to keep the shop toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.

Looking down the table saw at the outfeed table and planer.
Within the shop Mike’s big equipment - his jointer, planer and table saw - make up an island in the center. Each tool is arranged to provide optimal infeed and outfeed space without interfering with the adjoining tools. A small dust collector fits between them to capture most of the dust coming off the jointer and planer.

A workbench completes the island. This is Mike’s secondary bench. It serves as a table saw outfeed table, assembly bench and auxiliary workbench. Mike is really fond of this arrangement, and I must say I agree. Given my small shop space, I’m going to have to make my outfeed table serve double (or triple) duty too.

Chisels at the ready, and natural light abounding,
there's work to do on the workbench.
The walls of Mike’s shop are lined with benches and countertops. When you first walk in the passage door, Mike’s main, custom made workbench is on the right. It’s a little bit sorter than most at 60 inches, but it fits the space nicely and serves as sturdy work holding platform (even if Mike would like to upgrade the vises). Above his bench is the custom tool cabinet. A clamp rack fills the final bit of wall space between the tool cabinet and the inside corner.

Continuing in a counter-clockwise path around the edge of the shop to the back wall, you’ll next encounter a bank of drawers capped with a countertop which rests in the corner. The counter holds his oscillating spindle sander and Tormek. It serves as the sharpening station. A small wall cabinet above the counter holds the sharpening supplies.

The sharpening bench.
Next up along the the back wall are Mike’s hollow chisel mortiser and his new pride and joy - the propane heater. Having worked out of a cold shop myself, I can fully appreciate the value of that heater and why Mike is so fond of it.

You can't be productive if you're cold.
A good heater is critical during Connecticut winters.
The final wall (before we get to the front wall made up of doors) houses another bench. This one holds Mike’s vintage Buffalo drill press, his belt/disc sander and his miter saw.

Mike's Buffalo drill press is awesome - and older than I am.
Along the final, front wall the bandsaw lives between the door openings.

A new and awesome bandsaw.
When we toured Mike’s shop in Feburary of 2012 he was working on a cabinet project. You can imagine how quickly large plywood carcasses will fill up a shop that’s already stuffed with equipment as Mike’s is. But that’s ok. What’s a great shop for if not for filling with tools and projects?

Some of the cabinets Mike was working on when we visited.
You'll find out more about Mike's shop in Part's II & III, so stay tuned.