Ultimate Small Shop Review – is this guide by Ralph Chapman really worth the money? Is it a scam or does it really work? In today’s review we will be answering all your questions regarding the course.
The Ultimate Small Shop e-book from Ralph Chapman is primarily aimed at woodworkers planning on setting up their own workshops. Lack of enough space and a limited budget—these are the two factors that weigh the most on those who are starting out. And these are the areas that Ralph’s book concentrates the most on.
In short, if you want to find out how to build a fully operative woodworking shop on a tiny budget and within a small space, this book provides all the answers. There is actually lot more to this wonderfully inclusive and comprehensive guide and even professional woodworkers stand to benefit from many different sections of the book and the information contained therein.
So, let’s delve deeper into what this Small Shop guide is about and what are the information contained there that can be of help to you.
Ultimate Small Shop Review
First of all, the book wants starting woodworkers to sidestep many of the common pitfalls that are generic to the industry. These include improper tool selection; buying tools that will be of little purpose to you for the time being; buying from the RIGHT PLACES so you can grab top-quality tools but still at highly discounted prices; not to get duped by those scores of ‘best table saw’ reviews and the like that you’ll find all over the internet (and bear it in mind, too, that you can be similarly mislaid by ‘sponsored reviews’ printed on exclusive woodworking magazines).
In short, there are lots of ‘scams’ and unscrupulous practices out there and you would be better off to stay as far away from them as you can!
And what actually lends high credence to these discussions of Ralph is the fact that he himself has been the victim of such practices at various occasions. With time however, he has wised up to them and you can benefit directly from his own experience.
As for building a workshop within a small space, this again is something that Ralph relates from first-hand experience. The thing is although Ralph has been working as a professional woodworker for over 25 years, he suffered a major financial setback in 2008 (surely you remember that year?) and which made him shift to a smaller property. Accordingly, he had to set up his woodworking shop all anew but in a much smaller space compared to his previous workshop. As such, he got to understand better the aspect of space management.
So, that is a bit of back story for you that will help you understand why and how Ralph has been able to share such a wealth of useful information in his book.
Ultimate Book Shop: What Is Included?
This 246-page book is divided into six modules or sections. These are:
– Tool Selection
– Space Selection
– Shop Layouts
– Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Dust & Drying
– Electricity, Lighting & Soundproofing
– Safety Tips
This section contains plentiful valuable information and both beginners and working professionals will benefit from the advice, tips and instructions Ralph has shared here.
Let’s take the example of ‘bad tools’. Ralph makes no bones about naming right out the models that, in his opinion, are poorly manufactured but often overhyped courtesy the money spent on marketing and branding efforts. A few of the tools he advises to stay away from at all costs include the Harbor Freight 6″ Jointer, Ryobi Detail Sander and Delta 31- 225x Drum Sander. This is pretty bold of Ralph and we really appreciate this effort on his part since you can see that all the three models named above come from well-known manufacturers in the industry and by directly naming these models, he is potentially making himself vulnerable to getting sued.
He also puts great emphasis on selection of the ‘right tools’. What are the tools you should buy with a $500 budget? And what will be your selection if the budget is a $1,000? Ralph maintains that, selected wisely, the tools in both cases will be adequate for a majority of the common requirements of a small wood shop.
He provides his own shopping list of personal hand tools as well as of power tools. However, he also mentions and puts great emphasis on the fact that you can do a lot of wonderful jobs with hand tools alone and you need not necessarily go for a bandsaw or a chopsaw or drill press if your current budget does not permit it.
This, in our opinion, is one of the most wonderful parts of the book where Ralph discusses how you can compensate for the lack of power tools with the help of hand tools alone.
This module contains detailed information on how to choose the proper space to set up your workshop. As mentioned earlier, Ralph firmly maintains that a smaller space is no hindrance to build a fully operative woodworking shop. His own shop, he reveals, is built on a 10X10 feet area and you can build one in an 8X8 as well. So, no matter whether it is your garage, attic, basement or some other corner of your apartment, the place can be suitable for a small woodworking shop. You’ll find many illustrations as well as snapshots of Ralph’s own working space that amply support his claim.
However, this does not mean that just any spare room or space is suitable for setting up your shop. You’ll need to consider electricity outlet, proper ventilation, and other factors to zero in on the right space.
After tool and space selection, comes the crucial bit of Space Layout. How to draw maximum benefit off the space available? How to arrange the different tools in the different cabinets and storage units so you’ll always have the most necessary tools handy? Where to place the tablesaw in relation to the workbench? How to set the right workbench height so it can also work as a tablesaw outfeed support?
You’ll find answers to all these questions and many more from the instructions, illustrations, diagrams and photos included in this section.
Heating, Cooling, Ventilation
Any woodworker knows that using all the various tools often lead to some common issues that are inconvenient for the worker. So, in this section, you get to learn about proper heating and cooling methods to adopt for your workshop; the right equipments to buy; ways to maintain clean air even during high workflow or when there is not enough ventilation; and many such other highly useful information.
Electricity, Lighting, Soundproofing
This module is devoted to the important factors of lighting, electricity and methods of soundproofing your workshop. These are all tricky subjects, but you’ll again benefit from the meticulous, step-by-step instructions provided by Ralph.
Finally, when you are working at a woodworking shop, you are dealing with a lot of machines. Power tools, of course, but even hand tools can sometimes lead to major or minor injuries. The safety tips Ralph provides will help you avoid or minimize the chances of suffering any such injuries at your workshop.
You get two bonus materials with this guide:
The Workshop Cheat List: This list is a hugely valuable resource as it provides a complete list of suppliers from whom you can buy your tools and lumber at high discounts.
Deal Alert Service: This is another nice and free lifetime service provided by Ralph. The Deal Alert notifies you every time some supplier is offering lucrative (i.e. highly discounted) deals on various useful woodworking tools.
What Do We Like About the Ultimate Small Shop
Besides the detailed instructions and all the valuable information the book contains, we love the simple, clear, easy-to-understand and overall tasteful representation of the book. The book never looks like a jumble of materials patched together in a hurry. Even so, what impressed us most is the way the book sounds ‘true’. In other words, the author seems to have given his best efforts to make the book useful to all woodworkers, regardless of their degree of skill. For example, in the Tool Selection section, he has revealed a number of methods aka tricks that will help increase the longevity of your tools (the tricks that manufacturers never disclose).
Also, he feels no hesitation in mentioning that big stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot or Amazon are not the ideal places to buy your tools. Apart from the list of suppliers and deal alerts provided in the bonus section, the author maintains that there is one woodworking tools supplier from where you can get as much as 70% DISCOUNTS on many of the major tools. This secret is revealed on page 89 of the book.
He is equally frank about taking to task those manufacturers who outsource the construction of the tools (read Chinese tools!) and then spend the saved money on branding and marketing efforts.
And finally, the guide is available at a HIGHLY AFFORDABLE PRICE of $39 and comes with a 60 days Money back Guarantee as well. From the extensive discount lists provided in the book, we would assume that you’ll get the price back possibly from the purchase of a single tool alone!
Pros & Cons
Simple, straight-forward presentation with neatly divided sections
A highly valuable resource for availing tools from the right places and at huge discounts
Full of useful advice, strategies, instructions and maintenance tricks
Since we’ve become so used to audiovisual resources these days, a collection of video lessons would possibly have enriched the guide
No option to obtain a physical copy of the book
A great all-inclusive and resource-rich book to set up your own woodworking shop, small or large. Strongly recommended.
Elizabeth Sparks received a Masters Degree in geology from The University of Colorado. Elizabeth has been working as a full-time geologist for the past 5 years. In her spare time, Elizabeth participates in rock climbing competitions and frequently goes camping with friends.