Furnishing a shop on short notice

Hypothetically (or not so hypothetically), let’s say that your team was gifted a new workspace that gives you additional room. It’s a great opportunity and you can take most of your tools and toolboxes but not the furniture or computers.

Your team has 30 people on it plus several mentors.

  1. What are your priorities?

  2. What other things would be nice to have but can wait?

  3. How do you raise the funds for this or get it donated on short notice?

I think it would be for (1) workbenches and chairs, plus shelving, computers and anything needed for safety
For (2) a fridge
For (3) Lowes no longer does open grants and Home Depot seems to have steered there grant program towards veterans. Are there any FIRST-friendly national chains that one might approach for donations or deep discounts on stuff like this?

Any thoughts?

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  1. Tables and chairs, shelves (preferably collapsible ones that can be brought to competitions), a projector or TV to go over meeting plans, and some laptops
  2. Good desktop computers for CAD
  3. I would reach out to local furniture stores to see if we can get any in kind donations, and reach out to parents for old furniture. Or go to Goodwill and get some crusty office chairs for $5 each if it comes down to it.


  • A big workbench where the robot lives
  • Smaller workbenches where projects can be done
  • A no-power-tool space for six people (CAD, programming, business, etc)
  • Cart parking
  • Shelves for parts
  • Organizers for those shelves–I like Sterilite shoeboxes for big things and Plano tackle boxes for loose hardware, though there are many valid answers here. The big thing is to standardize on them.

Nice to have:

  • Fridge
  • Boombox

Getting it cheaply:

  • Walmart sells Plano boxes for cheap ($3-4 each) and does local grants. Harbor Freight does grants. State surplus warehouses have leftover parts that may be suitable, if you don’t mind the paperwork. Amazon wishlists and DonorsChoose for the rest.
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I’m pretty close to @Billfred on this. Dedicated spaces for different kinds of work is (assuming square footage is available, but few dollars) is at the top of the list. Once you get past that and are looking at tools:

  1. Hand tools. wrenches, drivers, pliers, allen wrenches. Spend a couple hundred dollars here as a first pass.
  2. Electrical tools, wire, pins, and housings necessary to cut and crimp #6 to #22 wire, including SB-50’s, Anderson Power Poles, Automotive terminals, and Dupont 0.1" connectors. You should be able to do all of this for a few hundreds of dollars.
  3. A solid drill press, vise, and bits. Again, a few hundred dollars. Personally, I’d also add some 0.1" perfboard because it is so awesome unless you’ve come up with enough money for a serious x-y table for your drill press.
  4. Cutting aluminum stock repeatably. A horizontal bandsaw takes up a bunch of room, but is really the right solution. A chop saw is great for wood, but terrrible for aluminum unless everything is clamped down extremely tight. A portable bandsaw is better, but still an exercise in personal stability.

You should be able to get through #1 to #3 for under $2,000, and be better off than my FRC team was for its first four or five years.

The next few hundred dollars should be spent on devices to bend and shape metals, and/or to 3d print parts.

Not too much after this, you move into the tools which cost thousands of dollars which can do truly awesome things, but where I am not your guide.

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Thanks. These are some good suggestions. Hypothetical team has a decent collection of tools and parts that are organized at this point, so I am mostly wondering about actual furniture and other things a workspace would need if it isn’t physically at a school where if you need something you can probably borrow it from another room or find it someplace.

Get the best Ridgid brand wet-dry vac (shop vac) and a bunch of shelves. I like the Whalen brand ones from Costco.

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My priorities that I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

  • Storage cabinet for flammables
  • Anti-fatigue mats
  • One bookshelf designated as the “Library” (here goes tool manuals and other assets)
  • Lighting lighting lighting
  • One surface that is OK to decorate with all the free stickers we get

House compressed air piping, with 40 gallons or more of storage, would be a nice-to-have.


What size do you like for these things?

This is actually what we use (except we use the Harbor Freight part storage containers instead of plano ones). We are planning to build a rolling rack for ours so that we can just roll all of our parts into the trailer to go with the Pit. In fast we are trying to get all of our important tools portable so that we can just roll everything on/off the trailer and take 5 minutes to set up the pit instead of an hour.

Actually, we have that vac. It’s nice. And we finally got a Costco nearby about a month ago.

I took that for granted, but yeah that is super-important to check on!

While this straddles the line between shop and pit furnishing, building a combination rolling rack and work table was the best thing 1293 did last off-season.

1293, notorious for overbuilding, has taken a beefy 4’x8’ work table through two moves. They used to have two before the most recent move, when I pointed out that about 1.5 of those tables were really just serving as bad storage containers and pushed for the aforementioned pit cart. If I were to build out a new one from scratch, I’d probably go 4’x6’.

For smaller projects, our pit cart dimensions have been promising. It’s 8’x2’(ish) of usable space, and that lets two people work comfortably at it. Three in a pinch.

We’ve also bought a 6’ fold-in-half table and a couple chairs to form the start of our no-power-tool space, which will be in the lightly-traveled hallway just outside the shop. The fold-in-half design makes it much more portable than a traditional folding table, and the impermanence encourages things to be put away at the end of the night.

Given our student sizes (8th-12th grades):

  • 34-36" tall
  • ~22" deep if built against a wall
  • ~30" wide (x any length) if built as an island

I use unfinished solid-core doors for workbench tops. They often can be found at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for ~$20 ea.

Later in life, if they start to get ratty, I may resurface them with an additional lamination of hardwood plywood or tempered hardboard. (In our shop it’s permissable to write on workbench tops, drill into them, use them as cutting surfaces, etc.)