Tool storage design

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Blog entry by Don Butler posted 06-30-2010 03:09 PM 2372 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s so easy and seems to work so well at first, but tool storage shouldn’t be a “shoot from the hip” project

Believe me, I’m one of the worst offenders!
At first I hung tools on the walls on nails and screws.
Easy, quick, yes, but as the tool inventory grew, as it must, that ceased to be useful

Drawers always seemed to be a good way to store things, and I have many drawers, but what’s in them? Clutter and dust.
How can a closed drawer accumulate sawdust?
I thought my central DC would eliminate most of the dust.
But then I forgot, not putting a lot of forethought into the problem, that there are some operations for which the DC didn’t work as well. Breaking down sheet goods with a circular saw, for just one example.
So, somehow, some of that dust gets over to the drawers and when I pull one open, ahh, dust.
And the clutter, of course.
I might have designed each drawer with special fitted compartments so each tool would have a specific place.
But then, I ‘d have to have even many more drawers, huh?

Another mistake I made in designing tools storage was my router bit tray. I didn’t want to put them AWAY away (not handy to the work), so I built the tray as a slanted shelf on the nearby wall.
So what was wrong with the design? It seemed to be a good arrangement.
Until I started loading bits into it. The I discovered that a half inch bit with a half inch shank would fall right through a half inch hole. Argghh. Start over dummy, and this time make sure the straight bit holes would have bottoms.

Having the accessory tools for the table saw near the table saw sounded like a good idea, too.
But, once again, the inventory grew and it was increasingly difficult to have everything close at hand.
You see, I like sleds and jigs and I make quite a few, each having a specific purpose. But they aren’t like Allen wrenches or screwdrivers. They’re clunky and oddly shaped. They need a special means of storage.
The only thing left to do, short of storing them in another room on shelves, seemed to be UP. Hang them overhead, said I, high enough to be out of the way and low enough to be accessible.

How’s that going, you may ask?
Well, it’s a work in progress.
I had a problem with the roof last winter and some of the ceiling had to be taken down, so all that arrangement is being redesigned.

We’ll see what we shall see.

And then there are the clamps.

Let’s talk about that another time, shall we?

As a designer of tool storage, I’m still on the first, steepest part of the learning curve.

Best regards,


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

16 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4170 days

#1 posted 06-30-2010 03:38 PM

I think you just pull every woodworkers nightmare out of the tall hat
I can´t help you with it my shop is one big mess looking like a hurricane had been there
but with this forum of 20000 thousend woodworkers and designers there shuold be
a cupple with some interressting idea´s
I will follow this blog to see whats coming up
thanks Don for bringing it up


View BobG's profile


172 posts in 4016 days

#2 posted 06-30-2010 04:02 PM

Don you are a man, after my, “sympathy”! I know exactly how you are just agonizing over the problem! When you get it solved let me be the first to invite you over for some shared advice and some beer. I’ll give you all the beer you want for all the advice you care to share. Of course no power tools after the first beer is opened!

My shop is a true mess, it’s getting better, not fast enough. I still have the problem of where do I, or did I store this??

Keep posting what ideas you come up with, and I hope you don’t mind If some of us make use of them?

Bob G.

-- BobG, Lowell, Arkansas--------My goal in life is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am! Make more saw dust!!

View noknot's profile


548 posts in 4496 days

#3 posted 06-30-2010 04:03 PM

Storage has always been a issue short of spending thousands of dollars buying every tool you will ever need then designing the storage. Building more storage than we need with easy to arrange bins shelves and cubbies is all we can do. Happy designing


View JDboy's profile


17 posts in 3952 days

#4 posted 06-30-2010 05:24 PM

May I suggest a nice toolbox for hand tools and a nice long bar mounted oma wall or under a bench for clamps. Also, sometimes you need to think out of the box. the most unconvetional things work the best for tools storage. I often find myself using things like copper tubing, pvc, and even black and galvanized pipe as storage devices. The only other advice I can offer at this time is a phrase that a coworker of mine often uses is K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid. And no I didn’t just insult you. It is often the stupid simple ideas that work the best. Keep us informed on how your storage solutions is going. We could all use a few new ideas.

-- JD Boy

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4219 days

#5 posted 06-30-2010 05:24 PM

...........awwwwwwwwww, a topic dear to my heart.

So far in this hobby, I have spent a lot of time avoiding making what I would consider a true woodworking project… know, a piece of furniture, or a artsy doodad. But I have made a lot of jigs, and a few items to store tools, you know, my totes. And I have some ideas for wall storage, and for sled storage. But I have a lot of organization left to do in the shop. Somedays I think I should have just spent a bunch of money on jigs and power tools, and I would be a lot further along in this process.

But you know, when I started this hobby, I thought quite a bit about it. And I got realistic about what I really like to do. I decided that I would probably have more fun fixing up the shop than I would making furniture and doodads. So I am prolonging the process…..........(-:

I have a new panel nearly finished, and a new project table top nearly finished, and if work will leave me some spare time over the next 5 days, and not wear me out, you may see them in a blog by Sunday. But I got pretty tired this month. So we are kinda plodding along.

So I am watching you Don….....I’m stealing all the ideas I can, and coming up with a few crazy things myself….......


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 4341 days

#6 posted 06-30-2010 05:24 PM

I can’t believe anyone would worry about organizing ther shop!!! LOL


View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 4161 days

#7 posted 06-30-2010 06:03 PM

I have the perfect solution for you. Crate every thing up and ship it to me. Problem solved. lol I’ll organize everything and send you pictures to hang in your shop. lol

Seriously though, When I need to organize or reorganize, I just get a cuppa joe, go the shop and just look it over and play out different things in my head. You will find a lot of good ideas for your shop this way. Try out your ideas. You are probably not as anal about it as I am, but your never know.

Check out the other shops for ideas, especially Kent’s jig closet. lol Rand

View Builder_Bob's profile


161 posts in 4114 days

#8 posted 06-30-2010 06:16 PM


You might consider this for small hand tools. Four baking pans laid out on a bench.

Things that cut, things that screw, things that clamp, things that drill.

Amazingly, virtually every hand tool fits unambiguously into one of these four categories.

-- "The unexpected, when it happens, generally happens when you least expect it."

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 4015 days

#9 posted 06-30-2010 06:39 PM

there is no easy way im afraid, im in the process myself of rebuilding and reorganising my shop interior.
and my conclusion is that every thing you have in the shop needs it’s own specific storage place.
drawers, cabinets, benchtops or racks that don’t have a specific use other than “storing stuff” will always end up getting cluttered.
it’s ideal to organise the storage in a way that things get stored the closest to where they are used, as said by builder bob have by example a drawer devided in 4 spaces, 1 for things that cut, like knife, scissors etc, one for things to measure, one for things to write/mark and onther space for screwdrivers.
do the same with your glues, tools, screws, nails, bits etc… this way you can inmediately see when something is out of place
i noticed that the parts of my shop that are organised that way are usually the cleanest and uncluttered.
but it’s gonna a be a hell of a task to organise an entire shop that way.

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 5012 days

#10 posted 06-30-2010 07:12 PM

I got two words for you..”French Cleat” I recently started setting up and organizing tool storage in my garage shop and I went with the french cleat. The beauty of it is that its so simple and easy to execute, but at the same time it’s really flexible and expandable. You can make shelves to hang off them, and even cabinets. As your tool inventory grows and changes, you can adjust everything, by just moving the hangers around or making new ones. If you need more storage, just rip a new section of cleat and screw it to the wall! The only limitation might be it wouldn’t be so great for storing large oddly shaped jigs…I did a blog on my version..


View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4450 days

#11 posted 06-30-2010 08:16 PM

The four baking pans – uh – how big would they be?
I might be able to put my hand tools in four shipping crates (lilredweldingrod ;-)).
On the wall? Hmmmm. There must be some walls in here somewher, but they’re all covered up.
But thanks for the comments!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3995 days

#12 posted 06-30-2010 08:20 PM

One day when I retire from doing woodworking for a living, my hobby is going to be the organizing of my shop!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4219 days

#13 posted 06-30-2010 08:41 PM

I haven’t done it yet, but I plan to redo the whole shop using french cleat mounting, and put all the major tools on wheels. Both of my big saws are already on wheels.

Consider tool totes. That was my solution for keeping frequently used tools close at hand. My most used tote has many measurement tools, a scissors, box knife, pencils, etc. They are loosely set on 3 shelves in the tote, with some slots for my precision rulers on the top.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jason's profile


660 posts in 4563 days

#14 posted 06-30-2010 10:46 PM

I know what you mean. I set up a small shop in the garage of my first house. Then I moved, got a bigger garage, and set up shop again. I’ve been in this house three years and have reorganized three times. I’m still not totally comfortable with the layout or storage.

I got about a half dozen sheets of pegboard from my dad and saved two wall and two base cabinets from my kitchen that I’m remodeling. All that seems to do is make the problem worse. Look forward to everyone’s comments so I can figure out what the heck to do.

-- Jason - Colorado Springs

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4219 days

#15 posted 07-01-2010 12:27 AM

First of all, take this with a grain of salt, I haven’t done it yet. Second, check out some of the shops, somewhere I have spotted a couple of shops that have done this. Check out Brad_Nailor’s shop.

What I plan to do is put large French cleats around the shop on all available walls. I have some wall space taken up by furnaces, but other than that, going to put two or more rows of cleat on the walls. Then I will build cabinets, with door and interior mounts for tools and shelves as needed. I am going to put all my large stationery tools on wheels. Any cabinets I need temporarily while I build new ones will temporarily be rehung with french cleat, which should be easy. I am wall space limited, so lots of cabinets, drawers, tool totes, power tools on wheels….....that’s the plan.

Planning is fun and easy…........execution is difficult…..


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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