Do you need five minutes to locate a measuring tape and even longer to find a screwdriver? If so, you might be due for a workshop overhaul.
Fortunately, it's pretty easy to keep tools and hardware in working order once you have a good, efficient organizational system in place. Let's take a look at some tried-and-true ways to sort your stuff for a frustration-free workshop.
SMALL HAND TOOLS: HAMMERS, SCREWDRIVERS & OTHER ESSENTIALS
Tools like specialty screwdrivers
, ratchet sets
, hand saws
(including large carpentry saws, small coping saws and all-purpose hacksaws
), files and rasps
, mallets and sledges
, and levels
need a permanent yet convenient storage spot close to your workstation. Wall-mounting them is definitely the best way to keep them organized but also within arm's reach. This can be as simple as a piece of pegboard screwed to the wall and equipped with easy-hang pegboard hardware
. Alternatively, you could install a slat wall system
that allows you to slide tools up and down to wherever you need them. Or you might opt for simple homemade shelving
or kitset shelving
Portable Tool Storage
Every DIYer needs a tool box or other portable container for toting essential gear around (and out of) the house. Most would define the following small hand tools as essentials: a standard claw hammer
, vise grips
, a crescent wrench
and a retractable measuring tape
. Of course, the exact contents of your portable tool carrier will vary depending on the types of work you do.
The standard tool box is a top choice for most homeowners. They are tough and come in all price ranges -- a very basic plastic tool box costs as little as $8
, while lockable truck boxes can cost hundreds
. Other options include soft-sided fabric tool bags, buckets and totes
For hands-free repairs, nylon, canvas or leather tool belts
are a big help – and, no, you don't have to be a professional tradesman to wear one. Even the smallest tool belts
include pockets for a few basic tools plus pouches for a handful of nails, anchors or other hardware items. Magnetic tool belts
keep nails and screws from slipping out, while allowing for storage of metal tools on the outside of the belt. Snap one around your waist and you'll find it saves you (and your back) a lot of bending on your next project.
HARDWARE: NUTS, BOLTS & OTHER FASTENERS
Stackable drawer organizers can't be beat for keeping fasteners and other small items separate yet contained. We're talking nuts, bolts, nails, tacks, washers, drywall anchors
and so on: all those little odds and ends that are forever getting mixed up or misplaced.
Open plastic mini bins
are good for those on a budget. But here's the downside: they are easily overturned and they won't protect items from dust, dirt and moisture. compartments are a better option for most workshops. Look for sets with clear plastic drawers so you can identify contents at a glance. Even better, label each drawer for doubt-free reference.
Akro hardware storage cabinet. Photo: Amazon
Position small storage compartments like these on, above or beside your workbench for easy access. If you place them on a shelf, try screwing them down with mounting hardware for extra stability. In fact, mounting hardware often comes included with these units.
POWER TOOLS: DRILLS, SANDERS, SAWS & MORE
, circular saws
and other power tools
should be stored at waist or chest height. Basically, you want them high enough to save you lots of bending and lifting, but low enough they couldn't topple off a shelf and hit you -- or someone else -- on the head. Aim to stash them on shelves right under or adjacent to your workbench, either in cabinets or in specialty tool storage units.
Expensive metal storage units include rolling tool carts by manufacturers like Craftsman
. The first choice of serious DIYers, metal storage units can be very expensive. On the other hand, they're sturdy and long-lasting, and are usually designed to be mixed and matched
for maximum usability. When kept locked they do keep power tools clean and dry, not to mention safely out of the hands of curious kids.
If you can afford them, they're a good investment. However, cheaper alternatives abound and include plastic or wooden kitset cabinets
or sturdy open shelving.
ROPE, CORDS, CABLES & MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS
Stow bulky coiled items like wire, rope, extension cords
and electrical cables
in all-purpose plastic storage bins
or stacking crates
. Place all other tools, hardware and accessories you use least often in here, too. They'll remain easily accessible yet won't take up any of that precious shelf or cabinet space.
Small light-duty plastic bins or totes
are also well worth having around. They are inexpensive and ideal for corralling smaller, miscellaneous items like sandpaper, duct tape, twine, batteries, light bulbs and paintbrushes. They generally come with matching lids and are both stackable and see-through for fast ID of contents.
LIQUIDS: PAINT, CAULK & TOXIC CHEMICALS
Keep gallon-size paint cans on a low shelf where they can't fall down and break your toe. But the general rule for all other liquids -- and anything else kids might be tempted to ingest
-- is to place them either up as high as possible or in a locked cabinet. This includes tubes of caulk
, and goes double for anything toxic with a screw-on/off cap such as mineral spirits
, lubricants like WD-40
or cleaning products like Goof-Off
LADDERS, SAWHORSES & OTHER BULKY OBJECTS
One key way to maximize your workspace is to get large, bulky objects like ladders and sawhorses
up and out of the way. Fold them flat when not in use and, if possible, find a place to hang them up on the wall. Ladder hooks
, for example, are inexpensive and well worth buying. Just remember they should be screwed into a wall stud, exposed ceiling joist
or similar sturdy anchoring point for maximum stability.
You don't have
to invest in specialty storage equipment for hardware or for tools. Recycled glass pickle or jam jars work just fine for containing nails and other hardware, while old cabinets and bookshelves can be repurposed in the garage for tool storage
. Bottom line: you don't have to break the bank to get organized!