This is a section from A Beginners Guide to Woodworking: Helping New Woodworkers Make Better Projects, which is available on Amazon. Over the next couple months, you will be able to read the entire book, and I hope that you like it enough to get tour own copy. Enjoy.
Peg Board Tool Storage
One of the best ways to keep things organized is with peg board. There are a number of benefits to using peg board, and it can make your space far more clean, organized, and better suited to accomplishing your projects instead of looking for things.
Peg board is sold in most hardware stores, and it is a common item. Most peg board is made from 1/4 inch thick fiber board with evenly spaced holes.
It comes in four by eight foot sheets, and smaller sizes to. The holes are designed for use with many different accessories that can be used to hang and store things on the board.
The most common is the single peg, which is a style of hook that can be used to hold a tool. However, there are all kinds of things that you can buy for your pegboard that will let you attach small baskets, shelves, large or heavy items and even more.
The installation of pegboard is really straight forward, and it just attaches to the wall with a wooden frame on the back side to keep the board off the wall. This little space created behind the board gives you room to insert the pegs and use them to hang tools and other items.
You can make the frame yourself with a few pieces of 2×2 around the edges and one or two down the middle almost like a wall frame in a house. Then, anchor it to the wall in several places to hold the weight without falling.
A recommendation for installing peg board is to place it where you can reach the top of the board, and where the board is not obstructed by tools.
You don’t want to hang a peg board where you cant reach the tools at the top, and you don’t want big tools in front of the board where you can’t use certain sections.
If you can hang two of the four by eight foot sheets horizontally, you will more than likely have enough space to hang all of your tools. The total cost is far less than a large tool box, and even buying all of the pegs and accessories can be inexpensive if you find them online or second hand.
There are several benefits to hanging all of your tools on a peg board. The primary benefit is that you can easily see just about everything you have. Obviously you are not going to hang a big heavy tool from the board, but anything that can’t hang should be large enough that you have a hard time losing it anyway.
Being able to see what you have makes it easy to find tools, which is something that you are going to be doing all the time.
Woodworking requires a lot of tools, and you will be switching between tools often. Having all of your tools in view on a peg board makes this process quick, and reduces the time that you have to spend looking for tools.
This means more time spent on the actual project, and more results in a shorter amount of time.
Another benefit to having everything on a peg board is that everything has a place at the end of the day. When you have a known and understood space for each of your tools, you will find that you put them back in the same spot every time you use them.
This means a cleaner shop, a faster time putting your tools away, and a faster time finding them again when needed. It also makes identifying a missing tool really easy, because it will stick out as missing with the empty space on the peg board. Seeing this, you can quickly find the missing tool, and replace it in the location where it needs to be stored.
An often not though of benefit of peg board is that it saves space on the shop floor. Tool boxes, cabinets, and other storage methods take up valuable floor space. In a small shop, space can be hard to come by.
If you drop in a big tool box that takes up a lot of room, it can cause an already restricted space to feel confining, and that can lead to not wanting to work in the shop. This is obviously not a good thing, since the shop needs to be a pleasant and inviting place.
Peg board doesn’t use much floor space at all, and only takes up a few inches along a wall. This extremely small footprint, which is essentially not a footprint at all, means that you can introduce pegboard into the shop without worrying about rearranging other things to deal with a smaller floor space.
In fact, if you were to install peg board in several places, and empty out some tool boxes, you could actually gain space. Especially if you were to empty a very large tool box and get all of the items on the board, you can move the tool box to a different and less used part of the shop, and in effect increase your available space.
This can also be done for things that are in drawers, stored away in bags or boxes, and anything else that takes up space.
Lastly, peg board is cheap. You can get a lot of peg board for a few dollars, and once it’s in place you are done with paying for the storage. Yes, you can buy lots of different accessories for the board, but if you stick with the standard, you can have a lot of storage for a very low price.
If you have a hard time organizing, try out some pegboard and see if that makes a difference for you. It’s not expensive, and you can see all of your tools right in front of your working area.
This means less lost tools, a quicker time finding your tools, and more time spent on the actual project. It can also mean a safer shop too, because less things are on the floor, and there is less to step over.
Tool Boxes and Carts
While not as easily visible as peg board, tool boxes and carts can help you organize your tools. The best way to keep the shop clean is through organization, and tools are going to be the biggest obstacle to organization because you will have many of them.
All of your tools will need a home, so if you are not ready to line the walls with peg board, or if you are in a space where you are not allowed, tool boxes can help.
If you have the ability to buy a tool box that has multiple drawers and smaller storage openings, then that’s the better bet. Large single opening boxes end up being filled with random tools, and it becomes a mess to dig through.
It’s also dangerous, because you could accidentally hit yourself on something sharp while blindly digging for another tool.
Instead, look for a box that either offers several compartments that you can use to separate your tools, dividers for organization, or multiple drawers. Each time that you divide the space, you increase the ability that you have to organize your tools.
For example, a rolling tool box offers you the ability to have a drawer for screwdrivers, another for carving tools, another for measuring tools, and so on. Each time you need something, you will remember what drawer to go in, and there you will find the tools you need.
Another alternative is to have several smaller boxes, which are set up with certain tools inside. You can have a box with everything for your Dremel tool, and another with everything for your router.
It can get out of hand if you separate down too far, so only make boxes for things that make sense to fill a box with. For example, a box for your scrapers would not make sense, because most people only have a few of these.
If you cannot afford a rolling tool box (don’t feel bad, most of us can’t) you can make yourself a tool cart or tool box from plywood some casters. With the rising prices of rolling toolboxes, there are many creative woodworkers that are making their own.
This is a huge opportunity to get creative, and to make the exact tool box that you want to have in your shop. Also, making it yourself means the price will be far lower. Plus, you can design and make the exact box that you want rather than buying something already made for the average person.
If you are thinking about boxes over peg board, then you should really treat yourself and look online at the many different and creative tool boxes that have been made by talented woodworkers.
Now, you don’t have to create a rolling wonderland for your tools, but you owe it to yourself to make something that fits your needs and makes you happy when you open the doors.
Look around at the different designs and plans. Then, combine the ideas that you like into a design for your own box. Buy your materials, and start working. Before you know it, you will have a really nice tool box that stores the tools you have really well.
The biggest takeaway you need to remember about tool boxes is that you need to have multiple compartments in order to effectively organize your tools. The last thing you want is a black hole of random tools that you have to dig through to find the one tool you are looking for.
That tool will inevitably be at the bottom of the box, under something sharp, and coated with some unidentifiable oily substance. This is not a good way to store your tools.
Instead, look for something with a lot of smaller compartments, or make something in the shop that suits your exact needs. This way, your tools will be stored away and organized for when you need them.
Drawers and Organization
I really love drawers. I don’t have as many as I would like to have in my shop, but small drawers are really a nice way to organize.
The beauty of drawers is that you can hang them under just about any flat surface, and you can make them from scraps. Add in a few cheap handles or turned wooden knobs, and you have a great space to store your tools.
Treat drawers the same way that you would treat a tool box. You would rather have several smaller drawers than a couple really big drawers. Now, you can always divide the drawers with wood or other organizational accessories, but having smaller and more numerous drawers lets you start organizing right away.
Select themes or categories for your drawers, and start filling them according to the selection. Drawers are great for quick reach items that you use all the time like measuring and marking devices.
They are also good for smaller things that can get lost in the bottom of a big tool box. Fill your drawers, and try to not stack things on top of each other. When you give everything a space, you can open a drawer and clearly see what’s inside.
If you are stacked up, you increase the odds that you will start to rummage, and ruin the organization of the drawer in the process.
You can make your own drawers to suit your needs and attach them under your bench, or even make a cabinet of drawers. Making drawers is easy, especially if you use a wooden slider for the glide rather than a metal glide that you buy in a woodworking store.
The advantage is that you can easily measure for the wooden glide, which is just a slim piece of wood that the drawer rides on.
Glides need to be measured a little more accurately, and placed on the drawer and the carcass with more precision, and can be tough for a new woodworker. (It’s tough sometimes for experienced woodworkers too.)
Making a set of drawers yourself also helps you learn some woodworking skills in the beginning, as you will have to use a chop saw, table saw, drill, and many other tools to make the cabinet.
You will also have to design it, figure out the measurements, and build it from scratch. While this is a common thing for woodworkers to do, it will be a learning explosion for a new woodworker.
Don’t look down on drawers and cabinets. What may look like a simple square design with some drawers is actually not as easy to make as it would seem. Like anything, it requires time and patience to get things to go together correctly.
If you are going to make a set of drawers, look around for a design that you like and make sure to size everything for your particular needs. Just like the tool box, create the furniture for your shop in a way that the pieces work specifically for you and your needs.
There is no reason to make a run of the mill average piece that needs to appeal to everyone. Instead, make the exact piece you need for the tools and the situation that you have.
Drawers are also really versatile, and can be installed nearly anywhere in the shop. If you have a solid item in the shop that has an underside that is not being used, then you have a perfect landing space for a drawer. Depending on the size, you may have a perfect space for several drawers.
Under the work bench is a great place for some drawers, as well as under any tool benches that you have around the shop. If you make a set of long benches to hold all of your bench top tools, adding drawers under them is a great project.
Not only will you gain storage space, but you will also create something positive from an area that was not really giving you much back.
The space under a table top or bench top is essentially wasted space if you are not putting anything there. If you are just storing air, the spot is useless.
However, when you put a drawer in that area, you fill an unused space in the shop, and you also give yourself more storage space without adding to the clutter in the shop. You have essentially turned a wasted space into a productive space, and lost zero square footage in the process.
Now, the downside of drawers is the lack of visibility of what you keep inside them. Unless you take the time to remember what you have inside the drawers, and stay organized, you are going to end up flinging open drawers over and over looking for some lost tool.
Do yourself a favor, and if you are going to use drawers, keep them really well organized.
Another great way to organize your drawers in a shop with lots of them is to fill them based on the tools that they are the closest to. For example, if you have a bench top lathe, and drawers under the tool, fill them with things that have to do with the lathe.
You can place your chucks, turning tools, and other turning accessories inside the drawers. When needed, they are always in the right place, and you will not have to travel nearly as long to get them when you are using the lathe.
If you cannot get them near certain tools, then another good way to stay organized with drawers is to label them on the faces. It doesn’t have to be a complete list, but something like “measuring and marking” or “Pen Blanks” will be enough so that you know what is inside each drawer.
Over time, you will end up just knowing where everything is located, as long as you keep things in the same places, but the labels can really help in the beginning.
Lastly, drawers are a way to practice other skills if you want to make a project out of them. For example, if you are thinking about making dovetail joints or finger joints, then you can practice them on your shop drawers.
When you practice like this, you get something in the end that benefits the shop, but you also get to practice in a way that if you make a mistake, only you will know it.
Drawers are great for trying new joinery methods, working on miters, making dadoes, rabbets, and even using the router table if you decide to make wooden dovetail glides for the drawers. Use the exercise for some practice, and you will get double the benefit from the simple task of making wooden drawers for shop storage.
Have a Wood Storage Area
Something that can definitely help you with shop organization is to have a wood storage area that is in a different place than your bench. While storing some wood under the bench is ok, you don’t want to burden your working area by asking it to be a storage area too.
If this is all you have, don’t worry about it, and store your wood where you need to. However, once you are in a place where you can store your wood in its own area, then doing so will make a really big organizational difference in your shop.
A wood storage area can be right next to your current area, or in a particular section of it. The wood does not have to be in a totally different room, it only needs to be in a spot where it’s all in one place.
The benches and the working areas should have storage in them, but it’s most conducive to working when you have tools stored in those areas rather than wood.
Yes, you do need wood to make your projects, but you will find that you work on a single piece of wood with multiple tools, rather than work on multiple pieces of wood with a single tool.
This is why having your tools stored near your benches and your wood stored somewhere else will make you more organized.
If you are new to woodworking, then chances are you do not have a ton of wood. That will change. Over time, you will accumulate a few extra pieces here and there, and it will turn into something that needs it’s own area and organization.
Even though you may not be there just yet, coming up with a solid plan before you are up to your ears in wood is beneficial. This way, you can stave off the coming problems associated with a huge disorganized wood pile, and hopefully never have to deal with a full clean out and reorganization of the wood area.
A dedicated wood area can be as simple as a set of shelves. They don’t have to be glorious, they only need to be able to support the weight of the wood. Some metal shelving that’s used for food storage and garage storage is fine, or you can make a quick set of shelves from 2x4s and plywood.
Either way you go, make sure you have several shelves, so you can effectively organize and separate your wood into different groups.
Also, make sure that the storage area you select is big enough to hold the pieces of wood that you commonly buy and use. If you are making small things like pens and lathe projects, then you might only need a small area where you can organize your wooden blanks by the project that you intend to make.
This is great, because you do not have to dedicate a large area of the shop to wood storage.
On the other hand, if you are making executive desks, tables, or other large items, then you might have to surrender a large portion of the shop to wood storage. In that case, look for alternative methods to storing your wood that will keep it where you need it but also keep it from taking over the entire shop.
There are lots of creative woodworkers out there that use overhead storage, vertical storage, and other interesting methods to keep their wood pile from kicking them out of the shop.
It is worth the time to look into these methods long before you think you are going to need them. Something as simple as a different storage method can drastically reduce the floor space that your wood pile takes up.
Wood piles tend to get out of hand. This is just a fact of the shop. Even with dedication and organization, the wood storage area eventually becomes a wood pile, and will need to be sorted.
The best way to avoid this is to do a little prevention every time you are at the pile, and make sure that you are only saving pieces that you know you can use. Being a wood hoarder myself, I understand that every piece feels valuable, but I also know that not every piece really is.
Make it a point to separate your wooden pieces as you use them, and to just throw away the smaller pieces that cannot be used for any of your side projects. I make wooden rings from my smaller scraps, so I tend to hold on to more small pieces than most people, but I still toss many of them, especially when I already have several of the same species and size.
Separate your wood, and store it by size. This way, you can easily see what you have, and it will prevent you from keeping too many smaller pieces that you already have.
Also, when you put something in your wood storage area, put it in the right place. The more you can resist putting a scrap on top of the stack instead of putting it where it goes, the longer your wood area will look nice.
It is hard enough to place your pieces right where they need to go, and it’s even more so when you have to move a whole pile of smaller pieces to do it. Make it a habit to put your pieces right where you need to, depending on your organizational method, and you will keep the area nice looking for longer.
Wood is expensive, and therefore we give it a lot of value as a material. It can be very tempting in the beginning to save everything but the sawdust, but this is a recipe for disaster.
If you can use the really small pieces, then keep them stored in a way where they are all together. If you cannot use them, and see no reason that you would use then any time soon, throw them away.
A good compromise if you cannot bring yourself to throw out anything is to hang on to the pieces for either 30, 60, or 90 days. Set a limit, and stick to the limit. If you really needed those smaller pieces, you would have used them in the last 90 days for sure.
If you pass 90 days, or whatever your limit may be, you can safely toss the pieces without worrying that you threw away money.
Have a storage area for your wood that keeps it inside the shop, but in its own area. This way you will be free to store your tools near your benches and where you will need them more often, and you can keep your wood all in one place.
It also makes you more organized, and helps keep your wood pile from growing out of control. All of these things lead to a better looking shop, and a much easier time making your projects.
Part 21 – Wrap Up
I hope you liked Part 21 of A Beginners Guide to Woodworking: Helping New Woodworkers Make Better Projects. As you can see, this is a different kind of beginner woodworking book, and I encourage you to get a copy for yourself so you have it all in one place.
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