If you could visit the workshops of Handyman Club members, you would probably find that every person employs at least one unique system, tip or device that would help you in your own DIY endeavors. Whether they have a dedicated workshop or just a spot carved out in their basement, garage or shed, DIYers find clever ways to customize storage ideas to suit their activities and their resources. For a virtual tour of workshop wizardry, we've gathered a gallery of organization ideas, some from the HANDY workshop and others from Club members and a few inspired by the office and even the kitchen.
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Woodworkers, carpenters and general handy people have discovered the fantastic functionality of the classic mechanicís tool chest, which keeps tools at hand in easy-sliding drawers of varying depths. Designate a drawer for chisels, another for bits, one for measuring tools or squares or for files, hammers, pliers, levels, saw blades, cutting tools, sanding gear, eye and hearing protection, etc. You might even want two or three chests.
For optimal organization, labels are essential for every drawer as well as for tool cases, shelves and containers -- especially if you share your shop (voluntarily or not) with others. Labeling helps you to assign a spot for each item and to find that item when you need it. You can create labels with masking tape and a marker, but a mechanical label maker does a much neater job (and is fun to use).
Besides the label maker, other office items weíve incorporated into the HANDY shop include an accordion file to hold sanding discs of various grits, CD jewel boxes for storing small saw blades and a file box for tool manuals. (Files are also great for organizing project plans or sheets of sandpaper.)
The kitchen also offers shop storage ideas, starting with the furniture: namely, a solid set of cabinets and a countertop. Mix in a pantry for storage and a work island on casters and your shop is really cooking. You can take a few more culinary cues: Mount a magnetic knife holder to store frequently used items such as screwdrivers, wrenches or pliers; install pullout trays or lazy Susans in base cabinets for better accessibility; and insert a silverware tray in a shallow drawer to keep hardware handy.
No shop is complete without some repurposed kitchen leftovers. Besides their obvious potential as hardware holders or paint buckets, coffee cans (with both ends removed) are great for corralling dowels, tubing, molding, etc., along the ceiling.
At the ready or out of the way
A key principle of shop organization relates to frequency of use. Keep in-demand tools such as your tape measure, hammer, drill/driver and circular saw in a top drawer, on the wall or on an open shelf. Store seldom-used items (a pipe threader or wire stripper, for example) and seasonal tools (snow thrower, hedge trimmer, etc.) out of the way until theyíre needed. However, be sure not to stow any disaster-relief tools (such as a pipe wrench or plumber's helper) where they aren't easily accessible if an emergency strikes.
For a portable shop, keep a bag, bucket or box of general-use tools at the ready. Depending on your DIY specialty, you might also want a convenient collection for plumbing projects or electrical work, or a bag of paint supplies. This helps to organize your inventory and keep you prepared for impromptu repairs.
Some of these ideas may seem elementary, but that's the point. HANDY's unofficial shop keeper (and official Executive Editor), Dan Cary, says that the key to an efficient, well-organized workshop is simplicity. "The less complicated, the better. If it's not easy to maintain, you're not going to use it," he says. So whatever storage strategies you embrace, be sure they're convenient to use and simple to keep.