Organizing a New Shop #1: Running My Underwear Up The Flagpole

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Blog entry by Myron Wooley posted 10-02-2007 07:53 AM 1399 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Organizing a New Shop series Part 2: First Steps Toward a 5S Shop »

Folks, I need help. My shop looks like the aftermath of a tornado, and I’m mentally stuck.
I look around, and I see piles of roughly sorted items- plumbing stuff here, computer parts there, and woodworking tools scattered about. If I set anything down, even for a second, it gets swallowed up and I spend 15 minutes hunting it down.

As soon as the work was completed on the building, I epoxied the floor and started working on the dust collection. Then the two cargo bins that we had in the front yard were hauled off, forcing me to get the contents inside before I really planned for storage. Now the shop is extremely cluttered, to the point of being unworkable.

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So, I look to you for some ideas. Cabinets, pegboards, slatwalls? My mind is wide open to suggestions!

-- The days are long and the years are short...

11 comments so far

View Calgirl's profile


188 posts in 3922 days

#1 posted 10-02-2007 08:13 AM

Hey Myron,
Do you have a basic plan in mind of what will be hung on the wall and what goes in cabinets? If so, then get whatever you are going to put on the wall, up there…....and out of the way. Do you have the cabinets built already, or are they something you are considering? If you need some organization first so that you can then really organize everything and you have a few extra bucks, I’d go to the big box store and get some of those see thru stackable plastic boxes with lids. I’d then get all the plumbing in one box, electrical in another, etc. These boxes are useful just to have around the house anyway, so you can use them later to store other things.

I plan to build a cabinet against one wall which will be basically a tic-tac-toe frame with sides and some doors.
It will only be 12 to 18” deep and can be used to store all the hand power tools. The cabinet is not deep enough so that anything will become lost inside, and it is easy to find what you want. Maybe you could incorporate something like that to help you.

I have some plans for different shop furniture in my computer so if you give me an idea of what your needs are, maybe I can help.

-- Forget the health food, I need all the preservatives I can get !

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3922 days

#2 posted 10-02-2007 08:22 AM

I have plans and materials to build a large outfeed cabinet for my tablesaw, which will go a long ways towards organization. I hadn’t thought of the clear boxes- great idea. I’ll go to the store tomorrow and get a bunch.

I’m kind of hesitant to put a lot of cabinets up. Mine tend to become ratholes- out of sight, out of mind, unless they are carefully planned as to contents and work flow.

That steel cabinet in the last photo was a good idea at the time, but it’s too deep to be useful.

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View Fingersleft's profile


71 posts in 3922 days

#3 posted 10-02-2007 08:45 AM


First of all, you’ve got a very spacious and workable shop. Congrats!

Of course the answer is all that you’ve mentioned—- floor and wall cabinets, pegboard, etc. There are many books that provide good ideas for shop layout and storage. Understanding that you’ll probably re-arrange everything from time to time, so putting things on wheels, as much as possible, is important.

I took me more than a year to find a storage system and layout which works well for me. The questions I had to ask myself were 1) What do I want the interior to look like? 2) What work environment will allow me to concentrate and avoid hunting for things, and 3) What layout will suite the type of projects I work on (size, weight, etc.)? Also, it’s a matter of developing your own personal habits. For example, I’ve developed the habit of never putting anything “down” without putting it in it’s “place”. It avoids a collection of tools and supplies all over the place, and it saves time cleaning up at the end of the day. For my work, I’ve found that a large (4’ X 8’) assembly table at about 24” high works well for me. (On heavy-duty wheels of course.) If you do smaller projects, a smaller table may suit you better. Also, simple things are great time savers. All my measuring tools are in the same place. All my sharpening supplies are in the same place. Anything that has to do will drills, drill bits, etc. are in the same place. All chemicals, stains, finishes, etc. are in closed cabinets. I not a fan of open shelves, in as much as they seem to add to the clutter. But that’s my preference.

Also, the most important thing in my shop is floor space. As much as you have, it ultimately will never be enough. Therefore, I never store anything on the floor. As Calgirl indicated, that’s the first step. Get things off the floor and keep them off the floor. The floor is for stationary tools, floor cabinets, and of course, walking around.

In fact, even the key to my shop has it’s own hook. Easy to find at the end of the day. Not fishing through my pockets or searching the workbench.

Setting up a shop is a very personal process. It takes time and you’ll re-organize a number of times as you find what working environment you feel most comfortable in and lends itself to the work you do.

-- Bob

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3989 days

#4 posted 10-02-2007 03:54 PM

Oh, just start building things and pretty soon it will sort itself out. Especially when you get to the point where something is driving you nuts so you stop what you are doing and fix it. Works for me.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3922 days

#5 posted 10-03-2007 12:43 AM

Gee, Tom, that’s kinda what got me in the jam you see before you… ;)

But thanks anyhow!


-- The days are long and the years are short...

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4114 days

#6 posted 10-03-2007 03:19 AM

Have a party.
Invite all the Lumberjocks in the central Valley California area.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4124 days

#7 posted 10-03-2007 04:55 AM

I belive we (CA Central Valley) are getting together in January when Tony comes over from Finland. Have not got the specifics together yet. We are quite a bit farther north though…

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View shaun's profile


360 posts in 3932 days

#8 posted 10-03-2007 12:44 PM

I feel your pain Myron, although I wish I had your space (yes I am envious of you guys with the spacious shops) . In addition to both of us having full time jobs, my wife and I operate our own business that includes residential rental properties, home repair/maint/remodeling (fancy way of saying “if you’ll pay us we’ll do it”), and we take on woodworking every chance we get. Seems like every time we organize the basement something (usually me) comes along and destroys it and then there’s never enough time to organize it again. When we get a break in the action we just resign ourselves to the idea that we’re going down there and not comming out until it’s organized again. You just got to dive in and git-r-done. Pick a corner and start cleaning then before ya know it the ideas are flowing. Altough last time we did this we ended up with most of the tools in the garage, a 15yd dumpster in the front yard, and a gutted basement. We’re in the process of putting it back together now with the idea that we’re going to add some living space and a better shop.

-- I've cut that board three times and it's still too short!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4187 days

#9 posted 10-03-2007 12:55 PM

good advice.
Maybe start with a stationary tool area and add the storage that you will need for all resources that will be used in that area. Then fill it up and move to next stationary tool area…
That way you will have at least one tool area ready to go.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4114 days

#10 posted 10-03-2007 08:30 PM

Look at my shop pictures for upper storage…


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4006 days

#11 posted 10-06-2007 03:51 AM

Hi Myron;

When I started laying out my shop, I first considered the natural flow of cabinet and furniture work.

Then as Tom suggested, using and placing things as you go does help you figure out where it belongs.

For example, your chisels should be near your bench. Your drill bits need to be near your drill press, etc…

Place the big items first, then fill around them with the accesories they use will be a big start in solving your dilema. Believe it or not many of us nuts like laying out a shop, with the idea of making it efficient. Thinking of your shop as a big machine will lead to a practicle layout.

Slot wall is nice, but expensive. I covered all the walls in my shop with O.S.B. from the big orange box. On sale it’s about $ 5.00 a sheet. I then painted everything semi gloss white.

Makes for a very bright shop, and mounting things anywhere is easy and secure.

Half the fun in woodworking is building the shop, just as “you” want it. So take your time and enjoy it. You can make adjustments as situations dictate it.

Have fun;


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

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