Organizing and storing the extra stuff

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Forum topic by Brett posted 04-06-2015 02:02 PM 1470 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2104 days

04-06-2015 02:02 PM

Most of the articles and books I’ve read on setting up a shop focus on machines and hand-powered tools. What about all of the other stuff that is used in a workshop? How do you store things like nails, screws, towels, string, wires, sandpaper, sanding blocks, spare parts, glues, finishes, manuals, and the like? I’m not a very organized person and it’s challenging for me to figure out what to do with these items. Thanks.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

13 replies so far

View nerdbot's profile


97 posts in 782 days

#1 posted 04-06-2015 02:55 PM

I’m not a very organized person either, so for me it was an iterative process. As I added more tools and supplies and worked on projects, I became aware of when my disorganization/process was slowing down the actual woodworking fun. Then I’d add something to fix that (e.g., wall cabinets to store my finishes, peg boards to hold my smaller tools, clamp racks once I had too many clamps to just pile them on a shelf, mobile cabinets for my really heavy tools, etc). Might not be the cheapest way to get organized since there were a couple times I had to scrap an idea because it didn’t work well with how I worked, or stopped working after I added more tools. But personally, if I tried to plan it all out beforehand, I’d be in “decision lock” forever.

I watched a lot of Youtube videos of various woodworkers and creators. Sometimes they have specific shop tour videos. Other times I just paid more attention to what was in the background. Also woodworking magazines usually have a reader submitted tips and tricks section that often have good ideas for organization.

View Lucasd2002's profile


124 posts in 773 days

#2 posted 04-06-2015 03:11 PM

I keep all the small stuff in a pile in the garage next to a can of kerosene. Just in case.

I’m kidding. Kind of.

View timbertailor's profile


1591 posts in 845 days

#3 posted 04-06-2015 03:18 PM

I would suggest cabinets. Shelving without doors are just dust collectors.
Drawers inside the cabinets are even better. Preferably full pull drawers.
Hanging tools on the wall is nice if you do not have that many tools but hopefully you will get to the point that this solution is no longer efficient and uses up too much space.
Rolling storage is a great way to be mobile and provide additional work surfaces. If they can roll under a work bench, then you have doubled your work surface area. I can roll out a couple of storage bins and slap a portable work surface across them for even more bench space, if needed.
Layout and measurement tools should be kept in one safe place that is easily accessible.

Try to think stations. A station for the drill press, once for the RAS or chop saw, one for the router stuff, one for the band saw, table saw, power drill station, etc. You really want to be able to keep track of all the different accessories for each of your power tools.

-- Brad, Texas,

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1738 days

#4 posted 04-06-2015 06:42 PM

Stuff used frequently needs to be sorted and kept near the location it gets used. Less frequently used items can be tucked away into cabinets and drawers. Stuff that will probably never be used goes in the farthest, most inaccessible corner of the shop and stays there until a proper home is found or it ends up getting sold or tossed.

-- See my work at and

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 597 days

#5 posted 04-06-2015 08:10 PM

I use homemade bins to hold my screws, bolts, washers, nails, etc. The design came from an early edition of ShopNotes or maybe Woodsmith. When I get a moment I will take a picture of them and post it.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View BroncoBrian's profile


435 posts in 1379 days

#6 posted 04-06-2015 08:18 PM

I try to keep a few spare screws in my tires.

I do have a large wall with quite a bit of cabinets space. It was a good project. I might add a few drawers to them as suggested by Brad above. It really does a better job with dust and organization.

My favorite addition was a large shelf I just added for my lawn mower. It is not to heavy to lift up, and it gave me a lot more floor space. for big stuff. I also have a rolling metal toolbox which I don’t care for. The large drawers become a pit, and the small drawers require the top to be opened first.

I think stations are a good suggestion JAAune.

-- Bigfoot tries to take pictures of me

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1772 days

#7 posted 04-06-2015 09:22 PM

That is why most of us are continually building cabinets, shop carts, shelving, tool boxes, etc. for shop storage. It’s a huge issue for most of us. I try to make every 4th project something to make life easier in the shop, either a jig or to solve a storage problem.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Ken 's profile


17 posts in 648 days

#8 posted 04-11-2015 06:00 AM

You in Texas? I’m in Houston. I’m a fanatic about organization. And not matter how organized I get it’s never enough. My wife says I’m too German. Be glad to show you my garage shop. You might get a few ideas. I have a considerable amount of equipment and can still get both cars in (if I feel like it).

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 812 days

#9 posted 04-11-2015 10:43 AM

Two things:

1) designing and building nice “shop furniture” is a great way for us beginners to practice. It provides you with a constant reminder of mistakes you’ve made while you’re out there working. Also, when you get something right, it is right there in your shop for you to enjoy while you’re working.

2) I have several of the common variety plastic crates with lids. I bought them for moving, with the intention to get the shop/garage organized longer term. I find this to be a really useful way to organize/store things. For example, ALL of the “extra” stuff from all of my shop tools is in one single crate (cheap OEM miter gauge, big book for my incra system, left over screws and wrenches etc. that came with a saw, etc.). Also I have a crate for ALL of my less frequently used Dewalt cordless tools. The drill sits on the bench. Everything else that is yellow goes in that one crate. This way, I spend a lot less time wandering around the shop rummaging for things I don’t use all that often.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View macatlin1's profile


78 posts in 2364 days

#10 posted 04-11-2015 11:17 AM

One of the ways I have to get organized is to have all the “usable” tools hanging on the wall and grouped as to function. If I find that I am constantly getting a tool from storage I make a holder for it to hang on my cleated walls.

Typical of my shop wall cleats.

Major tools need cradles.

As the shop evolves I move tools around but strive to keep them in groups. The photos don’t show that now all the screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets and pliers are now grouped. I also have all the measuring tools grouped which includes yardsticks, rules, machinists squares, tape measures and framing squares.

I practice “lean” by purging myself of tools that I never use and storing “speciality” tools elsewhere to reduce the clutter. An example would be my torque wrench that rarely gets used but is a necessity.

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1935 days

#11 posted 04-11-2015 12:16 PM

I have had many shops over the years, but never in my life spent the time you spent, macatlin, to make racks like that. Very nice, but too much for me.
I am a pegboard and open rack guy. I try to not have round containers, since they tend to take up too much room. I keep plywood shelves on my racks with backs on them for things that are round, like cans of varnish and shellac.

I further keep things that I will know I use a lot within two steps of where I always work. That means I am surrounded by a sander or two, my main workbench is a big extension of my table saw, and if I back up too far, I hit my drill press. I have a multi drawer unit one step over with small tools that I need, and the really small tools, like power bits and drills, are in one of those sewing accessory boxes that I found at a Walmart. My small detail sanders on flexible cables are hanging above my head.

Oh, and if I don’t use it for over six months, I try to go through and pull it out of the shop and put it in my basement annex on shelves where I keep my wood or even sell the item. No use having things in the shop that I don’t use much at all. This includes things like my 16 ga. air nailer, containers of large nuts and bolts, boxes of fluorescent bulbs, a cutoff saw that is set up for cutting pipe, among other things.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View Tom Clark's profile

Tom Clark

88 posts in 2442 days

#12 posted 04-11-2015 09:53 PM

I built this storage cabinet to hold parts. There are several around the shop. Being unorganized usually results from not having a place to put things. Build some decent shop cabinets to solve your storage problems. Also, toss out machinery stands and put cabinets under them that serve as storage. Visit my shop tour to see many other cabinets.

-- Tom

View macatlin1's profile


78 posts in 2364 days

#13 posted 04-12-2015 11:12 AM

As you can see Brett, there are many ways to arrange the shop but I think we have missed your question.

“How do you store things like nails, screws, towels, string, wires, sandpaper, sanding blocks, spare parts, glues, finishes, manuals, and the like? I’m not a very organized person and it’s challenging for me to figure out what to do with these items.”

I store stuff like nails and screws in parts organizers. My favorite being 40 Bin Organizer with Full Length Drawer Item #94375 from Harbor Freight. I sort the nails by size and for screws I devote a column for size (#8, #10, etc) with each drawer in that column for length. If the column is for machine screws I have the proper tap, die and drill bit at the top of the column (I also do machine work). I mostly use paper towels and those are stored by the other household cleaning supplies (SWMBO has space on one wall near the door to the house).

For sand paper I have a small file tote that hanging folders for each size of paper and my shop has a storage space below the planer where I keep sanders, sanding blocks and my belt sander. The ROS is on the wall in an space for air tools. My shop also has a small office nook with a 2 drawer filing cabinet with manuals and warranties. The nook also has hanging cabinets in which I keep boxes of screws and nails. If I empty out a drawer in a parts organizer and I have it “in stock” in the hanging cabinet I refill the drawer in the organizer. I have a white board hanging in the shop and I write down supplies I need or am running low on, so if I need to buy something I can avoid second trips.

For small parts like collets, spray nozzles etc. I put them in drawers in a parts organizer. Larger item go in “ziploc” bags and are placed in banker boxes. If an accessory is used often then it gets a wall hanging or is included in the equipment cleat (like collet wrench for router). Wall worts (accessory transformers) are labelled and either stored with the item or if “orphaned” they are placed in a “ziploc” bag and the bag labelled with the voltage and current. I have a banker box full of these “orphaned” items.

As for finishes, the latex ones go in our pantry since my shop can get below freezing in the winter and a small heater in the pantry keeps that small space from going too cold. Until I get a metal cabinet large cans of solvents are stored in a metal shed separate from the house (along with all the other junk that other members of the family try to store in my shop). Small quantities of solvents are stored in paint cans I bought from the hardware outlet. These include used solvents for cleaning paint brushes and soaking metal parts. For fresh stuff I refill small cans of acetone, paint thinner, and alcohol. For the time being, these cans are stored on a movable shelf unit I have designated as my WIP (work in progress) storage shelf.

The simple answer is to have a place for everything and put it back when your are done. Could be wall hanging, could be cabinets, could be drawers, could be boxes stacked on the floor. If it is out of sight in a box for example LABEL IT. Saves a lot of time, believe me. Keep it organized. For me, I clean up before starting a new project or after I find myself looking for something I just used. Avoid clutter. My “clutter trigger” is when something falls off a pile of other stuff. Think before you buy. Is that tool going to sit in a box unused and forgotten? For me, if I pick up a tool and it is covered in dust I give serious thought as to its usefulness.

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