I’ve never been fond of working out of a box, even if it’s a well organized one. Instead my hand tools are stored on the walls around me in a fairly simple but functional layout that keeps everything to hand. I find a tool box is excellent for storing, keeping your tools protected and organized, but in a busy workshop you’re constantly delving through it to get something out, putting something back and then of course you leave the lid open and fill everything with shavings!
I find my ’Tool Wall’ to be much more intuitive when it comes to putting tools away again as it’s as easy to pop a plane back in the rack as it would be to dump it on the bench top. This makes my workshop more efficient and I feel keeps my tools out of harms way as it stops me piling them up on the bench where they’re at risk of being knocked off.
A well designed tool box takes in to account the size and quantity of the specific tools to be stored but a well used set of tools often evolves. Even with all of the tools I have I know there will be something else that’ll come along soon either because a project demands something specialist or something shiny just caught my eye. My system of hanging and racking allows new tools to be accommodated pretty simply and I can usually find a logical spot for them.
For the most part the ‘Tool Wall’ is incredibly simple – a large nail or couple of wooden pegs are used to hang most saws, and there’s a combination of shelves and racks for planes, chisels, marking tools etc. The complicated part is the layout and this is deceptively so. Tool location can help to create a disciplined workshop… that sounds a little over the top, but I do think that good logical organisation is key. It will encourage you to keep putting tools back away when your done so your work area doesn’t get swamped and you avoid those head scratching moments when you can’t figure where the pencil is despite knowing that there’s at least fifty lying about!
My layout works around the workbench which stands away from the tool wall so I can reach behind, grab a tool and put it to use without taking a step. The tool locations also take in to account how I use the bench so I have my planes near to the wagon vice and tenon saws near the face vice. A shelf above allows me to see my moulding planes so a can select which one I need without rummaging although this could be improved. There are other areas that can still be bettered especially since I’ve stuck a big oak bench in front of my chisel rack so I’ll let you know how I ‘fix’ these once I get around to it.
My metal hand planes are needed a lot when I’m building a workbench and this means they’re often taken away to another area of the workshop. I have a small set of shelves for these that is easily accessible so I can grab a plane and take it to my work.
One problem with a layout like this is your tools can get covered in dust if you use power tools around them. The dust will easily fall off as you pick them up but may grow on tools you don’t use too often!
Tool storage has to be very personal because even if we start out with the same basic kit it will always become more individual as the skills develop and we start to find our own unique approach and style. My solution will therefore be very different to your own because my tools are likely different and being a professional hand tool user I need to access so many different tools quickly. I think it could be interesting to take a look at some of your own personal solutions so if you have a photo or idea from your tool storage to submit then please send it through to email@example.com