Tool Storage Solutions

by | Feb 18, 2013 | 14 comments

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

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Chris Buckingham

    That looks really organized!! I find another “fine tuning” idea is to draw an outline around each tool on the wall,you can then put the tool back on it’s “nail” every time you put it back,you can also see how many tools are missing! It is surprising just how many tools you can store when you go verticle, and they are all accesible! Unlike when they are in a box! Especially if it is the box the tool came in,they just never seem to all go back in the box!

    • Richard

      I like the idea of outlining everything. It’s not something I’d ever get around to doing but there’s something very satisfying about knowing everything fits within it’s very own drawing!

  2. Dave

    I very seldom work outside my shop, therefore I never felt the need to build a box for my tools. I try to keep them organized much the same way you do. I do have designated work areas around my shop and keep the tools that pertain to that area close by. In some cases this means I have doubles and triples of the same tool. This saves steps, as I get older I find this more convenient.

    • Richard

      It’s surprising how many steps can be saved for being organised, much better to spend time woodworking rather than rumaging!

  3. Ken

    Thanks Richard, another great post for me, being in the process of building up a small home workshop, and tool storage being the next thing to sort out.

    I do like your layout over tool boxes, though I will be making one just for the fun of it, and some where to put small not used often Items. The tool wall is a solution that would work very well for me, thanks buddy.


    Ken 😉

    • Richard

      Thanks Ken,
      I just use a suede tool bag at the moment if I’m working away from the workshop so I’m also looking to make a tool box soon. Like you say, just for the fun of it as it will certainly look the part.

      • Ken

        That would make a good project Richard.

  4. Paul Chapman

    I have a tool wall very similar to yours, Richard, and have found it by far the best method for storing my frequently used tools. The other thing I have is a bank of very small drawers for those occasionally used but essential items. Things like screwdriver bits (how many different styles of screw heads are there?), allen keys, router accessories, machine screws and nuts, spanners, adhesive and double-sided tape, fuses, punches, Stanley knife blades, old-style fibre Rawl plugs, etc, etc. When working away from the shop it’s easy to slip out the drawer and put it in the car knowing that I’ll have all my screwdriver bits, for example, with me. This has saved hours of rummaging through cardboard boxes knowing that it’s in there somewhere – and then going out any buying another one because I can’t find it!

    • Richard

      Drawers are ideal for all those little bits and pieces. The green cupboard in the photo has a lot of my tapes and glues in but it never stays organised! I’d much prefer a set of small drawers, I suppose that’s why the chest of drawers evolved from the chest – much more practical.

  5. rhancock

    Hi Richard, It’s always interesting to see other people’s tool solutions. An additional problem we have to deal with in the subtropics is the humidity, which produces rust in an instant, so closed wooden cupboards are essential, but you still need to be able to access everything in a moment, as you say, without taking a step.

    • Richard

      If I had to keep everything covered like in your situation then I go with more drawers like what Paul has. It wouldn’t be as quick of course but they could be taylored to suit your tools and kept in eye line, there’s nothing worse than having to bend down to find something.

    • barry oborne

      hi to rhancock,
      where do you live? I’m an american who has lived in kerala, south india for the
      ten years. I live right on the shore of the arabian sea and on the otherside
      of our island is brackish backwater. the humidity here is as high as it gets and its salty.
      so rust and mold are just a few moments of unawareness away. at night to
      relax I clean and wax my tools. I’m constantly looking into ways of
      controlling the humidity like silica gel for tool cabinetry etc. its hard enough just
      keeping a decent edge on any blade but that lurking salt air is the thief in the night.
      I’ll make it a point to post any remedies I find.

  6. Stephen

    Richard Hi,

    always a fascinating subject matter, storing tools and the open wall is by far the best for that instant look and grab approach, but yeah the problem of dust does arise even to some degree if you’re a hand tools only shop…..some years ago (sadly not photographed) i saw a woodshop that had a wall layout split into 3 areas with a simple boxed-edge only for each section, instead of doors each compartment had a roll top old fashioned shutter blind, just like the old roll top writing desks that my grand father had but on a much larger scale and probably with a thinner slat make-up….i never knew if the woodworker made these himself or if he bought them somewhere. The benefit of course was no need for bulky doors to open back….so many choices eh!

    • Richard

      Hi Steve,
      What an intriguing set up and what a shame there’s no photos! I can count dozens of times when I wished I had my camera to hand as well.


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