Considerations

Perhaps the most fundamental concept to keep in mind when designing tool storage for your shop is this: Provide a specific place for each item to be stored, and consistently return each item to its place. Using a toolbox built according to this principle quickly becomes second nature. Your hands, independent of your eyes, soon know where to find a tool-in its place. And your eyes know at a glance if any tool is missing—it's out of its place.

Another fundamental principle is simplicity. Inevitably, the more complex the storage system, the more difficult it will be to get at an individual tool. Back in my finish-carpentry days, I remember hanging off the end of a scaffolding board trying to fit a piece of molding along a ceiling line. Needing a certain chisel to make the final trim cut, I yelled down to my partner to get it for me out of my toolbox. By the time he waded through the overlying trays of tools and miscellaneous odds and ends to get at it, I had given up waiting and whacked the poor molding into place with a hammer.

Squares supported by hooks on pegboard

Peg Board Tool Holder

Chisels in clips or pockets

Screwdrivers in spring holders

Bit and burr shanks set into holes

Planes in pigeonholes

Saws on pegs

Bit and burr shanks set into holes

Saws on pegs

Chisels in clips or pockets

Planes in pigeonholes

Squares supported by hooks on pegboard

Screwdrivers in spring holders

No, it was not a very good fit. And yes, I redesigned my toolbox.

The goal, then, is to find a way to contain all the tools you need without creating toolbox gridlock. Unless you are building a traditional cabinetmaker's chest, avoid creating compartments that require removing other components for access. I also avoid complex holding mechanisms for the tool handles. If a mechanism is necessary at all, be it a turnbutton or some type of catch, it should be operable blindfolded with one arm tied behind your back. A strip of magnetic tape may be all you need to hold light tools like small screwdrivers securely in place. Some typical tool-support strategies are shown in the drawing on p. 69.

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