I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty, where should I store them?
April 18, 2010 7:25 PM   Subscribe

What to do with all these bolts, screws, sanders, screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, pliers, hinges, socket wrenches, bells, whistles, twine, and spare change? I need to organize a tool shed and I want the result to be easy to use and orderly. Looking for tips and photos.

I'm in charge of organizing someone else's tool shed and it's a mess. There are lots and lots of extra tools and spare parts, which the owner of this shed doesn't want to part with. Ideally, commonly used tools and items would be located neatly around the work space, while extras would be stowed away in an organized fashion. There's lots of little tubbies to put stuff in, but they seem to attract random nails and haphazard materials and don't fit the shape of the tools very well. Does anyone have any experience making a tool shed a functional place that will (somewhat) ward off future clutter?
I was thinking to try to find a lot of coffee cans to put nails and tape measures and other small things in. I was also trying to brainstorm ways to compartmentalize larger spaces - there's a couple of empty big trunks and big wooden boxes.
Besides basic organization, what have mefites done to make their shed more inviting? There's a hell of a lot of spiders, some rust stains, and scary little seen loft storage space right now.
posted by ajarbaday to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend one of those tool chests on wheels that has lots of flat drawers (the kind that mechanics use) there are usually lots available under "tool cabinet" on kijiji or Craigslist. One of these helped me turn the corner on keeping my workspace organized.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:35 PM on April 18, 2010

Visibility is the key. You want the main working spot to be the centre of a panopticon.

As soon as stuff can form more than one layer, you're doomed. So: make a shadow pegboard for the most common stuff, get the cabinet of flat drawers that bobobothegreat recommends for less common stuff, and build shelves that are just deep enough to store the power tools on.

Teeny weeny things are best stored in glass jars (once again, these should stand on shallow shelves so they can't stack more than one deep). That way, you can just look at a jar and see what kinds of things are in it.

Under no circumstances should you be seeking to eliminate clutter; if the owner of the tool shed is anything like me, he needs clutter to stimulate creativity. Just find places for it to live so that it can't hide from him.
posted by flabdablet at 7:51 PM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

If the shed is anything like my parents' tool bench, or any other cluttered area, they probably have a lot of extra stuff because they forgot they had it already. The first thing you should do is sort the stuff to find duplicates or tools that are broken. (I'd caution you that some tools that appear "useless" might have sentimental value, so maybe just put them to the side instead of throwing them out, unless you have permission. Ordinarily I'd say to slash and burn, but I know a lot of ours belonged to my grandpa.)

The key is that everything needs a home. Is a shadow pegboard the kind that has the outline/shape of the tool clearly marked so you know where it goes? You will note that the ever-fabulous Julia Child kept her kitchen organized like so.

I wouldn't necessarily go for glass jars, but I agree with the premise that you should be able to see everything. Those organizers with little clear drawers are nice.
posted by Madamina at 8:05 PM on April 18, 2010

Visibility is the key... glass jars

Yup. I knew an old handyman who had a magnetic strip across the legnth of his workshop cabinets. Hanging down from this strip where +/- 50 or 60 (100?) large babyfood jars, each with a different type of screw/nut/bolt/washer... The lids, of course, kept them suspended from the magnetic strip. Visibility, access, semi order.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:08 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Craftsman tool chest. I have one for tools. My wife has one for craft supplies. Go for the ones with the ball bearing drawers. Watch the ads: they put them on sale quite often, especially in the early fall. I wish I had another one. They're perfect. Expensive, yeah, but perfectly suited to the task and the last forever. I use a labeler on mine so I know what's in each drawer w/o having to open it (screwdrivers in one, wrenches and pliers in another, sockets in a third). I have a few drawers dedicated to "hardware," which have little sorters with all manner of nuts, bolts, nails, and fasteners. I use the big bottom drawer for small power tools. You can go nuts with it. If everything in my life were as orderly as my tool chest, I'd be doing fine.
posted by wheat at 8:35 PM on April 18, 2010

Teeny weeny things are best stored in glass jars

Agreed. You can nail the lids to the underside of a wooden shelf.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 PM on April 18, 2010

Toolmonger and Make Magazine's blog have features about people's workspaces all the time.
posted by Harald74 at 12:39 AM on April 19, 2010

I have a bank of little drawer cabinets over some shelves I made down in my shop. This works out to like 200 tiny little drawers, 54 little plastic bins capable of holding about a pound of nails each and then 54 plastic boxes which a test kit we use at work comes in. with the right kind of labeling, this has really helped.

I also have a box labeled, "The Island of Misfit Hardware" which contains things like a 3 inch in diameter wooden ball (I needed eight - they were packaged three in a bag) a couple odd strap hinges. A spring that was part of the adjustment mechanism of a 1940's era reading lamp, a compressed air regulator, and other odd crap that doesn't go with anything else in my giant bank o' storage.

For tools, I used to be all over pegboard, but have kind of become fan of purpose built racks (Caution - 6MB PDF of plans for a chisel rack that I built and love). This may be more than you want to tackle for someone else's tool shed, though.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:06 AM on April 19, 2010

For tools like shovels, rakes, brooms, etc, we got a corner garden tool rack like this one. Before that we had them hung up on a pegboard, but this was more compact and out of the way, plus it freed up lots of pegboard space. I'm not really a pegboard fan, but it's there so it's easy to use.
posted by forforf at 7:07 AM on April 19, 2010

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