Guide to Tool Storage

So unless you’ve only just started woodworking you will undoubtedly have a huge number of tools lying around on your bench, or floor, or stuffed in a drawer.

This will only get worse over time because every single project absolutely requires the purchase of a couple new tools, right?

If you’re anything like me, before starting a project you’ll first have to make room amongst all the tools for it. This usually consists of picking them all up and… stuffing them in a drawer, or over in that convenient corner where you’ll never accidentally tread on them whilst carrying something heavy and fragile.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a good tool storage system? One where every tool has its own place and everything is easily to hand and not underfoot. Ah, but that sounds expensive, right? Well, if you buy off the shelf the answer is maybe.

However, if you’re more interested in building it yourself (which is the only option if you want true customisation around your tools and shop) then keep reading for some tool storage ideas.

The first thing you’ll want to do is a complete inventory of all your tools (fun in itself) and decide which ones you want close to hand in your main work area and which ones could be a little further away. My suggestion would be to split your tools into 3 categories:

  1. Used on every job, all the time 
  2. Used regularly but not all the time
  3. Why did I spend $100 on this I’ve never even used it?

Next, see if you can associate each tool with an area of your shop where it’s used most frequently. By this I mean that a saw might be used most often with your saw horses, a push rod is mostly used with your table saw, a hammer is mostly used at your workbench.

Try grouping the tools together around where you mostly use them. This bit is important, it’s no use having made a great custom storage solution for your clamps if it’s on the other side of your shop whilst you’re holding a glued joint together on your workbench.

Pay attention to these two steps as if you want to end up with a good storage solution you need to have the right combination of location and accessibility. For those tools that you can’t associate with a specific area of your shop (usually the most common tools, hammer, pencil, rule, set square, small clamps etc) you’ll probably want to have a mobile tool storage setup that you can drag around after you.

Right, this is where we’re going to start looking at pictures for inspiration…

Let’s start with tool storage boxes, nice and simple. This could be your portable solution for your common tools, maybe put some wheels on it and a drag handle.

Check out some of these layouts for ideas for your custom solution, especially the first one which is a great example of tools fitting around and amongst each other:

You could implement either of those tool grips in wood. Start by laying out your tools on your bench and fit them around each other (take some photos when you find a good layout).

You’ll probably want to make a few drawers (unless you’ve only got a few tools that fit in this category) or maybe you could do an upright solution where you could combine the drawers from the example on the left (along with a well fitted layout from above) and the wheels/handle from the one on the right.

Peg Boards

You can definitely make a peg board yourself, but given the cost of the material and the effort involved it may well be more economical to buy a pre-drilled board. I’d suggest, also, using a mixture of bought and custom made hangers; although they’re easy enough to make if you want to go all out on doing it yourself.

The last one is my favourite and something very similar will be making an appearance in my shop as soon as possible; swinging boards where you can use both sides! Given the overlap possibility you’re going to be (at least) quadrupling your storage space.

Off the Shelf (Pun intended)

Oh, and in response to the post title “Where’s my clamp?”. Here it is:

If you’re not wanting to build a customised storage solution then there are plenty of pre-made options available to you. It’s worth pointing out, though, that none of these were designed with your specific tools and shop layout in mind so you’ll end up having to make a few compromises. You may find that a mixture of bought and built works well though.

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