how to extreme

Organizing the Home Workshop

Garages January 23, 2005 Matt Weber



If you could add it all together, how much time would you have wasted over the years searching your workshop for “just the right tool” for a particular project? For many folks, the answer would likely be a matter of days, rather than hours. If constantly scouring the workbench for the correct size socket or screwdriver drives you up the (cluttered) wall, then it’s probably time to give your shop an organizational overhaul. To work productively and efficiently, all the necessary tools should be where you need them, when you need them. From easy visibility to convenient accessibility, there’s a lot to consider when organizing the workspace.

If you’re giving your shop a complete remodel, a good place to start might be the walls. Painting the walls of the workshop white or another bright color helps reflect interior light, enhancing the visibility of the room.

A good choice for workshop lighting is fluorescent tube lighting, which minimizes glare. Halogen lamps are also available with tripods for easy placement. And smaller 50-watt clamping lamps will help for more detail-oriented bench work.

Also, optimize your workbench for maximum comfort and convenience. The workbench is usually the hub of all shop operations. A common height for work benches is just a couple of inches below the user’s waistline. The surface should be clear and flat, and its size can be built to fit your needs. A bench 5 to 7 feet long and 18 to 36 inches wide will suit most work. But before you build or purchase a bench, be sure it makes sense for the size of your table saw.

Many people add an extension panel to their workbench that can fold up level with the work table for work with large pieces, and then unlock and fold out of the way when not needed. Lockable wheels will also allow you to easily move the bench around and then secure it in a stationary position for additional versatility. And don’t forget to outfit the area with a comfortable stool, which you’ll greatly appreciate when sitting for long periods at the bench planning and designing projects.




How to handle storage is the big question when it comes to workshop organization. I’ve been guilty in the past of keeping a pretty chaotic work area. My old workshop had nails hanging sporadically all over the walls, overstuffed cabinet shelves and two dozen jumbled drawers, which might as well have all been labeled “miscellaneous.”

While wall space is a great way to store tools for easy access and visibility, inject a little method into the madness. Keep you’re carpenter’s squares in one section, your hammers in another, your metal shears in another, and so forth. It sounds obvious, but use labels!

Companies such as Stringliner offer pegboard organizing systems to make smart use of wall space.

Companies such as Stringliner offer pegboard organizing systems to make smart use of wall space.

A friend of mine has a hanging pegboard where he actually traced the outline of many of his tools in white permanent marker. When he needs to find where to hang the hammer, he looks for the outline drawn on the board, and the hammer is back in place in an instant. Any kind of quick identification system makes keeping track of your tools a no-brainer, and lends itself greatly to keeping a tidy workspace.