A woodworking shop is always evolving. Sections and components are always being modified to work better. Naturally, the wood storage area should be adequate, but not so large that it overpowers the working and storage areas. Large stationary tools such as the table saw, power planer, jointer and others should be located near the wood. But shop layout isn’t all there is to its design. You need storage for smaller wood pieces, large and small hand tools and supplies. The trick is taking advantage of overlooked, but perfectly useful storage space.

It’s easy to believe you’re doing a great job storing your tools and equipment, but there’s always room for some creative improvement. If you’ve been thinking about designing a new tool storage system for your shop, look around and find that overlooked area. Building your own system is far cooler than anything you could purchase.

Lose the Wall Cabinets

If your shop is like many others, dull, utilitarian wall cabinets probably line at least two walls. Most of these commercially produced cabinets are featureless, cramped and probably don’t go up to the ceiling. This type of design is bad enough in a kitchen, but worse in a woodworking shop. All that empty space above the cabinets does is gather dust and items you probably forgot about. Whether you’re building new cabinets or putting in shelving, run it all the way to the ceiling for the extra storage space.

Keep Everything Within Easy Reach

Tools and other items you use every day or several times a week need different storage arrangements than something you only use every few months. But you know this already. Keep this in mind when designing your storage system. You also don’t want to put items you rarely use somewhere so out of sight that you forget where they are (remember those cabinets?).
An easy way to solve this problem is to design your system with the following plan in mind:
  • What you use daily
  • What you use occasionally
  • What you seldom use (but still want to be able to find)

If you want to work efficiently, you should have all the tools you use most often right at hand. Most of your hand tools should be visible at all times. There’s nothing more frustrating than opening a drawer and having to fumble around for your nailset (which is actually in the cabinet over your head). If you have to take the time to mentally locate what you’re looking for before you even start looking, you have too many cabinets and too many drawers. No memory is that good. One of the best fixes for keeping stuff close enough “just in case” is to build a shop cart or rolling toolbox.

Don’t Forget the Small Stuff

Ever shop has stuff laying around that’s not used on a daily basis. And there’s nothing more annoying than having to paw through several drawers or search beneath your workbench for battery packs or wiring outlets for chargers – you know, the small stuff.

Small items are probably the most critical to round up and put in one of more containers where you can be sure to find them when you need them. Consider using clear plastic storage boxes and label them, then put them on your new shelving, their own cubbies or in one of those new cabinets. Be sure to store some parts separate from others to reduce the number of items you’d otherwise have to sift through (again).

When designing a new tool storage system and reorganizing your shop, consider the “bigger picture”. Be strategic and your new storage system will easily harmonize with the woodworking shop you worked so hard to create.