Top Storage Strategies

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StrategiesYour stored tools and supplies should be well organized, easy to access, and out of the way. This is the best way to ensure your work surfaces are clean and ready for the next phase of a project. Depending on the type of work you do, you’ll probably need plenty of open space to facilitate large projects as needed, or to temporarily reconfigure the shop to accommodate materials that need to be cut down
to a manageable size, etc. If this requires the use of shared spaces—for example, making room in the garage by pulling the car into the driveway—it helps to have tools and work surfaces that are easily moved or can be set up and knocked down quickly.

Here are some of the key strategies that help make an integrated shop work with its surroundings:

For storage, think volume, not just floor space. Shelving units that rise from floor to ceiling make better use of floor space than shelves that stop at a convenient, reachable height. The upper shelves can be filled with seldom-used items. Also look for opportunities where overhead storage can help keep the floor area and work surfaces clear. Open stud cavities in an unfinished garage or utility room offer free space for small shelves or long, thin material stored on end.

For work that involves multiple stages or tool operations, plan for mobility and adaptability. Work benches, materials racks, and even large stationary tools can be outfitted with heavy-duty locking casters so you can roll them out when you need them and roll them back when you’re done. You can build your own caster bases or shop around for compatible manufactured versions. Some power tools are designed for use with specific portable bases or come with their own folding stands, so check with the manufacturers of your tools.

Plan workstations for double duty: a permanent bench or work table is already taking up floor
space, so why not use the space above and below for storage? For example, a lumber rack above a saw table makes it easy to grab stock as you go. Rolling carts or pull-out bins and drawers beneath a bench can hold other tools plus blades or bits for the station’s main tool. Small woodworking shops can save space by combining a saw table or extension wing witha router table.

Consider using outdoor spaces for work and storage. Rolling tool bases and portable workstations simplify setup outdoors. Cutting sheet goods (especially MDF and particleboard) outdoors helps keep dust down in garage shops and simplifies transport of materials into basement workspaces.

A simple lean-to shed built against the back wall of the house or garage is a great way to keep materials out of the elements and out of the way. A permanent outdoor workbench made with weather-resistant materials is handy for rough-cutting materials or finishing projects in nice weather. Here are some other tips for saving space in a small shop:

  • Cover garage or basement walls with plywood for hanging tools, bins, or simply buy new cabinets wherever you need them. Paint the plywood a light color for better light reflection.
  • Store lumber, sheet goods, and other large materials on a rolling cart or rack for easy access and to facilitate unloading and transport from your vehicle.
  • Build custom cubbies or shelving for storing frequently used equipment, like portable power tools, without their bulky cases. Incorporate tote-away boxes or sliding trays for blades, bits, and accessories.
  • Keep a trash barrel or bin underneath one or both ends of workstations for discarding scrap material as you work.
  • In a basement shop, store clamps and similar devices by clamping them to the floor joists above (secure bar clamps to only one joist; clamping across joists can pull them together, thus releasing other clamps)
  • For a lightweight, portable work table, use a hollow core door finished with polyurethane (or other varnish) laid over fold up metal sawhorses.