7 Tips for Organizing the Shop
I believe that the structure around us, directly impacts how we think, act and work. Now this may sound rather convoluted, but it's basically a way of saying that your environment matters, and if the space around you is nice and organized, then you'll spend a lot less time being frustrated, you'll be able to think clearer, and things generally go right, more often than they go wrong.
This is true, I think, for all aspects of our lives, including our home, our minds and …. our shops or work spaces. Perhaps it's even more true when it comes to our workshops, because it's the one area that tends to be messy by nature, simply because we have so many things in it – materials, tools, accessories, things we may collect for the ONE day we MIGHT need it. You know what I'm talking about, right? Then add to that the concept of different projects in the works, and generally spaces which are never large enough to begin with, and there's no wonder it's easy for the shop to become one huge mess.
Perhaps this is why woodworkers and makers tend to really LOVE shop projects. It's our way of controlling the universe. We don't have control over all things in the world, but we might be kings and queens of the garage or the shop – so by organizing it and creating custom solutions for all of our things, we're pretty much saying, this is my world, and I'm taking charge here.
This week I published a video which is all about organizing and storing my power tools and chargers (along with a host of other miscellaneous things which didn't have a home previously!), and it's really making me think about the importance of organizing.
My shop, in many ways, is a huge mess currently because it exists in a state of transition. I never got everything organized in the first place after moving in a couple of months ago, have new tools I'm planning to incorporate. I have lots of temporary solutions, like racks and wood storage which I would like to upgrade, and frankly, the whole shop just needs a good cleaning. However, it's important to keep in mind, that you can only do one thing at a time, and that's good enough.
I must say, it feels so good to build something which solves a problem that has been bothering you for a while. In my case, that was having plastic power tools in proximity to my beautiful wood and metal hand tools. I used to store all these tools on one wall, and frankly, I always looked at power tools as temporary; tools you change over time, whereas hand tools are precious investments which you probably won't really change much. So plastic next to metal, just kind of irked me! Then add chargers – and by the way, am I the only one wondering how the chargers somehow are multiplying? Where are they all coming from? So to solve this issue, I figured it would be really nice to have a dedicated space for all the chargers, the power tools, etc... And that's why I built this station – and I also created a set of free plans, if you'd like to download and build your own.
So with all this organizing and thinking about shop spaces, I figured, why not share some tips I tend to go back to when it comes to organizing, and set up a space where you can be more productive:
7 Tips for Organizing the Shop
Like goes with like. Now, this may seem rather obvious, but one of the first things I like to think about is to group things together, so you have certain types of tools together as opposed to all over the place. Turning tools next to other turning related things, sanding and sharpening together... you get the gist.
Whenever possible, create separate work spaces. In my experience, one way to make a space more efficient, and more useful, is definitely to create different work spaces for different tasks. In my old shop (which measured just under 200 square feet) I had 5 different work stations (2 work benches, 1 computer station, 1 electronics tinker station, 1 writing station). This makes the area feel fresher because you can move between them and work on different things at the same time, and it also forces you to be super efficient with your space and storage of things.
Take the time to create nice storage solutions for things that you use all the time. Even though using and storing your screws and nails in the boxes you bought them in works fine, you might as well build yourself some basic boxes out of wood (a great opportunity to practice some hand box joint or dovetails), and create a custom set-up. Add some labels, and that way you'll save time looking for just the right one, and it'll look nice and very custom.
Create a central a drawer or two, that has dividers and all your “go-to” items that you otherwise tend to go looking for all the time. I'm talking measuring tapes, pencils, scissors, eraser, pliers, speed square etc... Try to keep this drawer in pristine condition!
Create stations to create good habits. You know you should be sharpening your tools more often, however if your stones or strop or other system is located in the back of a cabinet, then frankly, it's too annoying to bring out very often. So make sure to create a situation where it's inviting to do tasks which you otherwise don't get around to as frequently as you'd like.
Cleaning! The same concept goes with cleaning. Working in a neat shop is just so much nicer, so make it as easy as possible to clean as you go. One of my favorite tools is a hand vacuum, especially to have on the workbench, or if I'm in areas where my dust collection won't reach.
Don't be afraid to create temporary solutions. I have found that when you have too many things that need to be organized, and you want to make it just perfect, you may in fact end up doing nothing at all. Because in order to organize the wood, you first need to move your lathe, but before that you need organize the router bits which are located where the lathe is going, etc... If you're always waiting to create that perfect solution, you never quite get started, and you're simply stuck. So don't worry so much about perfection, create, change and don't be too attached to any one solution.
OK. so those are some things I tend to go back to when it comes to organizing my space. I must say I feel rather inspired after writing this, as many of the things on my list, I have yet to accomplish in my new space. How about you, do you have any good tips to add? Let me know in the comments below!