Learn how to organize tools in your small workshop! We’ll compare pegboard vs. cabinets, ways to store hand and power tools and how to keep them organized!
How to Organize Tools
Today I’m sharing how to organize tools in a small workshop, garage, shed or basement. We’ll compare organizing our tools with pegboard vs. shelves in wall-mounted cabinets, the best way to store our tools and how we can keep them organized once and for all!
Related: My 12×13 Small Woodshop Layout
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My Tools Were Disorganized
The tools in my small workshop were disorganized for far too long. Many tools didn’t have a permanent home which meant I was constantly moving them from my workbench to my table saw to the floor. My goal for this year was to finally get my tools organized.
I should mention this post is a work in progress. Overall, I’m happy with how I organized my tools, but I still feel there are a few areas that could be improved. I will continue to update this post as I find better ways to organize my tools. And I’m open to suggestions. Please leave your workshop organizing tips in the comments.
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How to Organize Tools: Why I Don’t Use Pegboard
Let me start by saying this is not meant as a dig towards anyone who uses pegboard to organize their tools. I don’t use pegboard and I won’t use it in my workshop.
I can see how pegboard can be a good way to organize tools. It’s handy to be able to reach over and grab any tool you need, but let’s look at this another way.
Let’s look at a pegboard from a distance. It’s covered with tools of different shapes, sizes, and colors. There’s so much to see. What do you look at first? For me, it’s a lot for my eyes to focus on.
Pegboard can make a small workshop feel cramped and look jumbled. It can make a small space feel even smaller. Almost like the walls are closing in. Plus, all those tools absorb the light which can make a small space feel darker than it really is.
My goal is to help you make your small workshop feel bigger than it actually is. So I don’t think pegboard covered with tools of different shapes, sizes, and colors is the best way to organize tools in a small workshop.
Related: 4 Reasons Why I Don’t Use Pegboard
How to Organize Tools in Small Space
I think the best way to organize tools in a small workshop is with wall-mounted storage cabinets.
Let’s look at my storage cabinets from a distance. We see one solid color rather than a jumble of shapes, sizes, and colors. It looks clean and sleek. The wall appears longer and taller which makes my space feel larger.
I’ll admit it’s probably a little handier to reach for a tool on a pegboard, but I think the tradeoff is worth it.
It’s easy enough to slide open a cabinet door and grab the tool I need. Plus, the cabinets reflect the light which makes my small workshop feel bright, open and larger than it actually is.
DIY Tool Storage Cabinets
We can buy tool storage cabinets for our workshop, but I choose to make my own custom cabinets specifically designed for a small space.
My DIY storage cabinets aren’t as deep as a kitchen cabinet which means it takes up less space in my shop. I chose to use sliding cabinet doors because hinged doors take up space as they swing open into the shop. The shelves are adjustable which makes it easy to organize tools of different shapes and sizes.
Skate over to get the free plans for the DIY storage cabinets now. Watch the video below to see what my shop looked like before, how I installed the cabinets and to see the cabinets in action.
How to Organize Tools in a Small Workshop
- Sort tools by category and toss any damaged or broken tools
- Make a heat map of the tools that you use the most
- Organize the tools in the cabinet using the heat map
- Label the tool locations
- Keep your tools organized
How to Organize Tools Video
Watch the quick video to see how I organized the tools in my small workshop!
Step 1. How to Organize Tools: Sort the Tools
The first thing I needed to do before I installed my new workshop cabinets was to remove the tools from the old cabinet and take the old cabinet off the wall.
I started by setting up some boxes so I had a place to sort the tools. I used Amazon boxes because who doesn’t have a bunch of those laying around?!
I used painter’s tape to label the boxes with my tool categories. I used a slightly different list when I was sorting, but here’s the list of the tool categories I would use now:
- Measuring and Marking
- Joining Tools/Kreg Jig
- Hand Tools
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
I tossed things in the garbage as I removed and sorted the tools. I threw out any broken or damaged tools that couldn’t be repaired, worn sanding discs, empty packages, etc.
I also thought about each tool as I removed it from the cabinet. Is this a tool I use all the time, seldom use or never use? If I never use it, can I find another home for it so it won’t take up valuable space in my new cabinets?
Step 2. How to Organize Tools: Make a Heat Map
The old cabinet was removed from the wall and the new storage cabinets were hung. Now it was time to start thinking about how I would organize my tools. To help with that process I created a tool organization heat map. In other words, where should I store the tools I reach for or use the most?
I printed a sketch of my cabinets and began laying out where the tools should be organized. I usually place my mobile workbench in the middle or right side of my shop, so the tools I use most often should go in these cabinets. This is where I will store my drilling tools, measuring/marking tools, joining tools/Kreg Jig, sanding equipment, and PPE.
My table saw sits on the left side of my shop. I’ll need to move the table saw to get into these cabinets.
I’ll store the tools I use less frequently here because these cabinets are not as easy to reach. This is where I’ll stash cutting tools, adhesives, hand tools, my router, and router bits.
Step 3. How to Organize Tools: Fill the Cabinet
Now that I decided where I’ll store my tools it was time to organize them in the cabinets. I used my heat map as a guide to place the tools in the cabinets.
As I was organizing my tools I noticed my drills took up too much space on the shelves so I built a drill storage rack. Skate over to the free plans and watch the video below to see how I made the storage rack.
Step 4. How to Organize Tools: Label Locations
After I organized the tools where I wanted them I labeled their locations. I labeled the locations for two reasons. First, labeling makes my storage area look neat and tidy. And second, it makes me accountable to put the tool back where it belongs.
I’ll be honest I haven’t settled on a permanent location for some of my tools. I’m waiting to label these tools until I have decided on their final spot.
Step 5. How to Organize Tools: Keep it Organized
Here’s the big question. How do we keep our tools organized? I think the first step is to have a permanent home for each tool.
As I mentioned, using the label maker helps the cabinets look tidy, but it also makes me accountable to put the tool back where it belongs. I don’t need to think about where I’ll put the tool. I know exactly where it goes.
The next step to keeping our tools organized is treating our workshop like our kitchen. This means putting our tools away after each use. Just slide the door open and put it where it belongs
And I get it. This is tough. I was in the habit of just leaving the tools where they were. But now that I have the cabinets labeled with the tool location it’s almost fun to put them away.
The adjustable shelves in my cabinets were finished with shellac. I want to keep these shelves looking neat and clean so I use my Shop-Vac to clean the tools before I put them away. It’s just like I would wash a dish before putting it in my kitchen cabinets. I enjoy opening my workshop cabinets and seeing how everything looks so neat and tidy.
Now you know how to organize tools in your small workshop, garage, shed or basement. First, sort the tools by category and toss any damaged or broken tools. Make a heat map of the tools that you use the most and organize the tools in a cabinet using the heat map.
Keep your tools organized by labeling their locations. Labeling makes the cabinet look tidy and makes you accountable for returning the tool to its proper location. And be sure to clean tools before returning them to the cabinet.
Thank you for stopping by. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott
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