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Thread: Tool storage: Wall mounted or under workbench?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Bucks County PA

    Tool storage: Wall mounted or under workbench?

    Hi everyone,

    I've been looking to build a storage case for my hand tools for some time now. I have a design for a wall mounted cabinet, but lack the wall space to really place it conveniently. There is no where in my shop that would really work for a wall mounted cabinet. My workbench is admittedly too wide. So mounting it above my bench is out (if/until I fix the width).

    I spent some time looking around my shop and trying to spot the under-utilized areas. My idea was to use as much as I could for storage with the hope that I could find a spot to mount my tool cabinet. Lately I've been going through my tools and eliminating the ones I don't use/need. Many of these will be put up for sale over the next couple months (subtle heads up there!).

    During my search I noticed that the two places where I could really improve. They turned out to be under my work bench, and under my lathe tool cart. The lathe cart needs to be completely re-designed. That is for another forum. But I'm currently working on a plans to add a cabinet(s) that features appropriately sized drawers. This cabinet should have enough room to hold most of my hand tools safely and securely (it will be lock-able).

    However, I'd like to put this question to all here.

    1. What kind of storage system do you prefer for your handtools? In a closed/ opened cabinet? Cubbies along a wall?
    2. Or a drawer in your workbench?
    3. And why do you prefer them?

    Dominic Greco

  2. #2
    I like wall storage because all of my tools are easily accessible and visible and easy to put away so I do it more often. If a tool is missing, I know it's missing. If I need a tool, I know where to look. My tool boards are mounted on french cleats so they can (kind of easily) be moved if necessary and because my boards are only about 1" thick, not like a cabinet, it does not stick out too far over the bench taking up valuable bench space. They are also expandable by simply attaching a cleat to another board and hanging the board on the already mounted wall cleat. I also have a shelf under my benchtop for things that don't hang on the wall easily (combination plane, glue pot, shooting board).

    See some of my storage behind the apprentice. I got the idea from a FWW Tools and Shops issue several years ago so I can't take credit.
    Attached Images Attached Images

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  3. #3
    Hi Dominic, I am of the school that wall mounts as many tools as possible. My bench is set up so that the side I work from most often is about 42" from the wall. I stand between the bench and the wall so I'm able to just reach back and either grab a tool or put it back in its correct home when I'm through with it. I choose this approach since by nature I'm a bit of a slob and if it's not convenient and easy, no tool would ever go back to its home. There are several other added benefits in addition to some drawbacks. The separate and individual holders for each tool make them simple to find, easy to grab or replace, and most importantly protect them from each other. I don't have a cabinet with doors since I've always felt that the space picked up on the doors is cancelled out when the doors are open and sections of the rest of the wall are hidden and obstructed by the doors. It's also far more difficult to arrange a cabinet efficintly than an open wall, and much harder to change the configuration of the cabinet once things are fixed in place. On my open wall all of the home made holders are mounted with drywall screws and can be shifted around as as my needs and my assortment of tools change.

    The downside of open wall storage of tools is that they pick up every bit of dust and dirt when you sand, sweep the shop, or otherwise make a mess. It's also possible when you're in a hurry to "miss" the tool holder and have a chisel or something else drop onto the floor.

    If you decide to go with under bench drawers, make sure you leave enough clearance under the benchtop for the shanks of benchdogs and holdfasts and for a dust brush to clear out the dust, shavings, and chips that fall through the dog holes. Make several heights of drawers so that space is used efficiently, and consider how you are going to protect the several tools in a single drawer from contacting and damaging each other.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  4. #4
    I like the wall mount but have limited wall space so I've had to use drawers for some things. While the wall mount gets dirty, as Dave mentioned, you can blow them off with air. The problem with the drawers is that they fill up with swarf and it's much harder to clean them. Sure, sure, I know, keep the drawers closed. But let's talk reality...

    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Arnold MO
    Now that is one cute little apprentice you have there!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Central NY State
    When I designed my shop, I allowed for lots of pegboards. I have 2 4' x 10' panels, and 4 2' x 3' panels. I use both pegs and shop made custom holders for tools. It works pretty well, but is not very efficient. I also have a couple of drawers under my bench, and a shelf which holds my planes. Dust gets on most everything. Tools easily damaged are kept in shop made boxes for esthetics and protection. I'd like to build a closing wall hung cabinet sometime, but am comfortable enough with what I've got that I haven't made the time to build one. One thing I like about pegboards is that it's really easy to allow my tool placement to evolve and improve.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Hedrick View Post
    Now that is one cute little apprentice you have there!
    Thanks! She loves the shop. I think she can hear the door open from anywhere in the house because no matter how quietly I open it the next thing I hear is her running toward the door and yelling "Shop, shop, shop!". That's been one great benefit of unplugging my shop. She can come in anytime she wants and there's nothing (within her reach) that she can get hurt on. She's very content to come in and play with her toys, some scrap lumber from the cutoff bin or just sweep the shavings around the floor. And as you can tell, she likes to sit on the bench and watch/help me work.

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Bucks County PA

    Thanks for all the comments

    Thank you all for participating in this thread. It seems that the consensus is for wall mounted, opened cabinets. But that is mostly due to the ease at which they can be re-configured.

    I have to say that all of your comments show a deep appreciation for the rather fluid nature of the work shop and how much things like work patterns, number of tools, and shifting priorities can change your focus over time.

    My problem is that my shop is not what you would call a "dedicated Neander shop". I use my lathe quite a bit and I'm not ready to go fully unplugged (just yet). This makes planning out my shop space rather difficult.

    You've given me a lot to think about.

    Thanks again.
    Dominic Greco

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Bucks County PA

    food for thought!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Anderson NH View Post
    Hi Dominic, I am of the school that wall mounts as many tools as possible. My bench is set up so that the side I work from most often is about 42" from the wall. I stand between the bench and the wall so I'm able to just reach back and either grab a tool or put it back in its correct home when I'm through with it.
    You know, that is an idea I hadn't thought of. Placing my bench away from the wall. Recently I've been messing around with the layout of my shop in AutoCad. One of the scenarios has my lathe parallel to, but 42" away from the back wall.

    Placing the bench away from the wall would allow me to use the wall cabinet I designed for my hand tools. And as far as being able to change the configuration of the cabinet, I designed it to use pegboard mounted shelves.

    Thanks for the advice.
    Dominic Greco

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Western Oregon
    I do a bit of each. First is my (heated) my hand tool/finishing room. My bench is located in the middle of the room (12' wide room x 24' long). On the "planing" side of the bench, I have planes stored on shelves adjacent to the bench. On the "other" side of the bench, I have wall storage, including pegboard and some hip level drawer space for commonly used tools. On the "end" of the bench I have two very large drawer units for the myraid of chisels and other smallish tools not used every day. So, like Dave, i like to stand between the wall units and the bench.

    The go-to tools (commonly used chisels, screwdrivers, a couple of saws, punches, pliers, squares, clamps, hand braces, cordless drills) lend themselves to a more "open" storage arrangement such as pegboard or some other wall or open-shelf along-the-wall arrangement......... others (drill bits, templates, less commonly used chisels, gouges and generally lesser used tools) are better in closed storage such as drawers but still in close proximity to the bench. Depends on the tool and how accessible it must be.

    On the "other end" of the bench, I have a second bench for assembly, glueup and finishing. I have shelves and wall units flanking that bench containing finishing stuff, clamps, glues, etc.

    I have a second (unheated) 24x24 room (separated by a stud-wall and a door from the hand-tool room) for machines,......power-sawing, sanding, routing, grinding, the lathe and other dust producing activities along with the dust collector and ductwork. Machines are generally clustered in the center of the room....along with most of the ductwork. That room also has a couple of benches against the wall with pegboard or upper-cabinet storage adjacent to the benches. That room also serves as storage for wood, sheet goods, most hardware, etc.

    I have duplicates of really essential handtools (squares, tapes, drills, pliers, chisels, etc.) in each room to minimize walking back and forth. Separating machine from hand and finishing operations really works well for me.

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