Get organized: 20 tips for creating a more efficient workshop
Of the hundreds of questions our readers send to us each year, most of them involve shop layout, organization and dependable tips from our panel of experts. Where is the best place for my tablesaw? How can I organize all the electrical cords crisscrossing my shop floor? What is the best way to store clamps?
The more efficient your shop, the more likely you are to work and have fun in what should be your home’s most interesting room.
To help our readers in their quest for creating the most efficient and dependable shops, we’ve gathered a list of the 20 best tips for organizing your workshop. As well, we’ve included some samples of the most practical shop layouts with popular configurations.
1. Make a Plan: Before you start any woodworking project, you have a plan, right? (Or so we hope!) The same should apply to workshop organization. Draw out your shop layout and play around with it on paper until you get it right. Then, start to add all the details that make a shop run like a well-oiled machine.
2. Easy Reach: Mount your tool’s accessories next to the machine; blades, pushsticks and wrenches all can fit in simple plywood storage.
3. Tools on Wheels: Use castors or wheeled bases for tools that may need to be moved around for space and practicality.
4. Look Up…: Use all the vertical space you can by adding storage overhead wherever possible. And be sure to have a safe stepstool handy for reaching.
5. …And Up Again: Store your electrical cables off the ground and run them along the ceiling. You won’t trip over them or have to clean up around them.
6. Storage Below: Store blades and rulers on the doors of pegboards, then store tools inside.
7. Keep it Clean: Sweep and vacuum during your workday and before you close up for the night. It’s simple, but many woodworkers skip this step.
8. Pair Off: Put two similar tools, such as a spindle and belt sander, on the same rolling surface. The cabinet base includes accessory storage.
9. Clamp Rack: A tall storage area has dowels across, spaced every 6″ to 8” for, well, clamping.
10. Don’t Be Afraid of Prefab: Just because someone else built it doesn’t mean it can’t help you get organized.
11. Electrify: Plan where you need electrical outlets. Use your ceiling space and extension cords to keep your floor space clear.
12. Retrofit: If you can’t add new outlets, use a retractable cord reel to keep power close at hand but cords off the floor.
13. Cleats Galore: Use a support-rail system to hang cabinetry easily and securely. Secure a 45° angle-cleat to studs and another cleat to the back of the cabinet.
14. Make It Your Own: You know your workshop needs better than anyone. Make a list of how you want your shop to function and find a way to achieve those goals. Also, make a list of your tools and figure out where each would best be placed for maximum efficiency and enjoyment. Because, after all, a workshop needs to be fun to functional.
15. Reuse It: Something old can be new again. Turn an old filing cabinet into a dream storage spot for blades, sanding discs and anything else that needs a home. Shop-built inserts that fit in the drawers are the key.
16. Add Colour: Just because it’s a shop, doesn’t mean it can’t look good! Use coloured laminates for cabinet doors and shelving. Even the mitre gauges should match for a professional finish.
17. Power Up: Build a simple charging station for all your battery packs. It will keep chargers and batteries together and you can easily see what needs juice and what doesn’t.
18. In Clear View: You’ll not only save space, but you’ll also save time and money if you build shelving for your nuts, bolts, screws and other hardware. That way you can easily see what you need to buy and what you have plenty of on hand.
19. Use Every Surface: Chalkboard paint isn’t just for playrooms. Add it to a wall or a cabinet door and you will always have a place to make notes or quick drawings.
20. MacGyver DIY: If you can’t find the hardware you need, make it! For example, using a carabiner and a Velcro strap, you can secure a dust-collection hose.