When You Work Alone, You're Always the Smartest Guy in the Room

Back in February, 2015, I posted an article about my plans to build an enclosed hanging tool cabinet.  It’s now September, 2016, and I still have nowhere to store my hand tools.  Gather ‘round, my friends, and hear my tale of woe… but fear not!  There’s a happy ending.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s review my short list of requirements from the original article:

  • Keep out the dust
  • Consolidate everything into one place
  • Greater capacity
  • Better protection for the tools

This is a reasonable list of requirements and, when taken at face value, an enclosed hanging tool cabinet should fulfill all of them.  So, I pulled out my pad of graph paper, sharpened my pencils, and started sketching my design ideas.  I sketched, and I sketched, and I sketched.  I pulled all my tools out and piled them up on every horizontal surface in my shop to better visualize the storage needs in the cabinet.  

    I was floundering and needed some inspiration, so I searched my woodworking archive.  I came across an old article by Chris Becksvoort where he described his method of using paper cutouts of his tools to design the interior layout of his tool cabinet.  I traced around my tools and started arranging them on a sheet of cardboard to come up with dimensions, but I was still unhappy with my designs.

    After months of discarded ideas, I finally hit upon my problem.  I had missed the fifth, and most important requirement:  flexibility.  Building an enclosed wall cabinet is a sensible solution if you already own most of the tools that will be stored in it.  Sure, you can always make room in the cabinet for a few new acquisitions, but I was trying to design a cabinet that would accommodate a tool collection that will change significantly over the years. I probably would have saved a lot of time and frustration on this project if I would have talked over my ideas with someone else, but since I work alone in the shop (making me the de facto “smartest guy in the room”), I got caught in an endless loop.

    So, now what?  Well, I’ve changed my strategy.  I’ve decided to move forward with a more modular tool storage solution.  The first piece of my new storage system is a hand plane till.  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen the progress pictures.  I’m almost finished with the build, and I’ll post an article here on the blog once it’s complete.  I’m amazed at how one simple realization unblocked my progress on this project.  Maybe the lesson learned here is that even when I'm alone in the shop, I’m STILL not the smartest guy in the room!