tool cabinet


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!


Time For Some New Tool Storage

Years ago, I slapped together the tool rack pictured above to hold my small collection of hand tools.  It’s served me well over the years, but I think it might be time to move on.  I’m just getting started on the design process for a new wall hung tool cabinet, and I’ve outlined four core requirements.

Keep out the dust
Dust… good lord, the dust.  Grabbing a tool that I haven’t used in a while off the wall is like examining an archaeological record of my most recent projects.  The cherry dust is on the top, under that I can see a layer of walnut, and deeper still, there’s a layer of maple dust peeking through.  Dust attracts moisture and moisture makes rust.  And it makes me sneeze.

Consolidate everything in one place
My existing tool rack is not designed to hold hand planes, spokeshaves, marking tools, scrapers, etc.  All of these tools need a home, and that home is currently any horizontal surface in the shop that appears free at the moment.  I want to have all my tools organized in one place so I don’t need to spend ten minutes wandering around looking for my block plane when I need it.

Greater capacity
The rack is fairly full these days; it’s amazing how tools accumulate over the years.  I still remember thinking how empty it looked when I first put it up on the wall.  The new tool cabinet needs to not only accommodate all of my existing tools, but have room to grow, as well.  To do this, I want the interior to be fairly easy to reconfigure as my needs change.

Better protection
Until very recently, my workbench sat up against the wall and right underneath the tool rack.  It was convenient for having the tools right at my fingertips, but I can’t even count how many times I whacked that rack with a clamp.  I’ve knocked chisels down onto the concrete floor and ruined their edges, I sent my mallet flying across the room once, and I’ve even broken and glued back many sections of the chisel holder.  I’ve since moved my workbench out into the center of the shop to give me 360 degree access (which was life changing, by the way, and probably deserves it’s own blog post), but I still would like to have an enclosure of some sort to protect my tools from my own clumsiness.

I’m in the research phase right now, which basically means I’m grabbing pictures of tool cabinets from all over to gauge what I like and what I don’t like.  If you have any lessons learned from your own cabinet (dos or don’ts), let me hear them!  You can reach me via email, twitter, or the comments section on this post.  I’ll post some updates to the blog periodically as I move forward.  But first, I seriously do need to go find my block plane… I think it may have made a break for it when I wasn’t looking…