tool storage

Project, Shop

Hand Plane Till

My till holds my full inventory of planes with a little room for new acquisitions.

My hand plane till is finally done!  It looks great hanging on the wall, and fulfills my requirement to hold my full inventory of planes while still providing some space for future acquisitions.  The basic look of the piece is inspired by a till that I saw in an old issue of Fine Woodworking magazine, but I made significant changes to the joinery and tool holding details.  

The cabinet itself is a fairly simple design:  it’s a dovetailed cherry box with a single horizontal divider dadoed into the case sides.  The top section has a piece of cherry plywood to hold bench planes, while the small bottom section is left open as a general storage shelf.  The cherry plywood is housed in dados on all four sides that recline it at a slight angle.  Strips of solid cherry on the plywood surface act as dividers.  I attached the dividers with only screws, just in case I ever want to reconfigure the cabinet.  Realistically, I’ll probably never do this, but it makes me feel better knowing that I have that option.

The cabinet is dovetailed for strength.

One of my most important criteria for this hand plane till was compactness.  I’ve seen similar wall-hung tills that store hand planes on a reclined surface using gravity alone to hold them in place.  That’s a convenient method because it’s easy for the user to remove and replace the planes.  A quick calculation using the Pythagorean Theorem, however, will show you their biggest drawback:  in order to use gravity as the primary means of holding the tools in place, the surface needs to be reclined at a significant angle, making the whole cabinet stick too far out from the wall.  My cabinet is only five inches deep, and I was able to achieve that by reclining the storage surface a measly five degrees.

Since my planes are resting at such a steep angle in this till, I wanted some additional insurance to hold everything in place.  I decided on a two-prong approach: I keep the heel of each plane from sliding off the divider it rests upon with a wooden clip, and I hold the toe of the plane tight to the surface with an embedded rare Earth magnet.  My block plane is small enough that the wooden clip isn’t needed.  Magnets aren’t effective on bronze, so I used a wooden spinner at the toe of my smoothing plane, instead.

So far, so good.  My tool holding strategy makes it easy to access the planes, but holds them securely when they’re in the cabinet.  I wish I had built this till years ago; it makes working in the shop just a little bit more enjoyable!

The bench planes are held with a wooden clip at the heel and an embedded rare Earth magnet at the toe.

Since a magnet won't hold a bronze plane, I made some support blocks for the heel, and a spinner to hold the toe.


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!


Pneumatic Tool Storage

Pneumatic tools are the unsung heroes of my shop.  My brad nailer never shares in the glory of a completed furniture project, but it touches every jig and shop project that I (sometimes literally) throw together.  The problem I’ve always had, though, is that using it is a pain in the neck.  I had to lug around the compressor because I was tethered to a short spiral air hose.  All the accessories, connectors, and thingamajigs were scattered around my shop, never readily available when I needed them.  So, to make life a little sweeter, I carved out some space for my pneumatic tools on the open stud wall in my shop, right in-between my hardware storage shelves and my clamp cart. 

There’s nothing fancy or innovative here; the picture pretty much speaks for itself.  Some scrap plywood was all I needed to create some storage shelves between the studs and to hang my stapler, brad nailer, and hoses. The main benefit that I get from this setup is that the compressor stays in one place, and I can use the 50’ retractable hose to reach anywhere in the shop.  That’s a total game changer.  The blue trays hold my brads, staples, and various connectors and attachments.  My nail guns are held by double-pronged robe hooks.  I have no idea why I had four of these in stock, but by some happy accident, they fit the tools perfectly.  Serendipity, FTW.

Did you know that I posted this picture on Instagram a while back?  I’m a newbie on Instagram, but going forward, I plan to use it for pictures and comments that don’t really merit a full blog post.  You can follow me here!