Transform Your Shop | Living the Country Life

Transform Your Shop

In only a few days, you can transform your workshop from cluttered to clean with some of our simple tips.
  • Get Your Dream Shop

    Imagine a workshop where you can find every tool, jig, and board almost without looking. Whether you're machining lumber, assembling parts, sanding, or finishing, everything you need is within reach. 

    Make this shop yours by changing bad habits and following our reorganization plan: so you can really focus on woodworking. 

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • Start by Thinning

    Start by gathering some heavy-duty garbage bags, plastic tubs with lids, and a permanent marker to store and label items. Inside your shop, get rid of unnecessary things like empty waste cans. Throw away chunks of wood less than 1' long and anything that's broken and can't be fixed. Recycle empty tool cases, strip reusable hardware from jigs, and toss what's left that you won't use again.

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • Don't Use 'Em? Lose 'Em

    Keep heavy-duty cleaning up by focusing on tools that see little use. Then divide them into three categories:

    • Tools not worth selling can be donated to charity.
    • Items too valuable to give away, but not worth the hassle of putting up an ad, can be sold in the next garage sale.
    • Tools worth $50 or more can be sold online or to a neighbor.

    Find a new spot for home-repair items that interfere with your wood-working. Sort them into labled tubs to match their contents. An "electrical" would be filled with switches, outlets, and electrical tools. Do the same for plumbing supplies and painting supplies. Place the rest of your hodgepodge of parts into a "miscellaneous" tub. 

    Next, focu on finishes and cull the water-based finishes discolored by can rust, and oil-based poly with a layer of dried finish on top. Set aside any stains you won't use again. Ask your waste-disposal service about the nearest hazardous-waste disposal site. 

    Gather up scraps and leftover sheet goods. Sort them by type and and place everything on overhead racks in some corner away from tools and workspaces, under stairs, under counters (shown here), or in the rafters.

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • A Home for Every Tool

    It's time to get your tool drawer in order. Organize tool-chest drawers with foam inserts cut to fit specific tools. 

    • First, measure your drawer to fit your foam sheets. To the dimensions, add 1/4" in both directions to the 1/2"-thick top sheet. Repeat for the bottom sheet.
    • Mark cutlines with a fine-tipped marker or ballpoint pen.
    • Cut the foam to drawer size with a hacksaw or utility knife.
    • To avoid stray outline marks on the top side of the foam, lay out your tools on the bottom of the foam. Organize them so they fit together well on the sheet.
    • Cut outlines with a utility knife orrotarty tool. For detail cuts, a Dremel tool with a straight grout bit with knurled teeth works well.
    • For easy tool removal, add finger holes on the profille of one handle of each tool. 
    • For smooth contours, select a 1/2" or 1/4" snding drum with a Dremel tool. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from fine particles.
    • Spray the sheets with #M Super 77 Spray Adhesive, then laminate (fuse) the sheets with a heat gun. Roll and press the thin sheet to the thick sheet.
    • The end result is a cabinet drawer for all of your pliers and small tools, each with a finger hole for quick removal.
    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • Apply the 80/20 rule to your shop and keep the 20 percent of tools and fasteners you use 80 percent of the time within arm's reach.

    Workbench/Assembly Area

    Use your existing storage to create specialized work areas for the rest of your tools. 

    If you mostly build projects smaller than your bench, position the workbench against a wall to open up floor space for stationary tools. Use nearby walls to hang the tools you use most, and store-bought or homemade bins to hold screws or other fasteners. Single out your favorite clamps and often-used tools and hang them near your workbench. Then add a shelf for glue, clamping cauls, and squaring braces.

    If you build large projects, you'll need access to all four sides of the bench, so move the bench closer to the center of your shop If that places the bench near the tablesaw, make the bench do double duty as an outfeed table by raising or lowering its height. 

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • Size and square project parts quickly by placing the tablesaw, jointer, and planer within steps of each other.

    Machining Area

    Next, set up a work area for sizing, jointing, and planning stock. Create a "work triangle:" a handily positioned group of stations that let you move stock quickly between one station to another. If your garage shop is also used for parking cars, store machines on mobile bases close to the triangle so you can move your equipment out of the way.

    Now find places for tool accessories. If you have a cabinet saw equipped with an extension table, add shop-made or store-bought shelves underneat it to keep jigs, hold-downs, miter guages and blades. Store accessories and jigs for a benchtop or contractor-style saw on shelves or unused lumber racks. 

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • Sanding and Finishing Center

    Storing sanding and finishing supplies outside the immediate shop area opens up tool storage space where you need it most. Store abrasive sheets in their sleevs and hang the packages from a hook or nail. For boxed sanding discs, punch a hole in a bottom of the box at one corner, secure the top with a rubber band, and hang it on a peg hook. Later, add a cabinet to hold sanding supplies. 

    For finishing supplies, consider a ready-to-assemble cabinet from a home center. You can even turn a nonfunctional freezer or fridge into a storage center. 

    Position the finishes cabinet as far away as possible from your water heater, furnace, or other open-flame appliances. Date each can of finish and sort them by film finishes, stains, and solvents. If there's room left, add brushes and accessories. 

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • In addition to tool owner's manuals and service information, use a binder to store setup wrenches for each tool.

    Peripheral Storage

    Now that you've blocked out spaces for woodworking's three key areas, divide up the remaining space for everything else. Begin with storage for benchtop and portable power tools. Rank each tool from according to how often you use it. Store those most used near or beneath your workbench. 

    Devote the corners of the shop to storing tools on mobile bases, such as a bandsaw, or tools that don't need large infeed/outfeed areas, for example a scrollsaw or sharpening station. 

    Store the tools you use relatively often just outside your three main work areas, where they are handy but not taking the most valuable space. Tuck away the ones you rarely use on shelves or just outside the work area of the shop. 

    Whatever its rank, each tool came with a manual that you'll need someday to fine-tune its setup, order replacement parts, or find a service center. Store these manuals in heavy-duty three-ring binders filled with plastic page protectors to guard against dirt and smudges. 

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018
  • No Heavy Lifting Required

    When you're organizing your shop equipment, it's far easier to plan your shop setup on paper or online rather than pushing around hundreds of pounds of tools. To test and visualize different work-spaces, use an online shop layout tool, like the one at For a low-tech alternative, draw on a piece of paper or move around paper tool symbols. 

    Date Published: January 12, 2018
    Date Updated: March 5, 2018

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