The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Looks like somebody got an ‘A’ in woodshop.

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Last night finally saw my grand garage-workshop rehab come to fruition.

I have learned from past experience that the climate in my area does not lend itself to summer furniture projects, in particular if your work area is not climate controlled. So rather than attempt a furniture project that could very well end up in disaster, I decided to dedicate the summer to improving what I laughingly referred to as my workshop.

Phase one was to clear out any unnecessary clutter from my garage. That clutter was mainly my daughters old toys and seasonal items like gardening tools. The old toys I was able to donate, and the gardening tools made their way into my garden shed where they belong. The truth is I had become increasingly frustrated with working out of a tool chest, which I had to pull out from under my bench each time I needed a tool, and then push it back into place so it would be out of the way. So phase two was to add tool racks, shelving, and a wall cabinet to my workbench area. And I can finally say that phase two is nearly complete.

Phase two started with a chisel rack, which replaced the saw rack hanging in the garage window. Next came a shelf to hold hand planes and other tools above the bench but easily within reach, which I completed a few weeks ago. I then relocated a wall cabinet I had built some time ago to the workbench area. And the last task was to hang a wall rack to hold the miscellaneous tools that wouldn’t necessarily fit well on the shelf. Thankfully, that job was completed yesterday.

My original plan was simple: a 1 x 8 x 6 knotty pine board sawed in half and joined with a tongue and groove joint. So I stopped at Lowes and found the knotty pine selection severely lacking. I couldn’t find a 1 x 8 that wasn’t either warped, twisted, or damaged. But they did have a ¾ x 16 x 36 edge glued panel. I’ve used those panels many times in the past for simple projects because they are inexpensive and stable. Some people prefer peg or slat board, but I feel that a full-sized board is much more adaptable, and allows you to easily add new pegs, dowels, or cleats to store non-linear and odd shaped tools, which is a category that many woodworking tools fall in to.

So I purchased the panel, brought it home and cut it to size (on the table saw) and hung it on the wall with a few screws. From start to finish it took about 3 minutes and was really anti-climactic. I then did the lay-out of the tools, which took roughly one hour. I could have done the lay-out before hand, but I prefer to see how the tools are going to hang, which is much easier to do with the rack already on the wall. Once again, after the pegs were drilled out and glued in the moment was anti-climactic. So while the glue dried I made a few cleats to hold combination squared and screwed them into place. I still wasn’t feeling it until I hung the tools.

With the tools in place I suddenly felt very proud of what I had done. As of now, nearly every one of my woodworking tools is above my bench, at arms-length. The only thing left to do is re-hang my saw rack. But the real revelation is the visibility factor. I can see everything. Nothing is hidden, and there is no clutter. Just last week I had made a basic shelf for my garden shed, and I immediately noticed that working at the bench was much easier with the addition of the shelf and chisel rack. Now, with the new wall mounted rack, I have to believe that I’ve improved the set-up that much more.

everything in its place

everything in its place


On a side note, don’t think that this post was meant as some sort of knock on tools chests. I have nothing against tool chests, and I enjoyed making mine. I just did not enjoy working from it. I think they are great for storing tools, in particular if you are moving your tools from place to place. So if you enjoy your tool chest, Great! Nothing wrong with that at all.

As far as “phase 3” is concerned, that is meant to be the replacement of the leg vise on my workbench with a new chop. Originally, phase 3 was supposed to be phase 2. About a month ago I picked up a 2 x 10 piece of fir that was clear, flat, and relatively straight grained. The only problem is that it was too wet to use. So I sawed it to rough length and have left it stickered in my garage ever since. At this point, it has dried, but not nearly enough to install. It could be the fact that we’ve been having a humid summer, or it could just be that it was far more soaked than I thought. On a happier note, the board has not warped or cupped even a little, and I’m hoping it stays that way. I would like to prepare the surface of this board by hand with just a few passes of a hand plane rather than running it through a surface planer (I really don’t feel like dragging out the surface planer for one board).

I’m thinking another 3 or 4 weeks and the chop board should be ready to go. With that, my garage/workshop rehab should be finished and I can finally get back to making furniture again. Of course I could always add to the wall to make even more storage, but until then I have some good ideas for projects lined up, and (I think) I finally have a decent work area in which to build them.

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11 Comments

  1. Greg Merritt says:

    Nice! I have expressed my thoughts on hanging tools above the workbench. Outside of dust, I see now down side. This arrangement has proven to be much more conducive to my workflow than anything else I have tried. I hope that you find it to work as well for you.
    Looks like we both will be back to making furniture about the same time in the near future. I don’t know about you, but I’m missing it something terrible.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Greg! Even before I hung the new wall rack I already noticed the improvement just having my chisels and planes at reach. Once again, I’m not trying to knock the tool chest crowd, but I can’t see myself ever using one again. For me, it was completely frustrating and getting worse every time I used it.
      I’ve missed building furniture as well. You know as well as I, but the summer has been hot, though not oppressive, but to me still too hot and humid to build serious furniture. I’m just happy that I was able to get the garage somewhat organized. I think it’s going to make a huge difference.
      Bill

  2. Alex A. says:

    I like the new wall rack, makes me want to re-do mine.

    It takes forever to dry but air dried Douglas fir is great.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks. If you do make a new wall rack I don’t think you will regret it. I think I’m going to do the whole wall above the bench. I figured it out and I’m only looking at about $40 in material and my time. At this point I don’t need it, but in the future I may.
      I like the fir because it’s dense enough yet flexible enough to work as a vice chop. I’m just surprised at how wet it actually is. The first week I brought it home about six ounces of sap ran out of it onto the floor of my garage. But it’s a nice looking piece of wood, and once I get it finished I think it will both work and look great.
      Bill

  3. Art Watson says:

    Looks great Captain! I find the worst solution is to put tools in multiple locations and that is why I gave up long ago on small toolboxes for tools. Pegboard is definitely ugly (esthetically not cool enough for “fine’ woodworkers) but it increased my ability to get work done 100 fold.

    Keep on building!

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Art! At the moment every woodworking tool I have except for a few of my files are hanging directly in front of or above my workbench area. In five years of woodworking this is the first time I can make that statement. Already it has been a blessing. I no longer have to do any searching in drawers, or tool boxes, or in cupboards.
      I don’t mind the look of pegboard, the only issue I have is that you have to basically hang everything in a line. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some woodworking tools just don’t want to seem to cooperate.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  4. Rob says:

    I love the tools too! Fine collection and expertly organized.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks very much! It’s really starting to come together. Having the tools above my workbench has been a real eye-opener. Everything is easily visible and in reach. I’ve been wanting that for my tools since I began woodworking.
      Bill

  5. ausworkshop says:

    Really nice. Must feel great to be organised and have tools so close as you work. Means you’re more likely to put things back as you go so your bench doesn’t get too cluttered. Unfortunately I don’t think I can do that in my current workshop because my bench is in the middle away from walls but I’m definitely going to reconsider the layout when I move again in future. I almost went the toolbox but when I moved in there were some old wardrobes I’ve used so I’m kind of adapting the Paul Sellers cupboard setup for my tools and planes at the moment. I have mine at the right end rather than behind me though. I don’t have any cameras in my shop so no need to position it behind me to show off my tools and make everyone jelous 🙂

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks!! For me, the visibility factor has really been the key. It’s so nice to be able to see every tool I have and have them all within arms reach.

      I almost went the cupboard route myself. My wife works in sales at a retirement community, and often when there is a new move-in they will change the cabinets and cupboards. So I had asked her to bring home a pantry cupboard when one became available. Unfortunately they were all 9 ft tall and just would not fit in my garage even when I had removed the trim. But I still think it’s a great idea.

      I like the idea of having the workbench centered, but because it’s in my garage and my wife parks her car in there I can’t do it. Speaking of cameras, I’d like to have one of those too! But for now I just use my phone.
      Thanks.
      Bill

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