I settled my tool storage dilemma

Grandma calls me a pack rat.  I say there’s potential for re-use.  Case in point, my tool storage solution.  It may not be my dream solution, but it’s a far cry better than searching 10 minutes for a tool that will be used for a 5-minute job.

Now that I have a bench to work from, I thought and did internet searches.  I thought about what was cheapest, most effective, and most easily changed.  French cleat and pegboard surfaced as the top two possibilities.

French Cleat

The french-cleat system with custom-built holders for each tool is very cool.  I love the versatility and the fact that it will hold anything.  It will be great.  To do it right, I need to hang at least a full sheet of 3/4 plywood on the wall in the pole barn.  Once it’s hung, I need to hang the “wall” half of the french cleats on that.  Done right, those are 5 inches wide, 8 feet long, and there are 6 of them cut from a second sheet of plywood, glued, and screwed to the base plywood.  Once those are up, we can turn our attention to the individual tool hangers.  Each one will be custom-made to fit the tool (or tools) it holds.  Screwdriver sets, bench grinder, saws, chisels, you name it – each needs its own holder custom-built to fit.  Rearranging the tools is a matter of moving the tool holder from one position to another.  Add a tool?  Make another holder, possibly from shop scraps.

Pros:

  • Custom-made to fit your tools.
  • Easy to move tools around if changes are needed.
  • Easy to expand.

Cons:

  • Labor-intensive to make tool holders for each tool.
  • More expensive if you don’t already have a bunch of scraps to work with.

Pegboard

Pegboard tool storage is easy, too.  It requires more store-bought parts than french cleat, but consists largely of hanging a sheet of pegboard, then inserting an appropriately-sized tool hanger into the grid somewhere and hanging the tool(s) on it.  If you’re enterprising, you can build some of your own holders and hang them on the board.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive (possibly):  a sheet of pegboard runs about $25.
  • Easy: and I mean easy.  Hang the board, hang a peg, and you’re done!
  • Easy to change:  take a tool off, move the hook, rehang the tool.

Cons:

  • Pegboard can’t hold all the weight that a french cleat system can.
  • Hooks tend to fall out when tools are removed.  This can be managed, but it’s still annoying.
  • Susceptible to humidity: unless you get the masonite pegboard that’s more expensive, it will warp pretty readily in really wet areas or times of year.
  • Potentially expensive:  when you run out of right-sized hooks, you have to go get more.

My conclusion

I decided at least for now I’ll use pegboard.  For the price of two 10-foot 2x4s and a sheet of pegboard, I can access my most-used tools very easily.  It’s a temporary measure with the potential to be permanent.  The fact that I have LOTS of pegboard hooks of varying size was the deciding factor.  Some of them were my granddad’s, some my dad’s, and some I bought years ago.

Here’s what I did:

Since the posts of my pole barn are about 9 feet apart, I couldn’t just hang the pegboard between them.  I cut two 10-foot 2x4s to span the gap and hang over each post half way.  I hung these with a 3-foot, 10-inch gap between them.  To do this by myself, I drove a screw part way into the right-hand post, then rested the end of the 2×4 on it.  I then went to the other end, lined it up with the center line of the post, made sure it was level, and screwed it into place with a 4-inch construction screw.  I added a second one, then secured the other side.

After I marked the centers of both stringers, I cut a 3-foot, 10-inch section from a scrap 2×4 to add some stability in the middle.  I set this support back half an inch so I wouldn’t lose the use of the pegboard holes in the middle.

Like I did with the stringers, I drove a screw 1 inch down from the top edge of the bottom stringer to set the end of the pegboard on.  I held the other end up so the top would be level and screwed the corner into place with a 1 1/4 inch screw.  After securing the top two corners, I drove a screw every 12 inches along the top and bottom stringers.  Seems pretty secure to me.

I immediately went to work hanging tools.  I am trying to generally store mechanic’s tools on the right and woodworking/carpentry tools on the left with the “either-use” tools in the middle.  We’ll see how that goes.  The picture here shows what it looks like today.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how to store tool kits (boxed sets of hole saws, forstner bits, etc.), parts (screws, nuts, washers, bolts, lumber, and the like) and consumables (sandpaper, hacksaw blades, extra drill bits, razor blades).  For now, I think I’ll start with the shelves left by the previous owner.

How do you do it?  How do you store and organize your tools?  Let us know in the comments!