Shop Organisation: Tool Wall

Ah the interwebs. Such a great source of ideas, information, inspiration…and procrastination. Sometimes I feel like I read more about woodworking than I actually do woodworking. Anyways, one of the things I love seeing is other woodworkers shops, and specifically how they store (and display) their hand tools. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of a tool cabinet vs a tool chest for a while. Either option would be at least a few months into the future given my current list of projects, so in the meantime I decided to go with a tool wall.

Woodworking shop storage for vintage hand planes

Shop storage for vintage tools.

While my power tools reside in an unheated garage, my hand tool shop is in the basement of our house, which means my tools are for the most part protected from the ravages of rust. In the last couple years I have had a couple close calls where rust somehow magically appeared on a couple planes, so I think I’ll build a tool chest capable of holding all of my new planes and forego the wall hung tool cabinet. That leaves the wall free to hold the rest of my tools and keep them readily accessible.

Sawtill for panel saws and backsaws, disston, bad axe, veritas, lie nielsen, knew concepts

Recently completed sawtill

For the last year or so I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about owning so many tools that I hardly get to use, as a hobbyist woodworker. A couple months ago I read the Anarchist’s Tool Chest by Chris Schwarz, which only made me feel even more guilty about my burgeoning tool collection. I’ve already parted with all the tools I could bring myself to part with (and it was a lot of tools) and now I want to make sure I use all the tools I own. I’ve spent more money than I like to admit on tools, and my finest and favourite tools tend to get stored in a chest with various rust preventation measures…which means I reach for not-so-fine-tools most often because I don’t need to bend over a chest to get at them. My hope is that keeping all my tools readily accessible on a tool wall will make me more likely to use them regularly – and also put them away more frequently, leaving my shop less cluttered.

Tool wall chisel rack

Figuring out placement for chisel racks

Steve Branam’s tool wall is one of the finest tool walls I’ve come across. The simplicity and aesthetic qualities of what he created is just wonderful. As someone who loves all things hand tool related, having a wall full of tools perfectly organized and ready to go serves more than just a utilitarian purpose – it serves as workshop decor too (though my wife disagrees). Anyways, I used some of his principles in deciding on the tool layout. I wanted a single degree of separation between myself and all my tools, i.e. have every single tool accessible without having to move another out of the way. The easier it is to remove and replace a tool, the more likely I am to use it and replace it after I’m done.

Veritas, Ashley Iles, Chisel roll, tool wall

Veritas PMV11 chisels nestled safely in the jean chisel roll stolen from the Ashley Iles chisels…

For a backer board I went with veneered particle board. Each board was screwed into wall studs at 4 points. Chisel/screwdriver/rasp racks were made from 3/8″ strips of Cherry and Walnut, simply two strips laminated along with a couple small spacer blocks. The racks were counterbored and screwed into the particle board, taking care to ensure the chisels enter and exit them easily. The rest of the holders were made from scraps around the shop, other than the jean and leather chisel rolls my Ashley Iles MKII and Stanley Sweetheart chisels came in. It took a bit of fiddling, and a lot of rearranging, but I now have most of my non-handplane tools hung up right where I can see them.

chisel rack, tool wall, ashley iles, stanley sweetheart

Some more chisel storage. The leather ‘spacers’ really help keep the chisels straight, and protect you from the sharp tips.

The tool wall currently holds:

  • 4 sets of bench chisels along with a bunch of miscellaneous chisels
  • A large set of english mortise chisels, and a couple Narex mortise chisels
  • My mallets and plane hammers
  • My squares, dividers, marking gauges, bevel gauges, protractors
  • Dial calipers, rules, sectors
  • Card scrapers
  • Braces, drills, and bits
  • Rasps, screwdrivers, burnishers, files
  • Marking knives, awls, pens and pencils
  • Spokeshaves
  • Sharpening jigs
  • Drawknife
  • Straightedge
  • Framesaw (kind of)
Tool wall, veritas, spokeshave, vintage tools, storage

Simple spokeshave storage

My nicer planes get tucked away in a little rust proof micro environment and my sets of vintage planes (woodies and bailey pattern) sit on uncovered shelves along with a bunch of other vintage tools. The oxidation and patina on those tools seem to protect them from further rust. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere…

Stanley, chisel, sweetheart, tool roll

I’ve never cared much for the chisel rolls some manufacturers include, but they come in useful! The stanley sweethearts come in a beautiful leather roll

 

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