Coping: With Workshop Organizing

Health/Environment:  As the year draws to a close, a survey of what we’ve gotten done over the course of the year makes for an interesting cup of tea.

On the plus side, we haven’t missed a column, health is good, Peoplenomics has been spectacularly good at being on the “right side” of the market.  And we got a non-fiction book done.  Along the way, the ranch has never looked better, and we’re more than adequately prepped for what could be snow here Monday and again about this time next week.

Still, there are always projects and a discussion and one of the ways to make these all go easier is to organize your shop so your spouse can understand it. Spouses LOVE an organized shop and have been known to roll their eyes and look around their kitchens when males discover a workplace can be organized.  Fortunately, they often reward such “good behavior” or so we’ve told.

(*Continues below)


Don’t have a shop?

If you live in a 300 square foot chicken coop, you don’t need a shop.  But, as you mature and want to take “life into your own hands” there is nothing like a shop to do it in.

When comes to prepping, I’m a huge believer that personal skills evolved as a hobby will be most useful if you ever get into a prepping—> recovery environment.

Just as an example, and especially if you’re in the snowier parts of the country, it is NEVER too late to get a pint of hot-set PVC glue, a can of fresh purple primer, odd lengths of PVC, several of each size fitting imaginable.

Over at Lowes, you can pick up pretty good-sized storage boxes; the sort made for the back of small trucks.  When you make up a quick dolly out of some 2-by-4’s and spare casters, these are fairly easy to kick under the workbench.  Importantly, they give the illusion of being organized.

To be sure, they’re not.  Still, we have three such boxes:  One is full of electrical parts.  If you need a junction box, switch, timer, or anything else “sparky” this is the first place to look.

Besides the plumbing and electrical boxes, there’s one devoted too the very best of small wood project odds and ends.  A lot of people hold to the “one board foot rule” but, as a practical matter, it’s the smaller pieces that are most useful.

Say you’re propping up a ladder and you need a 6-by-6 pad of 1/2-inch wood (*ply would be best for this ap, less apt to split):  Under the 1-board foot rule, there’d be nothing at hand.  So, I figured a nice box of “the small stuff” would be useful.

Organizing hardware is another horrible task.  In generally, there is an area for each of the hardware items, but nothing is a hard & fast rule when laying out your shop.

We have one set of shelves devoted to the miscellaneous stuff:  need some galvanized table leg brackets?  A few hinges?  Maybe a nice long lag bolt…or even some of the larger washers.  Here’s where you go.

I’ve noticed that as hardware gets smaller, it gets even ornerier about getting properly classified.  So there is a roll-around wire rack with shoe box-sized containers with labels.  Things like caulking, a small collection of pulleys, weather-stripping, and even a small 1,000 block and tackle…tiny rig that I’ve never used but once.  It’s an example of how tool sluts like to spend first and fix later.

Fasteners have their own area:  A wooden box-like affair that holds a world-class collection of screws.  As much as possible, we have standardized on Philips head because they are much less prone to having their heads slip out and damaging the work.  Frankly, people who are stuck in “slotted screw land” don’t know much about screwing…so to speak.

We have four roll-around for the decent collection of hand tools.  This started off as one of those $100 Sears Project Centers and first thing you know, we had four.

The top drawer of each as a special purpose:  One of ours is devoted to orphaned sockets.  By the time you sneak up on 69, you’ll find that odd sockets – long separated from their sets – have wound up in your tools.  Also in that top drawer are orphaned Hex wrenches.  Sometimes I think these things migrate in from the woods.  Mentally label this your “twisty things” depository.

The next roll-around top drawer is “squeezy things” which are the hand tools that you grip to get work down.  Pliers, adjustable pliers, gas pliers, slip-joint pliers, Channel-Locks, diagonal cutters (we don’t call ’em “dikes” anymore to avoid pissing of the Dutch and a certain gender group).

Another top drawer is a catch-all for things that aren’t pure twisty or squeezy:  An example would be an eclectic selection of belt wrenches.  Plumbers have ’em and so do diesel mechanics where a variant of the tool constitutes an oil filter wrench.  Sink wrenches ought to be in here, too…again they went out for drinks with the saws last night…

The fourth top draw is for jewelry-making and lapidary goods.  In this drawer you’d find a ring-sizing set, a ring mandrel, assorted small chisels for breaking fine stones, and very small vices.  Eventually, things like jeweler’s dop will live in here, too.  If you don’t know what cabbing of stones is, you won’t need the dop or the dopping sticks.  And if do away with those, you can do with a small diamond saw…

The big drawers have “specials” loosely by category.

One of the drawers in a roll-around is called “saws.” This is where the hack saw, blades, saber saw, blades, miter saw, coping saw, blades, and drywall saw all hang out.

Under that is “saws and bigger” which is where a circ saw (and blades) lives next to a wandering belt sander that hasn’t found a community, yet.

I’ve suggested moving in with the palm sanders over in the woodworking/air tools cabinet, or move into something comfortable in Blow Molded Boxes Land.  BMBL is under the center bench and everything birthed in a BMB lives there.  Router, Zip saw, planer, router, router bits case, And on…

Back to the roll-arounds, there’s a welding drawer that’s one of my favorites:  Tips for 0.30 and 0.35 MIG welding, assorted Fluxcore and plain, long-arm gloves, hand shield, welding pliers (they didn’t fit in “squeezy’s”) and such.

The Air Tools drawer is one of my favorites.  A small die-grinder, air-powered file, air-powered metal saw, lots of adapters, tire gauge, and on goes that one.  A fun drawer.  Air ratchet and impact set is in here, too.  Just gobs of fun…

These are just where a few things are here, but it’s to point out that there can never be too many drawers (you’ll fill them all up)_ and you can never have too much bench space (it fills up, too).

Bottom line:  Other than a trip to Lowes for hot set and PVC pipe and cutters and joints and… there’s no better salve for a relationship than a spotlessly clean shop.

Write when you get rich,

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George Ure
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24 thoughts on “Coping: With Workshop Organizing”

  1. My late husband would have (I think) liked your workshop.

    Definitely would have agreed about the Phillips-headed screws, though I remember him also commenting additionally about wood vs. machine screws. And given what I remember of his own screw ‘collection’, washers should be of – if not equal importance – worthy of regard.

    In fact, often where most people would have used a nail – he used a screw because he said that he didn’t want things getting loose.

    (I think that there was, and is, an advantage because you can ‘take something apart’ and ‘put it back together’ rather than a one-off with a needed new hole.)

    • I think you can find something more spendy at West Marine. Organizer for a rigger’s bucket. We all know what the “magic words” “marine” or “aircraft” does to prices, lol…

      • I’m on year 8 of the “magic words” this website provided in “How to live on 10k a year”. Thank you and keep a rockin’!

      • like y’all’s both thinking but I guess it gets down to you know like you say living off of $10,000 a year and then if we work at it real hard is $5,000 a year and if we work at it even hotter we can have the 5000 coming in every year instead of living of 5000 we’re actually making 5000 wow now that’s an accomplishment I wish I could do that I mean I do have a few things growing but nothing like that yet I love to laugh except for Real Estate

  2. George,

    It is probably tough enough for boys to learn about shop tools these days, and you say shop classes in high school are a thing of the past. How would you recommend a girl or young woman learn to use tools if she does not have anyone in the family who can teach her, or is willing to teach her? I know public classes in the past have been dangerous for girls because of the boys pranking them to get them out of the class.

    I inherited the mechanical aptitude genes of my grandfather, who was a true Great Depression survivor who could do a little of anything pretty well, but I was never able to do anything with that raw talent you except some limited design work around the construction business. I could take blueprints and visualize a walk through of a house — no computer needed. Also, my dad had been a technical trainer and had kept some formal mechanical aptitude tests. He gave me one for laughs when I was 8. I shocked him. He told me I did better than most of the young men, mostly farm boys, coming into his classes (1940s). That never went anywhere. It was kind of like being a talking dog — a marvelous curiosity but ultimately useless.

    I would not likely have ever gone on to become any type of construction worker or repair person, but a strong practical mechanical background would have made engineering a stronger college choice.

    • Some high schools have a variety of shop classes offered at night. If they still have shops,but if they don’t offer night classes talk to the Principal. I taught shop classes at night and was also a Principal. I offered what the community wanted. Junior colleges and many Universities offer day and evening shop classes. I was one of those teachers also. If serious about learning get into an Apprentice Program with a local Union.They will provide on-the-job experience Plus offer you classes at night.

    • This is a c/p from my daughter’s farcebook, from a few weeks ago:

      “My dad taught me how to change a tire when I was six. When I asked why me, why not teach my brother instead, he replied with, “I will teach him, but right now I’m teaching you. This is something that everyone should know how to do for themselves.” And so, I learned how to change a tire.
      My dad really did parenting right, you know?”

      The kids learned how to paint a car (derustifying, Bondo, blocking, wet-sanding, priming, etc.) when they were still in single digits. {They also learned basic cooking, and how to do dishes and laundry before they were 10.} Their first computers were identical Compaq 486s. Their second computers were Cyrix P-200s, which they built themselves (I was a j/d for AMD and Cyrix at that time) with my assistance, also before they hit the doubles. Their third computers were Athlon-IIs, which they built without my assistance.

      I taught my daughter how to (gas) weld/braze/cut when she was 12, and put her to work repairing my mower deck — still using it. ‘Taught my son basic (rough) carpentry when he was 12. I didn’t teach him the torch at that time, nor her the hammer, because they weren’t interested at that point in their lives.

      Parents should teach this stuff, but they don’t, because it “isn’t important” or (mostly) because they simply don’t know it. Junior isn’t going to go to a trade school or through a 2.5-4 year apprenticeship program to learn a skill of which (s)he can pick up the basics in a few hours or days, unless (s)he is motivated to make it her vocation.

      Oldsters tend to be knowledgeable on a variety of subjects. They also tend to share their hard-won knowledge and experience with whomever will listen.

      My suggestion is for a girl (or boy, for that matter) to find a neighbor who’s into a basic or essential skill, then just start hanging out, preferably without smartphone. We will share with interested kids. We will NOT share with rude kids, and to our generation, attention divided is the definition of rude and “not interested.”

  3. One thing I have found that really works great is pegboard, the walls in most shops are bare save a few old playboy centerfolds and are just a waste of space. I put up stuff that I use a lot or odd ball things like hole saws that are a pane to keep in a drawer. The possibilities are endless!

  4. My father grew up on a farm in the teens and twenties and could fix most anything. I learned a lot from him and have always enjoyed tinkering and fixing stuff.

    I live in a one bedroom apartment so there is no shop. But, I do keep odds and ends of fasteners, washers and such. My attitude has been that if I can fix something in my apartment for less than ten bucks, it is easier to do it myself rather than call maintenance. This is mostly because they make a bigger mess than I do and never clean up after themselves.

    • I like your certain trochlea tone.
      I’m trying to figure out how that correlates with Stichometry.
      okay I’ll give up I have no idea what I’m talking about.
      But I like the idea how you have downsized to fix your needs I think that’s Grande

  5. Philips screws are great, but the new star pattern screws, often labeled deck screws, are even better, especially with a hammer drill. Almost impossible to strip, so the work is safer. They even make a finishing ainted in various colors. Nice when it’s time to take mounding off for a flooring project.

  6. Over the years I have built over 500 wood boxes. A 10 inch by 12 inch footprint with depth of 1 1/2 to 6 inches. All are painted grey and have label holders. 15 years ago I built an addition onto my garage (8 y 14)with shelving to hold most of them. They’re all full.
    I have also built about 100 drawers 10 in by 16 inches fitted into plywood cases. They slide on strips of wood fastened to the sides of the cases. (rabbits on the sides of the drawers ) Painted and with pulls and label holders.
    All from scrap and found material. What’s with this ‘buy’ nonsense? You buy the Delta Unisaw at an estate auction.

    • I like what you’re saying but you failed to mention how this relates and the future another words if you live in a freezing environment how does this relate and what additives can you put in there that will make it work in the future

      • Bryce, I don’t understand this ramble. It’s 10 degrees today, but, my R14 ( performance ) walls insulated garage workshop has never frozen since I built a nice barrel stove in 1980. The forecast is for below zero every night next week. Minus 14 for Monday AM.

  7. George of of my blog I would go ahead and extend it so that anyone can click on any of the past commenters and that would be in a category all to itself that you would have a A to Z 1 through 10 or symbolism category and then to find out whatever it is they’re looking for and

    step 2 is how comes from Step One whatever you punch and you find.

    So is there really a need for step 3 well maybe could be the morse code that you could trade to invent on us so that we can explore the universe

    • You say after you go from the morse code which is the yes or no thing then you hit the next level you find out what their next level of communication is that’s where we expand a little bit use your imagination

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