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getting organized

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getting organized

Postby bridger » 08 Jan 2015, 04:46

Anarchist's Tool chests. Tool rolls. Boxes. Fitted cases. Open shelves. Fitted cabinets. Milk crates. The original cardboard box it came in. Pegboard. Chests of drawers. Just left where you used it last. Piled up in the corner.... There must be at least as many ways to deal with organizing tools as there are people using tools. For me there have to be different strategies for different situations. I use almost all of the above. Some are used inside of others, and some of those are inside yet others...

I really like tools. I like them for what they do for me, as representations of an idea or an intention, as historical objects,  even as things of beauty in their own right. I like finding and rehabbing antiques and returning them to work, I like designing and making them, I like analyzing and troubleshooting them. I like organizing them.

They get grouped by various kinds of logic. By trade, say electrical work. By function, say knives. By association, where glue and clamps need to be near each other. Sometimes by size- I have a cabinet with lots of flat drawers for small tools that don't leave the shop. A long toolbox for wrenches and prybars and such too big to fit in the other places those things live
  When a box gets too full to be useful it's time to split the category. Maybe I need to separate the house electrical tools from the electronics tools, or the flat jointery chisels from the carving gouges, or the twist drills from the spade bits. Dump the box, sort them out, find new boxes for the resulting piles. Eventually I'll need to split the framing butt chisels from the socket firmers. Then I'll be doing it all over again.

Tools seem to find me. They show up at yard sales and thrift stores, sometimes in surprisingly good condition and for a fraction of their new price. Sometimes under a layer of rust or grime peeks out a tool of exceptional quality, needing only to be revealed, bearing price tags representing less than the cost of a single cup of coffee. They show up on retail shelves at prices that can be readily justified to fulfil a role completing a contract on time and within budget. They show up in the middle of the road, fugitives from some other toolbox, seeking me out. I take them home, clean and sharpen them, make them feel welcome. I find a category of their siblings and settle them in.

one of my favorite strategies is to group tools into kits by process of use. The things that I use for hanging doors go together and should be kept together. That way when I need to work on a door I just have to grab one toolkit and I'm ready. Except the 6' level. That's too big to fit in the box. And the jointer plane, because I also use it to flatten big panels. And the drill, because it goes along with too many other tools to live permanently in any one kit. Besides, doorhanging requires more than one drill, usually. And the drill bits get used for other holemaking purposes too. In fact, almost all of the doorhanging tools have other lives in between doors. And not all doors need the same toolset to hang. Sometimes a router gets a serious workout in the process of making a door swing, other times I don't even bring one along.

I have what I call my grab and go box. It has an assortment of tools in it that don't conform to any organizational principles other than that I find myself needing them frequently and that the box remain light enough for me to be willing to haul it around. Almost everything in that box is duplicated elsewhere in my shop.

I have boxes of tools that all have similar function. I rarely need more than one size of tap or die at a time, but I know where to find the one I need because they are all stored in the same place. Except for the ones in the antique set in the big flat wooden box. That won't fit with the rest. Or the ratcheting dies that fit the long handle. Those are plumbing tools, so they go in the plumbing tool box. Or the special size die for stanley plane screws. It lives with plane tools. Wouldn't want to mix it up.

At one time I had a plastic bucket bristling with pockets inside and out. The pockets rarely were the right size and shape for the tools I needed at hand. Things fell out of them, either into the bucket where an ever increasingly chaotic pile accumulated in the bottom, or out onto the floor of wherever I happened to be. Maybe I caught it in time, or not. The bucket idea didn't last long.

Pegboard is the lowest common denominator of tool storage. I just can't abide by pegboard. It's sloppy. It's generic. It provides no protection. It maximizes visual clutter.

On an aesthetic level I really like fitted cases. They say: "this tool or set of tools is valuable and worth protecting. It's important enough to have organized in one place where at a single glance you can tell if everything got put away properly and just by feel you can find exactly the part you were looking for". Unfortunately, fitted cases also prevent you from easily upgrading, adding accessories, having multiples or rearranging on the fly. Fitted cases are for mature sets of tools. It's a static system.

Anarchist's tool chest. This is an admirable system. It allows for a practical amount of upgrading and rearranging. It enforces restraint. It's just not for me. I operate in a world where I'm called on to use the tools, materials and technologies of the past hundred years or so as well as modern high tech wizardry. When I'm in the shop I have to have a range of tools at hand that could not possibly be fit into a single chest, or a dozen. When I work away from the shop the toolkit I bring is tailored to the job at hand. It might not have much at all in common with the toolkit I packed yesterday.

I like tool rolls. They protect things and keep them all together in one place. They don't waste space, at least not as long as the tools in them aren't too awkwardly shaped. They create a tidy bundle of things that you can pick up and take with you, or roll out on the bench. I keep trying to use tool rolls. The problem seems to be outgrowing them.

Open shelves. Freedom... put things wherever you want. Put things in whatever you want, fitted cases, rolls, boxes or just heaps, just as long as they fit on the shelf. Make the shelves adjustable and the possibilities are practically endless. It's all there in plain sight, easy to find and to get at. It's also exposed to dust, exposed to atmospheric moisture, even exposed to light. Shelves full of assorted stuff create a kind of visual clutter that creates a working environment either dynamic or unsettling, depending how your brain works.

Some things are just too oddly shaped to fit nicely with the other tools they are used with. I have an 8' long level. It gets used almost exclusively away from the shop. It gets used for framing carpentry, where it is accompanied by saws, drills, hammers and nails. It gets used for installing cabinets where it is accompanied by a completely different set of saws, drills, hammers and nails. It gets called on to be a straightedge. It gets used for hanging really big doors.  It's a nice level. It's worth protecting. If I made a case for it the case would take up more space than it does when I take the level out. Sometimes I use it with other levels, some almost as long as it is. It defies being organized into a case, or into a kit. It's too big and too expensive for me to want to have multiples of it for different situations. It stands alone. It just IS.

Drawers are great. In a few square feet of floor space you can store dozens of square feet worth of tools, all laid out neatly before you, easily rearranged, protected from dust, prevented from ending up at the bottom of a pile (as long as the drawer isn't too deep). Add dividers for even more organizational fun. And you still have the top of the case to put something else on. Close the drawers and all you see is the drawer fronts, a neat geometric pattern covering up all of the chaos and complexity of the things inside. Get enough drawers and you start forgetting what's inside any particular drawer. Pretty soon you're spending a lot of time opening and closing drawers, hunting and rummaging for things.

Milk crates. The post-industrial, semi-illegal, standardized, indestructible, stackable miracle of modern commerce. You don't even have to steal your own. They just show up, full of somebody else's clutter. Fill them with whatever you want. Unless you're an ingot collector you can't make them too heavy to lift. You can see what's inside, at least well enough to pick the right crate out of the stack. Somehow they end up being just the right depth for things in standardized cans and jugs. How'd that happen? Just remember, no small parts. They'll just fall out the bottom. And crates don't give any protection from dust or rust. And to actually get to that thing in the crate at the bottom of the stack you have to unstack the crates on top of it. While that is happening you have two stacks. Then when you're done you have to do the same thing in reverse unless you have the luxury of an excess of floorspace for randomly placed stacks of crates.
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Re: getting organized

Postby Rod » 08 Jan 2015, 05:01

Must win the award for the longest post ever?
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Re: getting organized

Postby chataigner » 08 Jan 2015, 09:16

:text-+1:

Oh, how I relate to that !!!

:text-+1:
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Re: getting organized

Postby stephen.wood125 » 08 Jan 2015, 11:55

Excellent post! Very interesting. :text-bravo:
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Re: getting organized

Postby tracerman » 09 Jan 2015, 17:18

Bridger , anyone who says he cant relate to your way of thinking , to some degree at least , is a liar . But you must be spending all your time re-categorising / sorting and re-siting . But I like your style .

You seem to obsess like Lee Child when he writes about weapons . ( that's a compliment ) .

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Re: getting organized

Postby bridger » 10 Jan 2015, 23:41

tracerman wrote:Bridger , anyone who says he cant relate to your way of thinking , to some degree at least , is a liar . But you must be spending all your time re-categorising / sorting and re-siting . But I like your style .

You seem to obsess like Lee Child when he writes about weapons . ( that's a compliment ) .

Steve



I think I spend more time LOOKING for stuff than I do organizing it.
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Re: getting organized

Postby RogerS » 11 Jan 2015, 09:30

Excellent post, Bridger. A kindred spirit although I must be far more disorganised.

I use the Stanley tool boxes and I've sort of come round to having :

1) with all the plumbing stuff, spanners and the like. It all won't fit in though..things like the gas burner, rolls of steel wool etc and so I have a lot of collapsible but stackable blue plastic crates. I have two for the plumbig ancillary bits. But I aso have several more for plumbing couplings etc and how does one organise those? By pipe size...15mm in one box? 22mm in another? But then where do you put the 15mm to 22mm adapters?

I have plumbing stuff going back yonks. Lots of Hep20 bits and pieces going back to when they first started. Sometimes think it makes sense just to bin it all. All those short pieces of Hep20 15mm pipe!

2) one with all the plasterboard type stuff, scrim tape, tin snips for cutting the beading.

3) builders plastic box with tiling tools, trowels, old-style brick ties...really could do with a clear out.

4) another load of plastic boxes with plastic guttering odds and ends....probably none of them compatible with each other

5) two boxes of plastic 32mm and 40mm (but in reality nowhere near those sizes....when is 40mm not 40mm Answer...when it's for a compression waste connector and not a push-fit) couplings and silly little lengths of pipe.

6) a rolling toolbox that I bought as I thought it was a god idea at the time. Now a depository for electronic bits...oooh, hang on, they are also scattered everywhere else.

7) about ten of those plastic crates with various computery and TV/audio bits and pieces....old power supplies, network cables, SCART leads, coax, mains leads

8) a GoTo tote bag which never has the tools in it that I thought I had in there

9) too many Stanley component boxes for screws.

Too much stuff.

My woodworking area is terribly non-productive. Made the mistake of putting drawers underneath the bench. Guarantee that the plane you need is in the drawer but that you've clamped something in the vice to stop it opening.

Too much stuff.
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Re: getting organized

Postby Andyp » 11 Jan 2015, 11:54

I prefer to have as much a possible behind doors or in drawers as this helps to keep things clean. It is only screws and nails that are on open shelves.

I do suffer from having tools in 3 different areas.

A small tool roll in the house for quick plug changes, batteries and other odd jobs.

A larger tool box in the garage and the mechanical stuff for cars and lawn mowers.

All the woodworking stuff and hand power tools in the workshop.

As I am sure you can imagine there is always opportunity for the right tool being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have also bought replacements for "lost" tools only for them to be found as soon as I put the new ones away.

I also live by the motto "where there is work there is no order". There are one or two craftsman around these parts who produce incredible pieces in spotless workshops and I can only aspire to be more like then.
cheers

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Re: getting organized

Postby Woodbloke » 12 Jan 2015, 00:23

Andyp wrote:I prefer to have as much a possible behind doors or in drawers as this helps to keep things clean. It is only screws and nails that are on open shelves.

I do suffer from having tools in 3 different areas.

A small tool roll in the house for quick plug changes, batteries and other odd jobs.

A larger tool box in the garage and the mechanical stuff for cars and lawn mowers.

All the woodworking stuff and hand power tools in the workshop.

As I am sure you can imagine there is always opportunity for the right tool being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have also bought replacements for "lost" tools only for them to be found as soon as I put the new ones away.

I also live by the motto "where there is work there is no order". There are one or two craftsman around these parts who produce incredible pieces in spotless workshops and I can only aspire to be more like then.


I have a 'house' DIY tool box full of things like old hammers and a Marples Blue Chip chisel that I belt with one.
Plastic crates, one each for 'leccy stuff, plumbing bits, tiling odd n'sods and another few that get filled with cr@p.
All my spanners and oily stuff is kept in my old dad's RN Fleet Air Arm tool box, still with his number (LFX669823) painted on the outside…it's even got a cylinder head stud in it from a Hawker Sea Fury and a cartridge starter box.
All the good woodworking stuff is kept in the workshop - Rob
I no longer work for Axminster Tools & Machinery.
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Re: getting organized

Postby beech1948 » 20 Jul 2016, 13:06

Made me laugh this one.

I have just moved into a new house and the workshop has gone from a self-built 20X24' shed to a double garage.

All my old boxes/bins/crates/tool boards/tins/bottles etc etc have been dumped. I now have a set of cabinets with drawers for everything....routers, circ saw, planes. The last three cabinets will need drawers for hardware/screws/nails/hinges etc.

My bench has no drawers as I have removed them. Planes in bottom drawer were blocked by items in the vice.

I found that being too fancy re storeage is the issue. Keep it simple.

Only thing I need now is a couple of wall cabs with doors a la kitchen cabs.

regards

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Re: getting organized

Postby RogerS » 20 Jul 2016, 13:11

My current daily thought at the moment seems to be "I didn't know I had that".
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Re: getting organized

Postby tracerman » 20 Jul 2016, 14:51

HaHa , I can identify even more now with this post , recently I started re-building the arrangement of the 12 drawers under my bench , they had been mounted on 1" steel angle irons , but proved long ago to be useless as the contents made them too heavy to slide nicely so I'm in the process of re-building with an MDF carcass and under-mounted drawer runners , those drawers already re-mounted slide beautifully but as I proceed I'm finding stuff I'd forgotten about , so the plan is that once all 12 drawers are in , I will re-sort . Once the carcass was fitted ready , I was able to slide it in under the bench as it was blocking access through the garage , and we needed to mow the front lawn . So some of the drawers are still piled up awaiting their runners , contents only roughly known .
Her indoors decided recently that we should re-lay our patio ( during the hottest weather for years ) and during re-laying she decided we needed "one of those flat things with a handle in the middle " to tamp down some of the sand we are using . " Oh yes I said , you mean your ( yes hers ) plasterers trowel , I know where that is " . It was not found with the plastering/tile cutting/grouting under the bench . I got a small LED torch and searched again underneath at the back , no sign . Then I remembered , I put some stuff on the landing upstairs as we are trying to keep decorating type stuff in the loft . But there is a clutter of wine-making equipment waiting to be returned to the loft when I get a round tuit . And of course the trowel was with it . By then of course we had been beaten back by the heat . All work suspended .
In view of my arthritis , it seems possible that once the garage/workshop is finally sorted , it will have become a museum , a sort of testament to my previous skills , ambitions and misguided ideas . But I shall be stubbornly hanging on to my tools in case I need them . And I've just thought of a couple things I need .

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Re: getting organized

Postby Andyp » 20 Jul 2016, 18:44

For a long time I liked to have tools in drawers and cupboards to keep them clean and dust free but of late I have been considering a tool wall where i can see everything and instantly spot if it is not there.

I also suffer from the problems of tools in the workshop, the garage and a few handy tools in the house. Of course the one I want is always somewhere else.
cheers

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Re: getting organized

Postby Rod » 20 Jul 2016, 20:31

I often have sort outs/ tidy ups and can never remember where their new location is - I can always remember where they used to be!
If I put things in boxes I've started writing in large letters their contents.

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Re: getting organized

Postby Malc2098 » 20 Jul 2016, 21:01

I've not looked at the posters' profiles above, but I'm getting an idea of their age. Must be similar to mine...or more, even!
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Re: getting organized

Postby RogerS » 20 Jul 2016, 22:56

Give me a horizontal surface and I will fill it.

Ditto the vertical desktop on my Mac! But in a strange anachronism, I keep the kitchen pristine.

My best filing method for office paperwork developed over several years was a tall open filing cupboard with three shelves. My desk contained paperwork for this month. Top shelf in the cupboard was last months. The middle shelf, month before that etc. At the end of each month I would take out the entire content of the bottom shelf and trash it. Move the rest down one shelf and then clear my desk to the top shelf. Worked a treat. I reckoned that if I really needed to retrieve something from Month + 4 then someone, somewhere would have a copy. :lol:
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