A Better Garage Organizational System

I gave übermaker Federico Tobon a tour of the garage when he visited the Root Simple compound back in 2017. He took one look at the pegboard and asked, politely, if I liked it. I could tell by his tone of voice that he was skeptical of this ubiquitous garage storage strategy.

Technically known as perforated hardboard (Peg-Board is an expired trademark), the idea dates to the early 20th century. You can still pick some up at almost every lumber yard or big box store here in the U.S. But here’s the thing. It sucks. Even with the little plastic doodads that are supposed to keep the metal hooks from falling out, in my experience, half the time you you go to retrieve a tool off the wall the damn metal pegs fall out.

This past week, inspired by an article in Fine Woodworking by Jason Stephens, I decided to put all my furniture building plans on hold and replace the pegboard with a more usable and robust home-brewed hanging system using 1/2 inch plywood and custom made tool holders.

The first step was a Marie Kondoing of the workshop. I decided to only keep tools that I know I will use. Since I’m focusing on woodworking this was fairly simple. A flurry of furniture projects in the past year taught me which tools are useful and which ones are not. But don’t worry, I also decided to keep the tools that I use for non-wood related household emergencies (toilet augers and stuff like that).

Stephens’ tool storage method begins by attaching 1/2 plywood to your workshop wall. Then you make a custom hanger for each tool or set of tools. This is easier than it sounds and took only a few minutes per tool. Having a table saw and air nailer makes this go faster but you could easily make hangers with hand tools. It would just take longer. For many of the tools I just put a nail or screw in the plywood to hang them. You could also make a small version of this system for an apartment and attach the plywood to the wall with a French cleat.

While what I put together was a storage wall for a wood shop, you could easily adapt this idea to any other craft. I could see a sewing or crafting room organized the same way. It does help to know which tools you need and to place the most frequently used ones close at hand. In my case that meant the measuring tools and hand planes were placed close to the workbench and the table saw accessories are on shelves next to, you guessed it, the table saw.

Rolling with Stephens’ suggestion, I used French cleat hangers so that I could remove tool sets, such as my drill bits and chisels, from the wall. As you can see I made a base so that you can put the whole set on a table.

There were a few other changes to the workshop I made in order to make it more useful for furniture making such as being sure that I could access my workbench from all sides, as well as improvements to the dust collection system. I can detail these changes in a future post but I’m more interested in showing that a well organized workshop can benefit any activity from sewing to gardening. Taking the time to plan a workspace makes work go much easier.

Aesthetics are important too. It helps to have a workshop that’s inspiring to work in. Towards this end I hung a few mementos on the wall. A St. Joseph icon reminds me to not cut off my fingers. And my late grandfather’s shop glasses, from his time riveting airplanes at McDonnell Douglas, look down from above the nuts and bolts.

Share this post

Leave a comment

11 Comments

  1. I use pegboard. Good tool hooks are expensive and the cheap ones aren’t great (but plastic clips have worked fine for me), but the overall system is a good, low-cost way of exploring organization. Workshop training wheels.

  2. This is inspirational! I’ve decided it’s time to Kon-Marie my tools and this gives me an idea how things can be stored. And it will encourage me to get my planes sharp since they’ll be available for use.

  3. I’ve always had the same problem with pegboard, until I ordered hooks from some industrial website (darned if I can remember it now). They were heavier gauge than the regular hooks and you literally had to squeeze them in. The only problem is they very hard to get out. Get ’em right the 1st time.

  4. Peg board and traditional hooks do suck. However, peg board with Talon hooks is the way to go if you want to build an inexpensive and useful took storage system. Someone at the Woodsmith store in Des Moines, IA turned me on to the Talon hooks years ago and I have never looked back. Check ’em out: https://talonhooks.com/

    The tool storage cabinet that I built was based on this plan:
    https://www.woodsmithplans.com/plan/sliding-door-shop-cabinet/

    Together this is a great solution.

  5. Neither Matt nor I are satisfied with our pegboard set up–and Matt has been turning into quite the woodworker. I’ll have to show him this for inspiration–oh, what the workshop COULD be!

  6. Well, at least I sounded polite. 😉
    Your wall looks great! And it looks like you have discovered the joys of making custom tool holders. I somehow really like that process, it’s like making little mini homes for the tools that bring me joy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.