I’ve set up workshops in many different places and for many different applications. The process of organising your workshop [or workbench] is both personal and organic. Setups vary wildly depending on one’s specialty, while organisation and workflow are often an organic process that can take months or years to fine-tune.
Along the way I’ve come across and devised some ways to improve efficiency and arrangement in many different types of workshops. Here are 10 that I hope will help. Sound off in the discussion section if you have some tips of your own!
If you’re planning to go vertical in your workshop, a pegboard can be your best friend. It’s inexpensive, and there are so many add-ons you can buy that provide near-infinite organisational possibilities.
Wire Spool Holder
If you have lots of wire spools, they can get hopelessly tangled with each other. Solve this with a simple holder. You can buy one or build one. I put mine together in less than an hour with some scrap wood and a wooden dowel.
Alligator Clip Clothesline
I came up with this when my clips would constantly get tangled. Two push-pins and a piece of twine solved that problem. Now they’re organised and easily accessible.
Friends of electrical engineers for many decades, component drawers are ideal for storing tiny electronic parts. They’re also easily removable if you need to go rooting around.
Junk: Organise and Purge
I keep several junk boxes: wood, metal, plastic and electronics. About once a year, it’s a good idea to go through it and skim off what you won’t use.
Strip and Toss
There are many among us who are parts scavengers, but make sure to do it smartly! Strip the parts off what you need, organise them and junk the rest. This (above) is my bin of motors, gears, belts and pulleys.
Milk Crate Storage
They’re rugged, modular and free (easily picked from the roadside). Mine have been going strong for 15 years, and when I move to a new apartment, packing is as easy as flipping them 90 degrees.
Tools Away at End of Day
I learned this while working construction. You can never predict how long you’ll need a tool for, so keep it out until it’s cleanup time. Putting everything away at once is also much more efficient than doing it piecemeal.
I learned this from my days in film production. Tie a carabiner to a rope, run your tape rolls through it, and hang it on a wall. Now they’re all easily accessible and won’t roll around everywhere.
This is Adam Savage’s toolbox from his model-making days. He’d have two of these scissor-lifting boxes at his sides, allowing him to quickly whip out whatever tool was needed. Building such a system is an organic process, so don’t be afraid to switch things up as needed.
Michael Colombo an interaction designer, inventor and musician. Projects of note are the TapeScape audio robot, which was made almost entirely of a dual cassette deck, a method of casting plastic lumber from shopping bags, and the Magnetotron, an audio tape-based musical instrument. He is currently a Master’s candidate at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he studies the art and science of everything.