Adding Cheap And Classy Storage To Your Shop

If your garage is like mine, it’s a mess.

Periodically you spend a weekend cleaning up; cramming your tools and scraps each into their respective spots (or wherever they will fit), and sweeping up the sawdust and shavings, leaving your shop spotless… until you start your next project.

At that point you dislodge a tool and the materials necessary to complete your project, and you may has well have just pulled the pin on a grenade.

A short time later your garage explodes in a flurry of tools and shrapnel, that leaves your garage as bad as it has ever been, and quite possibly worse, while it waits for another free weekend to be cleaned up.

Making matters worse, I have many times promised to get the garage clean enough for my wife to park her car, but I have thus far been unable to maintain the upper hand for long enough to actually pull the car into its place.

After extensive study of this phenomenon, I started to study the root cause. Surely this is not merely a symptom of being a lazy slob. Surely this is not merely my own fault….

…surely…

Thus, having ruled out personal flaws, I decided that the heart of the problem was simple: Storage.

I had some wire shelves, a rolling toolbox, a workbench, a hanging shelf, and a pegboard, but every tool I owned and used was living in increasingly cramped quarters, and there were some obvious opportunities to add enough space to get a little more capacity and flexibility in the storage system.

The first and largest opportunity: my metal working station.
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When I designed my metal working station, I left large openings with the intention of someday building drawers and shelves.

About a week ago I realized I was never going to find it worthwhile to spend a day building a bunch of drawers while I had a backlog of so many more important/interesting projects (swingset, porch lights, shed, small truck for my daughter, speargun, radius cutter for my lathe… and whatever else comes up between now and the finish of those).

What if I just bought some drawers?

At first I thought I thought I’d use a coupon to buy a couple Harbor Freight toolboxes, since they are so much cheaper than anything equivalent from Sears or Home Depot, but I’ would have still ended up spending a few hundred dollars.

What should I do?

Begin theme music! …Possibly after advertisement!

<Note: Please leave this playing while reading the remainder of this article>

Enter the Swedes, stage left!

IKEA TO THE RESCUE!

$40 KULLEN 3 Drawer Chest

$59 - Oh MICKE You're so fine!

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Granted, there’s still a lot of cleanup to do, but I have now added more than enough storage for all of my metal working tools and work pieces.

And at a total of $100, it costed me less than I would have spent on the plywood and drawer slides to make the drawers that I would have never taken the time to build.

Those clever Swedes.

Cleanup Tip: Metal Shavings

If you notice the background of most of my pictures, you’re probably thinking “why would I take cleanup advice from that guy?”.

True, I don’t clean up as often as I should, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it.

I have a portable bandsaw that I got for Christmas and that I am fairly certain is the most awesome tool ever.
I use it to slice through angle iron and tubing like a hot knife through Vaseline; and through 3.5-inch thick bricks of steel like… okay, it’s not that fast with the thick metal, but it gets the job done and takes up a whole lot less space than a horizontal bandsaw.
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However, as is true of all saws, it makes a mess. Which brings me to the point of this article: a neat trick to quickly clean up metal shavings.

I use this method whenever I have a fairly localized mess of shavings in an area that isn’t easy to use a broom in, such as around my vice and grinder on the workbench, or on the floor in front of the vice where I use my portable bandsaw.
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What you need:

  • A strong magnet (ideally a rare earth magnet)
  • A shop cloth (I like to use pieces of old t-shirt)

Place the magnet in the cloth…
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Fold the cloth around the magnet…
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Wipe the area where the shavings are to collect them…
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Then go over the to trash can, and unwrap the magnet and set it aside…
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Now you have a handful of shavings to empty into the trash and a clean magnet.
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See? I can clean if I want to.