The Best Way to Organize Your Tools
Tools do you absolutely no good unless you know where to find them and can get them quickly. If you can’t, even a simple repair will be frustrating. And as odd as it sounds, the solution may be to throw out your old tool box.
I test tools for a living, use them around the house to build and repair, and employ them on volunteer projects. These involve everything from repairing wheel chairs to fixing lawnmowers and appliances to installing digitally controlled flush valves for toilets and urinals. After decades of this work, when I realized that my organizational method wasn’t working, I threw out my sturdy plastic tool box and started from scratch. I had that thing for years, and it had gone many miles with me. But no matter how neatly I placed tools in it, getting them out and back in was a hassle.
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So I developed what I call the filing cabinet approach. The first thing I realized was that I couldn’t keep everything I needed in one place. I found that I would go months without using some tools. There’s no sense in constantly lugging around the ones that I use only infrequently, so I separated these. Then I did more tool separation and sorting, based on their use and how often I needed them. When I was done, I had a system whereby I have more than enough tools on hand to do the vast majority of the repair, maintenance, and construction jobs that I undertake.
The Filing Cabinet Method
The so-called filing cabinet is a large sack that has smaller files (of tools) inside it. Inside this is a single large tool wallet, several smaller wallets, some tool sets, and a handful of loose tools and miscellaneous items. I keep this sack several steps away from where I’m working. I take out only the tools that I need and bring them to where I need them, reducing clutter where I’m working. If this sounds like it could help you, I’ve laid out below just how (and why) I divvy everything up.
I have various sizes to keep commonly used tools organized and protected from dirt and moisture. The largest holds the group of tools that I use most often. Several others hold the tools I less frequently need.
The Main Wallet
A single large wallet runs the length of the tool sack, and it holds: a utility knife, a variety of screwdrivers, pliers, an adjustable wrench, two different types of putty knives, shears, and some odds and ends. For some repairs, I simply grab that. I lift it out of the sack and take it with me. It functions as a fairly thorough tool collection in its own right. Of course, when all I need is a utility knife, say, or a screwdriver, I grab only that.
Specialty Screwdriver Wallet
If every screw could be turned with a Number 2 Phillips, the world would be a mechanically simpler place. But that’s not the case. There are many tiny screws of various types to remove from appliances and electronics. This contains stubby screwdrivers, jeweler/eyeglass screwdrivers, tiny socket drivers, Allen wrenches, and a magnetizer for imparting a temporary magnetic charge on the end of a screwdriver to hold a screw firmly to its tip. (By itself that thing is a lifesaver when I’m working with a tiny screw that can easily fall and become lost.)
Layout usually involves marking out the position of wood framing materials, such as wall studs. But it can also mean building a concrete form (usually in the shape of a rectangle). Or it can involve work as diverse as marking out a board that will become a stair stringer and pounding a stake into the ground to suspend a piece of mason’s line with a line level attached to it. Combined with other tools I don’t show here (for example, the squares you can find in the loose tools and a plumb bob in a separate tool kit), this little pouch takes me a long way.
“Instrument” doesn’t quite tell the whole story here. This contains gadgets as varied as an infrared thermometer, a backup non-contact voltage tester, and a stud sensor. Thrown in for good measure is a Starrett screw pitch gauge to identify the thread count (pitch) of screws and bolts. I also keep a pocket chart for drilling and tapping holes and a backup mini work light. It’s not a perfect grouping of tools, but it works for me.
These are groups of tools, such as a socket set, that came with their own plastic or zippered fabric cases.
I have a separate and much larger socket set, but it’s amazing how much work I get done repairing appliances and assembling things with this ancient Craftsman socket set. Everything in there is 1/4-inch drive, and it weighs hardly anything. If I know I have a large job ahead of me, I always bring the larger socket set, but this thing often serves nicely for home repairs.
I’ve used this Greenlee multimeter for years and find it simple and reliable. It’s accompanied by a non-contact voltage tester and an outlet tester. Almost all electrical work I need to do, I accomplish with this simple little set in a padded case. For anything more elaborate, I have a separate set of electrical tools.
Impact-Rated Bit Set
I find myself using an impact driver for nearly everything today. All my impact-rated bits have a 1⁄4-inch hex shank so they slot right into an impact driver, but the shank also prevents them from spinning when chucked into a cordless drill driver. Each bit is machined out of high-speed steel, so they’re incredibly tough. The bits are further improved with a black oxide coating to reduce wear. Each row of bits snaps out of the case, enabling me to hold them in my nail apron.
Drill Bit Set
I carry a dedicated twist set because I need more sizes (especially larger) than what I carry in my impact-rated set above. These high-speed steel drill bits have a black oxide finish for wear resistance, and I’ve used them on hardwood, softwood, steel, aluminum, plastic, and drywall (but not on masonry, of course). The smaller bits on the left are all round shank, but the larger bits have shanks with three flat surfaces to prevent them from spinning in the chuck.
A countersink makes a tapered hole such that when you drive the wood screw, its head will be set flush or slightly below the wood surface. It’s used mainly in higher forms of woodworking and particularly in hardwoods. Shown here is a (very old) quick-change countersink system made by Lyropa Tool Corp. It still works well, and I still use it, though it appears you can no longer buy it. The interesting thing about this set is that its parts nest together such that you can countersink a hole and then slip the drive sleeve over the countersink and drive the screw. The set was made before impact drivers became commonplace. Other countersink sets have other types of quick-change drill and drive mechanisms. The important thing is to carry a countersink set of some kind, regardless of the specifics of how it works or what the set looks like.
Loose and Miscellaneous Tools
No matter how you try to organize your tools, there’s bound something that you use so often that it doesn’t make sense to store separately. And there are various odds and ends that defy easy categorization. I use the tools and accessories here in conjunction with other, such as a circular saw or a cordless drill. Of course, I use those a lot. The carpentry tools simply lay on top of the tool wallets and kits in my larger satchel. The miscellaneous items tuck into various pockets on the outside of the tool sack.
Published at Thu, 04 Nov 2021 23:01:00 +0000