Tool Racks-Then & Now

Every now and then I get a question from a reader about the tool rack that hangs in the window of our shop behind my workbench. The rack in question was originally made in May 2007 for an article in Issue 8 of Woodworking Magazine. Like most good ideas, it isn’t mine. Chris Schwarz made a similar one first, so I stole his concept and added a few details of my own. The picture on the left is from when the rack was brand new. One of the great things about our shop is the abundance of windows. They let in a lot of natural light, and let us keep an eye on the weather and events of interest in our parking lot and the senior citizens’ home next door. But they also take up a lot of space that would be wall. It’s nice to have tools visible and available, and with a rack such as this the tools can be safely stored without being hidden away.

There is an upright piece at both ends and in the middle of the horizontal pieces.  I made the rack, then stood it up in the window opening, and held it in place with a couple screws. I could have made it in place, but this made construction a bit easier, and if we ever move I can take it with me. It’s nice to have tools visible and available.

The top rack is two horizontal strips, separated every foot or so by 1/2″-thick blocks. That spacing works for almost everything, with a few exceptions. My chisels would lean too much for my liking in the top. Rather than add another tier of horizontal strips with wider spacing, I made a shelf supported by brackets. Close to the edge I drilled a row of 7/8″-diameter holes, then made angled cuts toward the front edge of the shelf. This worked beautifully for the chisels I was using then, but they are a little small for some the chisels I’ve been using lately. And the rack is considerably fuller than it was. Time for a second or third chisel rack somewhere, and if I make it too big I can justify buying more chisels.

Here’s a closer look at how the tools fit in, and how the chisel shelf attaches to the uprights. I’ve placed screws and nails at various locations along the front board to hang stuff that doesn’t fit well in the slots or the chisel holes. On Chris’ side of the shop he placed some Shaker pegs for the same purpose. Other than on the chisel rack, anything can go just about anywhere. Tools can come and go; new additions will fit somewhere. And for certain projects some tools can be packed away, while others can be brought out and kept handy.

The shelf was something of an afterthought. I didn’t plan it for anything special, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. When the article first came out I was chastised by a few members of the Safety Police for having a shelf below the pointy ends of the chisels. There is a decent amount of space in between, and with the sharp edges visible I avoid them when reaching to get something below. You may be more impulsive and may prefer a different arrangement, but it works for me.

The shelves are nailed down to the corbels, which are screwed to the uprights from behind. The shelf works a lot better for smaller planes than it does for the bigger ones, and I’m considering some other arrangement for those. And the saw population is increasing, so I want to do something for them. What I have works well for three or four saws, but I don’t have space for more than that. Of course this arrangement isn’t perfect. One of the downsides is that everything is exposed. Our windows are tinted, so you can’t see in from outside, but dust does accumulate on the tools. When that starts to bother me, I blow away the dust with compressed air.

— Robert W. Lang

7 thoughts on “Tool Racks-Then & Now

  1. milesthom

    Thanks for the inspiration to get things organized. Just finished one modeled on your photos – spruce for structure, chisel shelf cut from 2 x 4 and pine shelf supported by brackets built from the spruce.

    Tried to use hand tools throughout, and adjusted on the fly for discrepancies of structural lumber.

    My big win? Sacrifice of about a foot and a half of 2 x 4 practice sawing the deep dado for the shelf – victory was two brackets that fit the shelf as they came from the saw.

    Now on to shooting board, bench hook and dovetail gauge.

    Cheers – Miles

  2. Steve

    I like the tool rack, Bob. Thanks for sharing your updated observations.

    But what’s with the toilet wax ring in the second photo? Is it a tool accessory or perhaps for an upcoming project?

    Thanks,
    Steve

    1. Robert W. Lang Post author

      Hi Steve,

      In the last photo, behind the rabbet plane and in front of the Glen-Drake hammer is a 35mm film container. The toilet bowl ring is made of beeswax, and I transfer a glob every now and then to the film container for lubricating screws. Cheap source of beeswax, and a ring lasts several years.

      Sharp eye!

      Bob

  3. Pkorman1

    I have a 1 car garage shop so space is always at a premium. My plane shelf is wide enough to accommodate up to my #6 across the shelf from front to rear. I mount my #7 under the shelf with 2 wood U brackets, 1/2′ wider than my plane. Strategically placed, the long tail slides in first and then the front slides up and in allowing the plane to hang upside down along the length of the shelf. It looks like your shelf is high enough to fit an inverted bench plane. Access is very easy.

  4. rdeanspoon

    A nice shelf. I just discovered the Pop Wood Blogs and am really enjoying them. A similar shelf will be going up in my shop soon. With a veiw of the old folks parking lot how do you keep Chris from sneaking off to get a piece of b’day
    cake when he sees one go by?
    Keep up the good work. You produce a great product.
    Dean

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