Chris Schwarz's Blog

Tip: Wipe it Where You Store it

wiping down

I know a woodworker who said he saved himself hundreds of steps a day merely by moving his pencil sharpener so it is under his table saw. I had a similar “duh” moment today when I was wiping down a handsaw to put it in my tool chest.

For the last 15 years I’ve kept an oily rag hanging on the frame of my articulated bench light. The position of the rag allowed me to wipe down a tool when I was done with it at the bench. But sometimes I’m not at the bench. I’m working on sawhorses or on the piece itself, which are both away from the bench. So I have to circle around the bench to get the rag.

Or sometimes I forget to wipe things down and have to turn around and head back to the bench to fetch the rag.

It’s not a huge deal – my shop is pretty small – but little things do add up.

wiping down

Today I screwed a cheap cup hook into the lid of my tool chest (I’ll have a blacksmith make me one soon). Then I hung the oily rag on the hook. I immediately noticed the difference as I worked the remainder of the day. The rag was right where it should be: Above where the tools are stored.

It’s a simple, stupid thing. But every minute in the shop counts. And less faffing means more woodworking.

— Christopher Schwarz

13 thoughts on “Tip: Wipe it Where You Store it

  1. Derrick

    From the close up it looks like your lock catch is broken on the left side. Also looks like brass underneath the black. Have you covered if that is the stock finish, or if that is something you did to the brass?

  2. Paul Johnson

    A place for everything and everything in its place.

    I think the most important point here is the first step not specifically mentioned: Wherever you keep this rag (other tools also) have a ‘place’ for it and always keep it there when not in use. Time spent detouring to the place you used to keep the rag is nothing compared to the time wasted wandering the shop looking for a tool, a rag, the tape measure, etc. which didn’t get put back in it’s place, …. don’t ask me how I know this,

  3. DaveS2

    Do you always keep it hanging to avoid spontaneous combustion risk (as oppossed to wadding it in a chest cubby)? Or does the microfiber cloth or oil type avoid this? Or am I missing something?

    1. Longfatty

      Always read the label for anything you use in your shop, preferably online or at the store before you bring it in, then make a mental note of where you’re going to put it once it’s home. A can of oil from a good supplier will have a warning label if it will spontaneously combust. Store away from your other oils because you will probably mix them up or grab the wrong one some time in the next 30 years.

      The best thing to do is get a UL listed (metal) flamables cabinet to store all of your solvents and finishes. That way they are segregated and it will help you to remember which ones to keep off your tool rags. You want to set up a system that prevents you from ever making a mistake with something that will burn your shop down. Good separate storage is one way to help you remember which is which even if you forget to read the label every time. Do not ever put any rags in your flamables cabinet, that’s just like adding a fuse to a molotov cocktail if something spills.
      -L

  4. blefty

    I take the opposite approach. I have to take a few extra steps to wipe down tools, etc. But then, it’s just a very satisfying hobby to me, I’m not dependent on the income produced. Why else spend $300 on a plane, $150 on wood and countless hours to build a piece of furniture I could buy for $200 or less. Kind of the same reason I park at the far end of the parking lot at the grocery store. A good chance to get a little more exercise.

    1. drjohn1963

      I have those crummy little paintbrushes too, hanging in several strategic spots in my shop, for sweeping out saw dust and bits of wood. Especially for the table saw… they seem to work better than whisk brooms.

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