Win our “Essential Woodshop Value Pack”

The “Woodworking Daily” 3-year magazine subscription contest has ended, and today a new contest begins. Since it’s finally spring, we thought of a good idea that has to do with spring cleaning.

What are your best tips for shop clean-up and organization? Tell us in the comments section! We’ll read all the comments on Monday and choose the best or most helpful. The winner receives our shop organization collection, the “Essential Woodshop Value Pack” – a $66 prize!

PWshopmessyAs you can see in the picture (left) of Popular Woodworking’s shop, clean-up and organization is a challenge for everyone. In fact, having a perfectly clean shop is probably a sign that you aren’t doing much woodworking! But there’s no doubt that a certain level of shop organization and cleanliness will help you to be more productive.

Here are a few tips from our blog authors:

Matt Vanderlist on storage ideas

Diagrams for a typical garage shop layout

Mike Siemsen on sweeping (funny)

Bill Rainford on customizing your tool chest

Megan Fitzpatrick on hand saws in her tool chest

I hope that gets your ideas flowing! The deadline for leaving a comment below is Monday, April 7th. So do a little sweeping and organizing this weekend and let us know what you come up with.

Oh, and please read the official contest rules here:

Dan Farnbach

UPDATE, 4/9/14: We’ve selected the winner for our contest, Kelly, who has shared this fabulous tip for keeping your shop organized!

Many thanks to everyone who entered with their amazingly good ideas. It was a very tough decision. Enjoy learning from each other, and keep adding your thoughts!

Maximize Vertical Wall Space & Eliminate Storage Carts
by community member Kelly

To fight cabin fever this winter and tackle shop clutter, I decided to maximize the vertical wall space above my workbench and eliminate numerous storage cabinets and shop carts accumulated over the years.

During a slow time at work in 2012 I built a 13-foot work bench for a new miter saw with 30-inch by 30-inch drawers of various depths. The new drawers did wonders for organizing my small tools, consumables, and pneumatic tools. It was not until this February that I got around to building upper cabinets to replace the slat board setup and an old storage cabinet.

My garage shop has 10-foot ceilings which I was not using to maximum advantage. I built 27-inch high by 10-inch deep cabinets for the most used items (glues, finishes, solvents, etc.) and installed them starting 12-inches above the workbench. Then I built 40-inch high by 18-inch deep cabinets to store less used items and installed them above the 10-inch deep cabinets. To minimize the dust accumulation, I added doors with acrylic panes so I could see the contents and avoid dust settling on everything. So far they are working great, not sure why I waited so long.

On the wall adjacent to my workbench where I stored my lumber I had two HTC lumber racks (4 uprights) installed 48-inch on centers which meant that any board less than 47-inches leaned against a wall somewhere or was piled on top of a cart or toolbox. I reconfigured my existing lumber racks and added two more lumber racks (4 uprights) and installed them 16-inch on center to store shorter boards and smaller plywood pieces. All the lumber racks were installed with the bottoms at 75-inches above the floor, which means using a ladder to access anything above the the bottom two rows. Below the lumber racks in a long line I installed 14-feet of Rockler clamp racks and 8-feet of 3-inch high metal peg boards. I used the metal peg boards to hang all my jigs and layout tools, which greatly reduced the cluttered around my machines.

I was able to eliminate four rolling carts and a huge 5-foot rolling aluminum toolbox from my shop. I now have plenty of floor space for work-in-progress without constantly moving cabinets. By eliminating all the clutter on the floor leaning against walls, I am able to keep the shop much cleaner too.

Woodworking Daily Blog
Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is a former online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

43 thoughts on “Win our “Essential Woodshop Value Pack”

  1. Ericroy

    I live in what we call a townhouse here in Johannesburg, South Africa. I know I wont get a prize, but here is my tip: I had to clear out my garage so that I could at least park my car in it, which meant moving everything out of the way and cluttering it yet again. In this process I found I had so much sand paper enough for a shop, LOTS of screws of all sizes, LOTS of just about everything. I decided since I am nearly 74 what I wont be using soon after not having used for so long, is get rid of it, like the sand paper, screws, tools, saws, my Shopsmith complete with the sanding belt, the planer, the bandsaw, my other tools and MAYBE build new cupboards or make better use of current ones rebuilt to store what I DO need and not what I MIGHT need and hopefully be able to find and use what I can and not what I wont. Wish me lots of luck in this endeavor!!!

  2. skippie111

    When I go to the Hair Salon, they have this wheeled cart that has two bins, one on top, one underneath. I think that a wheeled “Project cart” would be a great idea. If you store the tools, bits, accessories that you may need for your project in one bin, and then use the other bins for scrap/garbage, I think it would make your job easier because you don’t have to go back and forth to a tool chest, cabinets, & garbage. You also can attach a dustpan and broom to the cart. Everything you need in one spot that is mobile to go with you around the room.


    I’ve found that a few keys are: 1) if you don’t need it, don’t buy it; 2) a piece of wood less than 18″ long is firewood; 3) lots of cabinets with fitted doors; 4) a cyclone collector mounted on the outside of the shop with the ductwork broken into blast gated zones to maximize collection; 5) hang up some 20″ box fans from the ceiling and duct tape furnace filters to each one (you’d be surprised at how effective it is!) and change the filters every 4-5 weeks. And don’t forget to sweep up a lot. Make furniture if you have any time left over.

  4. mrsdes

    One word: MOVE!! (or clean like you are going to!)
    All woodworkers are pack rats, it is in our genes, I hoarded wood, tools and misc junk that I could not bear to part with until I had to move, and even though I now have a 1250 sq ft stand alone shop, every time I clean up I look at the pile and ask myself, “would I take this if I was moving? if not out it goes!
    Believe me sometimes it HURTS but the lack of clutter is worth it.

  5. Canuk Wood Chuck

    I’m fortunate enough to have a stand alone shop that is heated and cooled so I don’t have a particular time when I do a complete cleaning. I find that I do a major cleaning when I purchase a new machine which usually means rearranging the entire shop so while everything is torn apart I give it a good overhaul. I do a fairly deep clean every time I finish a project. Then all of the tools and equipment are back in their respective homes and I have a fresh start.

  6. Sunnymay

    Clean up as you go. Have a specific spot for each item so that when a tool isn’t there, you can call the person you loaned it to and nicely ask for it back.

  7. tomshap

    I love spring, it gives me a chance to clean out and re-find lots of things I squirreled away. I recently did a reorganization of my shop where I went to a bin system. Now all of my shelves and several of my cabinets have categorized bins. Some of my categories are Layout Tools, Cutting & Sharpening Tools, Zip-lock bags, Electrical, Router accessories, Sanding, Adhesives & Touch Up, Bolts Tapcons and Large Fasteners, Drivers & Drill Bits, Tape, and several others.

    I have larger bins with lids on my wall shelves and smaller open top basket type plastic bins on a narrow shelf just above my workbench but below my cabinets. In the cabinets I have medium sized open top bins that are filled with crystal light containers that hold smaller parts such as one for each size of drywall screw, tek screws, nails, and miscellaneous items. Each container is labeled with what is in it and what size such as 3″ drywall screws, or #12 x 3/4″ tek screws. The bin is then labelled with what the majority of the containers are such as Screws, Nails, or one is just Misc where all the odd-ball stuff is located.

    The major advantage of this system is I get to spend more time actually woodworking instead of spending all my time searching for stuff. My categories are wide enough that most anything I add to the shop instantly has a home.

    Hope this helps someone,

  8. dovetail2

    I have awesome shop lighting by installing 4′ x 8′ OSB sheeting with a aluminum foil, factory applied and facing down on my 9′ shop ceiling and then mounted four 4′ shop lights, facing up and mounted on bottom of Each, TWO 4′ x 4′ x 8′ frames made from 1/2″ aluminum square tubing.

    I also do not trip on any more cords by installing three twist plug receptacles on each 8′ length on the outside frame housing.

    It required me to put twist plugs on each tool, but I never have a disconnect any more.
    Chuck and Glen have visited my shop and will agree on how great the light is spread around the shop.

    1. tomshap

      I would love to see a picture of your lighting system so I can understand it better. The reflective OSB is a good idea, I just don’t fully understand how you have the lights mounted.

  9. Clacky

    Scrap lumber in my workshop is a nuisance. To get organized and cleaned up in my workshop would be keep or throw out scraps of lumber. A good article would be to help us decide on what might be useful to keep and what should be burned. Going right down to type of wood and size and what should be retained in regard to plywood. Then a good storage idea or two to best utilize area or space and make what is on hand easily assessable.

  10. tedthecowboy56

    My goal for spring “cleaning” is to complete the projects I started. This would both free up the space taken up by the partial projects and give the satisfaction of completing the projects. I do not have a heated shop and we just finished a long unforgiving winter. I then want to complete the projects started by my father-in-law who passed away in 2004. My father-in-law had started several items with the intent of giving them to different family members. I would be proud to finish those projects and present them at the next family reunion. In 2013 I was lucky enough to be given a lot of his shop tools, wood, and unfinished projects. I feel the completion of the projects would give me a fresh start by getting the unfinished projects monkey off my back.

  11. Ken Nerad

    My secret is to ensure that my vacume system is turned on and that only 1 gate is open. Many times I forget to close a gate after using a tool such as chop saw or jointer. I lose a lot on vacumn when multiple gates are open.

    1. Bart

      I have the same problem Ken. I think my garden gnomes come in to my shop when Im not there and open a few of my blast gates. 🙂

  12. bbbbbb

    Springtime cleaning will occasionally bring about the find of some long forgotten wood that is not only beautiful old pieces of straight grained wood but it is found to be grimy, greasy, and filled with dirt.
    Not to worry. Just use this power-packed cleaner and some elbow grease and you will get that vintage lumber to shine.

    3 parts sand
    2 parts liquid hand soap
    1 part lime

    Mix these ingredients together in a clean container and proceed to scrub with a stiff bristled brush. Rinse with clear water and rub dry with a clean towel.
    You now have some beautiful old wood that is ready for that project that has been waiting for some vintage wood to appear to get this dream finished.

  13. terrynjon

    When it becomes too much of a mess, clean and organize one area. However, you are not allowed to just pile the stuff in another area. Much easier said than done.

  14. DHRiley

    Living on a boat for a time did wonders for our organization skills. As we did on the boat, we made an inventory of tools, accessories and consumable supplies. We numbered each cabinet & locker and assigned our inventory to one or another numbered cabinet/drawer/locker/shelf (eg. D1C1 for Drawer#1 in Cabinet #1). The inventory list is placed in the “clean room.” This list can be consulted when looking for a tool or putting it away. After a bit, it is automatic. It helps that we have small cabinets or a tool box near each machine for supplies and tooling specific to that machine. The rule is to put the tools away at the end of the day. Dust collection catches a lot, but occasionally, we just open the garage door and turn on the leaf blower (remember to put the tools away first. The worst part of organization is managing the wood inventory, especially leftover sidecuts in an orderly fashion. Any tips are appreciated.

  15. Sean McCurdy

    I have my shop split into two areas; powertools in the garage, and hand tools (plus a lathe) in the basement. As much as I strive to clean as I go, that just doesn’t happen 100%. My clean up strategy is simple; whenever I enter either space I put away 5 things. It can be any 5 things, 5 screwdrivers count. It isn’t much at a time such that it’s not really that bothersome. Usually it can be one quick trip out to a workbench, tablesaw, etc and back to the tool chest. However, since I pass through multiple times a day, bit by bit the clutter gets put away, so when it’s shop time I don’t have too much additional cleaning to do.

  16. Shozan

    The key to getting ahead on the organizing front is to BALANCE time between production and building more shop organization. Make every 5th project a storage project (every 7th if you have been at this awhile…). Just as you don’t spend all your shop time sharpening your edge tools, since then you would never get any work done, you also don’t ignore dull edges; planned balance is the key.

    Being disciplined about regularly building new storage will help you focus on what you most need, and ensure that you neither over- nor under-invest in building storage. You will also have time as you do “real” projects to think about and prioritize your next storage project (the one in five).

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