In Techniques

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

Even in this organized woodshop things can get misplaced.

Even my well-organized woodshop can use an improvement or two.

One of the great joys of woodworking is helping other woodworkers realize their fullest potential. With limited technical and artistic skills there is little I can do to help other woodworkers perfect their joinery, inlay, carving or turning techniques. However, as a fairly well organized guy, I do enjoy helping fellow woodworkers organize their workshops, gain more productive time by working more efficiently, and by passing on tips and techniques that can make some tasks go more quickly.

It is a rarity to walk into another person’s woodshop and not see opportunities to help improve the utilization of space, cut down on wasted motion, and organize for better outcomes in less time. So for a woodworker who takes great pride in being efficient, it was quite the comeuppance to realize that it was time for the physician to heal himself. You see, I discovered a problem, and it needs to be fixed.

A week or so ago a fellow woodworker sent an email after watching a couple of my videos. In it, he told me about a company he worked for that adopted the workplace organization principles of 5S. He said, and I quote, “…they just about beat 5S into us.”

5S principles are employed by companies throughout the world to drive efficiency, productivity, quality and safety. In the email he emphasized the zeal with which his company implemented 5S by exclaiming, “…even foam cut outs for pens in our desks!”

I chuckled and agreed that was perhaps a little over-the-top. The next day, however, working at my bench, I reached for a pencil… it wasn’t where I thought it would be. Was it on the table saw? No. Maybe on the assembly table? No. Finally I located the stray pencil next to the miter saw. About three minutes had passed, my workflow was interrupted, and my concentration was blown. It made me think about all the times I have misplaced a pencil. Perhaps foam cut outs for pens wasn’t an over-the-top idea after all. Perhaps it was time for the physician to take a dose of his own medicine.

A very conservative estimate after a few days of self-observation indicate I lose my pencil at least twice a day. That equates to six precious minutes of shop time lost. It doesn’t seem like much, but for a weekend woodworker that adds up to twelve minutes of lost shop time every weekend… in a year, over ten hours of wasted time.

I work in my shop five days a week. When I think about my personal “pencil problem” I could easily be wasting as much as 26 hours a year looking for a lousy pencil. That is ridiculous!

Physician, Heal Thyself

Tools are easy… I have trained myself to put them back where they belong. Wood I can keep up with. Hardware is meticulously sorted and labeled. It is second nature to organize my tools and supplies according to tasks and I never waste even a second looking for something I need. But pencils? Not so much. It is a frustrating failure and my new friend’s email really struck a nerve… Physician, it is time to heal your self.

How about you? Do you ever temporarily misplace things in your shop? Do you waste time hunting for the tool you need or a piece of wood that is “just right?” Do you have trouble finding the right screws when you need them? Do you ever have to stop what you are doing to hunt for something? Does the distraction cause you to lose concentration? Does your shop feel cramped? Does hunting for a tool, a router bit, a drill bit or an essential piece of hardware cause you to lose focus… to get out of the zone? Do you waste precious shop time?

If you do, our special adaptation of 5S to woodworking is probably just the ticket to helping you avoid all that time-consuming hunting for misplaced tools, supplies or materials.

Through examples, videos, and helpful charts this class will help you sort your tools and supplies and keep “close at hand” only those things that are frequently used. Sort is the first of the 5 S’s. You will also learn the guiding principles of “Set In Order” (the second S) assuring that what you need (even a lowly pencil) is where you need it, when you need it, ready to go. There is much more and it is all presented in a fun and lively format right on your computer or tablet. The course can be taken in short segments or all at once… whatever fits your needs and time availability.

I can’t promise you will never lose a pencil again, but I can promise that if you follow the easy implementation steps you will absolutely gain time and have more space to work in your shop. Your woodworking will be more enjoyable, safer, and the quality of your work will improve. If you are interested, click below for more information or to register. The online class starts December 14. Throughout the class session, I am online monitoring the class discussion forums, answering questions, and giving encouragement… and yes, I may even be able to tell you by then whether or not I licked my pesky personal pencil problem!

Check out More Space and Time in Your Shop with Steve Johnson to get your shop organized. If you spend too much time hunting for tools or trying to figure out how to work in a cramped space, this online class from Popular Woodworking University will help.

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • KirbyKrieger

    I prefer to not have to remember where I left a pencil — all I need to remember is where I keep .

    They cost $0.035 each. Sharpened. That’s a box of 144 for $5.

  • SawdustWylie

    Two words – “shop apron”. I always have my pencil, square, tape, ruler, and about a dozen other high-frequency tools on my whenever I need them. When asked “what’s the most important tool in your shop?”, I answer, “my custom made ( by my daughter) shop apron”.

Start typing and press Enter to search