I am open for suggestions to help me with this mess!

ORGANIZATION!!! I was fine when I was just doing leatherwork. Now I am learning to sculpt, paint, mold making, casting, patterning, designing, foam fabrication, junk builds, metalsmithing, and so on.... I have a room inside, a one car garage, and a screened in back porch. At the moment, I am moving the messy, smelly, and excess stuff to the garage, and the indoor friendly, and used frequently tools and hardware to the room. I'm trying to remind myself to keep my actual work table clear, and everything simple, and on shelves in some kinda way.. Anywho, anyone have any thoughts? I'll post picture in a few. 


  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    Hi Johnny,

    I feel your pain.  My home shop not terribly large, and I've done a lot of research to help make it as efficient as possible.

    Here are some tips to help:
    1. "First order of retrieval" - this is a tip I learned from Adam Savage (of the MythBusters) and it's super simple yet effective.  The basic idea is to keep the tools you use the most readily accessible at all times.  Keep them out of drawers, out of tool boxes, and right where you can reach them.  For me this is a matter of keeping my most used tools on peg boards over my workbenches.  Adam builds a lot of rolling carts for his shop to keep tools accessible.
    2. Constantly audit your tools and work space.  If you find a tool or object in your space that you only use every few months, move it into storage.   Keep that space available for your tools from tip 1.  I have a storage unit that is a short drive from my house, and any tool I only use a few times a year gets moved there.  Having the extra space and reduced clutter in the workshop is worth the hassle of having to drive to my storage unit.
    3. Migrate tools based on step 2.  The less I use a tool, the further away from me it gets.  It may start on the workbench, move to the shelf, then to a storage bin tucked under the workbench, then to the shop closet, then to my storage unit.  This is a constant process that helps when you are first setting up a shop.  As you get situated you'll find the right storage space for every tool.
    4. Get stackable small parts boxes for hardware as well as small tools:  http://toolguyd.com/stanley-organizer-diy-storage-cabinet/  I have similar containers for my sculpting and leather-working tools that keep them organized and accessible
    5. Keep your space clean.  It sounds OCD, but when you have limited space this is super important, especially with keeping work surfaces un-cluttered and useable.  I keep a small hand vac mounted to one of my workbenches, and every time I grind/sand/carve/dremel/etc I grab it and a couple seconds later my workbench is clean and ready for the next step.
    6. Make good use of the space you have for storage.  Store larger tools (grinders, scroll saws, etc) under your work benches, get shelving for spray paints and other common expendables, etc.
    I have a Pinterest board that I keep called "Workshop Daydreams" and it's basically a collection of interesting tools, shop layouts, organization tricks, etc.   You may find some inspiration there:  https://www.pinterest.com/vexfx/workshop-daydreams/

    You can see a slightly out of date shot of my workshop setup on this thread:  http://forums.stanwinstonschool.com/discussion/631/share-your-workspace-photos/p1

    The goal of that discussion thread is to help share ideas for shop organization, as we are all fighting that same battle.  You should post some shots of your workspace there.

    Hope that helps!

  • Yes, thank you so much!
  • David BoccabellaDavid Boccabella Innisfail, Australia Moderator
    One of my local hardware stores had a sale of 10 and 14 litre containers (Sorry I am Australian)
    I brought about 50 and put up shelves for them.  Every project or group of tools has it's own box and I can move a box closer to the workbench depending on what I am doing.
    Also - I use the small plastic food containers for small parts and I can fit several into on of the larger boxes.
    I prefer to either write on masking tape, or stick large labels on to the boxes for identification. This make it easier to reuse a box after a project is finished.

    Like yourself I do the full range from sculpting, molding, wood/plastic/metal work, painting, and finally electronics.

    I have 2 desks - one for mainly electronics as I can keep my scope and meters, plus a PC for programming close there.
    And another bench for all of the other 'liquids and goo' work.

    Adjustable shelves are a fantastic idea and you can go to ceiling level if you need, and also don't forget the spaces under the desks - they are good places for heavy items like boxes of clay etc.

    As Chris said - a peg board is also perfect for tools you need almost every day/hour :)

    Hopes this offers some idea's.
  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin

    Great suggestion with the project boxes.  This is also something I try and do with large plastic tubs similar to the ones in this picture:

  • No need to apologize for being Australian or using the metric system... Now that we have google. hahaha. Thank you for the advice.
    I have been resetting to Zero. I pulled almost everything out and put everything that could/should go to the garage there. I then separated into "categories" such as sculpting, carving, finishing, stationary, etc etc. I'm also going through and prioritizing my unfinished projects (I've moved A LOT in the past 6 years or so). That way the almost complete/close to deadline/and quick n easy projects get out of the way first. I have noticed that I have a lot of raw materials I have collected, but most of what is taking up space is the materials for particular projects/costumes. Which means I need to get shit done.
    So after I get to zero, space to work, and more plastic containers (thanks David) , I will go project to project adjusting the location of tools as needed, (Thanks Chris).

    The mess gets cleared, then the next wave gets spread out to organize, and cleared again. I will post pictures soon.
  • David BoccabellaDavid Boccabella Innisfail, Australia Moderator
    And just remember - a clean desk is the sign or either no work.. or an empty mind *Laughs*
  • I have a florescent light to install over the desk, the tools are about to be added. What isn't pictured is the closet, but that is just leather and some foam. I still have to go through the shelves, but I can get to work on a few things. Yea, the garage.... Still needs work... I believe I can start using that sewing machine when I get a belt that fits the new motor.. Anywho, Back to it...
  • Oh, and this is what it looked like before (it's even clean in this photo..)
  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    edited September 2015
    Looking good!

    One thing you might want to try is increase the amount of work surface you have.  A good trick for that is to have areas you normally use for storage be under a work surface.  Take this mockup for example, using your older layout.

    I'm not sure how practical that might be for your space, but the more work surface you gan get, the happier you will be.  You can use anything from plywood to old doors.  The key is having it all the same general height.

    I generally try and convert the length of every available wall space into a work surface.  My dream is to eventually have enough space for a large central island that will allow for larger scale projects.  Some day!

  • Yes, increasing will happen. All in good time.. Thanks again
  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    That new pegboard looks great.  Making use of wall space can be a big help.  I wish I could install wall shelves or cabinets in my shop, but sadly that's not an option for me.

  • David BoccabellaDavid Boccabella Innisfail, Australia Moderator
    Re workbench tops. 
    A company I worked at a while back installed a series of Server Racks. As they were being bolted together they did not need the side panels.

    Excellent metal workbench tops. :)
  • Why can't you have wall shelves or cabinets?
  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    My home workshop is a converted spare bedroom, and I'm a renter.  I've been able to make due with a floor to ceiling shelving unit though.  Can never have too much storage!

  • David BoccabellaDavid Boccabella Innisfail, Australia Moderator
    What about Free Standing Library racks :)

  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    I have a Gladiator 6-tier shelving unit that I love.  Super solid and a lot of storage space.  Would love to have room for a couple more of those!

  • meh, just fill the screw holes when your done. 
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