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The art of organizing a workshop can make a big difference in how you work. Here at the Toolmonger shop we engage in constant discussion about the right tool for the job, which tool is a good tool — and then we generally grab the tool closest to hand, unless it’s really the wrong tool for the job. It’s a really interesting phenomenon.

For instance, you can cut lengths of two-by-four with any number of tools — a crosscut handsaw, a circ saw, a jigsaw, or a recip saw, to name a few. If we need it precisely perpendicular, we’ll get out the circ saw — but it’s on a high shelf, away from the workbench, in a case. If precision doesn’t matter and there are only a couple of cuts, the handsaw is one step away in a drawer. (We’re usually not precise with a handsaw.) And if the jigsaw or the recip is already out and easy to reach then we won’t even take that one step.

Moral: The “most used” tool in the shop is sometimes just the closest to hand, rather than the best.

Thanks to Robert C for the great CC-licensed photo!

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]


10 Responses to Shop Layout vs. Speed

  1. FredB says:

    My own organizational method could be described as a place for everything and evrything everyplace.

  2. Maureen says:

    LOL, FredB.

    My shop is totally neat and tidy, all the time. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! Unfortunately, it’s a small space. So I end up moving my things around all the time, and in order to do that safely and easily, things end up going in their specified place *all the time*.

    HOWEVER, I do know what you’re talking about, J.R. When the bandsaw is already out, even though the cut won’t be as accurate at an angle, I’ll use my bandsaw instead of set up the clamping table, getting out the circular saw, setting the bevel angle, and cutting. The miter gauge the Skil bandsaw came with can get the angle close enough to what I need.

    It *is* an interesting psychological phenomenon.

  3. John says:

    Oh boy… I am the poster child for using the wrong tool “because it’s there.”

    I have been known to spend a solid 5 minutes trying (unsuccessfully) to use a screwdriver as a scraper, or trying to hammer with my 17mm Allen wrench, rather than take five steps to where the proper tool lives.

    Sometimes it fascinates me to think about where my “tipping point” is — how much time will I waste using the wrong tool before giving up and getting the proper tool.

  4. just joe says:

    As Red Green always says:

    “To a real handyman, any tool can be the right tool.”

  5. Dex says:

    cool entry. The whole idea of having things in certain areas or positions to promote getting the job done quickly has always interested me. I don’t follow any of those prescriptions, nor am I good at it. But the whole logistics of thing has always fascinated me. Don’t some businesses spend big bucks making sure their operations are efficient like this? Sometimes though, you don’t _want_ to be efficient.

  6. lynyrd says:

    This summer I moved back home to south Alabama after living in Chicago for 3 years. Besides the laid back atmosphere, the barbecue, SEC football, and the lack of vehicle inspections, one of the best things about moving is that my shop space has grown from 100 sq. ft. to 1000 sq. ft. I have more space than I know what to do with and it’s really been fun setting up my shop. My strategy is to keep everything pretty mobile for the first few months until I get it all settled. I’m trying to locate my tools’ proximity to my workbench based on the frequency with which I use them. It’s weird though because not all of my tools are grouped together by type-I have 4 clamps that I use most often hanging on pegboard right over my workbench and the rest of my clamps are all the way across the shop on a shelf.

  7. aaron says:

    Dex – yeah, it’s really big in manufacturing/assembly operations. 5-S is one such program of high-efficiency by proper tool-placement. you know, with outlines of tools in their storage places, everything within arms reach, nothing at all extraneous, etc. But like you say, sometimes though, you don’t _want_ to be efficient. That sort of thing really hampers creativity – great if you’re mass producing the latest ikea Blurg table set, horrible if you’re a home DIYer!

  8. Chuck says:

    As my granddad said, “if you can’t find it in the dark, it’s not in the right place.” When everything is where it should be, it’s not a big deal to get and use the right tool. Now, going all the way back to the truck for the right tool is another story…..

  9. Captain Obvious says:

    It becomes a safety issue, eventually:
    use the wrong tool for the job, consistently, and eventually what you make is going to need enough more repairs, is going to be unreliable enough, or is going to fail enough, that someone’s going to get hurt.

    Bypassing safeties is the same kind of thing: eventually, it’ll bite someone, not necessarily you, but someone, and if the habit carries over into construction work, or welding, or wiring…

    I’d rather work with someone who does it right, and rely on work that is done right, than live on hope and fake work.

  10. Shopmonger says:

    Shop setup is key to a effective shop. I think safety has little to do with it unless you are really using the way wrong tool. Most important is to put “like tools” in the same area. I do wood, metal and Cars….. So i ahve my tools divided up into areas that corespond to that type of work. I have a small shop, but it serves me well in the fact that I have spent time (seems liek all the time) making sur ethe shop is setup for what i need it to be. Think about your work flow……. then set up your shop

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