Create DIY Tool Storage Systems to get your Bench Organized
Why settle for less efficiency at the bench when you can improve the quality of your work with a bit of organizational improvisation? Studio and bench organization does not have to be an angst-ridden task or an expensive pursuit. With a few odds and ends of scrap materials and a bit of “can do” attitude, you’ll be on your way to a more enjoyable and rewarding jewellery-making experience.
Here are five storage systems that can hold the majority if the most frequently-used goldsmithing tools. These examples are designed to fit comfortably on a small bench top the size of the student benches. This allows you to stage the tools on top of the bench and keep the lap drawer and bench tray open for materials and work in progress.
What you need for all of these projects:
– Copper wire
– PVC Pipe
– Scrap Wood
– Glass Jars
– Tin Cans
– Finish Nails
Organize your pliers upright and ready for action. Make your own pliers rack from 5mm copper wire and a single piece of scrap wood. The rack is 20cm across, holds up to 20 pliers, and cost very little to make. Overall dimensions: 25 cm long, 15 cm high, and 50 mm deep.
To make a basic pliers rack, cut a 50 cm piece of wire and bend it into a U-shape, leaving 15 cm legs at each end. Fold the bends into 13 mm uprights to keep the pliers from sliding off the rack. ( You can use a vice to make the bends; with the heavier wire, it’s easier than using pliers.) Cut the legs to equal length. Use a 5 mm drill bit to drill two holes the same distance apart as the copper wire legs in a piece of scrap wood. (The exact depth of the holes isn’t important, as long as they’re deep enough so that the wire doesn’t lever out of them when it is laden with tools, but don’t extend all the way through the wood.) Insert the legs of the copper wire into the drilled holes.
This hammer hanger is a modified version of the pliers rack. It takes two wires to make a carriage for hammers (picture a gymnast’s parallel bars).
For this project, use thinner 4 mm copper wire, so the structure isn’t too heavy, and three pieces of scrap lumber. You can add an extra wire with a hook at each end of the rack to hang the saw frames, and you can also add a bracing wire on each side of the wooden base to keep the rack from tipping over. Overall dimensions: 30 cm tall, 23 cm wide, and 15 cm deep. You can use finish nails to connect the wooden pieces, and a 4 mm drill bit to drill the holes for the wire.
Both the pliers and hammer racks are stable and lightweight. They’re also collapsible for travel; the copper wires pull out of the bases, allowing them to be packed flat.
Another simple storage solution for small tools is glass jars and tin cans. These are perfect for organizing and separating chisels, punches, stamps, dowels and dapping tools. This serves a dual purpose; organizing tools and repurposing objects that would otherwise go to the recycler.
Get a collection of thick-walled glass jars of matching size. To make them more user friendly, you can make an open box from scraps of thin wood and a few finish nails. Now you have a caddy that keeps the jars aligned in a handy compact unit, and you can slide the whole assortment to the side when you are not using them.
Taller, narrow containers are perfect for longer tools, but tall and narrow also equals a tendency to tip over. A container caddy keeps both of these containers upright and aligned. For an even quicker fix: Bundle small containers in units of three for increased stability, and bind them together using tape, elastic bands, zip ties, or scrap wire. The triangular bundles nest well for compact storage.
Needle files are used extensively. When they accumulate into a pile on the bench, you waste a lot of time rifling through the pile, just to find a specific file. The answer to this is, storing files upright, ready for use.
Cut a scrap piece of 13 mm lumber into three staggered heights. Drill 6.25 mm holes, connect the three pieces of wood with finish nails, and that’s it! — a stepped vertical file rack. Organize your files in sequence by shape and cut, so you know just where to reach for the file I need.
SAFETY NOTE: Store your files point down, handle up. You don’t want to accidentally skewer yourself when you’re reaching for a file.