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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

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Purpose-Built Shop Storage… A New Series

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

5S is a system (described by 5 Japanese words starting with the letter "S") that enables manufacturers to operate at peak efficiency, reduce waste, increase safety, and provide a more pleasant workspace. Adapting the principles of 5S to the woodworking shop has been a passion of mine since I experienced the benefits in my own shop and realized how easy and intuitive it is to implement.

There has been one shortfall, however. The cabinets, drawers, shelves, fixtures, and other "shop furniture" we use for storage are simply not designed to mesh well with the tenets of 5S… in fact, most designs work against our efforts.

Cabinets are overly and unnecessarily deep. Opaque doors make it impossible to see inside. Drawers without full or over extension slides are an invitation for "stuff" to migrate to the back of the drawer and get lost. Open shelves are basically dust collectors without a power cord. Crawling around on hands and knees searching through the back of a cabinet is no fun. Opening cabinet door after cabinet door looking for one specific item is a game of hide and seek that wastes time and frustrates.

Pegboard can be a great way to store tools. It can also be the worst way. Fitting tools to pegboard to maximize storage space often leads to illogical arrangements. Fitting tools according to the way and order in which they are used is much better. We woodworkers love to employ every conceivable nook and cranny for storage. But our zeal to utilize every possible cubic inch of space often trumps work flow logic.

Figure 19 - Seventeen clamps consuming 29 square feet
of wall space... I can do better!

I've seen, with no exaggeration, a thousand different ways to store clamps. Some were really innovative, some were truly dumb. One annoying design required that the clamps be tightened against a rail in order to stay in place… that meant, of course, loosening the clamp to remove it from the rack. What a time waster! Spreading clamps out across a wall looks impressive, but wastes a lot of space.

Figure 20 - This rack held clamps vertically, but also
single file... a clumsy space-wasting arrangement

Over the years I have built many, many shop storage solutions. None were perfect, some were okay, most had one or two redeeming qualities. Lurking somewhere amidst the hundreds of design ideas there are undoubtedly a few nuggets that can be incorporated into an optimal design that will aid and abet our efforts to use space wisely, work efficiently, and spend less time looking for things… in other words, designs that would be "5S Compliant."

Thus I have embarked on a quest to design and build a variety of "ideal" shop storage solutions. Of course, ideal is what is ideal for you and your shop. I realize that any design I create might be perfect for your shop, or might be just awful. But I am betting that through the design and build process there will be some ideas, techniques, and tips that you can use, adapt, or incorporate into your shop furniture and fixtures… ideas that will help you achieve more space, more time, and more fun in your shop.

So follow along, please. This month the series kicks off with a reconfigurable, space maximizing, efficient, easy-to-use, easy-to-build and inexpensive clamp storage system. This first video is available now by CLICKING HERE .

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