Tool Storage Wall

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This article is from Issue 106 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A modular system built for an expanding tool collection

For efficient woodworking, having your hand tools organized and stored close to your bench is ideal. But how best to do this, especially if you’re still building to your collection? A dedicated hand-tool cabinet looks great, but adding a new tool may be difficult. Tool hangers attached to French cleats provide versatility and flexibility, but those cleats are, at best, utilitarian in appearance. Instead of taking either of these approaches, I wanted my storage system to strike a balance: good-looking custom brackets for the hand tools I use most often along with the flexibility to rearrange them as needed. I devised individual tool brackets outfitted with 1-3/4" T-bolts that slide into slots routed in a 4 × 4 sheet of plywood. Knurled knobs lock the brackets in place. As my collection grows, I can craft new brackets and slide my current arsenal around to make room. The order gives me a sense of peace in the workshop, and makes me a more efficient woodworker. I suspect observant readers will be able to watch as my tool collection evolves in issues to come. 

A slotted panel with simple brackets

The tool panel is 3/4" maple plywood wrapped in 1/2" hardwood edging, with horizontal T-slots spaced every 4". Regularly-placed access holes in the slots make adding and reorganizing the custom tool brackets easy. The brackets are hardwood and attached with T-bolts and knurled knobs (see Buyers Guide on page 60 for details). A few small, single-tool brackets are illustrated here to give you some ideas, but build brackets to suit your own tool collection. The larger units are designed to keep similar tools grouped together. In this case, one holds planes, while the other corrals layout tools. When attaching the board to your shop wall (I used French cleats), add a 1-1/2"-thick spacer at the bottom end to give the entire panel a slight lean, to help the tools stay in place.

Order of Work

  • Rout and edge panel
  • Build custom tool brackets
  • Build plane holder
  • Build layout tools holder

Three-step T-slot. After routing the slots with a 1⁄4" straight bit, plunge in at one end of each slot and rout the full length of the slot. Return to the start to raise the bit. Then plunge at the other end and at regular intervals along the slot to cut the access holes as shown here. Cutting up from within the slot can ruin the veneer on the plywood.

Make the panel

Size the plywood panel, then lay out horizontal slots every 4", stopping them 2" from the sides. Routing the T-slots is a three-step process. First, use a plunge router with a 1/4" straight bit to rout slots halfway through the panel’s thickness. Second, repeat the process with the T-slot cutting bit. Finally, plunge-cut the access holes at 11" intervals as shown to create the openings for adding and removing tool holders. Cut the hardwood edging strips 1/16" wider than the panel’s thickness, and attach them with glue and brads before routing them flush with the panel’s surface. Mount the panel on the wall with appropriate hardware. Then turn to making tool brackets, customizing them to suit your tools. The shelf bracket, shown lower left, for example, can be slotted for files, or drilled for screwdrivers.

Nuts and Bolts. The bolt head fits into the routed slot through the access holes. Tighten the knurled knobs against the bracket to hold it in place.

Build the handplane holder

Size the panel to fit your handplanes including a 1/2"-wide spacer between each, but leave the panel about 1/2" oversized in width to allow for trimming later. Lay out and rout T-slots for adjustable shelves to hold block planes. Attach the top edging flush to the back of the panel using glue and brads, then trim the panel to final width as shown. Screw the lower shelf to the panel from behind, countersinking the screws. Attach the side edging, then locate and pin the spacers in place. Finally, drill mounting holes for the T-bolts in the panel and the block plane shelves.

Trim the plane panel. Trim the panel and top edging to width at the table saw, leaving a flush edge to attach the side edging.

Pin in place. Use your handplanes to locate the spacers on the panel, adding a few playing cards to allow clearance. Fasten the spacers in place with pins.

Build the layout tools holder

After cutting the parts to size, attach the top edging to the panel. Screw the bottom shelf in place and glue on the sides. The bottom shelf’s front is curved to provide room for tool holes or slots to be added, while the large sides provide plenty of real estate for hangers such as dowels, cup hooks, and the combination square bracket (shown below). Lay out and cut the curves in the pencil-holder, that also holds chalk, markers, small rulers, and similar items) and glue in place.

After sizing the upper shelf, cut slots in one end to suit the blades of your squares. Then drill holes to hold tools such as marking gauges and knives, calipers, and awls. Screw the shelf into place from behind sans glue so it can be removed and revised later.

Curves add style. Lay out the gentle curves on the front and top edge of the pencil-holder block, then drill a variety of holes to suit your storage needs. Cut the top curve at the bandsaw, then double-face tape the cutoff back in place to cut the front curve.

Combo-square bracket. Bevel one end of a length of stock, then kerf the unbeveled edge. The kerf holds the blade of a combination square while the square’s angled shoulder sits on the bevel. Cut away the waste at the band saw.


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