The “shop”

Draft created: 12/17/2010

One of the things I struggle with in my home shop (calling it that is a bit of a stretch, I suppose) is organization. The place always seems to be a mess, and while I can usually lay my hands on the specific tools or parts I need, it takes a lot more digging through boxes and crates than I’d like. The challenges, as I see them, are as follows:

In short, there’s not enough. Our garage is under our house, taking up 1/2 of the basement. My bench and workspace take up about 1/4 of the garage. In this space I need work surfaces, including ones that will allow me to leave work to dry, ferment, grow, or dissolve. I also need storage for tools and materials. “Materials,” in this case refer not only to nice clean 8′ x 4′ sheet goods, and perfectly true 2x4s, but also the cast-off bits of the last hundred projects, broken devices that contain some useful bit inside, and all of the household stuff we accumulate. This last includes 1/2 roll of rope caulking, a pipe snake, 1 gazillion o-rings (non of which actually fit anything), and the burner from a natural gas space heater.
The second issue is that there is a lot of variety among the “stuff.” I’ve tried a number of different way to catalog and organize everything: by project (what about raw materials and things that might be part of multiple projects?), by material type ( works for materials, but not for parts; I wouldn’t put the extra motocycle handlebars in with the steel pipe), by season (this doesn’t even make sense, but i thought about it), by recency (i.e. newest stuff on the top of the pile). In addition to the variety “now,” the relative composition is apt to change at any time (like the day I suddenly found that I had 10 sealed 6v batteries, or the day I used up half of my scrap wood on a project).
The third challenge is access. I could just put it all in nicely labelled boxes and stack them somewhere, but then it becomes a PITA to actually get at them. It also makes it far less likely that I will put things back in an orderly fashion. If I have to open 6 different boxes from 6 different areas, it’ll mean that much more time to put it all back at the end of the day. I know myself well enough to know that those 6 boxes will sit on my bench until the end of forever, despite the stern lecture I gave Dillon about keeping a tidy work space.

I’ve thought it through, and I think I have a solution…

[You’ll just have to wait, as that’s as far as I got with this post.]

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