“Put things back where you find them.”
Can you still hear that one ringing in your ears from childhood? I can, but in my shop, it’s one rule I really do try to live by.
Some woodworkers wonder what kind of real work gets done in a clean shop. I guess for those folks, clutter helps get the creative juices flowing, or at least it doesn’t grind productivity to a halt. But the “Oscar Madison” approach sure doesn’t work for me. A disorganized shop throws a wrench into my workflow right from the start, because I can’t settle into a relaxed, focused mindset. That’s when my best woodworking happens: I know exactly what I’m setting out to do, I know where all the tools and parts are to get me there, and I can just get down to work.
A mess, on the other hand, starts me out scattered and keeps me there.
So, in the shop, I’m a drawer guy. When I need a file, I know that it’s fourth drawer down in the red chest, somewhere on the left. Scrapers? Brown tool chest, second drawer. #8 screws are always in the top drawer, back of the shop. Really, as long as I generally know where something should be, and it ends up somewhere in the right drawer when I’m done, I’m set. Pegboard doesn’t work for me, for reasons I can’t really pinpoint, but I appreciate those who swear by the stuff. It’s really all the same principle—put it back where it goes…especially if you paint an outline around it.
My crusty old shop brush proves to me why I need to follow my own rule: I don’t have a spot for it. It floats from bench to saw table to who knows where. I’ve literally spun around in circles looking for the darn thing. I’ve gotta find a drawer for that brush, or maybe outline it, because sooner or later it’s going to disappear for good.
How about you? What’s a rule you keep in your shop that you’re absolutely committed to? It doesn’t have to be organizational, just helpful in some way. Safety, tool care, methods of work, storage, shop etiquette, you name it.
Think about it, then tell us what it is here. That goes for you clutter lovers, too. We can all use a little well-meaning advice now and again.
Catch you in the shop,
Chris Marshall, Field Editor