Tool Box Tune-Up

Associated Expert

How a little workshop spring cleaning will make life easier all through the summer.

We all know how valuable having the right tool for the job can be. The right tool can mean everything when it comes to working smartly, safely, and quickly. Now that spring is here and you are thinking about all those projects you've been putting off all winter, do yourself a favor and devote just a little time to inventory your tools, update your collection, organize what you have and repair, recharge, oil, clean and take care of your gear.

Take an Inventory
Now is the time to take all your tools from wherever they are stored and bring them all together in one place. If you are not used to having a central location for all of your tools then it is more than likely you have bought duplicates and replacements for tools you already owned. Do not bother getting annoyed at this. If there are duplicates, select the better tool and make a pile of anything you can discard. These can go to a future garage sale, given to that neighbor who's always borrowing stuff, or be donated to Goodwill or other charitable organizations. More expensive tools can be sold on eBay or Craig's List.

Where to Store
If you tend to work in one central place, such as your garage or basement, think about arranging your tools on hooks on a peg board. Though some Janes think this style of storage is too old school, it really is efficient and makes it easy to locate a needed tool in a hurry. If you are super organized, you can trace the shape of the tool on the peg board so that you will instantly know which piece is missing. There are tool manufacturers who have taken this simple idea to the extreme and created custom perforated panels with such accessories as hanging chisel trays. If you need a finished and professional look for your workshop, these systems are a smart way to go. But if you're more a function than form type, then good old pegboard is an inexpensive and efficient alternative. (Join our forum on where to store tools.)

If you own a number of diverse tools for say home repair and crafts such as mosaics, a large rolling chest can provide separate compartments for tools of varying shapes and sizes. If you're into a multitude of crafts, (and most crafters are) a large tool chest may be just what you need to organize and separate all of your various essentials such as knitting needles, fabric swatches, balls of wool, sewing machine accessories, miniature vises and needle nose pliers (for working on those doll houses and other models) and various sized scissors.

You can combine this rolling chest with a toolbox for organizing smaller frequently used tools such as screwdrivers and hammers. (See if your collection is the same as ours at toolbox essentials.) If your tools are particularly valuable, you may want to consider buying a chest you can lock.

Clean, Oil, Recharge and Replace
Once you have sorted through your tool collection, examine each tool and see if they need any special care. Blades on any of your saws may benefit by sharpening. Most tools could use a light cleaning. You may need to oil some tools and recycle batteries in your older power tools. Remove sawdust from well-used tools with an air compressor. All this may seem a bit excessive when you are doing it, but once you are done, you will have a well-oiled, super efficient toolbox that you will appreciate once you begin your first DIY project of the spring.

Power tools come with safety blocks and blade guards to insure that the tool won't hurt anyone when it is not being used. They also protect your tools from water damage, rust and dust. These safety pieces often get lost or broken. Check to make sure that all of your safety guards are in place and functioning. Replace any lost or broken pieces at your local home improvement store or online at their manufacturer's site. You never want to hazard getting your hand (or one of your child's) gashed while reaching for an unprotected sharp tool.

Today most power tools are sold with carrying cases but if yours was purchased long ago without a carrying case, you may want to buy yourself a container to store both the tool and any accessories such as additional bits or extra blades. When storing power tools, it is good to wrap cords in a tidy loop and secure them with a twist tie (like the ones you use on a garbage bag.) Dangling cords are always a hazard. There are heavy duty racks to accommodate power tools but make sure that you never hang a power tool by the cord as this can damage the tool and make it unsafe to use. Power tools (like any potentially dangerous tools) should be stored well out of the reach of young children.

Develop Good Work Habits
Being organized can be contagious and can lead to better work habits. Take a clue from professionals and when you start a project, pull out all of the tools you will need to complete the job. Line them neatly on a clean rag before you begin. Then, as you use each tool, put it back on the rag. This will save you a ton of time searching for a misplaced hammer or screwdriver. Once you have completed your project, put all of the tools away in their designated storage place. This way, you will know where to find them once you start your next project.

Yes, spring is in the air and clutter should be in your past. Let's all make a fresh start this season, get organized and get down to work.

Now, what about those gardening tools of yours?

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