I used to be skeptical of tool walls. Is my woodshop supposed to be a 1950s TV show set or a place to get stuff done? "Just put your tools in tool boxes or drawers!" I told myself.
Then I got my hands on a free tool board for my garage. It quickly became a shining spot of joy. No more digging around for a Philips screwdriver. It sits right there on the tool board! And when the spot is empty, there’s an obvious to-do to put it back.
Trouble is, my wood shop is down in an unfinished part of the basement, meaning there was no place to attach a tool wall without drilling into the concrete first. And I recently sealed up a few rebar craters that wept during heavy rains, so I didn’t want to risk making more leak hazards via drill holes or cracks in the wall.
My wife, my father-in-law, and I discussed a possible solution one night: Could I just attach a stud to a joist in the ceiling, run the board down to the floor, and screw into that? I was skeptical because of how uneven the corner of the floor could be. Then I found a shop-tour video by Steve Branam of closegrain.com. He talked about how he did this very thing, except he added a wedge at the bottom to support the stud and push it back against the wall.
I tried it out, and it worked great! Here's a step-by-step for how you can do it, too. (A more conversational version of this tutorial first appeared on my website.)
Step 1: Parts
Here are the parts you'll need:
- Sheet of plywood: This will be the surface of your tool wall. On Matthias Wandell's advice, I just used a plain sheet of plywood. But you could sub out a fancier slat wall or a sheet of peg board here instead.
- 8' 2x4s: The quantity depends on how long your plywood is and how many joists you'll be tying into. Just put your tool board where you want it, count the number of joists that will be perpendicular to it, and that's how many 2x4s you need. I needed six.
screws: One box should be more than enough.
- Shims: You'll need one for every stud you install. You could buy a pack from a hardware store, or you could make your own using John Heisz's DIY shim jig. The jig route worked great for me.
Here are the tools you'll need:
- Hammer: Almost any hammer will do, as long as you don't mind scuffing it up.
- Some sort of screw driver: An impact driver will be the fastest, but a power drill, manual brace or screw driver would also work fine.
- Level: A small torpedo level works great. A level app on your smart phone would work just as well—as long as you don't drop your phone and break it. That would drive the cost of this project up quite a bit.
- Plywood supports: You'll use these to hold up the plywood while you secure it to your studs. I used some adjustable outfeed rollers that my father-in-law gave me. You could use a table or some saw horses.
Step 2: Screw Boards Into Joists
Push your 2x4 vertically with the thin edge against the wall, the bottom resting on the ground, and the back up against a joist. Then start screwing the top of the 2x4 into the joist. I used three screws per joist in a triangle pattern.
Step 3: Wedge Boards at the Floor
Use a level to make the board as straight up and down as possible. Then, holding the board in place, take a wedge and hammer it into the gap between the bottom of the 2x4 and the floor.
Your wedge might hit the wall before it actually starts wedging itself into the board. If that happens, just bust an inch or two off the thin end of the shim and try again till it sticks.
Once the wedge is in, your stud is done. Repeat with the rest of your studs.
Step 4: Attach Tool Board
Once your studs are all up, you can attach the tool board. I placed mine nearly flush with the joists at the top. Another configuration might put the bottom edge of the board flush with your workbench. Because my plywood sheet was a little wider than the left and right edges of my studs, I centered the board, leaving a little bit of overhang on each side.
A strong friend would surely come in handy here. If none are available, pull up a table or some saw horses and set your tool board on top of your support and against the studs. Now it'll be easier to start attaching the board to the wall.
Screw the first screw in the upper-far-left corner, leaving it a little loose. Move to the upper-far-right corner, make sure the board is level, then screw in the second screw. Finish tightening the first screw, then, starting at the top, put one screw into each stud in a row across the board. Repeat this process halfway down the board and at the bottom edge of the board. That's it. Your tool wall is done!
Step 5: Start Hanging Tools
Now you can start the tedious-yet-satisfying task of making tool holders for your tool wall. (Or, you could just use a bunch of screws. I used one to hang the first tool on the wall, my torpedo level, which I misplaced over and over again during this build.)
Here are some great tool holder tutorials for inspiration: