Combination Wrench Storage in a Shared Workshop




Introduction: Combination Wrench Storage in a Shared Workshop

Organizing tools is one of the biggest challenge faced with a shared work space. In my personal shop, I likely spend more time working on tool storage and organizing solutions than actually making things. When I was a kid my dad had a single drawer where all wrenches went. It was hard to find what I needed, and I did not have a simple way to know that they had all returned. In my own shop I only two people too blame, my wife and I. At work I have up to 100 people in and out of the shops every day at the Artisans Asylum. It ranges from 50 year veterans of shops to brand new users who don't know what hammer to use for this screw. Communication becomes a challenge so We have to come up with shop tool storage that does not require a high level of training and can be understood by just looking at it.

When in a commercial environment, I use the 5S system

1. Sort

2, Systematic arrangement.

3. Spic and Span

4. Standardize

5. Sustain


#14X2" flat head wood screws 1 per wrench

Good quality plywood. Large enough to comfortably lay out all wrenches on.

Colored Spray paint

Combination Wrenches.

Tools required.

Portable drill

1/8th Drill Bit

#2 Robertson (Square) bit

Impact Driver (optional)

Fine point Sharpie



Denatured Alcohol


Step 1: Sort the Wrenches You Need.

Ask yourself what wrenches do I need? When you are setting up combination wrench storage sort through the wrenches in your shop. Depending on what I plan to do, it changes what wrenches I need.

In my tool chest, I use the Sort-A-Tool to keep two sets of wrenches. I keep a full set of 6 point combination wrenches and reversible ratcheting wrenches. For personal use, this works great but it only allows for a single set of wrenches. It also gives me a quick inventory of whether or not I have left a wrench in my engine.

Above my workbench is a set of hooks that hold all of the wrenches that I have bought while working on a project and not wanting to drive home to get a wrench. This also is great and very accessible for tearing things apart on the bench. I have peg board above the bench so it is always changing based on my needs.

When I am servicing for the rally team, I am working on a Subaru and I only need 5 wrenches. 10,12,14,17,19 to service almost every fastener on the car. When in a specialized situation like this, extra wrenches only slow you down.

When setting up a standard set of wrenches, I try and stick to 6 point wrenches if possible. This makes it harder for new users to strip out fasteners. Secondly, make sure the correct wrench is available. Using too large a wrench will at best strip the head, at worst cause injury.

Step 2: Systematic Arrangement

It is time to lay out the wrenches. Lay out ALL of the wrenches you will need within reason. The more complicated the system, the less likely it will be maintained. For most projects, I recommended the following sizes.
Standard 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 13/16 and 7/8

Metric 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19mm

These are pretty standard and available in most sets. If you do not have them currently, you should make space for them in the future. One of the things I do not like about the Sort-A-Tool is that it mixes standard and metric wrenches. When you are on the wall separating the wrenches to Standard and Metric makes identifying what goes where easier.

Step 3: Spic and Span

In a shared workshop environment, fighting disorganization is a full time job. Spotting where tools go needs to be simple and effortless or it will not have a chance at working. In a work environment, I have the luxury of firing employees who do not clean up after them self. In a shared workshop, we need to work together to keep everything clean.

Step 4: Standardize

I would rather have a cheap Shipping Port Parcel complete set of Philidelphia tools over a high end mechanics set missing half the sizes I need.

For a new member, this can be the difference between them finishing a first project and cancelling their membership.

STEP 4: layout wrenches so they can hang without interfering with each other.

STEP 5: Drill one hole at a time and insert the screw so it does not

Step 5: Sustain

Put the tools back. Put them where they go. Don't do it after lunch, don't do it in the morning, don't just borrow them for this one project. In order for this system to work, everyone has to be involved with maintaining the system.

Step 6: STEP 1: Clean the Tools.

Before you paint them, Clean them thoroughly. Remove all labels and get all oil off of them. The paint will not stick otherwise.

Step 7: STEP 2: Paint the Tools

Spray down the tools with a simple color coding system. Use high quality spray paints like krylon. The cheaper ones and rustoleum will often come off on your hand and on your project. Allow each side to dry fully before handling it.

IMPORTANT! Spray paint gets everywhere and needs ventilation. Make sure that over spray will not ruin other projects. Make sure you have adequate ventilation.

PROTIP: At Artisan's, we use a two level color coding system. Our color is red, so every shop tool gets red. Each shop gets it's own color, (red+yellow = woodworking, red+blue = welding, red+green = Machine shop) It makes tool reclaim much easier and quicker and helps identify poor behavior of specific shop environments.

Step 8: STEP 3: Layout the Tools

Layout all of the wrenches how you would like them stored. Measure the extents and add 2 inches to each measurement. Get a piece of plywood cut to size so it has an inch on each side. If you do not know how to cut a piece of plywood safely or do not have the tools, your local big box store will cut it for you.

Step 9: STEP 4: Put in Screws.

Use the Drill bit to pre drill the plywood to avoid splitting.

Use a flag of tape to know when you are at depth and stop drilling.

Do not wait until the tape hits the wood, when it starts to wipe the saw dust, you know that you are at depth.

Install screws using #2 Robertson (Square Drive) bit. Newer wood screws are dual drive. They take Philips and Robertson (square drive) bits. Philips bits drive originally designed as a torque limiting drive device. Once over torqued they cam out and slip. Square drive bits are less likely to do this and also are more forgiving for misalignment.

Put in one screw at a time making sure that each wrench can hang freely. Repeat this step until all wrenches are hung.

Step 10: STEP 5: Trace the Tools

Individually trace each wrench on the board. Use a fine point sharpie to trace the outline of each tool. Label each space with the size of tool that belongs in each home.

Step 11: STEP 6: Hang Up All the Wrenches and Crack Knuckles

You just spent an hour of time making this dope ass wrench storage solution. Put all of the wrenches up and update your wiki, post it to Facebook and e-mail your members. Showing that you care about the space makes others care about the space. When you find tools left out that have a home, gently remind folks that everyone is responsible to keep the space clean.

Spring Cleaning Challenge

Runner Up in the
Spring Cleaning Challenge

Tools Contest

Participated in the
Tools Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Make it Glow Contest

      Make it Glow Contest
    • Cold Challenge

      Cold Challenge
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest



    7 years ago on Introduction

    PeterM13 mentioned taking pictures, that can be very helpful since anyone can look at the picture and know what a missing tool looks like.

    Also, I second the recommendation about having meetings to reenforce good shop habits. If you can establish a culture where good house keeping is the norm, peer pressure helps maintain those good habits. The hardest part is breaking bad habits of those that have been around a while.

    You could also consider creating a Tool Control program with a binder that has inventories of your tools and who it is owned by. I've started helping mentor a robotics team and one of their major issues is keeping their shop clean and organized. I'm working on a plan to implement tool control and house keeping programs to help with it. A couple kids will be responsible for a program, it will be their responsibility to make sure tools are put away and the shop is cleaned up, then after a while it will be passed onto someone else. My hope is that after being responsible for the upkeep of the shop they will have a better appreciation for those things and that bugging each other about it will have a better impact than the mentors harping about it.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have your problem compounded at Maui Makers I/m setting up the new space and have tools that are owned by at least three different persons some of them on loan. I have the set that belongs to the corp. Tools on loan from me and tools on loan from one other member or two. For the Corp's tools no color or maybe a dark green mark. for mine I use a discontinued color of Nassau Blue and for others I let them choose I tale pictures of the storage areas to keep a location inventory (small number of users so far) and I try to keep items seperated by owner as much as possible. Tool chests are used to hold tools that came in their own sorting boxes like Dremels and Taps and Dies. I try not to have the exact same item from two owners {example there were already a set of Craftsman combination wrenches and a set of Kolbolt mechanics set in the mix so I did not add duplicates of those but I did bring my ratcheting box and Cross-Force full polish Craftsman sets} Stored in a different location. My wall space is dear so I use it for the items that will not fit inside of tool chests or in tool stand storage.

    DSC01892.JPGTool Chest (2).JPGIMG_0880.JPG

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That is awesome! I love that yellow triangle style tool box. I have thought about that for my car. Coming up with a storage solution is easy, it is getting the users to put everything away that is hard. Having regular meetings that everyone attends and talks to each other are a huge help. You can bring up issues early so they don't boil over into aggression. What other Makerspace systems would you like to see instructables for?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That box is available from a number of vendors Craftsman is one. They are not cheep but they are designed to be weatherproof so it can be bolted to a truck bed about $350 The spikes can hold a full set short and long sockets in 1/2 + 3/8 + 1/4 drive each spike in the back can hold up to 3 wrenches and the spacing is sized for normal assortments. Under the sockets is a tray for ratchets and other drivers. Screwdrivers and long extensions can hang through holes on the Left top

    You can actually make this box so heavy that you need a forklift to move it without straining any drawer slides driving over country roads. This is one of the two that I own.

    DIY  Dave
    DIY Dave

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Another way I've seen it done is to hang them on the wall how you want them, then paint them while still hanging. It paints your tools and leaves a perfect outline for where it belongs


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I like this method, but I am not as good with spray paint as others. this method does not leave crisp outlines in my experience. It is deffinatly an option though.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice… myself I am not as good as @seamster as seamster as "I have a hard enough time keeping things organized in a garage shop only used by "… myself !

    Color coding is most always the key !

    Red is best, especially if you happen to fix mechanical parts in grass such as for a tractor !…

    Thanks for posting.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    We have 9 shops so it makes it easy to know where things go.
    Red +Green Machine shop

    Red + Blue Welding
    Red + Yellow woodshop Etc

    It also makes tool repossession easy. I can walk around and see where all the missing clamps from the woodshop are.
    PROTIP: Modern wood glue is set enough to remove the clamp in under an hour. Leave a note so the next person knows when they can unclamp your thing and use the clamps.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I have a hard enough time keeping things organized in a garage shop only used by my own family members . . . so I can only imagine a shop with the numbers you're used to.

    Great tips, and very applicable to shops of all sizes. Thank you for sharing this!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Sometimes family is harder to keep organized than strangers. If you make it easier for them to put tools away, they are more likely to put them away when they are done. If clean up takes thought, it will not be done.