Magnetic Tool Rack




A thrifty, nifty method to make a good looking tool rack for your lab, garage or shop using recycled materials and magnets.

When we moved into our new house the lovely missus let me have a room down in the basement to make into a hobby room. But only on one condition. That the room remains neat and tidy! So in an attempt to get organized I needed a workbench and tool rack that wouldn't blow the budget.

Find in the next few steps how I did it , and take from it what you need to construct your own set of racks that meet your needs.

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Step 1: Gather Materials

I found a set of old and busted metal shelves in the garbage, and knew I could ressurect them into something I could use.

You might be able to find shelves in the garbage, or you can buy a new set at most home centres or IKEA. These shelves were 36"x18" and were rusty.

I used salvaged 1" thick pine boards for the frame and tool holders, that were used at one time to hold a futon mattress off the ground.

I picked up the rare earth magnets at Lee Valley tools. (

I used the following
3/4" Rare earth magnets. Part # 99K32.11
3/4" rare earth magnet cups. Part # 99K32.54
Anti-slip magnet discs. Part # 99K34.53

1/2" flat head screws
3/4" self tapping metal screws
3/4" wood screws

Step 2: Tools Used

I used the following tools to get the job done.

Hand Tools
Clamps (Can you ever have enough?) Clamps are optional if you have some buddies around to help you hold the frame while you drill

7/8" forstner bit for drilling the recess for the magnet cup. You could also try a spade bit, but the point of the bit may come through your work

Other drill bits for drilling pilot holes and holes for your tools

Wire brush

Power Tools:
Cordless/Cord drill
Table saw
Mitre (chop) saw. You can use a hand mitre saw, or even a jigsaw if you are not picky about your joints
Drill Press (optional)

Rust paint
Sandpaper (60,100,120,220) grit
Wood Glue

Step 3: Prepare the Shelf

I used the wire brush and sandpaper to knock off the rust on the shelf. After doing this I realized that the paint on the shelves may have been lead paint. I cleaned my shop really well after, but I should have taken a few extra pre-cautions. Follow these steps and if you are unsure, then don't risk it.

Following the manufacturer's specs, I coated the shelves with the rust paint in nice smooth layers. It helps to say smoooooooth to yourself while painting. :)

Let it dry. Completely.

Mine turned out real nice.

Step 4: I Was Framed I Tells' Ya

I built a nice frame around my tool rack. You don't have to but it makes it look nice.

I first ripped some of the old futon frame down to 1" thick pieces. After measuring twice, I cut the wood on 45 degree angles on the ends for nice mitre joints.

Some sandpaper takes off the saw blade marks, and makes the frame nice and smooth.

The frame was clamped, then pilot holes drilled through the wood into the steel. I only did two holes per side. Since I used 3/4" self tapping screws, and the frame was 1" thick, I needed to drill with a 3/8" forstner bit to countersink the screws a small amount so they would bite and hold into the steel. I could have used a brad-tipped bit here or a spade bit as well for the countersinking.

I attached the wood frame with the self tapping screws and released the clamps.

I took another piece of the ripped 1" pine stock and drilled holes in it for screwdrivers. Since the shelf had holes through it already, I screwed this piece in from the back using the 3/4" wood screws, which covered the holes, and saved me from using up some magnets.

To hang the tool rack on the wall, I just found the studs with a studfinder, and drilled screws into the wall

It turned out really nice.

Step 5: But Where Are the Magnets?

Ok, ok you've been patient. Here's where the magnets come in.
Since the former shelf is now officially a metal tool rack, I thought of making tool holders with magnets in the back, so I could move things around.

The first holder I built was for my mini set of pliers.

I set the table saw to rip another piece of the pine futon frame at 35 degrees. This was a full width piece around 5 1/2" wide. I ripped just enough to make the bevel the complete thickness of the board.

Taking the freshly cut 5 1/2" wide piece with the bevel (piece A), and another piece at around 2" wide (piece B), I chopped them to the same length using the mitre saw. The 2" wide piece will be the back piece in which the magnets will be attached to. The bevelled piece will make it nice and easy to pick the tools.

In piece B I drilled two holes about an inch from either end. I used the 7/8' forstner bit to make a nice clean hole to put the magnet cups in. A drill press is really handy here to get the depths just right.

Why use magnet cups? According to the Lee Valley website the magnet cups increase the strength of the magnets by a factor of 4. These 3/4" magnets are rated to hold 22lbs, so with the cups they should hold around 88lbs! Hey, I like to overbuild things.

With the holes bored for the magnet cups I placed the cups in and fastened them with the 1/2" flat head screws. Please use flat head screws so the magnets fit flush.

Oh yeah, make sure you are absolutely sure about the location of the cups before putting the magnets in. Once they are in, they are in. But then again you guys are smart and could probably find a way to get them out.

So with the piece B ready to go, I now focused on getting piece A finished. This step will vary for you, so take some time and customize it for your tools. I drilled two 3/4' holes close together to fit each one of my mini plier set.

Both pieces were sanded and the sharp edges rounded over.

I then glued and screwed piece A to piece B, placed the magnets in the cups, and stuck on anti-slip discs on the magnets.

Why use anti-slip discs? Even though the magnets will hold 88lbs, that is 88lbs into the tool rack. I was worried about the whole tool holder slipping down under the weight of the tools. The anti-slip discs will prevent the tool holder from slipping down, and they are not very expensive.

I then stuck the holder on the rack. Turned out real nice too. I am on a roll!

Step 6: Some Variations on the Same Theme

Another cool thing about having a metal tool rack, is that a custom tool holder isn't needed in all cases.

See my el-cheapo set of hobby knives. I just duct taped a magnet in a magnet cup to the inside back of the case (under the knifes) and now I can stick the whole case on the rack.

Same idea goes for this little watchmakers case. I can stick a smaller magnet (this one is 1/2") inside . Place something else inside and then place it on the rack. All complete with a nice little window to see what's inside.

Now I don't have to root through a bunch of drawers to find my solder wick.

So that's my story and I am sticking to it (Sorry, bad pun). Hope you enjoyed the instructable as much as I enjoyed making the tool racks.

If you decide to build a project like this, be creative and build to suit.

Let me know what you think, and I'll keep you updated when I build a new tool holder.

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    32 Discussions


    Question 7 weeks ago on Introduction

    Hi PackratHacker, nice work, and an inspiration to do something similar. What are the anti-slip magnetic discs otherwise called or what are their specs. I'm having trouble finding them. Cheers, Iain


    3 years ago

    Very nice, I made something similar to this too


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very, VERY nice idea you have going on here. I'm cheap and lazy and no longer have even a fraction of the tools I had, and that added to a lack of funds is making me stick to my trusty pegboard.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I have those same orange handled pliers set, really handy! I love the idea of being able to move the tools around easily for projects you're working on at the moment. Have you found that any of your tools have become magnetized because of being on the board?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome idea! And when I need to, I can just lift the socket wrench holder off, carry it out to the driveway and stick it to the fender of my truck!:) I wonder if the local home supply store has any dented, flush steel doors they plan to scrap? That would be two 7-1/2' x 3' panels I could use.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Check out IKEA. They have metal shelves that would work ok. I am considering using them for another magnet project


    11 years ago on Introduction

    That is super nice. I have to reorganize my garage and this will work perfectly.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    That is one of the tidiest workshop spaces I've seen (apart form the Great Norm Abrams). Fantastic instructable though. Very nicely done. Keep 'em coming.


    12 years ago

    This is a much better type of tool rack instead of the magnetic strip variety.


    12 years ago

    Dude, that's awesome. I really need to make one of those, my dad's so anal about his shop being clean, I think that would help alot


    12 years ago on Step 5

    i can't help but notice that between the picture that comments on the removed guard and the gluing, that a band-aid appears on your thumb....

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Step 5

    Ya....unrelated accident. I was testing some jack stands and pinched my thumb in the cam. V. painful and it bled like crazy. I know I should put the guard on the table saw, but I am v. careful to keep my fingers away (famous last words) .


    12 years ago

    Thats really neat! I hope one day when I have a space of my own, to put up one of these. good work! :)


    12 years ago on Step 6

    OK, fess up. What did you do to your left thumb? The best safety training is hearing about other people's "Ooops". At least there's still a whole digit in there.

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Step 6

    Unrelated accident. I was testing some jack stands by pushing down with my hand... unbeknowst to me the pin wasn't in all the way and I slammed my thumb in between the base and the stand... It was pretty painful and there was lots of blood...but I'm feeling much better now :)


    12 years ago

    Very clever and useful. I've never seen cup shaped magnets before. Nice.