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Q: Now that I'm retired, it's time to trick out my workshop. One thing that has always been a problem is decent workshop storage. I've seen different solutions but am still pondering what's best for me. What storage ideas do you have?

A: You have a boatload of storage options. I'll do my best to describe what has worked well for me, but I'm sure there are other excellent ideas as well.

For starters, I often see clutter because wall space isn't used efficiently. That is the key to maximizing storage. Get things off the floor and up in the air.

The most basic shelves for a workshop involve simple vertical standards that support long lengths of lumber, which serve as the horizontal shelves.

I've had great luck using simple angle iron with holes punched in it. You commonly see this product used to support your garage door track and powered garage-door openers. You may be able to buy this angle iron from a garage-door installation company for far less than you might at a hardware store.

I assemble this material with nuts and bolts and firmly attach it to wall studs with long lag bolts to ensure the entire system will not pull away from the wall. A good-sized system might have more than 1,000 pounds of lumber on it, so be sure you don't over-tighten the lag bolts that hold the vertical standards to the studs.

For lightweight storage, you can make some dandy shelves using 2 by 2 pieces of lumber for the vertical standards and 3/8-inch plywood for the shelves. Additional 2 by 2s can be used as horizontal supports to cradle the pieces of plywood. Once again, this is for lightweight items like sandpaper, some hand tools, glue, etc. Design the horizontal spacing of the shelves so there is minimal wasted space between each shelf. Allow at least 2 inches of clearance between the top of the highest item and the bottom of the support of the next highest shelf.

I always have workshop storage cabinets in my mix. I have been lucky to bring home some discarded cabinets from jobs. Salvaged metal kitchen cabinets are excellent for the garage, but they're hard to find. I have several that lasted 50 years in a kitchen before being drafted for garage use.

Regular wood cabinets will work just fine, too. If you use base cabinets, try to outfit them with rollout shelves instead of fixed shelves. You'll discover quickly that rollout shelves allow you to clearly see what you have and access it with minimal effort.

I use stackable workshop storage bins for my fasteners and small hardware. These handy items come in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. You can use the colors to help group things. For example, you may decide that blue bins are for screws of any type, while red bins are for tacks, nails and other steel fasteners.

Certain bins are made with a built-in French cleat. If you have a thin metal strip that protrudes slightly from your metal pegboard, the bins will hang on it perfectly. Some bins also allow you to stack them four or five high (you still will be able to see what's inside each one). Another feature to look for is a slot that holds a label telling you what's in the bin.

All of Tim Carter's past columnsand videos are available


Shelving that fits

Workshop storage units are a popular option for organizing the garage, but make sure they'll truly suit your needs.

Before you buy a unit, take a scrap piece of salvaged kitchen countertop or a piece of plywood and make a test work surface. Place on the top what you think you want and need in your workshop. Determine the minimum width that will work for you and make sure the unit you buy meets these requirements.

Also, be sure the top of the workbench is no deeper than 26 inches. Any deeper makes it hard to reach storage above the bench.