The following is excerpted from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: 1939-1967” Volume 4, The Shop & Furniture.
This is a problem that faces every man who does woodwork. Provision has to be made for keeping tools so that they are out of harm’s way, for nothing is worse than a bench littered with tools piled one on top of the other. At the same time they must be easily to hand when needed. At the outset it should be realised that a distinction has to be made between tools in everyday use and those used only occasionally. It is of no use to keep, say, a hammer in a drawer or cupboard which has to be opened every time the tool is needed. The usual way is to keep it in the well or trough of the bench where it is always to hand yet does not interfere with items placed on the bench top. Much the same thing applies to pincers, chisels, screwdrivers, etc., though these are not normally kept in the trough but rather in a simple rack.
It is interesting to see what used to happen in professional workshops. A nail in the wall was invariably all that was used for such items as saws, and chisels, pincers, and so on were held in the simplest of racks fixed to the wall with a screw at each end; cramps were hung over a batten projecting from the wall or fixed to a convenient beam. Altogether a primitive yet effective method. On the other hand his more delicate tools such as the shoulder plane, compass plane, plough, etc. he usually kept in his tool chest in a special drawer or compartment. The everyday, more robust items he put in a drawer beneath the bench.
The reason for this rather crude arrangement for tools was twofold. First, there was frequently nothing permanent about a man’s job. He might be taken on and put off again in quite a short time. Secondly, he would certainly not be allowed to spend time in making any special tool rack arrangement. Hence nothing more pretentious than the homely nail was used, and even these might already be in the wall, an inheritance from the previous incumbent.
For the man working at home a somewhat more elegant system can be devised because he is more or less permanent in his workshop and can spend as much time as he likes in making fitments. Another point is that his workshop may be just a garden shed, and nothing rusts tools quicker than hanging them on a damp wall. The nail itself will bear witness to this in a short time.
The simplest form of rack is shown at (A), Fig. 2, and is the sort widely used in a workshop. It is simply a plain batten fixed to the wall with distance pieces at the ends. If there is a convenient wood window frame to screw to this simplifies matters, but in the case of a brick wall there is an advantage in fitting a plywood or hardboard backing held on uprights as at (B). It avoids damage to chisel edges against the brickwork and it lifts the tools away from the wall. A quite good idea is to make one distance piece thicker than the other so that tools of varying size can be gripped. A 1-1/2 in. chisel has a larger handle than one of 1/4 in. size and in an equidistant rack either the big one will not go in or a small one will drop through. The tapering gap will hold both.
A fitting that has become popular is the tool clip. It is made in various forms, the simplest being fixed with a centre screw. This however needs either a wood wall or a batten screwed to the wall as at (C). It is far better to fix a batten to the wall with plugs and screw the clips to this than to attempt to plug the clips individually. The value of peg board as a means of display has also caused a new form of clip to be devised which can be entered from the front. This has a cranked centre rod which is passed through the hole and held by tightening a nut as at (D). Clips can therefore be fixed through any convenient holes to suit the shape of the tool to be gripped.
To hold a saw to the wall the simple nail is effective enough, but the handle is liable to become damaged with continued use. The better fixing is that at (E) in which the front thin piece (ply or hardboard) will pass easily through the hole in the handle. At the back the distance piece (slightly thicker than the handle) is narrower so that the handle drops down after being passed over. In some cases it is an advantage to have a front piece pivoted on a screw (F). This has only to be turned when the saw is slipped over.
Planes can be stored in various ways. When there is space for the plane to be in a horizontal position it can rest on a pad of cotton wool kept lightly oiled, or a thin crosspiece can be fitted to one end of the shelf to raise the cutter from the floor as at (G). It is generally recommended that the plane does not lie flat, though the writer has never found any harm in it providing the wood on which it rests is not damp.
Sometimes there is room at the end of the bench for a plane rack to be made as at (H). Alternatively the rack could be fixed to a wall or cupboard side. Another system is that at (I) in which the plane is pushed up at the top, passed inwards, and lowered. There must be clearance at the top for this, but the front lip must be wide enough to prevent the plane from falling outwards.
Those who do wood turning will find the rack at (J) useful. The tools face opposite ways alternately as in this way they occupy less space. The notched uprights are shaped accordingly. At the bottom can be a trough in which other items can be kept, spanners, tommy bar, chucks, centres, odd scraping tools, etc.
Various racks can be made as at (K) to hold small tools; bradawls, punches, marking awl, files, and so on. The rack can either stand on a shelf as shown, or be made with end brackets (L) if to be fixed to a wall. The same idea is useful to hold boring bits as at (M), or for router cutters.
Cramps can be conveniently kept on a narrow shelf with brackets as at (N), being lightly tightened to hold them in position.
All of these suggestions can be separate items fixed to the wall and left open—at any rate in a dry workshop. For those who have the space, however, there is an advantage in having fitments with enclosing doors providing that there is space for these to remain open when work is in progress. In fact an excellent idea is to have a cabinet in which the upper part at least has built-out doors which can be fitted with shelves, racks, etc. The entire thing is then exposed and no time is lost in seeking tools and (equally important) putting them away when finished with.