31 Cheap Workshop Updates for the Ultimate DIY Space
Our readers know how to make the most of their home shop space. These 31 updates don’t cost much (or anything at all!) but make a huge improvement for DIYing.
Automatic On and Off
I bought an energy-saving outlet strip for my TV and its components. One outlet controls several other outlets on the strip, so when I turn off my TV, the adjacent controlled outlets for my VCR, DVD player and receiver sense that no current is going to the TV anymore, and those outlets shut off. Then I decided to try it out in the shop. I use it with my router table, disc sander and orbital sanders, so when I flip one of them on, my shop vacuum also starts up to take care of dust collection. It also has two outlets that are independent for other accessories you’d like on all the time. You can buy the outlet strips at amazon.com. One choice is the Belkin Conserve Socket with Energy Saving Outlet (about $30). — D. Linley. Plus: 30 more smart tips for working in your home shop.
Sheet Metal Magnet Board
Sheet metal or strips of galvanized flashing make great magnet boards in the workshop. Be sure to level the material on the wall and use self-tapping sheet metal screws to fasten it to studs.
Then put several magnets on the message board for hanging project plans, supply lists and even small metal tools such as a paint can opener or scissors. Above the workbench is a perfect place for mounting a magnet board. — Bill Jones
My sheets of sandpaper used to get crumpled and damaged lying around the shop. I purchased a file folder ($4) from an office supply store, and now my sandpaper is well organized and in pristine condition. — Aaron Zeff. Also, check out this super-strong sandpaper you can make yourself.
Taller Table Hack
When I’m working on projects in the shop, I often have my laptop close by so I can refer to an article or take notes. The craft table I’d been using was too low, so I got some pieces of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe to slip over the legs. I measured the height so it was just right—no more aching back! The pipe pieces are easy to slip off when we need the table for potluck. — Donna M. Courie
Old Glove Chisel Case
When my wood chisel carrying case fell apart, I replaced it with an old leather glove. Tie up the glove with a short piece of string or an old shoelace to keep the chisels from falling out. — Donald E. Eckvahl, Sr. Plus: Learn how to sharpen a chisel here.
Very Affordable DIY Workbench
This sturdy 30-in.-deep x 6-ft.-long DIY workbench is the ultimate in simplicity—and costs less than $50 to build! It’s made from only fifteen 8-ft.-long 2x4s and one sheet of 1/2-in. plywood. Learn how to build this cheap workbench by following these simple plans.
Shop Towels At the Ready
Build a sturdy paper towel holder with a 12-in. length of 3/4-in. galvanized pipe, a cap and a floor flange. Screw the floor flange to your workbench, insert the pipe into it and screw on the cap. Then just set the paper towel roll over the pipe. — Gayle Fikuar. Plus: Use a paper towel holder for tape storage in your shop.
Clothespin Plans Hanger
If you have Peg-Board over your workbench and you need to hang plans or drawings where you can see them, use two clothespins with a hole drilled in one end of each. Then hang each clothespin from a pegboard hook and they’re ready to hold those plans.
Never Lose Your Dustpan
Keep a dustpan handy with an “unbreakable” wall file folder ($8) from an office supply store. Attach the file folder to the garbage can with 8-32 x 3/4-in. machine bolts and nuts. Position the screw heads inside the garbage can so the bag doesn’t snag on the end of the bolt. — Joe Hyde. Check out these alternative dustpans.
Smart Screw Storage Idea
I used to keep screws in a cof- fee can, but when I reached in with my hand, the screw points pricked my fingers. The can was also a dust and dirt depot. I bought a clear water bottle with a pop-up lid and poured screws into the bottle with a funnel. The screws stay clean, and I can shake them out of the bottle one at a time. — Bruce Burley. Hardware Storage: DIY Tips and Hints
So-Simple Caulk Tube Storage
Tired of having your caulk tubes lying all over the workbench or your shelves? Make this organizer from a scrap of 2×8 and a piece of 1/4-in. plywood. Just lay out a pattern for your 2-in. hole saw to follow and drill holes through the 2×8. Then glue the plywood to the bottom. Now you can set it on a shelf and easily identify the tube you’re looking for. — Burnie Lorenz
Smooth Tool Tops
I used to coat my metal table saw and planer bed with auto wax because it makes the wood slide nicely across the metal. But then I saw an expert cabinetmaker use wax paper, and now I do the same. I keep a roll in my shop drawer and rub a sheet of it over the metal beds on my table saw, router, planer and disc sander. The wax coating doesn’t last as long as a good paste wax, but boy, is it a lot easier and quicker. — R.J. Hayes. Plus: 22 clever new uses for your tools.
Assembling parts is easiest when you can work at a comfortable height. But the height of that working surface depends on the size of the project. These ABC boxes, so called because they’re made with sides of three different dimensions, make a variable-height assembly table base. By rotating the boxes or standing them on end, you’ll get three different working heights.
Tired of holding a flashlight between your teeth while working in the dark? Make a light stand by bending a 2-ft. section of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable into a U shape. Duct-tape the light to the ends of the cable. The wire can be shaped into a hands-free supporting base for the flashlight or bent into a hook for hanging. — Paul and Haylee Lytle. Check out another hands-free light hack.
Simple Reference Notes
I save all my back issues of The Family Handyman magazine and love the projects and repair tips. The trouble is, I’m not always ready to do the project when the issue arrives. To make my favorite articles easy to find at a later date, I put a stick-on label on the cover and then add notes for easy reference when the time comes to do the job. — Willie Schreiber. Plus: Check out this small workshop storage solution.
Temporary Outlet Cover
I do a lot of power sanding at my workbench, and all the sawdust kept getting into the outlet strip and interfering with the electrical contact. Now I put a strip of masking tape over outlets I’m not using and replace it as needed. The outlet strips last a lot longer! — Helene Lesel
Coffee Can Air Hose Station
Keep your air hose and fittings in one place and out of the way. Screw a coffee can onto a scrap piece of plywood. Attach a 2-1/2 in. riser block to the edge of the plywood and hang the entire contraption from a wall or work-bench. Drape your air hose over the coffee can, and store your fittings inside. It also works great for hanging extension cords. — Walter Barndt. Build an air compressor cart.
Create Color-Coded Toolboxes
I have different toolboxes for different jobs around the house. Occasionally I’d grab a tool out of one box and then put it away in another. Eventually all my flat-head screwdrivers would end up in one toolbox. To solve the problem, I now mark the handles of the tools and the corresponding toolbox with a band of colored electrical tape. Now all the tools are in the box where they belong. — Kim Litkenhaus Marino
Paint Roller for Paper Towels
If you need a way to hang paper towels in your workshop, find an old 9-in. paint roller, hang it on a nail and put a roll of paper towels on it. You can move it around whenever you want. And best of all, it’s free! — Ramon Chavez. Plus: Check out these other awesome painting tool hacks.
Easy-to-See Battery I.D.
I got extra batteries for my cordless tools, but I could never remember which battery was newly charged and which was run down. Now I can easily tell them apart because I painted a number on each battery with my kid’s white nail polish. It dries fast and is— you got it—“tough as nails.” — Tom Baker. Plus: Learn how to double the life of your car battery.
Safety Gear You’ll Never Forget
My husband is always hounding me about wearing eye protection whenever I use power tools. (Admittedly, I could be more diligent about it.) So, he recently glued some small magnets to several pairs of safety glasses and stuck them on all the power tools in our garage that have metal housings. Now it’s fast and easy for me to grab the glasses when I need them, and I’m reminded that my husband loves me. — Lisa Yanda. Here’s the other must have safety gear every DIYer should own.
Slick Table Saw Tip
I find the best way to protect my cast-iron table saw top is to occasionally rub on a coat of paste wax. This gives me a nice, slick top for easier material feeding, and if I drip glue on the surface, it won’t stick. It also helps prevent surface rust when the air is humid. — Jack Linden
Stow-Away Workbench with Pegboard
The best part about this simple workbench is that you can fold it up and out of the way when you’re not using it. Click here to check out the plans, tech art and video tutorial for this project.
Better Shop Shelves
Ordinary clip-in-place shelf brackets with slotted metal supports can hold a lot of weight. But some-times they’re unstable and can be easily knocked loose. The play in the slots allows the bracket and shelf to shift from side to side. To prevent this, use your circular saw to cut 1/8-in. deep slots into the undersides of the shelves, aligned with each bracket. When the shelf is assembled, the brackets fit into the slots, eliminating the sway. Also check out: How To Build Floating Shelves.
Upgrade Your Table Saw with Pegboard
Are your table saw accessories where you need them—when you need them? Follow reader D. E. Warner’s advice: Attach pegboard panels to the stand to hold the wandering herd of push sticks, blades, throat plates, wrenches and jigs. On an open metal stand with angle-iron legs, drill holes in the legs and bolt the pegboard in place. Here’s another super storage project using pegboard.
How to Make a Portable Bench Vise
Instead of permanently mounting my 6-in. vise to a work-bench, I attached it to scrap plywood so I can clamp it wherever I need it. Stack two pieces of 3/4-in. plywood and screw them together with 1-1/4 in. drywall screws. Mark the vise-mounting holes on the plywood and drill 3/4-in. guide holes through both pieces. Recess the nut by drilling through the bottom sheet with a 1-in. spade bit using the 3/4-in. hole as a guide. Fasten the vise to the plywood with bolts sized to match the vise-mounting holes. If the bolt shafts are too long, cut them off with a hacksaw. — LuAnn Aiu. Plus: Learn how to use vise grips to pull nails.
Never Lose Your Tool-Specific Tools
When I change blades on my band saw, I usually need to adjust the thrust bearings and guides with an Allen wrench. I was tired of hunting around for the wrench, so I decided to stick it to the steel housing with a rare earth magnet (neodymium) about the size of a jacket button. Now it’s always handy! — Bill Wells. You can also use a magnet on your ladder.
As a carpenter, I need to bring certain items with me every day. I bought a cheap plastic tote in the tool storage area at a home center and modified it for my needs. I made a small plywood deck, drilled a couple of 3-in. holes for coffee cups or glue bottles and then fastened it to the tote. Another piece of plywood has holes to keep pencils upright and organized. My tote sits nicely on my bench seat, but it could also be attached to the floor with hook-and-loop fasteners. You could easily customize these totes for plumbing, garden or painting tools, electrical supplies—what have you. — Don Simms. Check out this jumbo tote for fasteners.
Air Tool Accessory Storage
After years of digging through piles of stuff on my workbench for the air compressor accessory I needed, I had this idea. I simply drilled 7/16- in. holes on the underside of my workbench top and threaded in a few 1/4-in. NPT male couplings with quick-connect couplers. A wrench and some upward pressure are all it took to screw the couplings into the wood. Now I just snap my accessories onto the couplers when I’m not using them. — Donnie Dressler. These are the best tools for automotive work.
- (4) 37-1/2-in. long 1×10 pine boards (actually 3/4 in. x 9-1/4 in.) for the doors and sides
- (2) 18-1/2 in. long 1×10 pine boards for the cabinet top and floor
- (1) 18-1/2 in. x 36 in. piece of 1/2-in. thick plywood for the back
- Scrap boards for a base
- Assorted fasteners