How to Store Workshop Tools

Jon Fesmire |

Good tools for woodworking and home improvement are, to put it simply, not cheap. So it’s important to take good care of your tools, whether you use them regularly, take them out for special projects, or need to put them in storage.

Gather Your Tools

When you need to store your tools in a self storage unit, the first step is to gather them together. That includes hand tools like hammers, wrenches, and screwdrivers, and power tools, like drills, electric saws, and dremels. In addition, make sure you find all important parts, like cords and bits, and things like your nails, bolts, and screws.

Cleaning Your Tools

Cleaning your basic workshop tools, like hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches, is easy. Get a good multipurpose cleaner like Spray 9. Avoid solvent-based cleaners that can damage chrome and rubber.

Apply the cleaner per product instructions and, using a clean cloth (a microfiber cloth works well) wipe each tool down. For hard to reach spots such as crevices, grooves, or lettering, use a toothbrush. Rub them down well to get off the grease.

Finally, you can apply a layer of penetrating oil, rubbing it for a few minutes so it gets in deeply. This adds an extra layer of protection to each tool. For chrome parts, use a chrome-specific polish.

For power tools, the best thing to do is clean them according to the instructions that come in their manuals. If you’ve lost the manuals, check manufacturer websites, as you can often find them online. By cleaning your tools according to manufacturer instructions, your risk of invalidating your warranty will be greatly diminished.

Before the next step, make sure the tools are completely dry.

Boxing Your Tools

Next, get out your toolboxes. If you don’t have one or more, now’s the time to visit your local hardware store to get enough to box your tool set. A good tool box will have compartments for nails, screws, and other parts, and room for your various hand tools like hammers and pliers. They also generally have enough space in the bottom compartment for power tools.

Of course, there are many types of tool boxes in probably hundreds of configurations, so find what works best for your tools.

Fill the space around your tools with newspaper or cloth to keep them from bumping around in the toolboxes and bumping into each other.

If for some reason you don’t want to use tool boxes, plastic bins will work. Put small parts like the nails, drill bits, and screws, in a plastic parts container, so you can keep them separated by size and type. Put these in the plastic bin. Wrap each tool and put it in the bin as well. With such a configuration, it will be more difficult to retrieve one particular item if you need it. However, when you eventually move your tools out of the storage unit, you can separate everything then and put the individual tools into toolboxes.

Keep an Inventory

As you box your tools, write down an inventory so that you know which item is where. You can do this in a notebook. In its simplest form, you could have two columns, one for the item name, and one for which box you put it in. You could also add a column for the toolbox compartment, such as if it’s on the top shelf or in the bottom.

When finished, type the inventory into your computer. Google Sheets is great for this, as the information will be in your Google account, and you can call it up at home or even at storage, on your smartphone.

At Home or in Self Storage

Are you going to keep your tools at home, or in self storage? If the former, we actually recommend against keeping them in your garage, unless you use them and clean them regularly, for reasons that will become apparent in the next section. (In short, most garages aren’t climate controlled and experience huge shifts in temperature and humidity as the weather changes throughout the year.)

If you’re going to store them in a self storage unit, heed the advice below.

Climate Control

Weather in the U.S. can be, let us say, highly unfriendly to all sorts of personal belongings. In order to keep wood from drying out and cracking, and blades and other metal from warping or becoming rusted, you’ll need to keep your tools protected from cold, dry weather, and from hot, humid weather.

That’s where climate control comes into play. In a climate-controlled unit, your belongings will remain in an environment at about room temperature or a little below, at an ideal level of humidity, about 55%. Yes, units with this feature do cost a little more, but the approximately 25% extra is worth the price.

With proper care, your tools can last for many years and serve you on many projects. We hope these instructions serve you well in pursuing that goal.