2017 July 25     Tech   Shop Tips


A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to do an article on efficiency in the workshop.

Some of these ideas may not be all that new, but I'm trying to put this all together.  Perhaps I can add a couple of my own insights. 

There's a narrow time window when any person can do their best work.  And it's so important to take advantage of that.  So let's see a few ways to do that.

A Quick Note

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In This Article

Don't Rush

The Only Two Locations

Economize Travel

What To Fix Now

Tools You Never Thought Of


Tip # 1.  Don't Rush

We all want to get the most work done in the shortest time. 

And it might seem that rushing around everywhere is going to do that.

It probably won't.

A while back I was working on something with a guy who was constantly in a hurry.  His haste led to some really shoddy work.  Crooked miter cuts, stuff that was way out of square, wood split because he was in too much of a hurry to drill pilot holes.  He simply couldn't be convinced to do the job right.  It was a disaster. 

Slow down.  I'm not saying to take a ten-minute coffee break every five minutes, but take the time to do it right.

Tip #2.  The Only Two Locations

Don't set something down where you don't normally put it. 

If it's not in arm's reach of where you're working, then put it back on the pegboard or the toolbox where it belongs. 

This was right after I found the wrench again.  For the past thirty minutes, I'd been looking everywhere for it. 

It was on top of a jar of bolts.  Yup, dumb.

Don't set something down where you don't normally put it.

Tip #3.  Economize Travel

How many times have you had to walk back and forth to get something else you forgot?  Start thinking in terms of fewer trips back and forth.  How to do that?

1.) Combine trips into one.  Don't just get one thing and then have to go back for something else.  If you're putting stuff away, look for other things that have to go to the same place.  Keep a basket, box, or empty coffee can for this.

2.) Can't afford three or four sets of big-name tools?  Neither can I.  Get a couple of cheap all-purpose tool sets.  Then add some other tools you might need..  Put the sets where they'll be most useful to you. 

3.) The EDC solution, which is to say:  carry a few tools with you everywhere.  A couple ideas:

Waist packs start out alright.  But they all seem to develop problems.  The strap creases along the length;  the pack loses its shape.  The really cheap ones fray through easily. 

Here's a type of belt pack that's better, because you can wear it on a leather tool belt (which won't crease).  I guess this is what they call an "EDC pouch".  Great little pack;  carry a small adjustable wrench, tape measure, reading glasses, whatever.

A specialized tool pouch like this one or this one can go on the same tool belt.  Find the ideal combination for the tools you use every day.

The cargo vest, also known as the photographer's vest, can be good for some uses.  Maybe you shouldn't wear your good photo vest when you're using a grease gun or something.  But sometimes a vest like that is perfect. 


Tip #4.  What To Fix Now

Did you ever use one of those cheap headlamps with a switch that keeps turning on in your pack?  These things will waste so many AAA batteries it's unbelievable.  The battery companies must love these.

On for three hours again

The smart solution:  get rid of this junk and get a proper headlamp that has a locking switch. 

Ditch stuff that annoys you and creates time-wasting problems. 

If something is fixable, then fix it before the next time you have to use it.  For example, let's say you use a flat shovel to keep the sidewalk clear or something.  But it's no longer got a flat edge. 

A couple minutes with a file or flap disc, and that's one less thing to deal with. 

Find the tools and gear that have inefficiencies or problems that need fixed.  Fix them as soon as you can.

Tip #5.  Tools You Never Thought Of

One simple thing goes wrong, and you need 37 more tools than you expected.  Does this sound familiar?

It waits until you're nowhere near a work surface, and you only brought one wrench.  Naturally, it will be 90 degrees and humid. 

Here are some extra tools which I've needed-- or wished I'd had-- on many a simple job:

8-inch pipe wrench
8-ounce hammer
Pin punch set
Center punch
Water pump pliers
Shop towels or cotton rag
PB Blaster
Rawhide mallet

(String?  It's for tying back the push-mower handle.  It had too much play in it.  The real fix is a whole 'nother efficiency project for another day...)

When you don't bring extra tools, it seems to increase the chances that you'll need them.

Have them in your toolbox, and you won't have to make the extra trips. 


This was Shop Tips #4:  Workshop Efficiency. 

If you've found this article helpful or entertaining, please help keep this site on-line by shopping for your gear through any of these links.  Thanks for reading!


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