Podcast - Adam Savage Project

Keeping Tidy – 4/1/2014

Adam, Norm, and Will explore Adam’s strategies for shop organization, the ups and downs of keeping tidy, and the storage systems that the guys prefer. Enjoy!

Comments (89)

89 thoughts on “Keeping Tidy – 4/1/2014

  1. Thank you ! Thank you! Thank you! You fellows just don’t know what hell it is for us to sit here watching these podcasts and trying to imagine what you guys are so blessed to be looking at.

    Please, please, please give us an extended video tour of Adam’s shop sometime real soon (as well as a slow motion video crawl along his bookshelves in The Talking Room!)

  2. I use a lot of Forstner bits in the pipe organ shop, so after cutting my fingers cut to ribbons for a few years on an organizer that held them point-up, I bit the bullet and spent the time to make this.

    Every bit as tedious to make as you’d think. But so worth it.


    (this is my temp account, because of account weirdness)

  3. That is a great Forstner bit storage setup! A shop I worked in years ago hit upon a similar solution but went to the extra step of using a thicker base so they could counterbore a small recess in the bottom of each pocket. They superglued a rare earth magnet in the bottom of each c’bore so that it would sit just barely below the surface (thus not making direct contact with the center point of the bit). The strength of the rare-earth magnet was enough to keep the bits from rattling around (especially the larger ones) when the set was moved around from workbench to workbench.

  4. That’s a clever notion! This bit organizer is screwed to the wall right by one of the drill presses, so I don’t have to worry too much about rattling around. I eventually wrote dimensions on it as well, since reading them off the shanks can be a neck-twister.

  5. Wow that’s a lot of tools. Maybe I should organize my workshop like that in the future. It’s always fun too watch your podcast 😀

  6. I don’t yet have the space to set up a proper shop, but now I have even more ideas on how to organize it. It’s been slowly evolving in my head over the past 5 years or so and this corner shot from Adam’s shop is now it’s own part of my future plans, it’s just that awesome.

    On a note about the clip leads, I work with electronics and not all leads have clips (TNC connector ports, BNC leads, etc) so I grabbed a 2 foot section of plastic cable management tray, took the lid off and mounted it horizontally with the pegs sticking out, and now it holds almost every test cable I need at a glance and keeps them straight and organized.

  7. I’m extremely OCD and everything in this podcast is totally on-point. The one thing that is worthy of discussion is LIGHTING. I recently moved and due to a decrease in garage space, I relocated all of my tools/workbenches into my basement. No matter how organized your work space is, it is worthless without good lighting! I didn’t realize how bad my setup was until I hung up a 2’x4′ 4-bulb fluorescent fixture above my workbenches. Night and day.

    TL;DR: Remember to re-evaluate your shop lighting regularly! It may be time to upgrade.

  8. Please post some more shop photos, i have a 40×40 shop and like Adam very OCD and cannot seem to get my shop organized very well, and would love some ideas/inspiration. this photo is awesome inspiration.

  9. This was one my Grandpa’s toolbox, he had a habit of collection beautiful toolboxes. It’s hard to tell but this is a gorgeous, nearly pearlescent blue.

    i use it as my overflow box, stuff that is useful but I can’t currently find a place for in my small cramped workspace.

  10. Uggh, my tiny work space is constantly on the move (evolving) as I’m trying to maximize the scope of its usefulness. It’s like a never ending game of industrial Tetris. The only draw back to this form of OCD, if you want to call it that – and many do – is that I often forget where things are now, which kind of goes against the grain of what I’m intending! I really should label stuff, but what the point if it’ll change again in a week or two’s time?

    The main issue for me is that my work space is part of my house, it’s not a workshop, so it has to look tidy and and be family friendly.

    Just the other day I managed to sneak a large amount of metal tools into the main house (because they were rusting where they were previously) by having them stored in a nice old wooden box that we have in our living room. I’m just waiting for the day when my wife goes to this box to retrieve what used to be in there, only to be presented with pliers, screwdrivers, saws and straight edges. Thankfully, she’s rather understanding in that respect.

  11. Adam – instead of going thru the effort to modify the bins, I would just put the small parts in a zip baggy inside the bin.

  12. So I’ve just gone through 6 months of an un-scheduled basement renovation (thanks, federal disaster area!). I have a lot more tools now than I had before, and many that won’t be used, hopefully, for a while (like my wrecking bar). Now I’m looking for a Kennedy box to store some of the smaller items in a corner of my garage that is workbench-ish. Thanks for the suggestion!

  13. Adam you’re constantly referred as messy on Mythbusters, usually by Jamie, is that just hype for entertainment purposes, something you worked to improve on or are you just not tidy to Jamie’s standards?

  14. wow, every time I watch one of the tested podcasts (and listen when I can’t watch the youtube version) my take away is exponential. Of course its good to watch as you can’t get the full effect until you see Adam’s nuances and actions to something he cares about and explains. What is so good is that I have various degrees of attention span issues, and so to see how other people organize and manage their tools always gives me great assurance that organizing (even if on a small level) solves issues. I hope to start soon on rebuilding my work bench and storage wall soon, which will probably be built using a lot of self designed and built items; at which this podcast gives me a lot of inspiration at those organizing efforts. thank you!! and thanks Norm, Will and Adam for a great exchange of ideas!

  15. Kennedy tool boxes:


    For a tool case that’s good as furniture in your parlor, Gerstner:


    If you run into a Gerstner chest for $100 or so and need a place for small tools, buy it. It might seem to be an expensive investment, but it will keep small tools rust free and will outlive you. If you find it on Craig’s list it has already outlived somebody already.

  16. I find myself quite jealous of the tool selection. Most of my tools used to be able to fit into one toolbox with a rope holder for my tape (duct, electrical, colored, etc) and that all went into my trunk or behind my bench seat in the car. Now, though, I find it difficult to walk into a tool store and walk out without having bought something (like today I bought a trio of nail sets that I don’t already own and probably won’t use in the near future but, hey, I’ll have them). My dad sees nothing wrong with this and my mother thinks he’s infected me with his hoarding / packrat-ism.

  17. You are talking my language! Keeping the NYU Film & TV repair shop organized with a staff of workstudy students is a monumental task. I have every single thing labeled down to the part # for reorders.

  18. In my long search for good sorting bins I have come across some good cheaper alternatives to Sortimo:

    I have a ton of the Stanley Fat Max organizers, they can be had for under $13 on Amazon. Unfortunately they don’t seem to make a shelving system them:

    Bosch has the L-Boxx system (which may be made by Sortimo, kind of confused on that one) and has cart, stacking and clear lid options. There’s a great write-up on them on ToolGuyd.

  19. Bosch’s i-BOXX/L-BOXX’s are awesome. They make great tool/parts boxes, and you can easily find them on Ebay and Amazon..

  20. I have a very reduced workspace area, and have found that using perf-board attach to the wall, like how most stores display their products, really increases available space and makes really easy to retrieve and store tools. is there a reason you don’t do that?

  21. I happen to have a very reduced work area, and I have found that installing perf-board to the walls, like most stores use to display their products, increases the amount of space available to store tools and it also makes them quite easy to retrieve and store. is there a reason you haven’t implemented this type of solution?

  22. its easy to build one out of a book case or just build one from plywood. my uncle found a old book case on the sidewalk and i just added some wood rails so the storage boxes wont sit on top of each other so you can take any box out and they stay in place. i always say that storage is the number one project in any work shop.

  23. wow one day my shop will look that great and thats a great idea order # on labels thats great i do that but i have small note books for each project with all the info for that project. i also do it for things that i want to buy to compare them to find the best items for the money… great love the way you stored everything and thanks for the great idea.

  24. lol my aunt told my uncle not to bring me any more stuff lol he is not aloud to take anything to his house anymore so he brings it here but i only ask him to bring me any wood that he finds so i can tare it down and make something new. they also call me the h word.

  25. Order doesnt have to be expensive. This is my hammer rack. It is made from pallet planks and screws.

  26. Easy, but time consuming. Actually it took a fair while to lay out too, but I’m anal about that sort of thing. 😀

  27. i use some real cheap storage cases that work the same way as the sortimos but i cant find boxes to fit everything i want to put in them. so im going to print some custom ones for my cases thanks to you and for the small parts i will make them with a lid that i can add plexiglass so i can still see inside thanks 2 minds are greater then 1

  28. my cousin got the waterloon case that we use for 50 bucks looks new i called to get a pare of keys and found out it was 10 years old…..it looks new!!!!! new its a $1000-$1500 case.

  29. Here is a tip from an electrical engineer (someone partially mentioned it above). Use small zip lock bags. Like the type Jewelers and EE’s use to store small items. They are thicker and sturdier than baggies. It is a better way to not only store, but handle small parts. Like packets of seeds. Furthermore, you can label the bag with a small piece of paper inside the bag. This is great if you leave small set screws out and cannot recall if they were SAE or metric. 🙂

    Question: how on earth to you organize drill bits AND keep them organized. I just buy a new set periodically, but that seems less than optimal. Of course I always have sharp bits.

  30. stellar podcast, guys!

    for what it’s worth, here is how i started with tool storage.

    my toolset is pretty small right now. but that is due to me needing tools only for a rather limited discipline (some general woodworking and bowyery) and being the son of two woodworkers. tools i bought for myself either are too specialised to already be there (saw rasp, spokeshave), tools i prefer over what we have (japanese saw instead of western ones) or tools we already have, but i wanted my own for various reasons.

    my solution was to build an at-the-larger-end-of-portable size toolbox that holds what i have and has a little, but not excessive spare room for stuff to come. i chose a portable size for two reasons:

    1) because it is enough for what i have, and because right now, i share workspace with either of my parents, my situation both involves a degree of intrusion and is of questionable permanence. mobility and a low footprint are useful at this point.

    2) if my toolset grows over a certain threshold, i will need to find a solution for a large volume of stuff anyway, but will still have a portable toolbox, which is pretty damn useful. if i have to upgrade beyond the toolbox, i will not have something useless to dispose of.

    to keep with the spirit of good upgradeability/futureproofing, i did not build fixed tool holders or compartments in the box, but made removable structures from plywood that just slot together. that way, i can remodel as needed, or update when what i initially planned didn’t work out too well.

    here are some photos:

    box, closed, from the front: http://i198.photobucket.com/albums/aa171/gekitsu/box_finish_front_web.jpg~original

    box, opened: http://i198.photobucket.com/albums/aa171/gekitsu/box_finish_open_web.jpg~original

    and a short step-by-step how the lid closes: http://i198.photobucket.com/albums/aa171/gekitsu/fit_the_lid_web.jpg~original

  31. I’m lucky enough to live smack dab in the middle of Kennedy and Gerstner and Sons toolboxes here in Ohio. Unquestionably some of the most beautiful and functional toolboxes you will find.

    You can’t beat a good well worn oak toolbox. The sense of history in mine is palpable… I wouldn’t dream of restoring the thing.

  32. Great podcast guys. This winter while it was cold and miserable in Canada I sorted my toolbox and added foam inserts. I got the foam at Lee Valley Tools, it comes in 30 and 57mm thicknesses. I cut it to fit my drawers and then the hard part, laying out the tools. The nice thing about this is that the foam is two toned so it is easy to see if something is missing. I also purged old and broken tools that I either no longer use or need.

  33. I got a chance to work on a project in a NASA hangar at Ellington field for a zero g flight, and their toolboxes are amazing. Foreign object debris hazards with aircraft engines mean that everything has to be tracked and signed out, so each drawer has cutouts for each tool, and a full list of what is suppose to go there.

    Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of it that aren’t owned by NASA, so thanks to this guy for posting one on his site. Each drawer looks like this, and it is probably the most beautiful toolbox I have ever seen.


  34. I see others have already asked, and I want to through my vote in as well. Please, please do a shop tour video. I am always looking in the background of youtube videos to see how others have their shop organized to gain ideas on how to organize mine. Shop organization and workflow can make or break a shop and is always evolving.

  35. Here in Canada we call them alligator clips or alligator leads – maybe if you called them that, people would know what you meant? 😛

    By the way, you mentioned needing to keep your Forstner bits sharp etc. Do you maintain and sharpen your own tools or do you simply buy new with everything once it has become worn out?

    (and yes, I understand that Forstner bits are hard to maintain) 🙂

  36. The ‘Beat It’ demo posted below is amazing, I’d love to hear more but haven’t been able to find any. Anyone else find some?

  37. Thanks to your podcast I have realized that there are things I can do to organize my workstation even when I don’t want to work on a project. While I am working with code, there are similar ways to “organize” and “sort” the common coding practices that I reuse all the time that I could automate. Thanks for the podcast and keep providing sage advice.

  38. I think organizing the shop tools is very important, my shop is a mess and I’m working on a system to help keep things straight. However, my real problem is what to do with unfinished projects! From watching some of the other videos on tested, I know that Adam has some projects he’s been working on for years. I’d love to hear how he keeps those from piling up and getting in the way, or more importantly damaged!

  39. Design

    I see others have already asked, and I want to through my vote in as well. Please, please do a shop tour video. I am always looking in the background of youtube videos to see how others have their shop organized to gain ideas on how to organize mine. Shop organization and workflow can make or break a shop and is always evolving.

    This sounds like a great idea.

    I don’t have a shop to call my own at the moment, which means my tools are spread out wherever there’s room. I have nearly a dozen tool boxes, neatly organized, but placed in in just about every free closet in the house.

  40. My version of the Sortimo system on the cheap. Inspired by the Tested video:

    Made with the £9.99 boxes from B and Q and some square steel.

  41. ‘Beat It’ English>Russian>Polish>Japanese>French>English Translation 🙂 because I just had the 5 minutes to spare.

    They told him , never came to this area, I

    I disappear you better , please do not wanna see your face

    Fire words and their eyes are very clear

    Yes, just the right pace , Beat It

    It will be better all , you can run

    I neMacho you do not want the blood of all men

    I want to be difficult , you better better

    Yes, this trap is bad, but it broke ,

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It, Beat It just

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    Battle you strength has been shown that great

    It did not matter that the law and failure

    Beat , Beat It just

    Beat , Beat It just

    Beat , Beat It just

    Beat , Beat It just

    They can , but they are better, you are out to get you

    You want to be a man, I do not want byćchłopcem

    You will live trap , better best

    Yes, just the right pace , Beat It

    You must show them that you really do not fear

    You are ” Playin in your life, or not the truth, and dare it

    You and deport you beat

    After that, they will tell you that it’s true

    Yes, this trap is bad, but it broke ,

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It, Beat It just

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    Battle you strength has been shown that great

    It did not matter that the law and failure

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It, Beat It just

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    The fight of your attachment to the method indicated in the great

    It did not matter that the law and failure

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It , Beat It, Beat It just

    Beat It , Beat It, Beat It, I beat it

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    The fight of your attachment to the method indicated in the great

    It did not matter that the law and failure

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It, Beat It just

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    Battle you strength has been shown that great

    This is not a problem to someone or is responsible , that is correct

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It, Beat It just

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    Battle you strength has been shown that great

    It did not matter that the law and failure

    Beat , Beat It, Beat It, Beat It just

    Nobody wants to be defeated

    Battle you strength has been shown that great

    It did not matter that the law and failure

    Beat , Beat It just

    Beat It, beat it, beat it

  42. Does anyone know which video they were referring to at the beginning of the show that had an overview of Adam’s storage system?

  43. did you make that lil Cthulhu statue? In the story it has a very specific description and I want to make my own, I’m thinking resin work but am unsure of what additives to use for color. any tips would be super helpful!

    p.s. us grads here at the IUP art dept. in Indiana P.A. look forward to seeing what you’re doing here in december!

  44. May I state that categorically that Adam’s podcasts are my favourite thing in the world to listen to.

    Keep it up guys, it’s making so many geeks out here super happy!

  45. I’m wondering how one makes the decision on what tools to keep out in the open and what tools should stay inside drawers especially when you consider that tools kept out in the open collect dust and debris depending on the work you do.

  46. Damn you Adam!

    I just finished the Toolbox podcast while walking my dogs and now you’ve motivated me to organize my Kennedy tool chest (machinist for 5 years with the bone spur to prove it!).

    Do you like pick and pluck foam for organizing drawers of say loose screwdrivers or have you found something better?

    Also, not a plug, I don’t work there any more. Do you ever read ShopNotes magazine? It’s focused on wood shops but all about making your shop better and easier to use.

  47. I’ve found that Bisley cabinets and the clear acrylic boxes from usplastics.com are two great tastes that work great together for storage. Once a month or so I put proper labels over the sharpie writing I use to label boxes on the fly.

  48. Here are pictures of what I have been up to during the winter. I still have a more drawers to do. As I said in an earlier post I got the foam from Lee Valley, $6.00 CDN for a 2ft x 2ft sheet 30mm thick and the 57 mm 2ft x 2ft is $10.00 CDN.

  49. One thing that drives me nuts looking at Adams workshop is the apparent lack of consideration for earthquakes. I was in Santa Monica when the Northridge quake hit and my tools were EVERYWHERE. I mean dozens of parts bins filled with electronics components hurled across the room! I am still finding resistors in the wrong been nearly 20 years later. I can just picture Adams shop after even a 6.5 earthquake and it gives me chills. It would take a team of many people several weeks to pick all that stuff up – assuming the building survives intact!

    Fortunately for me, I have lived in Maine – on solid granite – since 2001 and no longer have to think about that particular issue.

  50. Coutspatula, Bakery tray shelves work great for Stanley Fat Max organizers. We use these in our shop at work. we put a few spacers in the horizontals, and then they slide right onto the shelves on the lip of the case.

    Xixtoo, thanks for the MJ link. I looked for a while and could only find people talking about it.

  51. My labeling solution for my metal toolbox drawers is cheap thin
    magnets with the labels on them. I move
    a tool to a different drawer I move the magnet with it.

  52.   No the foam is two toned, the top layer is grey and remainder is white. I have seen this in other colours as well but grey and grey and white two toned seem to be standard. If you Google “kaizen foam” you will find other manufactures. I am not sure how well it would paint.

  53. 93 Ahh, Cool. I see some raw examples of this foam you used. You did a very nice job with it. Plastikote is a protective spray plastic for the foam edges. It keeps little foam chunks from coming off over time (though milage may vary). Youtube has some examples.

  54.   Thanks! I didn’t know they did a sealer for foam I’ll give it a try. It does glue pretty easy if you make a mistake, I just used wood glue and let it set, not sure if it will last but works for now. One of the 3M spray glues for foam would be better but I didn’t have any at the time.

  55. Created an account for these 2.5 points..

    1) After thinking about straightedge needs, I would put several under the table you’d use for laying out fabric and cutting fabric. When you are in the mindset of “I need a straightedge” , you are at a big flat table. What you want to do is reach under the table’s top on one side in a semi-hidden holder. This is akin to a gangsters hidden pistol or a hidden sword. The straightedge needs to appear and disappear quickly.

    2) I do electronics work quite a bit, and some of the smaller parts inevitably migrate from one container spot to another. Trying to fish a 0206 LED out of a big container bin is frustrating with a big fat finger (well tweezers). Some stuff has humidity stuff but that’s another topic. ANYWAY, I dish them out like pills from a small screw top container, it’s much faster and more portable than gasket solutions. The container I want though has straight sides (tap and pour, no lip to hang up) and is easy to put in your storage drawer cubby. SO it’s a cup, inside your Sortimo thing for you. To some degree this technique can make the Sortimo thing cheaper because cup technology can be applied to an old filing cabinet (University Surplus), or my favorite, an old punch card cabinet. The cup is McMaster # 42905T22 . I write in sharpie what the part number is on the cup. You can use a forstner bit to make a dent for the cup if it isn’t well constrained in an area and sharpie the cup number on the hole. If a cup is empty / near empty, I throw the cup in a 5 gallon trash bin and at the end of the day I can (or a delegated person) run through all the parts stores that are low or near empty.

    2.5) Many aircraft mechanics have to do “shadow boxing” or outline in a ethafoam type material the outline of their tools. This is so people don’t forget tools in aircraft, which can be a bad day. Examples: http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=147728&showall=1

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