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Homepage. This page: Workshop storage solutions for the old-car owner in his/her garage.

Ideas on storing things in your garage.

Storage

A real bugbear of mine when working in the garage is continually losing tools, and, once you found the tools, having somewhere to store all the bits and pieces that you've removed from your car. Problems with storage drives me up the wall, and are a real hindrance when trying to get something done. Add in other unpleasantries such as cold weather, poor lighting, and a monumental restoration job awaiting your attention, and it can quickly add up to being a real deterrent to any work being done at all.

So, what to do about storage?

Storing stuff in the house
If things are very tight in your garage, or you are stuck working in the drive without a garage at all, you might have to think about piling your parts discretely within the house. This can take herculean levels of charm to get this idea past your dearest other half, but is one that is definitely worth a go. It helps if the things you want to store are clean(ish), unlikely to leak vital fluids over the carpet, and lacking in dubious odours.

Once these issues have been addressed you stand more chance with being able to store bits around the house - good places to look include cellars (should really be dry, don't want things getting corroded whiled stored down there), lofts (just laying some boards over roof joists can be an excellent storage solution) and spare bedrooms, but again watch out for components that may drip oil on the shagpile carpet. Also bear in mind the cumulative weight of all the things you need to store, individual lumps of iron may not weigh much on their own, but many such items stacked away in the loft could be too much for some modern houses, resulting in a disastrous collapse of the bedroom ceiling as everything heads earthwards. Moderation is the watchword!

Build some extra buildings, garages or workshops
Unless its nice shiny chrome bits, or delicate instrumentation, that needs storing carefully away, I'd avoid bringing too much into the house itself. A better option, if you can swing the funding with the boss, is to invest in a nice shiny outbuilding or two. They needn't be the size of a hangar either, one or two garden sheds can offer some excellent storage options, plus wooden sheds rarely suffer much with condensation either. Get some shelving in there, a decent lock, and you have some useful storage for just a couple of hundred quid or so.

If the shed has windows, I'd be inclined to block 'em out, thus deterring nosey toe-rags or neighbours eyeballing your rare parts and tools from outside. Valuable stuff, such as vintage lamps or badgework (ie anything easy for a low-life to sell on) would probably be better if stored in the house (better security, more places to hide stuff), but for rusty old panels or unidentifiable oily stuff a shed or two should be aok.

Making the best use of existing garage
If you're lucky to have a decent sized garage, then you can really maximise its storage capability with careful use of the room you have. If you let things get too disorganised, you'll end up knee-deep in junk no matter how much floorspace you have.

The key thing here is making the best of what is there. If you have lots of hand tools, why not check out the wall racks that you can buy, so that oft-used tools can be hung up out of the way until required? A flick through a trade magazine will tempt you with all manner of delectable options for you storage problem. There are some great wall-mounted cabinets that can be bought, which are usually made from hefty gauge metal and have locks fitted as standard (skinflints can re-use old kitchen cupboards here, like I have done). Free-standing cabinets often double up as small workbenches too, as anyone who tinkers with cars will know, you can never have too many flat surfaces to work with. While on the subject of flat surfaces, have a look at your walls and see if fitting a load of sturdy shelves would be a good idea. If you can fit 'em in, and have a secure wall to attach them too, it can be a cheap way of tidying up your workshop.

The better makes of cabinets have smoooooth running roller drawers, where ballbearings are used to keep things opening and closely smoothly. Much better than creaky old slide out drawers I think, especially when stocked up with essential widgets & doodahs. Complementing the various knee-high cabinets that you can buy, are tall floor-to-ceiling cabinets, very similar to those you find in offices up and down the land. These are great for storing things out of harms (and dusts!) way, but can cost a few bob - next time you're at the local council tip, keep your eyes open for identical ex-office furniture like this as it'll do the job a treat. A regular flick through local free classifieds newspapers can turn up ex-office or household storage that, perhaps with a few tweaks here and there, make for excellent workshop storage, and often for minimal outlay.

If you're after the sleek, modern garage look, where everything is tidy, clean, and orderly (not for me this method I admit!) then you're probably stuck with looking for pukka garage storage options, as opposed to adapting other types of cupboard or cabinet. New metal drawer chests come in a bewildering choice of size, arrangement, and quality. You can have 3 drawer step up chests, 6 drawer chests with drop lid, 9 drawer chests, workbench/drawer combinations, and a good selection of mobile toolchests that run around the place on small castors.

But if the purse strings are already a little stretched after buying lots of tools and similar goodies, a lot can be done with old household furniture, some screws, and various pieces of shelving. Old wooden wardrobes can make very handy shed or garage tool stores (avoid chopping up a rare antique though - sell it instead, it'll pay for the real stuff!). Kitchen units rendered homeless after a re-fit can be used in a garage with great success, just don't expect it to cope with really heavy old junk. I'm sure some Health & Safety rep would have a field day if a professional garage re-used old household furniture in this way, but for an amateur home setup, so long as you take care and don't do anything silly, I don't see anyone can't re-use such furniture so long as common sense (remember that?) prevails when it comes to loading things up.

Tiny bits and bobs are the easiest things to lose, and are quite often the hardest things to replace (eg trim fixings), so as well as tidy places to store your tools, its a good idea to lay out some storage bins, either the stacked up variety (perhaps on top of a workbench) or mounted to a wall. Anyone who has a capacious garage containing several vehicles being worked on, may find that a mobile bin kit is the way to go, mounted on castors. Alas these don't come cheap, so the clever thing to do is get a load of the bins from a cheap shop, and make your own frame to hold all the bins, and fit some cheapo wheels on the bottom for the same effect.

If your garage has a high apex roof, there are a few alternative storage options available to you. One thing I ended up doing in mine was get a first floor built at the end - its only 4ft deep, but at 18ft wide and very substantially built by a mate of mine, its given me a large extra storage space, freeing up a lot of the floor and meaning theres a lot less clutter for me to trip over. If I need anything, all I have to do is get the ladder out and hop up there.

Perhaps the only other thing to think about is what type of portable toolbox would best fit your needs. If you drive your classic regularly, you'll probably want to take a choice selection of essential tools around in the boot, so a small (liftable by one hand) toolbox is probably the thing to have. They don't cost much, yet offer a neat and tidy way to lug a few screwdrivers and spanners around with you as you cruise in your classic.

As already mentioned, there are plenty of places to check out the wide variety of storage options that are available. Local motorist shops may have a few, but for a much better choice I'd recommend finding a specialist tools supplier, most of whom have a website with all their products available to view (Tooled Up is a good example). Secondhand stuff can turn up in the local newspaper, although used cabinets may be in a poor state if they've been abused over the years (aren't they all!).

A few candidates for some welding TLC..

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