Finding right tool for the job's easier if you're organized

HOME WORK

January 07, 1995|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

It's not a pretty sight: Tools are everywhere in Randy's truck, under the seat, behind the seat, on the floor of the passenger side. Only a few are actually in the tool box in the back of the truck. Scattered among the tools are a wide variety of tool boxes, mostly empty, though recently some of the full ones have been stolen from a job site. In short, Randy's tool collection is desperately in need of a New Year's resolution involving organization.

Some people are born organizers -- you know, the ones with the tool outlines drawn on the Pegboard in the workshop, and the neatly labeled shoe boxes under the workbench. But it's harder to keep track of tools when you're on the move, as Randy is, from job site to job site. Nevertheless, he is determined to operate on some organizing principles this year. Here are some of his resolves:

* Keep tools in cases. Tools last longer if they're sealed away from the elements and from collisions with other tools -- it's the XTC rogue drill without a case that gets beaten, battered and eventually lost. Some tools, such as drills and saws come with their own cases, but for those that don't, Sears carries tool cases designed to fit most sizes and configurations, from drills to wrenches. They're made of sturdy plastic and cost from about $14 to about $30. A utility box about a foot long, which could hold wrenches or screwdrivers, costs about $5.

There are also "truck" boxes, which fit behind or under the seat and could be used to hold such things as safety flares or jumper cables -- or anything else that fits.

* Organize tools by function. If you're doing drywall, for instance, you might be working with three or four finishing trowels, a pan for the joint compound, tape, utility knife and tool-belt tape holder -- a lot of items to keep track of. But there are canvas bags designed to hold drywall tools that can corral everything in one place, and make starting the work day as easy as grabbing a bag with all the right equipment.

* Use portable storage wherever possible. A big part of efficient storage depends on where you work. If you do everything in a shop area in the basement or garage, you need hanging space, plus drawers or boxes for small items. If you work at a number of sites, as Randy does, you need portable storage. There are plenty of options in home-improvement centers and other stores. There are heavy plastic carryalls that can house a chain saw, and small compartmented carryalls that can hold screws and nails.

* Organize small items. Small stuff, like screws and nails and drill bits, is the hardest to keep track of when you're on the move. But there are plenty of storage options, some of which use recycled drywall buckets or serve a double purpose. There are canvas bags for nails and screws that fall open when set down to make items accessible.

The "Bucket Boss" is a canvas carryall that fits around a 5-gallon drywall bucket. The canvas pockets hold screwdrivers, tapes, hammers and other hand tools. The interior of the bucket can hold larger items, such as a drill or a screw gun. Home Depot has a 22-inch-long tool box by Zag that has little compartments in a clear tray that fits into the lid. And Contico makes a sturdy 2-step step stool that has a tool box in the lid.

Clearly, the trick to getting tools organized is not finding the right storage, it's finding the time to do it. At least if you start now, you have a whole year to make good on your resolution.

Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.

Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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