Sorting your hardware - req. advice on optimizing space/convenience

I like to get some opinions from people on sorting their various parts and hardware. I have very limited space for my home workshop...:
http://www.minsmithphoto.com/mrintj/workbench.jpg
As I've built up an inventory of components and hardware, rummaging through random junk boxes looking for a specific part quickly became the most time-consuming part of any project. I mounted some small parts cabinets to my pegboard, and for some parts, like resistors & capacitors, it was obvious how to divide them up according to value.
Not so obvious are things like screws, nuts and bolts, and other small hardware. There seem to be an almost inifinite variety of sizes, materials, thread types, wood screws, sheet metal screws, etc. Of course, if I only have a handful, then it's not an issue (I'm not _that_ anal retentive), but I have several pounds of screws, etc. in all varieties - it takes way too long to find a certain screw (or even worse, a matching set of two or more).
Do you folks sort your hardware into bags/drawers/etc, and if so, what criteria do you use?
Thanks in advance.
Any other space-saving advice on workshop / workbench optimization is greatly appreciated.
Mr. INTJ San Diego
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Hum, bolt cutters. A tool I still have never owned. There always seems to be another tool I feel like I must own even though I've never had a use for them!
I guess you don't open your garage door very often since you seem to have taken to using it for your hangers! :)
I don't like peg-boards anymore. I gave up on them long ago. It sure is nice to see all your tools on the board but before too long, you have too many tools and not enough space on the peg board. In addition, most the peg board hooks don't stay in well, they tend to fall out when you try to take tools off the peg board. I use tool chests with slide out drawers and shelves for all my tools now. It works much better, but the tool chests can be expensive and take up a lot of room.
But that's not what you were asking....

Back 30 years ago when I was last actually building electronic stuff, I did the same thing you did - use those chests of plastic parts drawers to sort out the standard parts like resistors and capacitors. They work ok, but they are kinda tough to dig through. Pulling out each little drawer is kinda slow and awkward and they tend to sick a lot (or get stuck when all the leads from the 100 caps you put in the drawer start sticking out the wrong way)..

I use clear plastic parts bins which I store in multiple drawers of a large tool chest (the standard mechanics sort of thing when wheels and many shallow drawers). I can open one drawer, and see all the screews, bolts parts, etc laid out in the draw and fairly quickly spot what I need. Instead of trying to pull out and look at 20 of those tiny plastic draws in the parts chest like you have, I can pull out one big drawer, and see all the screws and small parts in about 4 parts bins. Or when I buy screws by the box, I can put the boxes in the drawers as well. This makes the searching for the right part go much faster. I roughly sort the parts by drawer with machine screws in one drawer, wood and metal screws in another, etc. But other than the rough major sorting like that, it's mostly just random in the drawer. Because you see everything in the drawer quickly, it's not really so important for there to be any order to it.
Another trick I have used for the larger boxes of nails and screws which tend to get piled on shelves is to use a hot glue gun and glue one of the nails to the outside of the box so I can quickly see what type of nail or screw is in the box without opening it. That also makes searching for the right sized fastener go quicker if you have accumulated many boxes of nails and fasteners like I have.
If you can't justify the cost or space for a good mechanics tool chest with lots of big drawers, you might look into options of just adding (or building) some large flat pull-out drawers to your current shelves/workbench and then using those for all those little parts.

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Curt Welch http://CurtWelch.Com /
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On Aug 21, 7:40 pm, snipped-for-privacy@kcwc.com (Curt Welch) wrote:

I actually find myself pulling down the bolt cutters surprisingly often, but I may be doing that for tasks where you'd use a more appropriate tool that I don't own. ;-)

Yeah, we remodeled the garage into a portrait studio for my wife last summer, so the garage door is now disconnected from the opener and locked shut.

Yes, mine did that too and it was infuriating. I got some of these little plastic retaining clips and put them everywhere. Now they stay put.

(snip)
I'll give that some serious thought. The difficulty is more in terms of available space than expense, but you make an excellent point about being able to look down on everything, instead of sliding out one drawer after another.

Wow, great tip!

Maybe I can mount some trays under the some of my shelves. To save bench space, I already salvaged a discarded keyboard tray and mounted it under one side of the work bench.

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While I agree about peg hooks, the solution isn't to do without the pegboard, it's to use toggle bolts to hold tool racks to it. Most of the tools will still go in the boxes (unless you have nwowhere near enough tools!), but some of the most commonly-used can go on the wall.
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Yeah, I think for electronics work that could make sense. I've not done any real electronics work (except on the kitchen table) since I was in high school 30 years ago. I do more woodworking, and metalworking, and home maintenance stuff these days and for that, you have to deal with dust and messy stuff like iron filings from grinding. Having tools out on a peg board just gives the dust more places to make messy. It's easier to keep things clean when most the tools are in closed drawers. I could see peg boards working for an electronics bench if you didn't use those peg-board hooks which pop out so easily (or found a way to secure them).
The other place I had tried peg board long ago was in the garage for yard tools. Again, that's not a good fit because most peg boards don't work very well for larger yard tools (shovels, rakes, etc). My last technique for organizing the garage yard tools was just to attach horizontal 2x4s to the wall and then screw in those large organizer hooks that can hold things like shovels. It was an idea copied from my neighbor which has worked well for me.
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Here is a before/after shot of my small workshop after a recent remodeling:
http://www.alternatezone.com/stuff/WorkshopBeforeAfter.jpg
The electronics side of the bench is here:
http://www.alternatezone.com/stuff/ElectronicsWorkbench.jpg
I have two benches, one for electronics and one for more crafty stuff or the current project in hand etc. Allows two projects at once easily. Bigger mechanical stuff gets done on folding saw horses when the car is removed from the garage. Heaps more bench space and walking room now for the exact same area, and a bonus spot to park the bikes as well (bench was deliberating made that height to fit the bikes. More room to walk around the car when it's parked too. It's nice to be able to swing around on the chair from one bench to the other.
The cabinets and shelves on the wall are custom made from pine. Big tools and gear gets stored up in them.
The steel storage rack on the left is from Ikea. Very nice and easy way to get multiple shelves above and below the bench. The shelf is actually free standing behind the bench. The benches are mounted by right angle brackets from the walls, so only require two front legs. The electronics bench can actually fold up or down on the pivoting wall brackets.
Lots of plastic draw cabinets for all the parts etc. Don't ask me how they are sorted, still working on that!
The big plastic storage tubs under the left bench are very useful for bigger items like power cords, rolls of wire and tape, gloves, goggles, masks, or what have you. Three rows of those tubs on the shelves.
Hope that gives you some ideas.
Lets me know if you want some better shots or details etc.
Regards Dave.
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(snip)

I really like what you did with the bikes. We have two bikes that I haven't yet figured out what to do with. We also have a treadmill. God, I want a bigger house.

One of those chairs has been on my list. Do you remember where you got it?
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Yes, the bikes were a big problem for us, so they really drove what the final solution had to be. Turned out really good in the end.

Ebay Australia.
Dave.
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On Thu, 21 Aug 2008 17:50:23 -0700 (PDT), "Mr. INTJ"

Coin envelopes.
John
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On Aug 21, 8:03 pm, John Larkin

(snip)
You mean like this?
http://www.minsmithphoto.com/mrintj/coin_envelope.jpg
Were you being serious?
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On Thu, 21 Aug 2008 22:51:07 -0700 (PDT), "Mr. INTJ"

Exactly; the larger one looks about right.
You can dump loose or taped parts in these, and write the part number, any useful notes, whatever on the outside. Tape the Digikey shipping tag to the back. Stick a note or whatever inside too. They are very volume-efficient, easy to handle, cheap. Drop one on the floor and nothing spills out.
I have plastic bins for various parts - resistors, caps, transistors, whatever, each filled with these little envelopes. It's very handy.
I should post a picture, I guess.
John
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On Thu, 21 Aug 2008 20:03:34 -0700, John Larkin

The Stores group at work dispenses small parts in 2" x 3" clear zip-lock plastic bags. These bags fit nicely in my plastic parts drawers, and I can easily see what's in them.
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I love zip lock bags. I found a place where for about $70 I could buy a large assortment of bags in about 10 different sizes from 2"x2" to 14x15 (or sonething like that). My house and shelves are full of stuff in zip lock bags now. I find it a great way to organize manuals and the extra parts and paperwork for stuff I buy.
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"Mr. INTJ"

** You left handed ?
Your test gear is on the opposite side to what I find natural.
Plus I have to have a lot more space for the item I am working on that you have there - think Marshall tube amp head or a 16ch mixing console.
However, my soldering iron station is on the left - meaning I have to swap hands when removing or replacing the iron.
.... Phil
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Nope, I'm non-sinister. I bolted that vise in years ago - I'm probably going to move it since it seems to divide my workspace neatly in half. It was awkward to put the scope and power supply on the other side of the vise, and I think I was trying to push it back a little onto the adjoining shelf.
...but you're absolutely right - the work area that I have is just too small - I end up doing things in my lap sometimes.
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"Mr. INTJ" "Phil Allison"

Nope, I'm non-sinister. I bolted that vise in years ago - I'm probably going to move it since it seems to divide my workspace neatly in half. It was awkward to put the scope and power supply on the other side of the vise, and I think I was trying to push it back a little onto the adjoining shelf.
...but you're absolutely right - the work area that I have is just too small - I end up doing things in my lap sometimes.
** Something I find very good is to glue a layer of cheap carpet all over the work area, it prevents scratching customer's valuable items - plus stops small bits, electron tubes, microphones and fasteners rolling about or dropping onto the floor and going missing.
Makes the work area far more comfortable for YOU in cool and hot weather too.
Just make sure to always return the iron to its stand though .....
..... Phil
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On Fri, 22 Aug 2008 15:58:01 +1000, "Phil Allison"

I like to move the test gear up, to eye level, to get it off the work surface.
ftp://66.117.156.8/DSC01371.JPG
Parts, in bins in coin envelopes, are in the glass-door thing to the left. Whiteboard to the right. I can scribble a circuit on the board, mark it up as I go, and photograph the whiteboard, the breadboard itself, and scope traces when it's working.
All furniture by Ikea.
John
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