Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideas. Please share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip. If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.
No one will argue this point: Steve Johnson, The Down-To-Earth Woodworker has a superior filing system for owners’ manuals and equipment paperwork. However, if you don’t have the space and/or energy (Steve drinks a LOT of coffee!), here is another shop organization filing system you can try.
I start with a Rubbermaid or Sterilite hanging file box, some Pendaflex hanging file folders and a Magic Marker or other bold-writing pen. I like a bold pen for the labels so they’re easy to see if you’re using the box in a part of the shop where the light isn’t so good. The Pendaflex system comes with top labels.
While there are many ways to organize the folders the important thing is to use a system that works the way your brain works, then be consistent.
Here’s an example: Bill Livolsi, head of the Maker’s Hustle Podcast, organizes his shop contents by “like things.” He puts tape and glue and labels all in the same box and labels it “Sticky.” Anything that’s sticky goes in that box. The point? There’s no use in copying my system if it won’t fire a synapse in your brain.
In my system one tool gets one folder. Folders are grouped together by brand. Thus, for Delta tools I have “Delta Air Filter,” “Delta Mortiser,” “Delta Radial Arm Saw” and “Delta Table Saw.” Behind that is the first exception. The DeWalt drill-driver and DeWalt planer share the same folder because their respective manuals are small.
What goes in the folders? I staple the original receipt to the very front of the owner’s manual. I put the date the tool entered service on the front, too. If there is a shipping list or invoice, that goes in. Separate warranty info? In it goes! Whatever paperwork is available gets saved. Sometimes I take the owner’s manual to the band saw and slice off the non-English languages. I can’t read them, and they just take up space I can’t spare. Just be sure to leave the binding so the book will stay intact.
There is a Miscellaneous folder. Some would put that folder in the front of the box because it’s not a brand, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For my brain, if alphabetical is good enough for “Bike” to “Stihl,” it’s good enough for Miscellaneous. Miscellaneous is for items with papers that don’t take up much space, like a tool that was purchased strapped to a card, and has no other documentation with it, especially if I have no other tools in that brand.
After I had a few Festools, the old box was nearly full; it made sense to give them their own box.
You could use a full-size, 2- or 4-drawer standing metal or wooden filing cabinet. That wouldn’t work in my shop, though, because I can’t spare the floor space and it would be too hard to carry upstairs in the threat of another flood. Let us know about your system in the Comments section, below.
Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.
That is really good idea for all of the manuals to be put in one place. I have them in my shop, my home and everywhere else you can toss a manual. I am going to go with the two draw system, all tool manuals in the top draw and the household appliances and other misc. “stuff” can go in that drawer. Great tip, I’ll have to get started on this “clean-up” of books and paperwork. Thanks again
I keep all my paperwork in one of those accordion file folders. Each compartment is pre-labeled alphabetically and manuals, receipts, warranties, etc are kept together for each tool. Then that packet is filed the way my brain works…by tool type (ie: table saw goes in the “T” folder even though it is a Bosch saw). The file folder itself is small enough to occupy only a couple inches of space on my shop bookshelf.