I have a phrase I use a lot. More than I want to, really.
It’s not because I can’t think of any new one-liners. I’ve got enough of those. It’s that this one has about 30,000 miles of runway when it comes to DIY and plenty of pros on the jobsite.
It goes something like this: searching for tools is not working, it’s getting ready to work.
Or more to the point: Wasting time.
Having your tools in your hands or wherever they need to be, whether that be paint brushes or power tools, is about having a place for everything to live that’s in what I call a non-pile format, or NPF.
By ‘non-pile,’ I mean that you can see and reach most of what you need in any given location. For this reason, I’m not a giant fan of basic toolboxes. Sure, you can put some stuff in the top tray and mostly get to it, but once you lift it up to expose the bottom. Well, that’s usually a pile in a box.
I can go on with pile examples but I trust you’re getting the point.
What I have found successful for better organizing many of the smaller items of my contracting business and personal DIY are tool bags.
But not just any tool bag. Rather, a very old design called a “rigger’s bag.” These canvas bags, the story goes, were what sailors have been bringing on board ships for centuries. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know the ones I have work great. And that something so simple has proven useful, versatile and damn durable.
Mine is an older, cotton Duluth Trading Company version of this bag, and I can think of a lot worse ways to burn 30-bucks.
As I mentioned, I have several, and the exact same bag serves several different functions. I keep a 3x21 belt sander in one. My angle grinder and the zillion wheels and the hyper-easy-to-lose wrench in another. In a third, I keep many of my painting supplies and I think this particular application is a great way to be a little specific about why I generally enjoy it.
First, this little bag—15 x 6 ½ x 8 ½-inches—holds way more than you think. And the first way it does that is by turning the bottom-of-the-toolbox-pile up with its many vertical slots that surround the outside of the bag. It’ll take everything from pencils to paintbrushes to a voltage tester or screwdriver set or adjustable wrench. And a lot more. You know…all the junk rusting through the bottom of the toolbox—or that falls out of the top tray—and you forget it’s there. The result is that it frees up bulk storage for bulk storage items.
In the case of paint supplies, the center of the bag is the perfect size for paint rollers, a mini roller frame, regular roller frames and even a dust mask or two. And, oddly, because it is small, you can’t store too much in there. The result is that it kind of keeps you organized and, perhaps more to my liking, I can see just about everything in there. That means I can grab it when I need it and put it back where it goes when I’m ready to clean up. Or, further down the DIY path, know I’m out of something…like paint rollers.
My older Duluth model (above) has D-rings on either end (I’m pretty sure they’re for a long-gone shoulder strap), which I use to hook loose items on via carabiner, like my Hyde QuicklyClean glove (tool-review worthy in its own right and something I use on all my paint prep). I also ‘biner-ed my favorite bucket (yes, I have one and you should too) on there but I’m not sure how long that’ll last.
So, short story long, DIY is easier to do when you can find the stuff you need to do it with.
One more thing: Not only can I store all manner of items—bags for trim tools or hand tools or demo tools also work well for rigger’s bags—but the bags themselves are cube-ish and they store easily as well. They’re even small enough for a shelf or truck box or garage tool chest. Heck, I recently saw a similar canvas bag hung from the trailer hitch of a heavy utility truck the other day. It was clear it had been there for a long time. And would be there for a long time. A plastic toolbox would last for zero miles.
A quick Internet search showed that there are a number of similar styles out there, but call me old fashioned, I think the style Duluth puts out is the best design. Rugged construction with the variety in vertical storage I’m looking for.
Ready. Steady. DIY.