first order of retrievability

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bjphoenix

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I've bumped into this a few times in Adam Savage's youtube videos. I've also recognized parts of it in my own work because I consider myself a "tool guy". So I thought I would expand some of my thoughts into words and maybe other people would like to discuss.

Many years ago when I was 15 I started working in my father's auto repair shop. This was before big metal rolling toolboxes were a thing, at least in the world I knew. We had a long workbench on the wall with nails for wrenches and hammers, and drawers for other tools such as chisels. With nails it was pretty easy to grab a tool that you wanted and easy to see what tools were missing.

Years later at my house I had a small workbench with drawers that I kept tools in. I finally put up a big piece of pegboard and hung all of my tools on it- C-clamps, hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, things like that. It was very convenient if I was at my workbench, I knew where everything was and I could almost reach out blindfolded and grab a tool. Adam Savage did some tool carts based on this principle that he called "first order of retrievability". You need a tool, you can see it and reach out and grab it.

I usually carried my main mechanic tools in my car so when I stopped doing that I needed a place for them so I bought a metal rolling tool cabinet. I could put all of my mechanic tools in the top, and drills and power tool stuff in the bottom. Now I consider this to be "second order of retrievability". I know where everything is but I have to open a drawer then reach in and grab it.

Of course in my garage I have some shelves that I keep larger tools on such as some drills and circular saw. In my case this is less convenient so I consider it to be "third order of retrievability".

Adam Savage has a saying that "drawers are where things go to die", I take that to mean that if you have stray tools or other things, you put them in a drawer, then you forget you have them and never use them. First I think it is better to take the things that you want to use and find a permanent home for them, even if that is actually in a drawer. If it's something you want to keep but you don't have a place for it then it's likely not something you will use often so I put them in a box on a shelf. I have a piece of paper taped to the box that lists the contents. Then a year later when I'm trying to find something I just look at the different pieces of paper. This is "fourth order of retrievability".
 
I have thousands of electronic parts, collected over a lifetime. Without a spreadsheet, they'd be useless. This way, I can search for keywords. :)
 
I have pegboards, a rolling tool chest (all tools normally used for auto mechanicing work), shelves, clamp racks (mounted to shelf), drawers to hold specific items (not just toss it in and forget it, like one drawer for planes, spokeshaves, wood scrapers etc, another for pencils, chisels and glue tools like silicone brushes etc). Everything in the rolling tool chest has a place and its organized, same for the rest of the stuff and drawers. Can I find it when I want it....usually....mostly....maybe....
 
His book Any Tool is a Hammer is great came out a few years ago. He is completely open with that his idea of an organized shop may not be right for everyone. Drawers really work for some people/things. I have peg boards for go to stuff. But small tools and certain special tools are in drawers and I know where they are. I get the impression that Savage is a very visual person in his thinking, for him out of sight is very much out of mind
 
I found that over the years my tool use has evolved. A couple of years back I took all my tools that were hung on the wall down and put them up again in the current stage of my evolution. I still have the other tools that are very infrequently used, but I need to go to a toolbox to get them out. Just optimising the wall space for my contemporary needs.
 
A pegboard, or hanging tools on nails wouldn't work for my. Most of the tools wouldn't hang on a peg/nail. And, wow, the square footage it would take up if I did. I can't say my tool *usage* has evolved, but I've been able (over the past decades) to accumulate increasingly more specialized tools. And tools, like reference books, should only be parted with under extreme circumstances.
 
I had (3) 5 ft tall Craftsman tool boxes before I got messed up, but gave them away to my son, SIL, and my sons employee. I saved a rolling Craftsman cart when I was renting my garage. When I couldn't afford the garage anymore, I moved them into the RH side 3 drawers of my big "tanker" desk and gave the tool cart to my neighbor. Downsizing SUCKS
 
I have labels on the drawers of my tool chest. Even after having it for years, I hated trying to remember which drawer was which, when there are five that are all the same. With them labeled, I can be under a car on the other side of the garage and tell someone, "Look in the drawer labeled _______________ and grab the _______________." It's there.
 
A pegboard, or hanging tools on nails wouldn't work
Pegboard is simple and works reasonably well for my tools. I could improve my layout but it works and I know where everything is. A lot of people complain about pegboard and a lot of youtubers make videos about creating their own cute little specialized holders for their own tools.

I have labels on the drawers of my tool chest... I can be under a car on the other side of the garage and tell someone,
I was in my attic in a spot hard to get to, trying to connect the exhaust duct over our stove. I needed some small screws and I could tell my wife by speaking through the small hole in the ceiling which drawer and which container to get for me. She got the container and handed it up to me through the hole in the ceiling.
 
I saw this video for a method of organizing tools on a tool wall. His method requires a little bit of imagination and takes some time to build but it is more flexible than pegboard and you can store more tools in less space. The fancy youtube woodworkers would make little custom wood pieces to hold each type of tool.
This guy says he puts things that he doesn't use as often in a different area. According to "order of retrievability" I would suggest that those things could go in drawers and take up less wall space. In my shop I have very little available empty wall space.


And here is an example of custom tool holders made out of wood. Each tool holder is a small project unto itself and has to be carefully made to perform its function.
 
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This is how I put my major go-to tools ready for quick access. Most of these would get used on a weekly-monthly basis.
20230527_112655.jpg
Pliers etc. are off to the left of the workbench.

20230527_195551.jpg
Screwdrivers, torx drivers, jewler's drivers, wire strippers, pens, markers, sharp pencils, dental picks, flux pen, surface-mount tweezers and scalpels are in a holder on the right of the bench. The holder is actually a test-tube holder that was being thrown out at work. There is also solder wick and thin surface-mount solder hanging in easy reach. Tools use a bit more infrequently reside in a drawer directly under where these ones are.
 
I have been trying to think of a better way to store my Bosch cordless tools and batteries. I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday, so I dug out some more blue bins and came up with this:
CordlessTools.jpg
Bottom row is LED worklamp, laser tape measure, batteries and angle grinder.

Most of them used to be just on wire hooks. Much better now, I think.

Although my CDO is telling me that the oscillating tool needs to be higher to get the Feng Shui right...
 
Adam Savage has a saying that "drawers are where things go to die", I take that to mean that if you have stray tools or other things, you put them in a drawer, then you forget you have them and never use them.
As we see in Adam's recent vid, he's discovered the joys of shallow drawers where you can lay out your tools on a single level. Unlike deep drawers, or the dreaded junk drawer, everything is visually obvious and immediately available. I think I'd rather call this level 1.5 rather than 2 since there's no searching, digging around or shuffling of other tools.

To me, higher levels should be where you have to relocate and/or shuffle things you don't need to get at what you do. But that's just quibbling about semantics. I think we all get the idea. The bottom line is getting a work space that isn't like redoing one of these every time you need something.
220px-15-puzzle-02.jpg



Pegboard and other surface storage systems are great for accessibility but terrible for volumetric efficiency. I have way too much stuff and waaaaaayyyyy too little wall space. At best I'll be able to use pegboard for the most commonly used tools like a utility knife and small subsets of PPE, screwdrivers, hex keys, and pliers, etc.

For most stuff, I'll take a shallow drawer.



man I want a set of those drawers
Me to! They're not hard to come by, if you can shell out the big $$$ to get them through industrial suppliers. I can't. Adam got lucky and found them second hand.

The go-to brands for DIY'ers and small shops like Craftsman or Husky just don't have anything like them. As far as I can tell my only options are to build a custom cabinet, or just buy something off the shelf that's not too far off.

So far, this one at Horrible Freight is the closest I've found at a reasonable price. Not crazy about the lower drawers, but life's a series of trade-offs.
56234_W3.jpg

It would be nice to build a cabinet with exactly the dimensions and drawer compliment to fit my space. But I have way to much on my plate as it is.
 
As we see in Adam's recent vid, he's discovered the joys of shallow drawers where you can lay out your tools on a single level.
I never agreed with his statement on drawers and I was surprised by it because surely he has used normal toolboxes in the past. Machinists have tool chests with very shallow drawers so they will have one layer of taps and lathe tools, things like that. My father's garage had drawers under the workbench, not very deep drawers but when you put a lot of chisels and things in there you still have to dig through them to find what you want.
I finally bought a normal rolling toolchest about 10 years ago, a Craftsman box with drawer unit on the bottom and big toolbox on top. I put my mechanics tools in the top in relatively shallow drawers and everything is in one layer where it is easy to see and grab. Of course everything is organized too so I don't have to see things to know where they are. The bottom drawers are not as good, I have knives and drills and things in those drawers. Most of it I know exactly where it is but in a few of the deeper drawers I still have to dig through things to get to what I want.
I agree that some people might like drawers better than others, for tools I like shallow drawers. Deep drawers are where things accumulate and you can't find what you want.
I still have pegboard and it works well enough for me. I can fit a lot of tools in a small space so I don't need to build custom creations to hold the tools. OTOH I have to be careful that the metal hooks don't come out when I take off some tools. I don't understand the universal hate for pegboard among youtubers but I think it is because they want an excuse to make things and therefore make more videos, and make themselves seem more enlightened than the average DIY person.
 
Tool boxes...

When I worked at Texas Instruments in the mid 80's making integrated circuits, we got a new ion implanter from a company named Balzers from Lichtenstein (in the canton of the same name). With the eggplanter came a wonderful tool box. It was brushed stainless on the outside. The drawers had sections for each of the specialized tools. The drawers ran on ball bearings, with soft-close mechanisms. The bosses were so impressed, they bought several for each work area. I was told the cost was that of a new Corvette. Each. I would have loved to have had one. The Snap-On box I later bought did the same job, but only cost as much as a used Chevette.

This was at the time they were undergoing a *serious* effort to reduce particulates in the clean rooms. A bunch of new regulations came down. We had to give up our individual tool boxed (briefcase-style). The new tool boxes cabinets held the tools needed to work on the machines in a given area, plus plastic totes to carry them. This was one of the main justifications for the new tool boxes.

There were other new rules, as well. Instead of coats and snoods (that left the face open, they went to full-face head cover. No makeup for the women (This about started a riot).. No smoking before work, or on breaks. Sticky mats all over the place. Plastic gloves were mandantory in the Class 10 areas. Try putting a #2 screw in a hole and tightening it wearing plastic gloves.
 
OTOH I have to be careful that the metal hooks don't come out when I take off some tools. I don't understand the universal hate for pegboard among youtubers but I think it is because they want an excuse to make things and therefore make more videos, and make themselves seem more enlightened than the average DIY person.

There are pegboard hanger systems that have retainers of one form or another to keep them from popping out. (https://talonhooks.com, https://www.tritonproducts.com/durahook) I am planning on doing at least some pegboard, but I haven't decided on a system yet. I may well mix and match several different hanger systems.

I used to dislike pegboard myself. But that came from traditional fiberboard construction, which has a tendency to flake apart at the edges of the holes and only came in dark brown. You could paint it, but that flaked off too. Now you can get it in metal and plastic, so I'm onboard.


This was at the time they were undergoing a *serious* effort to reduce particulates in the clean rooms. A bunch of new regulations came down. We had to give up our individual tool boxed (briefcase-style). The new tool boxes cabinets held the tools needed to work on the machines in a given area, plus plastic totes to carry them. This was one of the main justifications for the new tool boxes.

There were other new rules, as well. Instead of coats and snoods (that left the face open, they went to full-face head cover. No makeup for the women (This about started a riot).. No smoking before work, or on breaks. Sticky mats all over the place. Plastic gloves were mandantory in the Class 10 areas.

We had an opposite problem show up at one company I worked at. Drove everybody nuts until they finally figured it out.

We had a line making precision sensors. At one point production yield dropped through the floor. Hardly any were working. Up until that point, they were only made by one old-timer operator and they had just trained some new operators to make them. Obviously, they assumed the new people were doing something different and monitored everything very closely. But they couldn't find anything the new operators did differently.

It took careful analysis of the sensors to figure out what happened. Unlike the new people, the old-timer operator was a chain smoker. The sensors were constructed of hand-blown glass. The glass stock was very pure but the smoker was introducing impurities when he made the parts. And as it turned out, those impurities worked much like semiconductor dopants and improved the sensors' performance and consistency.

They didn't make the new operators take up smoking. They did figure out another way to add trace compounds.
 
I have labels on the drawers of my tool chest. Even after having it for years, I hated trying to remember which drawer was which, when there are five that are all the same. With them labeled, I can be under a car on the other side of the garage and tell someone, "Look in the drawer labeled _______________ and grab the _______________." It's there.
+1
 
With my previous 5 ft tall rolling boxes. I just used the deep bottom drawers for large power tools. Having to remove 10 tools to get to one on the bottom wasn't something I wanted to deal with.
 
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