Two recent acquisitions helped push this decision: I bought my first antique 'collector' tool off the web, a lovely rosewood panel marking gauge, 20 inches long. I fell in love with this thing.
And a massive slugger of a 'Commander' mallet, sent to me on a trade with another woodworker. It is a wonderful piece made of mulberry and walnut, and both these tools are too large for my little open cabinet shelves.
So, first step: I combed through books and magazines looking for what would work for the space I had to fit in my shop, and what I could alter to pack in as many hand tools as I could for efficiency. There are hundreds of designs of floor-standing tool cabinets available. However, I kept coming back to a strikingly simple piece of furniture, a Shaker style step-back cabinet that Megan Fitzpatrick had made for Popular Woodworking, February 2009, as an entertainment center. It's a 16-1/2" deep base cabinet, with a four-inch step back to a 12" deep top cabinet, the whole being 88" tall. I need a tall cabinet, and it struck my fancy as perfect for my space.
Here is a photo of one-half of my garage/workshop as it stands now. It is pretty crowded. I need the hand tool cabinet behind the small bench on the left, where the radial arm saw is taking up too much space. I use it for a lot of cross-cutting, and it has to go somewhere else.
The RAS protrudes 40" from the back, mainly because a hooded garbage can conveniently catches all the dust and cut offs behind it. At the back of the room, behind the floor fan, is 24" worth of wood and scrap storage under an old garage workbench covered with clutter. Pegboard hangs on the back wall above it. To move things around and fit in a large floor cabinet, I plan to eliminate the back wall bench and move into its place the RAS, a floor standing drill press not in this photo, and a router table cabinet I'll have to put on casters so it remains functional. Parking it at the back wall would prevent passing longer wood pieces across its table surface unless I can roll it forward, so that is easily fixable with casters.
The wood stored under that back garage bench is mostly scrap, but a couple of bins of hardwood, a selection of dowels and a few boxes of weighted veneer selections, are all worth saving, so moving them means building another wood storage unit also. It will go where the router table now stands, around the corner from the RAS pictured. There are table saw jigs under there to be saved, too.
Oh, man. How one thing leads to another! And all this started with a beautiful, innocent rosewood panel gauge. I don't know how long this will take, especially with Christmas retail stock and gifts to consider, and a commission or two coming up. Rearranging everything in the shop and keeping it open to function as necessary is going to be a challenge. It may take me all winter, but once I get started, all the problem-solving will keep me going with gusto. It has been years since I've dug into that space under the bench at the back of the garage. There is no telling what surprises await. I may even find that old beech coffin smoother I put away because it had no wedge. I haven't been able to find it for some time now, but I know it's there somewhere, and needs to be fixed.
I wish I could just sit down and design the tool cabinet, but first things first. I think I'll get the leaf blower, and then put on a dust mask. It's raining today. That's perfect!