House update: It’s been 6 months. We have furniture in every room, our automated lights are set up, and Google Home lets us blast the tunes wherever we are. I’ve been hard at work in the garage these last 6 months getting projects put together, but I’m wondering how much time I wasted looking for that tape measure or a pencil.
It’s time to get the garage organized. I’m sick of moving a tool out of my way only to find it is right back under foot in 5 minutes. I love the idea of getting everything off the flat surfaces and on to the wall, so I went to YouTube for inspiration. Before we go any further, this project is not sponsored. I used the products that I had on hand or thought would work best.
I found a video for storing tools on the wall encased in foam. Kaizen foam is designed to hold your tools and keep them from getting damaged, but it also holds tight enough to store them vertically. The only issue is – it ain’t cheap. Back to the whiteboard to hash out some ideas. Exercise mats glued together? Too flimsy. Styrofoam? Too rigid. Anything I came across was equally expensive or would be entirely useless.
A side note – my son was sick over the weekend. Poor guy picked up a bug from daycare. As I was changing his sheets I had a brainwave – why buy sections of foam and glue them up when I’ve got a perfect 5 inch deep panel of foam right here?
I went to Amazon to order the cheapest crib mattress I could find. For $50 I had my Kaizen substitute delivered to my door in 2 days time. From there it was about 5 hours to get the tools spaced, the foam cut, and the frame built and on the wall. In total this project cost me $90 for a 3×5 foot tool board. For comparisons sake, a single 2×4 foot panel of 2 inch deep Kaizen foam costs $70 delivered, and I would need 4 of those to get the appropriate depth to hold some of these tools.
I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to go. I was a little nervous about the compression ratio of the foam mattress, so I decided to leave plenty of space between my tools. I also wanted to focus on my battery powered tools, getting everything together in one place. I gathered up my tools, and went to work.
I started by making a 2 inch grid on the mattress for 2 reasons – this helped gauge how much space to leave between the tools, and it also helped me lay out the tools in nice clean lines. Once I had everything organized and traced it was time to get cutting.
This is where I made my first mistake. As dense as the foam is, it will still compress and sag if you don’t leave enough support. Try placing your heavier tools towards the bottom of the panel, and lay your tools horizontally where possible. This will lower the weight and distribute it across more of the foam, which will make your tool board last longer.
Using a sharp razor knife (CAREFUL!), determine how deep you want a tool to set into the foam. Cut the deepest portions first, staying slightly inside your traced lines. You want the foam to fit snug on the tools, and you can always go back and remove more material later if you need to. Once you have the outside portion of the tool cut to the appropriate depth, make a couple of cuts across the section of foam that you want to remove. This will make for smaller chunks to pull out.
When removing the foam you can’t get under the section you will be pulling out, but don’t just grab and tug. This will result in uneven depths and jagged edges. Instead slide your hand down the side of your cut and try to peel the foam out piece at a time. This takes some convincing, and you may need to get a pair of scissors to start each piece. It’s hard to explain, so here is a really terrible video (I’m not a YouTuber, and I’ve got a cold):
Once you have all the tools cut out you can start working on the frame. I am using a French Cleat to hold this on the wall, so I need 3/4 of an inch behind the foam to mount the cleat. For the back of the frame I am using a 1/8” hardboard and I’ll use some 1x8s for the frame itself. Measure your mattress and use that as your internal dimensions. Cut the hardboard to ½ inch bigger than the mattress itself, and then cut 1/4” deep dados in the sides of the frame. This will keep the hardboard secure and help keep the foam from sagging.
This is where I made my second mistake. Once I had the hardboard cut I glued it to the mattress. This was great to keep it aligned but it made every step after this INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING. Build your frame and slide your hardboard into the dado. THEN glue the mattress in.
To add a little extra strength I lined the mattress with a synthetic landscaping fabric. I’m hoping that it will provide resistance to stretching, but I have no idea if it will actually do anything. Worst case I feel like it looks better than leaving the grid-lines. Using Elmer’s spray adhesive, liberally coat the entire mattress AND the fabric and then lay the fabric over the mattress, stretching it tight as you go. Make sure you use gloves for this. Sure it’s in a spray can, but the glue gets everywhere and is really tough to clean off. Flip the mattress over and put something heavy on it for about an hour to ensure a good tight bond.
Once the glue has had a chance to dry, flip the mattress back over and start trimming the landscaping fabric for your tools. Be careful not to cut more of the foam out as you go. If the landscaping fabric starts to peel back from the foam just apply a liberal amount of spray adhesive and push it back in place.
Now that your frame is completed and you have the mattress prepped, spray the entire inside of the frame with the adhesive. Don’t be shy, get it on there and do it quickly. The sooner you get the mattress in the stronger the bond will be. Spray the mattress as well to ensure plenty of coverage. Once again, flip the entire assembly upside down and put some weights on it for about an hour.
Congrats! You’ve got a foam lined box to store your tools in. Now let’s get it on the wall.
The French Cleat system is really quite clever. Start by cutting a 1×6 to length, long enough to cross the entire width of the frame. Then, with your table saw or skill saw at a 45 degree angle, cut that in half lengthwise. That’s it! Screw one half onto the wall, with the 45 degree angle at the top, sloping down towards the wall, and the other half onto your frame with the 45 degree angle at the bottom, sloping up towards the hardboard backing. Make sure the wall-side is square and your entire frame will be securely mounted to the wall, perfectly square.
And that’s it! Put your tools back where they belong and enjoy the extra space on your workbench! I’ll be making another one of these for my hand tools, nail guns, and miscellaneous bits, so I may update the videos in the future. Hope this inspires some of you to get out and organize your space.
Good luck out there!