A tool tidy is a great project to fill up a quiet afternoon. I remember my woodworking teacher setting the task of making a workbench organizer. I was about 10 years old and thrilled at the thought of using real wood and proper workshop tools.

Fast forward 20 or so years, and I find myself sitting at my own workbench with a pile of screwdriver tips, picks, pincers, and assorted small tools in need of a home. It’s time to revisit my school days and make an improved version of the organizer that taught me how to use workshop tools.

Project Steps

Cut the copper pipe to size.

Cut the 30″ length of copper pipe into the following sizes and quantities: 6″ (1), 5″ (2), 4″ (2), 3″ (2).

Prepare and cut the wood block.

Cut your wood block to the desired size. Mark a 1⁄2″ border on the top surface. This border will help keep the block looking neat and serve as a guide for marking out the holes you’ll drill.

You’ll be drilling holes across the back of the block to accept the 3⁄4″ copper pipe, so mark a line horizontally across the block 2″ (half the diameter of the pipe) in from the border you drew previously.

Mark the center of the horizontal line where the 6″ piece of pipe will be positioned. I used a 9″ block, so the center of my line was 4 1⁄2″ in from the edge of the block.

Divide up the space on the line for the remaining copper tubes. I spaced the tubes equally, although they can be offset if you prefer. Just remember that the edge of the copper tube should stay inside the 1⁄2″ border.

Mark and drill the tool holes.

The front of the block will be used to hold screwdriver tips, so mark out a 1⁄2″ grid inside the border. The intersection points of the grid lines will guide where to drill your holes.

If you want to drill larger or smaller holes to accommodate specific tools, be sure to mark this clearly on your grid. I opted to make the rear row of holes 9mm wide and to leave out a row in the middle. The missing row makes a handy place to rest a pencil and gives larger tools a little breathing room.

Use a small drill bit, such as 3mm, to drill pilot holes, then step up to the larger bits; 7.5mm works great for screwdriver tips. Try to get the holes for the driver bits about 1⁄2″ deep. If you don’t have a pillar drill (drill press) with a depth stop, wrap a piece of masking tape around the drill bit to set the depth.

The holes for the copper pipe can be a little deeper, but try not to drill all the way through the block by accident. The spiked point of a spade bit can be deceptively long.

Sand, glue, and finish.

Sand the wood block smooth and apply wood stain if desired. Add a little PVA glue to the 3⁄4″ holes, and push the copper tubes into place. Finish with polish or clear varnish.


This article appeared in MAKE Volume 28, page 130.