Storing Tools

Being the start of December, it was time to get the Christmas decorations out, and given I was fully expecting the shed a long time ago, I had packed the decorations at the back.  So it was a full unload of the storage shed, and a first look at some of the boxes and items in them that I haven’t seen since they were packed in January/February.

Not everything has survived as well as one would hope, so there are some lessons here that may be of benefit for others.  So far, only one tool looks particularly bad, and it may be recoverable (but will always bear the scars, even if it is).

1. Pack as if it is for an indeterminable length of time, rather than an expected few weeks, or months.  Things have a habit of blowing out well beyond expectations, and if the tools are packed properly, any delay will not cause an issue.

2. Packing includes serious consideration that the tool will be exposed to moisture.  A light spray with WD40 (for metal tools) then wrap individually.  I started wrapping individual tools in bubble wrap when I started packing but stopped after a while when I decided I was being too pedantic.  Now I wish I had persisted after all (and see point 1).

3. Using cardboard boxes is asking for trouble.  I started with a bunch of removalists boxes, and although they stack neatly, they definitely do not last anywhere near as long as you’d want.  It depends on where you are using to store the boxes, but given workshop boxes are unlikely to be given the same inside-the-house priority as household supplies (and will often be emptied a lot later than the rest of the household boxes) they find themselves absorbing more moisture, weakening.  Even if they are in an ideal environment, in time the boxes start to compact.  If they are a bit heavy, this process happens a lot faster and the contents bear the brunt.

4. Boxes will get moved, and moved again.  Having a system that allows the boxes to be moved, stacked and restacked easily will be a real asset.

5. Label the boxes, and record the contents.  Consider keeping a photographic record as well – if it gets to a worst case scenario, it will greatly help in the insurance claim.

6. Sturdy plastic boxes with lid are much more useful.  Each stack of boxes should ideally have a wheeled base so the stack can be moved without having to load and unload the stack just to move it.

7. Whether you are storing boxes in a storage unit, a garage or a shed (especially a shed), get the boxes off the ground.  I bought a smallish shed instead of (and for about the same price as two months of a storage unit), but thought it would be fine with a heavy-duty groundsheet.  It wasn’t.  I should have purchased the shed base kit. Another alternative is to use pallets (plastic or wooden) as the shed base.  If you can get the pallets in and out of the shed or storage unit without unloading them, all the better.

8. When you do (finally) get to unpack the boxes, crates or whatever, make sure you are unpacking the tools into their final home.  Otherwise you planned pack and store will quickly turn into a shambles.

9. Sort the tools as you are unpacking them.  Any tool needing TLC, put them aside for treatment, rather than assuming you’ll get a round tuit.

10. Be prepared for some damage, and loss.  Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

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