When something on board needs to be fixed, one of my secret weapons for getting the job done correctly is having—and being able to locate—the right tools for the job. Over the years I’ve accumulated hundreds of tools appropriate for any conceivable problem. The problem is how to stow them in an organized way. The tools I use most often need to be within easy reach; the rest need to be safe, secure, and accessible, without taking up too much valuable stowage space.
Step one of my two-part solution was to build a small rack that could hold all my essential tools and keep them close at hand. Step two was developing a logical system for stowing my remaining tools in shoebox–size plastic containers and putting them in convenient, secure locations.
Almost all sailboat repairs are simple projects that involve tightening, loosening, removing, or replacing something. These jobs don’t require many tools, but the ones needed must be easy to reach. For these tools I built a handy rack and installed it in a convenient spot near the engine compartment and companionway ladder.
I built my rack from a piece of -inch-thick marine-grade StarBoard (teak would also work) and sized it to fit in the chosen space. It was a fairly simple project that took me an afternoon to complete. My rack is 8 inches long by 3 inches wide; it’s big enough for two rows of three slots and five holes. I wanted to squeeze a lot of tools into a small space.
Start the project by spreading all your tools on the saloon table (if you’re on board) or on any flat surface (if you’re ashore). Select the tools you want to keep handy and deal with the rest later.
Now choose a convenient location for the rack that won’t impede movement or affect personal safety. The location will determine the size of the rack.
Now take a piece of heavy paper and draw an outline of the rack that will fit the space. It’s best to fold the paper in half and then draw a pattern that is half the rack’s size; when you open it up, the sides will be symmetrical.
Next, use the paper pattern to determine whether you can make enough holes to stow all the tools you have selected. Once you’re sure the size is right, transfer the paper pattern to the piece of StarBoard or wood.
Cut out the overall shape with a saber saw and then drill the holes and cut out the slots for the tools with a hole saw. With the hole saw you can cut overlapping holes to create the slots. It doesn’t take much sanding to make the interior walls of the slots and holes smooth. Also drill two small holes, one at each end, for the mounting screws.
Mount your tool rack with the screws and then insert your must-have tools.