Type “kitchen junk drawer” into your favorite internet search platform and you will get literally tens of millions of results. The kitchen junk drawer is a known thing, accepted by just about everyone. The garage junk drawer is not, however, but I am here to tell you that it should be, as it has saved the day in my shop more times than I care to admit.
The thing is, you have to break your mind from the black hole of twist-ties, rubber bands, and hardware to that Ikea thing you assembled three years ago that is the kitchen junk drawer and shift to a storage spot in your workspace filled with, well, junk. Except this is all about perception. In the garage, it pays to be resourceful—both in time and finances. Adapting some cast-off item that was left over from the last work session to the project you are working on is worthwhile—and you probably have the space to hold onto at least some small pieces that will be welcome in the future.
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I graduated from a drawer in y toolbox to a large plastic tote box many years ago, that soon became 2 boxes then three!! I now do an annual cleanup of the third box which only captures items not need for the previous year, and items in the second box that were not used get moved to the third box. Likewise for the 1st box. As expected by "Murphy" there is always something discarded from box three that was need shortly after the garbage truck pulled away!!
Absolutely true. As an industrial mechanic I needed a set of roller chest & top box as tall as I was. Then, as an automation tech just the top chest, machinist's chest and a couple of drawers in my workbench. Suddenly, in retirement, I seem to need two sets of rollers & tops, a gangbox, and various piles of things I might need to build my next bike, work on the Stude, or perhaps an "emergency repair" to a suet holder. The worst part of keeping all that, "stuff you'll never need" is that you keep needing them because you keep doing projects you wouldn't bother with if you didn't have all those neat toys from your past handy. I've got this neat little self-made tool for changing the motor brushes in an M100 or M200 electric Cat forklift that I could probably toss, but what if I...
I have drawers and totes.
One habit I have gotten into is when at the salvage yard. Keep every bolt nut and fastener I take off or find. They don’t care about them and often they come in handy if you work on specific models.
I share parts with my Fiero Buddies.
Even in my crawl space I have some larger items like dashes as they are always damaged and if you find a good one store it for someone who needs one.
I also have a storage barn with some car but larger items like wood. And my garage attic I have boxes for electrical and plumbing work. Often what I need is in these boxes.
garage junk drawers are an absolute must. stripped a brass fitting? don't toss it, it will (and has) become a bushing or spacer or.... after being turned up in the lathe. i cannot count the number of times some odd bit of junk has been repurposed in my shop. trashed tools become special tools.. pullers, deformed wrenches for tight spots, picks, tiny pry tools....
Back before big box stores, auto parts chain stores and when hardware stores were not open Sundays, the test of your "junk" selection was being able do an unexpected project Sunday afternoon. That implied a pretty decent selection of used fasteners rescued from earlier projects, and a bin full of excess "materials". The trouble with thinning the herd from time to time is that as soon as you bin something, you find yourself needing the following week. 😞
Many years ago, I acquired a chest with ten parts trays from an old service garage. There are odd brass fittings, screws and nuts, generator brushes,even Model T coil points. I have found things in there that have saved me many trips to town over the years.
That junk drawer looks about right, with the exception of the Uni-Syn. What is that doing in there? It needs to go back to its place in the tool box or on the tool board. Sheesh, Kyle, show some respect. 🙂
A sure fire way for me to find the need for that junk I've had sitting around for years is to throw it away. Guaranteed within 2 weeks I will need it. I once gave some 20ft long red iron channels to my scrap iron guy. Two weeks later decided to build a car port and those two 20 footers would have come in handy. I've often decided to "clean this place up" and thrown good used and even new parts away only to them within 2 weeks. My friends have had the same experience. If you have a place to keep your junk, do it or else you will have to buy it again. That is if you can find it because many parts I have thrown away are unavailable anymore. And never, ever allow your spouse to talk you into rearranging your shop get rid of all that old junk because "we need the space." My shop and my garage are off limits. That way when I do throw away that junk, I have nobody to blame but myself. But if you do keep your junk, keep it somewhat orderly and out of sight. Makes for a better relationship.
I found George! George is one of the best persons I know. You see, George is a recycler
extraordinaire! I have buckets and bins set aside just for scrap metal parts which I find
no longer useful in any of my enterprises. When I met George, I immediately asked for his contact information. Now armed with that information, when I have collected a lot of scrap, I call George. Or, if I see someone locally putting large amounts of scrap metal to the curb, I call George. I help George--and George helps me. And, we have become friends!
'The Magic Bolt Box' I have, a plastic, compartmented suitcase, is a 'go to' source for needed bits. Some order and triage is necessary, like odd plastic and metal parts in labled coffee cans.