I always try to start every new project with a clean work surface and all the tools in their place, either on the pegboard or in their drawer. But it didn't take long before I'd put down a scribe to pick up a knife, drop the knife and grab the drill, switch back and forth between the round file and the flat one, change the drill bit, and all the while the the parts of the project itself grew into a big pile..............Whew! Pretty soon I was spending more time looking for the needed tool than it took to use it. Sound familiar? Let me see a show of hands. Yeah, I thought so. It finally occurred to me that I do 80% of my modelling with 15 to 20 tools, and it was mostly these tools that were getting lost in the pile. What if I had a divided tray for those tools , handily located to the immediate right (I am right-handed) of my work area, making it convenient to not only pick up the tool, but return it when its task was completed. Could I train my right forearm to swivel back to the tray instead of just dropping the tool? I had to find out.
I started by getting a piece of graph paper the size I had available on the bench top, then started arranging the tools on it . The two tools I use the most are the knives and the scribes, and they were placed closest to the left. After that was a compromise was between size, shape, and frequency of use. When I was satisfied with the arrangement, I drew partitions around the tool groups, and this would be the blueprint for the tray.
The tray itself is made from styrene plastic, a tenth of an inch thick. I cut the base piece to the proper size on my table saw, and also 1/2" wide strips, which I glued to the perimeter of the base, forming the tray. Then I scribed-n-snapped one of the flanges off a 9/16" plastic 'I' beam (Evergreen or Plastruct), and used them for the partitions. In short order I had this:
And to answer whether I could train my right forearm to swilvel back to the right , the answer is YES. Believe me, I surprised myself. Sure, once in a while I'll let a tool drop, but 90% of the time it goes back to the tray. And I don't waste any time anymore looking for a missing tool. The tray shown above was built for my previous bench. Unfortunately, my new bench top is not as deep, and this tray will not fit. So I built the new one you see below. I was able to make this one wider, allowing me to add a few tools to the tray.
I can't believe how much more efficient this simple tray has made me, and I encourage you to make one of your own.