Uncluttering with a Closet Workbench

(The photos are located at Adam’s Workbench)

I live in a pretty cool apartment building in south Minneapolis. While I’m lucky enough to have room to use a second bedroom as an office, the office doesn’t have enough space for a workbench. Even if it did have enough space for a workbench, I wouldn’t be able to keep work in progress on it without the room getting too cluttered. So I’m stuck hauling out a box labeled “Soldering Stuff” to the kitchen, constantly fearful of damaging the the kitchen table. I’m pretty handy with a soldering iron, but hey, fear is the mindkiller. I clean up after myself pretty well, but any stray lead solder bits that found themselves in a digestive tract would be dangerous.

When I lived in a 13×13 dorm room with a roommate, I used a lab bench I made from a melamine shelf on a pair of plastic saw horses. This was cheap, and fit under my bed when it wasn’t being used. The melamine held up well to solder burns and really added to the work surface. Once again, however, the bench needed to be put away or the room was unusable for anything else.

The time cost of setting up and breaking down an electronics workbench has been so high it had essentially eliminated my hardware tinkering–until now.

The office closet contained a half-height chrome wire shelfing unit, purchased at Target shortly after we moved in. It held around twenty clear plastic boxes, each about the size of a shoe box. These were labeled, and contained computer parts, electronics, and tools. Next to this was a toolbox, a tackle box I had already hacked to carry solderless breadboards and their projects, and a bunch of empty space.

Right half of closet with wire shelfing unit and plastic boxes

I figured I could put a table in this space, use some clip-on lights as task and background lighting, and have a pretty functional work area. As long as the table didn’t stick out, I figured I would be able to close the sliding doors. With this, I would finally be able to have a workspace I could keep a project in progress on.

After measuring the space (33″ x 25″ x 65″), my fianceé found the Galant table at Ikea. It came with a melamine finish and fit inside the space perfectly.

While at Ikea, I grabbed a power strip with an on-off switch. Another department store had reasonably priced whiteboards. After I hung the whiteboard on the back of the closet and ziptied the power strip to the side of the wire rack, the workspace was complete.

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Well, almost complete. I printed out a few pictures (1, 2) of everyone’s favorite DIY science heroes, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters and stickytacked them to the wall.

I now have a pretty functional work bench that fits inside the closet of my apartment. I wouldn’t have thought such a tight fit would have produced the nice results they did, but I’m pretty impressed. I can just open the door, roll my office chair over, and work on my very own bench. When I’m done, I can close the door and put my chair back at my desk.

My favorite part that I didn’t anticipate? My soldering iron is much less of a hassle when the cord is out of the way, over my head, looped over the closet bar.

I’ve got more photos at the photoset Adam’s Workbench.

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What tools are my favorite? Oh, I replaced my Radio Shack iron with a $45 Weller, and am amazed at how much more I solder things when I don’t have to wait 10 minutes for it to heat up. I also got a Panavise Jr. for Christmas (Thanks, Mom!) and it’s a dream for soldering to boards, because its so easy to flip the board over.

8 thoughts on “Uncluttering with a Closet Workbench”

  1. Nice! I am going to turn my room wardrobe into one ;D I bet you cluttered the bench to take the photo so it looked used 😛 🙂

  2. Very nice solution, I think I’ll do the same thing but I’ll put peg board up where the whiteboard is. I have a lot of hand tools and getting rid of my tool chest would free up some desk space. Those wire shelves are a godsend, I need about a dozen of them. 😛

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