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The 3-Step System for NEVER Running Out of Shop Supplies

Reserve Cordless Backup Drill

After I had a battery fail on my cordless drill, I got a corded one to handle heavy tasks and for a backup.

Not too many things are more frustrating than running out of supplies in the middle of a project.

Think about the interruption in workflow it causes.  It sucks to stop what you’re doing, jump in the car and pick up supplies to continue building.  Once you get out of the groove of being in the shop, there’s a good chance that with all of life’s distractions you won’t.

What if you ran out of something and suddenly a magic owl swooped down and dropped you some more fasteners or foam brushes?

There are so many things to run out of, it’s often difficult to keep track precisely enough to guarantee it never happens.  Anything from sandpaper, fasteners, jigsaw blades, foam brushes, acid brushes, masking tape, to biscuits or Dominoes can be a huge time waster to suddenly find yourself on empty.

So what to do about it?  Set up shop in the Rockler parking lot?  Hmmmm…

What I Do

My solution actually started in my apartment just after college.  Being kind of lazy about running errands all the time, I’d keep a “reserve” stash of various supplies like paper towels, cotton face-cleaning pads, and other things that don’t expire.  This Reserve Supply was not touched unless I run out of the regular supply.  If I was low on something and happened to be at the store, I replenished the regular supply and left the reserve alone.

The Reserve Supply system simply assures that I’m never stuck with zero supply of things at a bad time.

The end result is your reserve supply bridges the gap between regular supply replenishment so that you keep your workflow going and momentum.  To me, this is part of the workflow system in my workshop design.  To spend all that time on your shop layout to have yourself interrupted all the time kind of defeats the purpose I think.

This has saved me so many times I don’t know how many exactly.  When I tap into my reserve supply, I’m well aware of it (for fear I won’t have any for the next time) and so when I find myself out shopping I make sure to refill what I used in the reserve, along with the regular supply.  I normally don’t have to do this for more than a few woodshop products at a time, so remembering is not a problem.  Also, you won’t mind waiting for supplies if you order online, which can save you time as well.  You should be thinking of phasing your suppliers into the online realm, and use this Reserve System to eliminate the issue of shipping time.

Reserve Deck Screws

In the middle of assembly, the last thing I want to do is run out of screws. By having these as a reserve stash, I know that I don’t have to stop working and go shopping at an awkward time.

Reserve Sanding Discs

Sanding discs are things that I forget to replenish all the time. But the minute I dig into my reserve supply, it makes me nervous enough to make sure I buy more to restock.

Another benefit is that this system saves start-up time associated with going in an individual errand.  By having a Reserve Supply to bridge the gap, you can batch some errands together.  For example, if I run out of square drive deck screws, I can dip into the reserve until I find myself out and about anyway.  I just add the item I ran out of to my Buy List, and keep building.  For more tips on making more shop time for yourself, read Time Focus for Woodworkers: How to Allocate Your Energy.

Below are a few tips I’ve learned but once you agree with yourself to do it, it’ll just become habit.  And I guarantee you’ll be happy you did.

Supplies Where a Reserve is a Must

I’ve gravitated toward keeping a reserve of consumables that don’t expire.  That way I don’t have to remember much, except that the reserve is there as my back-up.

WoodChip Tip: Use plastic Ziploc bags to store your Reserve Supplies, and just label them with a permanent marker.

Below is a list of things that I currently keep in my secret stash:

  • Sandpaper in Various Grits
  • Blades
    • Jigsaw blades, one course, one metal, and one fine wood cutting.
    • A combination Table Saw blade that isn’t used anymore due to replacement with a better quality blade, but I keep for back-up.
    • Extra card scraper, pre-sharpened.
    • Angle grinder disc.
  • Bits
  • Tool-Specific Parts
    • Extra SawStop brake cartridges, one for the normal blade and one for the dado stack.
    • Extra Shop Vac filter.
    • Air Cleaner filter.
    • Light Bulbs.
    • Fuel Cells for pneumatics.
  • Finishing Supplies
  • Assembly Supplies
  • Marking
    • Pencil lead for my mechanical pencil.
    • Chalk for labeling parts.
  • Hardware
    • Commonly used hinges, pulls, and knobs.
  • Lumber
    • Repeatedly needed species and board sizes.
Reserve Staples and Brushes

Now that I’ve taken the time to create reserves of most consumable supplies I use, I don’t have to really worry about running out if I forget to replenish the regular supply. These simply remain normally untouched in these bags until I really need them.

Reserve Shop Vac Filter

Some things aren’t necessary to keep a reserve in addition to a regular supply, like a Shop Vac filter, but at least make sure you have a spare. If you don’t, just add it to your “Buy List”. You have that in your pocket, right?

Emergency Shop Light

I even bought an emergency back-up light. Plus, I have my lighting on 2 circuits. I love backing up everything I can, as you can tell.

Some Reserves Must be Rotated

There are some supplies that expire, but you still don’t want to run out of.  Glue is one, finishing materials have a shelf-life, and so do sealants and paint.

So, to keep a reserve of these, I recommend putting those together in a highly visible place, and mark the date with a permanent marker.  Every so often just rotate your Reserve Supply with your regular supply to keep it fresh.

Reserve Lumber

You can do this for lumber as well if you know you use certain species and board sizes all the time.


I just keep these supplies all together in one cabinet near the assembly table, since most of these consumables are assembly-related.  By keeping them in one place you can check on them all at once.  A much easier system and eliminates a lot of thinking and attention.

Now Go Do It Before You Forget
The 3 Steps really are this: 
  1. Grab some sandwich bags, and a marker.
  2. Go to each workshop station and “tax” your supplies to use as a Reserve System.  List the items to buy to complete your system.  You should have a “Buy List” in your back pocket all the time, so when you’re driving around you know what you need.
  3. Put these supplies all together in one location.


For more guidance in assembling your Woodshop Design, click on the Starting? Go Here! category and read those first.

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3 Responses to “The 3-Step System for NEVER Running Out of Shop Supplies”

  1. David says:

    Brilliant system there, Bobby. I used to go MAD buying drill bits. Especially the sizes required for my countersinking. Then I found a cheap 100 pc. set at the big box store one day. The bits are generally no good but they will get the job done. I even cut one in half one day and resharpened it. I had to drill the shelf pins on the inside of a case and needed a “stubby” bit. Must remember to drill those prior to assembly in the future.

    • Bobby says:


      I’ve had really good luck with Snappy brand countersink/ drill bit combos. I’ve been using the same one for over a year and it’s just starting to need sharpening or replacement. Maybe I’ll re-use it like you did.

      For things like highly repetitive jobs I don’t mind going to Harbor Freight Tools or a home center and picking up a pack of disposable demo-chisels, or a bunch of drill bits.

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