No-drill studs for basement tool wall

My woodshop is a mess.

Superficially, that’s fine. Who cares if there’s junk sitting around? It’s not like the Queen is stopping by.

Functionally, it’s not fine. Every project lately takes markedly longer because I can’t easily find my tools. (Spend 5 minutes looking for pencil. Spend 6 minutes looking for tape measure. Then spend 10 minutes looking for speed square. Repeat.) This is unfortunate, especially because my wife and I just had a son, so I have less time than ever.

The wood shop.

To fix this workshop-organization nightmare, I decided to install a tool wall.

I used to be skeptical of such installations. Is this a 1950s TV show set, or is it a workshop? Just put your tools in tool boxes or drawers! I told myself.

Then I got ahold of a free tool board for my garage. It quickly became a shining spot of joy. No more digging around for a Philips screwdriver. It’s right there on the tool board! And when the spot is empty, there’s an obvious to-do to put it back.

Just like in the garage, the wood shop tool board would hold my most-used tools in one obvious place.

Like my Vise Grips!

Problem was, the basement isn’t framed out in the wood shop, so there were no studs to attach to. I didn’t want to frame out the wall just for this purpose. That’s a much larger project than I was looking for, both in time and expense. I also didn’t want to drill into the concrete. I recently sealed up a few rebar craters that wept during heavy rains, so I didn’t want to risk making more leak hazards via drill holes or cracks.

Couldn’t I just tie 2x4s into the top beams and attach to those? My wife, my father-in-law and I debated that a while ago. Questions remained about having the board sitting unsupported and loose at the bottom, though.

Screwing the top of a 2x4 to a joist. In the video above, I accidentally said “beam.” Please send hatemail to

Then I found a video by Steve Branam of He talks about screwing a board to the top joist, then wedging it at the bottom with a shim. The shim both holds the 2x4 flat against the wall and helps support the weight of the tool board. He showed several tool walls built this way, and the method seemed to work fine.


A few months later (quite a few months later) I bought some 2x4s on sale and got to work. One thing I forgot to buy: Shims. Luckily, John Heisz’s shim jig works like a charm.

Hammering in a shim at the bottom of the 2x4.

A simple sheet of plywood makes up the tool board itself. I could have made a slat wall or added French cleats. But I just wanted to get this project done. If I’m hamstrung later by a lack of tool location options, I can always double back and make a nicer surface. For now, the naked plywood should work great.

The tool board, pre-installation. Two homemade table saw outfeed rollers support the board while I ponder. The rollers were hand-me-downs from my father-in-law.

The whole way through this project, I kept losing my torpedo level. It was only natural, then, for that tool to become the first one mounted to the wall.

The torpedo level shall never be lost again. (Right.)

A simple, sturdy drywall screw holds it in place. Nothing fancy required. Even the Queen should appreciate that.