DEAR TIM: I’ve tried and tried to get traditional wood-fiber pegboard to work. No matter what I do, over time the holes in the pegboard enlarge, the hooks and hangers get loose and everything’s a mess. What’s more, I’d like a little color in my workshop other than brown. I’ve seen metal pegboard and wonder if it’s really the answer. – Marsha C., California, Maryland
DEAR MARSHA: I can speak to your frustration. For decades I struggled with brown wood-fiber pegboard. I tried every imaginable hook design but always ended up frustrated.
Some hooks and pegs work well, but if you grab or hang a tool on the hook frequently, the wood fiber holes enlarge and the party’s over. Fortunately, this happened to an enterprising man who no doubt uttered one day, “There must be a better way.” That’s when he decided to invent metal pegboard.
I discovered his invention about 15 years ago at the National Hardware Show.
I was walking down an aisle when I saw a small display of metal pegboard. Not only did it have the traditional holes you see in wood fiber, but it also had narrow slots in it.
There in the booth was the inventor, Rick Grove. The sign in the booth simply said, “Wall Control.” What a great name, I thought – my tool storage walls were out of control. My questions to the inventor focused on the narrow slots and the specialized hangers that fit into these evenly spaced slots.
The special hooks, hangers, shelves, accessories and so forth all had a clever interlocking hook design that ensured the hooks would never pull out of the metal pegboard. You inserted the hook by tilting it and lifting it up. When you put the rest of the hook into the pegboard and then slid it down ever so slightly, it interlocked into the pegboard. The strength of the metal hook and pegboard made sure it would never fail under the weight of ordinary tools.
I knew instantly, as soon as I saw how the hooks interlocked with the pegboard, it was one of those rare inventions that would be a game changer. I knew it would work, so I ordered the pegboard immediately and began testing it. Just as I suspected, it’s worked well.
Over the years, Grove has introduced colored panels, more accessories and hooks than you could ever imagine. His product is one of my very favorite things in my workshop. Anyone who visits is immediately taken by it.
One of the best aspects of the product is the traditional holes that you see in wood-fiber pegboard. If you have an investment in hooks and tool holders that work in your existing wood pegboard, they’ll work in the metal pegboard. You don’t have to buy new hooks and hangers, but once you see how well Rick’s proprietary hooks, hangers and shelves work, I’m willing to wager you’ll switch.
The honeymoon is far from over. Every time I grab or hang a tool on my pegboard, it’s like the morning after my wedding day. My metal pegboard is now over 15 years old and it looks like the day I installed it. I’ve reorganized how tools, shelves and bins are stored on the metal pegboard numerous times. I really feel I now have an ideal layout where the things I use most frequently are exactly where I need them.
I see hundreds of new products each year. Most are ho-hum, and only every once in a while do I see a product that makes me wide-eyed like that day in the basement of the National Hardware Show.
If you decide to get the metal pegboard I have, take your time and think about the color you want. Realize you can mix and match the hooks, hangers, shelves and other accessories. I’ve discovered it’s best to make the hooks and hangers a completely different color than the metal pegboard. That way the hooks and hangers stand out and you can easily place tools on them when the light may be dim in your workshop.
I’ve also discovered that spring-loaded desk lamps on articulating arms make fantastic workbench lighting. I recycle the weighed base that comes with the light and just drill a one-half-inch hole into the wood top of my work bench. This gives me great task lighting, and I swing the light out of the way when I don’t need it.