There are many different types of tool boards. Here we’ll discuss the various types of tool board wall organizers.
These will include:
- Standard Masonite type pegboard (both 1/8 and 1/4 inch)
- Acrylic and metal pegboard
- Advanced types of metal pegboard
- Slotwall type wall panels
- Composite (or “plastic”) tool boards
There are two grades of Masonite, which most people aren’t aware of. The standard grade is a light tan color and is the weaker of the two. There is also “tempered” Masonite, which is the dark brown color. It has chemical strengtheners added to it to make it harder and less likely to be damaged. Although neither are “stain proof”, the darker color does help hide discolorations from things like oil and grease, or other chemicals. I always try to buy the darker color for peg board, whereas the lighter color is often used in solid sheets for woodworking applications, like for drawer bottoms and other uses where a thin panel is required.
Masonite has a few advantages, being available in both 1/8-inch (which also only accepts 1/8-inch hooks), and the heavier 1/4-inch style (which accepts both 1/8 and 1/4-inch hooks). The lighter stuff is only good for hobbyists that use small tools. It is too light for heavier tools, and the hooks themselves aren’t designed for, nor are they strong enough for heavier tools. If you try to put too much weight on either of them, the board and hooks can bend out of shape, and even tear out the board.
The 1/4-inch style of board and hooks is better than 1/8-inch, but still has its limitations, however both sizes are readily available at nearly any lumber yard or builder supply store, inexpensive, and easy to work with. On either size, you need to create a framework behind them to build them out from a flat wall, otherwise you can’t put the hooks in. They usually need a minimum of 1/2-inch of dead space behind them for hook clearance, but since stock lumber size usually starts with 3/4-inch thickness, that is what is most often used.
You can get peg board ready-made in several different colors, including woodgrain and a brushed metallic look, but neither of these do much to improve the durability of it. The product itself is subject to absorbing moisture, which means that it will soak up oils as well as water, and when it does, it expands, loses strength, becomes discolored and unsightly, and is basically ruined.
The biggest drawback is that the hooks are generally poorly fitting and loose, so that every time you remove a tool from the board, the hook tends to come off with it, and usually falls behind the workbench or other obstacles where it’s hard to find! There are some plastic retainer straps available, and they help to keep the hooks on the board, but then you lose the use of the holes on either side, keeping you from using them for other attachments. But they can be easily removed if you need to relocate a hook or attachment.
Acrylic and metal pegboard.
The second type of pegboard is very similar to the first, except that it is made of either acrylic or metal. This makes it more durable, as acrylics can be used in wet or acidic locations, such as garden sheds, or chemical labs. Aluminum might also be used in such locations if you can keep it from oxidizing, but other types of metal is definitely not a choice for those applications. And then you still have the problem of the hooks falling off.
Advanced types of metal pegboard.
Some manufacturers have come out with different types of metal tool boards, but I hesitate to refer to them as “pegboard” since the hooks are not “pegs”. Some have square holes and require a completely different attachment system than regular pegboard. Some have hooks that lock into the holes, while others require some kind of screw attachment. Others use vertical slots, or a combination of slots and holes to mount their hooks and attachments. They may be more difficult to knock a hook off accidentally than regular pegboard, but it can be done.
Most of these metal boards now come with a “powder coated” finish, which is extremely durable. It is applied by an electrostatic system which draws the powder to every nook and crevice of the surface, and then is baked on, for a very hard and durable surface, almost like porcelain. Most boards of this type are made in various sizes, depending on the manufacturer, and have bent or rolled edges, therefore creating their own spacing behind them for the hooks. Usually they can be mounted through pre-punched holes around the edge, or through any of the attachment holes in the board. Some require spacers be used behind the mounting screw location.
The big disadvantage of these boards is that they are very difficult to bend or cut to size, or to even cut out an opening, such as around an electrical device. Once you break the surface paint, it will never be the same again, and can be a starting point for rust to develop. Magnetic tool silhouettes are available with some, although limited to the more common tools. For specialty tools you would have to locate some magnetic sheets and cut your own silhouettes.
Slotwall type wall organizers.
Still another type of tool board isn’t designed for “pegs” at all, and that is the “slotwall” type of products which uses horizontal slots usually spaced 4-inches apart. Unlike the type used in stores in the past (which is basically particle board covered with a laminate), the newer products are made of a heavy, very durable plastic type material. These have the advantage of being much stronger, lighter, and can be used in wet or oily areas. They are available in several different colors including woodgrain.
They do have many, many more hooks and attachments to go with the boards than any conventional tool board that we have seen, and are great for outfitting large areas, but for someone who only wants tool organization for a small area, may be impractical due to the minimum size order required to get them. The panels come in 4 to 8 foot lengths, and will probably have to be cut and fit for your own application. Installation can be difficult for a “non-handy” person, whch is why most of those products are sold through specialty vendors who have their own installation crews. Usually special hangers and trim pieces are required to make the job look finished. Although the selection of attachments can be huge, sometimes the selection can be overwhelming to someone just wanting to hang up a few hand tools. Sometimes the cost of the panels and hooks can be higher than other types, but also, some are made big enough to hold things like ladders and canoes.
Composite tool boards.
The other type of board, which doesn’t fit into any of the categories above, can be much better for some applications than any of those mentioned above. Many times referred to as “plastic” pegboard, they can be made of nearly any plastic that can be molded. They are usually about 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick at the molded edges (no more than 1/4-inch in the middle, same as pegboard), and come in various sizes, depending on the manufacturer. They are usually sufficient for lighter duty applications, and most are designed for standard pegboard hooks, but also come with the same problems with hooks falling off when tools are removed. The advantage is that they can be cut with a sabre saw to fit over wall openings or cut to size to fit around obstacles, although most of the time, you will lose any finished edges, which may also serve to space it out from the wall so the hooks can be inserted.
It doesn’t need painting (in fact it isn’t even recommended, otherwise you might plug the holes), and comes in a variety of colors, depending on the manufacturer. The most common color seems to be a natural dark gray color which hides and repels oils and liquids, and the finish can easily be cleaned. Some plastics are suitable for oily or wet locations, such as around swimming pools, garden sheds, or even auto wash facilities, but you should always check the specifications and MSDS sheets of the product to be sure. Some plastics can be damaged by the wrong chemicals getting on them.
In reference to molded boards rather than sheets, the thickness of the board holds the hooks, and thicknesses can vary, so be sure the board will hold the weight of tools you are hanging on it. With molded borders, which also frame the board, they don’t need any space or spacers behind it, making it very easy to install on any kind of wall with only four screws through any of the corner holes, or wherever a wall stud happens to be. You can screw through any of the peg holes to mount it to practically any surface or any spacing, but if you are using holes away from the edge of the board, yu may have to add a spacer behind it to keep form warping the board when you tighten the mounting screws.
The hook types for plastic board or any other pegboard are quite extensive, so it pays to shop around for just the right hook or attachment for the tool you are hanging on your tool board. There are some new plastic straps available for standard pegboard hooks which keep them from falling off the board when tools are removed, but since they hook into the holes on either side, you will lose the use of those holes to hang things from them.
These plastic straps can be removed easily and re-used, so if you need to reposition a peg board hook, they can be pulled out to use in a different hole with very little difficulty.
If you need special shelving, or other attachments, for 1/8-inch board it can be easily added by using 1/2 to 3/4-inch long #10 sheet metal screws into any of the pin holes on the board. For 1/4-inch peg board we recommend using some type of 1/4-inch diameter expansion anchor made of either metal or plastic, but make sure the length of it will fit behind the board. You may have to drill a clearance hole in the wall to allow the anchor to fit flush with the front of the peg board.
There are also parts bins available that can be used with most peg board types, and again, you may have to install screws or anchors to mount them. Most types of “open-top” bins have a special bracket that mounts to the peg board first and then the bins hang on the bracket. “Tip-out” style bins usually have keyhole slots in the back to be hung over screws, so you may have to use wall anchors to hold the screws.
Easy tool silhouettes!
One trick you can use with almost any tool board is to buy a white “grease pencil” that writes with a waxy “lead”, like a crayon.
They are sometimes called “China markers”, because you can write on glass and dishes with them. You can create your own tool silhouettes by simply marking around the perimeter of the tool, no matter what it is. If you decide to change the location, the silhouette can be easily removed and redrawn in the new tool position. This makes it easy to see when a tool is missing, and where it needs to go back to, saving a lot of time looking for lost tools, and money spent in replacing them. Also, the white outline pencil is much more cost effective than a bunch of custom stamped magnetic silhouettes, which can be very expensive. If you have a light colored or white tool board, you can also get the grease pencils in the more common black color.
The uses for plastic peg board are nearly endless. They come in single boards as well as sets of wall panels. They are nice looking enough to be used in residential closets, hobby rooms, or craft areas, and yet strong enough to hold most hand tools. They are usually made in smaller sizes that is a good standard size to be used on walls, or over work benches, and yet can be modified easily for special installations. The cost is usually much less than you would pay for metal boards, making them affordable for anyone, and the lighter weight usually costs less to ship. They will last a lifetime, can be easily removed from the wall, and moved from place to place. This makes the cost of ownership next to nothing! Couple that with the savings from not having to replace lost tools, and the time saved in finding the tools to get the job done, and they practically pay you to own them! What more could you want?
Let us know your thoughts on what kind of board works best for you.
John W. Abert, author
All Rights Reserved