It hasn’t been very long since my last “DIY vs. store-bought shop solutions” type of discussion post, but recent comments prompted the topic again.
Almost every time new storage products come out, whether garage cabinet and storage systems, workshop accessories, or tool organizers, there’s the same repeated cry – “just make it yourself!”
In response to my post on Ryobi’s latest Link system expansion, some readers commented about Ryobi’s marketing photo.
The couple shown here, presumably married homeowners that are really into DIY and maybe hobbies, have plenty of tools, so why didn’t they just build their own garage storage setup?
I like to think of myself as quite capable, and I certainly have plenty of tools, but I don’t “DIY” everything in my life.
I have a huge list of projects on my to-do list, with different motivations and priorities behind each one. Let’s say that the need for a wall cabinet comes up. Do I add the design and fabrication of such a cabinet to my to-do list, or do I just get one at the store?
Can I build something with the same material properties as something I can buy? I have access to screws, nails, rivets, and off-the-shelf adhesives, but not the equipment needed for complex working of plastic and sheet metal materials.
Might a DIY solution work better? Cost appreciably less money? Save me time or effort? Provide a source of joy? Help me develop my skills?
There are times when there are two paths – DIY and ready-made – and the right choice is going to be different for everyone.
I will sometimes post about products or workshop accessories I would definitely rather make myself than buy, and I do so because i) everyone’s needs and wants vary, and ii) I figure other DIYers or fabricators might appreciate the design inspiration.
I built my own drawer cabinets, and I like them a lot, but there are definitely compromises compared to traditional tool chests and rolling cabinets that are largely made from sheet metal.
I currently have Ikea kitchen wall cabinets in my office, for over-workbench storage, and I have been slowly planning a DIY replacement build. If I had held off for my DIY solution, I’d still have nothing there. Instead, the store-bought cabinets were relatively inexpensive and have served me for years.
For these needs, getting a fast and easy solution was more important to me than taking a long time to design and build a DIY setup. Plus, I now better understand what I think I need for this space, which allowed me to refine my plans over time.
I tend to defend the idea of buying store-bought solutions, not because they’re better, but because they can be better for different users on a case by case basis.
If you want a pizza, you can buy one fresh from a restaurant, pick up a frozen pizza at the supermarket, buy pre-made dough, sauce, and shredded cheese, or make your own pizza dough from scratch. You can make your own tomato sauce, and some even make their own cheese.
Some of the “everyone should make their own” comments frustrate me. Have you? Could you provide examples of comparable DIY projects? There are ways to convey DIY preferences in ways that don’t seek to shame others without the same proclivity.
“Well, why don’t you just get a welder and make your own steel workbench, storage cabinet, tool cart, etc.?”
Welding requires a fair amount of equipment, not to mention practice and skills development, and also additional tools and equipment for material prep, cutting, and finishing. Not everyone can or wants to get into welding.
As an aside, this photo of my long-ago workbench (circa 2011) reminds me that I still need to plan out a new garage workbench or assembly table. I’m not sure of the direction it will go in.
Ideally, I need two workbenches – one for woodworking, the other for assembly and maybe catch-all storage on the bottom. Maybe I can do it all with one workbench. So far, I know what I’m doing for the worktop and for the casters. I’m stuck on the frame and legs, between massive 8020 extrusions I haven’t bought yet, or laminated maple.
If I had a more urgent immediate need, indecisiveness would cost me time, and making the wrong design decisions would cost more in other ways.
I like to think that I have balanced views when it comes to DIY vs. store-bought. What’s your take on things?