Tool storage carts, cabinets, chests. What's your setup.

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  • Tool storage carts, cabinets, chests. What's your setup.

    Looks like the conversation was heading this way in the what did you do today thread, so I am moving it here.

    After a recent happenstance of things basically leaping out at me every time I would open a toolbox drawer in either my old 90s vintage Craftsman 9 drawer 27" tool cabinet or similar vintage Stanley Proto 27" 6 drawer tool chest, I upgraded to a Craftsman 52" 10 drawer cabinet and 8 drawer chest.
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    I looked at the options, the features, and the price points. I knew the SMALLEST I was willing to go was 52" as I needed to massively upsize, but I also wasn't willing or even able to quite go up to a 72".

    I looked at the Husky 52", the Craftsman 52", and the US General 56". They each had their good, and bad points.

    On the Craftsman:
    The Good:
    Perfect size for what I wanted, not too small, not too large especially considering I plan on adding a side cabinet / locker for taller items than would fit in a drawer.
    Good locking system, not great, but good.
    Nice smooth operating caster with toe locks on the swivels.
    Integrated 6 outlet power strip with 2 USB charging ports
    Pre-cut drawer liners
    Nice deep / roomy top shelf that is not too far off the ground, and tall enough that I can put my Ryobi One+ charger with 6 amp hour battery in there and close the lid while it charges if I want to.
    REALLY easy to use, and remove drawers from the soft close drawer slides.
    Integrated pegboard into the back of the shelf area of the chest and both sides of the cabinet if I want to hang anything from there.
    Super smooth rolling even when fully laden.
    USA made with imported content. From what I have been told the boxes, drawers, and slides are USA made 100%, the locks and casters are Taiwan.

    The Bad:
    Mix of 20 and18ga steel in the constructions, the Husky and US General both use 18 ga only. I have sen a demo of one of the larger drawers loaded and it flexes down and scrapes the drawer below it. In my use / testing I do not experience this though.
    10 drawer cabinet instead of a 9 drawer. It would have been nice to have that one freakishly wide drawer for oddly long tools like my inner tie rod service tool set that is about 4" too long for the drawers and as such must live in the top shelf area.
    Did not come as the sales folks at Lowes told me it would, keyed alike. I had to swap a lock in the tool chest to get it keyed to match. That was a cheap and easy upgrade though, so now my tool cabinet and tool chest use the same key.
    1500lb load rating. Even with a side cab locker loaded up, I won't ever exceed 1k lbs but capacity is nice to have.

    On the Husky:
    The Good:
    Same size as the Craftsman, with a ncie deep top.
    Long cross drawers on the cabinet.
    Thicker steel in the drawers, less flex when loaded I am sure.
    Pre cut drawer liners.
    Soft close drawer slides. Probably the same ones Craftsman uses.
    Good locking system, again not great, but good.
    2500lb load rating. 1k lbs higher than the Craftsman. The design and construction are very similar so not sure how. Must be the casters and the way they mount...

    The Bad:
    Casters on the demo were anything but smooth.
    Drawer configuration is series of wide drawers next to series of narrow drawers, I personally prefer even sized drawers side to side with one long drawer at the top of the cabinet. You may prefer the wide thin approach...
    The outlet strip is mounted to the right side interior of the chest making it slightly narrower interior volume wise, and at least for my application, making power outlets less convenient to access and use.
    The finish. The metal panels where they joined, were sharper than the other boxes, and the finish coating was rather uneven.
    No pegboard that I noticed. Not sure that matters or not.
    Higher cost by about $200.00 than the Craftsman. The thicker gauge steel throughout instead of the mix could be worth it to someone else, I just didn't see a major benefit.

    The US General.
    The Good:
    Largest of the 3 at 56" wide, with the sturdiest construction. This may actually be 16 ga steel as it just feels heavier / thicker.
    Best finish of the bunch.
    Constructed like an early 1990s Snap On is the best way to describe it, everything is well made, well dressed out and finished.
    Highest capacity at 4500lbs

    The Bad:
    Again, for me, I dislike the wide drawer / thin drawer arrangement, and this had it.
    The top shelf in the chest had a very short overall height drastically reducting its usefulness to me.
    No included drawer liners.
    Drawer slides are not soft close, that was an important feature for me.
    No outlet strip
    Highest cost, pre tax was 50% higher than the Craftsman.

    After going over the options, I quickly purged the Husky from my list. I simply did not like it. Again someone else may love it, just wasn't me.

    The US General was awfully tempting, and had the prices been closer together, the result may have been different. I could have learned to like the drawer arrangement, or not. I know I like the Craftsman drawer layout... My big sticking points were the depth of the upper shelf part in the chest, and those soft close drawer slides.

    I am replacing, or adding to actually, an early 90s Craftsman 9 drawer 27" tool cabinet. I need to strip it down, figure out what is going on with the locking system as I think the lock itself barfed, thoroughly clean, degrease, and paint prep the cabinet and the drawers, refinish it because 30 years can be hard on a tool chest, see if I can get a keyed to match lock that works with this box, but uses the key to my new box, and then a wooden top and mounted up my benchtop drill press. This is planned to become my drilling station cabinet...

    So what's your steel tool cabinet story and how does it work in your shop. Any things you love / hate about it?
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  • #2
    Since I am currently about 800 miles from home for a few days, I am having to go from memory, which is not necessarily accurate:

    I have TWO of the older HF "brown" Tool chests with 1.) a base with 2 drawers and a bin below, 2.) a middle chest with 4 or 5 drawers, and 3,) a top chest with 3 wide drawers and 3 small drawers at the top layer, and an open upper bin.

    I am thinking of giving one set to a 17 year old grandson who is proficient with tools and common sense.

    I discussed "tool boxes" last year briefly and discovered that after 7 or 8 years with large tool boxes/chests for some "home users" are not very helpful. I had two full chest size tool boxes and each full of tools - when organized. I discovered there were three questions that one should consider before buying large tool chests:
    1. Will I be using the tools in the tool chest in the immediate area of where the tool chest is located?
    2. Is most of my work in another building
    or at another location such as family or friends or as occasionally free help / hire out as a handyman? (Is my shop separate from the house, and does most of my work require taking tools to the house to work most of the time?)​ In this situation, it is not always beneficial to have a large tool chest set up.
    3. Do I need a large tool chest for mechanical work and repair.
    Even then, is most of the repair in the shop near the tool chest or outside?

    Since 95% of my tool usage is in the number 2 situation, I spent 7 or 8 years juggling tools from the large (and basically stationary) tool chest into smaller tool boxes for specific use in carrying to the intended location, and then putting them back. I could not make a living doing this as I take twice as long to fix things as a professional while doing the same quality work, and then when I finish, LOML is calling me to go with her. Therefore, tools stay in the small carry tool box for a week or two. Then it happens again an aging each year. Taking a box for wood working, or for electrical or for mechanical to each of 3 daughter's houses several times a year.

    Large tool boxes do not function well for me since 95% of my tool use is not in the immediate area of the large tool box.

    I now have 7 medium size tote boxes with related tools.
    Two 3 drawer metal tool boxes, one with metric tools and one with imperial tools which includes several socket and wrench sets etc for mechanical use.
    1 tool box with measurement tools, protractors, rules etc
    1 box with cutting blades of different kinds, tapes of different types (and I carry separate saws of different needs)
    2 boxes for what ever extra is needed for the intended use at the location that I am going.
    1 box for electrical work.

    I came to the bottom conclusion last summer and so far it has worked much greater than I expected, and my tools are not as scattered or in the bottom of a tool box under other tools as it was before. I think the most helpful was the two 3 drawer metal tool boxes with wrenches and sockets divided between metric and imperial boxes. This was the main issue for me and helped me get on the journey to using smaller tool boxes and subsequently ENDING the work with my tools in the right place immediately after finishing. No more moving tools back to the main tool box when I did not have time due to LOML calling or other appointment.
    Last edited by leehljp; 02-17-2023, 08:56 AM.
    Hank Lee

    Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


    • #3
      Lee, you bring up a great point. I should note I have a few of those 18" wide mouth tool bags. I don't like hard tool boxes for remote work as they tend to bash up truck beds, themselves, car interiors etc...

      I don't remember the name, but my recovery tools for the truck are in an old tan and black one from Harbor freight that is absolute junk, thin material, weak zipper etc... I have a bunch of Husky bags from Home Depot that mostly hold my low voltage / network / coax tools as I am the guy that gets the tap to help out with tech upgrades to friends homes... And lastly, Harbor Freight REALLY upped their game with the Hercules bags. Every bit as nice as the Husky bags at about 1/2 to 2/3 the price...

      Even considering swapping my recovery gear to a Hercules bag just so I know I don't go to pick it up and have the bottom fall out on me.

      Honestly 95% of my work is done in the garage or driveway, and I picked up a way of working when I was a pro mechanic. Pick the tools you need for the job, at the time I had a service cart, not tool storage,per se, but I put the tools and supplies I needed in the cart, tool THAT to where the job was going on, did the job, cleaned up, took the cart back to the tool cabinet and cleaned up put everything up then sent old / broken parts to trash, recycle, or sent back as a core exchange.. It was a system that worked REALLY well for me for a lot of years. The bag system is a more portable version of the same idea.

      FWIW, I have never seen the HF "Brown" sets. If possible I would love to see pics...

      If you look at my Craftsman rig, you will notice the drawer layout is kind of like, well 2 27 inchers jammed together side by side. That probably would drive some people nuts, and honestly it is intentional for me. I WANTED it that way. I had honestly considered just getting a second 27 inch combo, but after considering using the old cabinet as a drilling cabinet, it kind of became a no brianer to go with a single larger unit....

      to be blunt, even after everthing, my screwdriver drawer still runneth over as it were. Unstuffing the overjammed drawers from the old one and I discovered things like, I have multiple sets of Torx drivers, why I do not know. Oh and 10mm sockets,

      I also have wrenches I can not identify where they came from. One of them is engraved, so I am assuming at some point in my professional auto mechanic days, someone else's wrench ended up in my too chest somehow. That would also explain why some of my conbination wrenches were missing....

      I am going to double / triple check on the Torx thing. Might include one set in the truck roadside repair kit as it uses Torx fasteners all over... That goes back to the bag thing...
      Last edited by dbhost; 02-17-2023, 10:33 AM.
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      • #4
        For leehljp and anyone else interested. Like I mentioned I used to use a service cart, the one I had was a Snap On but it was VERY similar to this.

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        There other than the branding, was one main difference in my old Snap On, and that was it had a lid that would flip over the open compartment on the top and the lid/ flap thing would lock over the top and the drawer to secure the contents.

        In a production shop environment where you go to the work piece instead of the work piece goes to you, this is a great way to get tools and supplies to where your work is happening. HOWEVER it is not super portable for hauling tools and supplies away from the shop.
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        • #5
          So here is my load in of my tool cabinet / chest so far. As I work with it more and more, undoubtedly this will change, but here it is...

          I tried keeping the pics in order, that did NOT happen, sorry... This leaves me with 3 completely empty drawers, and one drawer with only my anemometer in it.

          Auto specialty tools / HVAC stuff.

          Brakes / body tools / pullers

          Automotive pnuematics and the One+ impact wrench.

          One+ tools and batteries.

          Lubrication tools and Ford line disconnect tools. There is a grease gun in that Aldi bag.

          Plumbing tools

          Pliers, and crimpers.

          Did I mention I have too many screwdrivers? I also have a 100+ PC set in a bag in the shop... I might have a problem.

          This is the top left drawer of the chest, these are my metric wrenches, flare nuts, flex head ratcheting wrenches...

          Just below the Metrics is the SAE drawer, I also have a set of Dogbone ratcheting wrenches. I honestly hate them and don't use them.

          Extensions, 1/4 in socket set that really needs to go in the truck bag, and a serpentine belt removal / install tool set. My pics are all caddywhumpus now...

          Top drawer on the right, this is air hammer bits, EZ outs, allen wrenches, metal punches and chisels and various misc.

          Electrical tools, including a set of crimpers specifically for heat shrink crimp connectors.

          Specialty sockets including 4wd spine sockets, axle nut sockets for early VW and Porsche, Torx, Allen, Spline drive, etc...

          Top of the tool chest, all of my regular sockets, impact sockets except specialty and my inner tie rod service tool.
          Attached Files
          Last edited by dbhost; 02-17-2023, 02:38 PM.
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          • #6
            My toolchest:

            27" craftsman top chest
            27 inch Craftsman 3 drawer intermediate chest
            another Craftsman 3-drawer intermediate chest
            27" Craftsman roll around base with a small platform on the side.

            I keep a folding stepstool in front to get to and look into the top chest.

            And a 27 inch 2-drawer intermediate chest for all the drilling stuff next to the drill press.

            Most of the drawers are stacked full of stuff 2 deep so its a bit hard to access but at least everything has a place.
            For example the wrenches drawer has metric and SAE full combo wrenches, metric and SAE stubbies and metric and SAE ratcheting wrenches
            so its at least two deep and i have to dig past one layer to the next.
            Last edited by LCHIEN; 02-18-2023, 12:28 AM.
            Loring in Katy, TX USA
            If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
            BT3 FAQ -


            • dbhost

              Editing a comment
              I thought about doing intermediate chests, I honestly needed the big drawers on the bottom chest for the automotive specialty tools. But it sounds like a good setup!

          • #7
            Changing out the old Kennedy tool chest. It will be used for my wife’s craft tools and supplies.
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            • #8
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              New 56” US General in use


              • dbhost

                Editing a comment
                I know I am wierd, but I always wanted to see a twin turbo and injected 13b rotary in one of those Miatas...

            • #9
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              Todays tool chest collection


              • dbhost

                Editing a comment
                Looking at that stack gives me a nosebleed thinking about getting stuff out of the Craftsman chest way up there!

            • #10

              drawer arrangements. Actual chest width is 26 inches, drawers are all 23 inches wide. (drawing mistakenly shows 24 inches)
              Drawers are 2,3,4 and 6 inches tall the grid marks are inches.

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              Attached Files
              Last edited by LCHIEN; 02-19-2023, 07:55 PM.
              Loring in Katy, TX USA
              If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
              BT3 FAQ -


              • dbhost

                Editing a comment
                Wow, what's the height on that thing? And you definately like your Dymo or P-Touch labeller...

              • LCHIEN
                LCHIEN commented
                Editing a comment
                Well, you know the drawers all start to look alike after a while. the labels help a lot and look better than a sharpie marker.

                Floor to top 71 inches. Like I said I need a folding stepstool to see into the top drawers.

            • #11
              I use the Craftsman and Snap On toolboxes that are on the top of the 2 US General boxes (68.5” tall) for “extra tools” and “duplicates”. There is little in these 2 boxes that I would normally need. With these extra boxes for storage I can keep my working drawers uncluttered. I have a full compliment of screwdrivers with the only most used having duplicates. The rest are in the nose bleed boxes. The same goes with combination end wrenches, with a full set of regular length, longs, offsets and socket end/open, and ratchet end wrenches. Duplicates go up in the nose bleed boxes. I also keep a set of combination end and offset wrenches in the rolled pouches in the back of the drawer. That is one of the selling point of these wide tool boxes with deep drawers, plenty of room. The same thought process goes for the all of my tool drawers, duplicates go in the nose bleed tool boxes. Over the last few years I have been reducing the number of duplicate tools by giving them to my 2 grown sons. Earlier this year they both have gone through their and my tools together to straighten out mixed up tool sets. Now all 3 of us collaborate of putting together sets of tools for the grandchildren. All tools that are passed down from relatives have priority and care is taken not to loose them. They are stored in the top of my nose bleed boxes so that everyone knows where they are and what they mean to us when the times comes.


              • #12
                Concerning the 1990 Mazda Miata. I seriously considered replacing this engine with a 13b / turbo and 6 speed trans. There are plenty available but the US ones are pull outs or spares from someone who races it, ( I know they are all from Japan ) and I don’t want a modified or raced out engine in my street car. The other choice are JDAM pull outs. These engines and transmissions are good but dealing with another countries smog and other peculiarities is not something I want to deal with now.
                i certainly wish I still had some of the rotary engines that I sold and gave away when I decided that racing was only chasing your own tail and costing toooo much money.

                Photo of the last 13b in the Mazda Healey, not turbocharged or injected but still blindingly fast as it propelled the car at 10,500 rpm.

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                • dbhost

                  Editing a comment
                  I have a soft spot for rotaries. My brother had a Fiat X1-9 in high school that had been rotary swapped, mostly likely a 12a considering the vintage then as this was in the early 80s, crazy sounding engine that would rev until you took your foot out of it.

                • capncarl
                  capncarl commented
                  Editing a comment
                  DBhost, I expected that you would have caught that I said that this was a 13B and it looks like a 12A. I don’t recall the differences but the early 12s had 2 distributors while the 13s had only 1 distributor. I didn’t know you couldn’t swap front ends of the rotary motors and I liked the ability to control 4 spark plugs with 2 distributors rather than fight with the restriction that 1 distributor created, so I installed it on my rotor motors. I don’t know how many tech inspectors that questioned the engine and measured it and said I couldn’t do it, and all of the rotor know it all shook their heads until they heard it run! Note the intake manifolds, I hand built them out of stainless steel, fully polished insides and running a pair of SU carbs I scrounged off some old Jaguar. The exhaust manifold was also hand built stainless and popped out of the passenger’s door. It’s scream was deafening, even with the silencers inserted. Then there was the rotary dragon fire belch! Oh it was wonderful! It burp fire 3 feet out of each pipe every time I let up on the gas. It definitely kept the course workers back a safe distance. Oh for the good old days!
                  Boy we swapped some engines into weird applications. The hardest I tried was a Morris Minor with a MG B engine/ transmission.

              • #13
                Up to a few years ago, my tools were stuffed into various tool bags and boxes so I could make choices and take whatever I needed with me. I really had no defined space in the last house to use for a shop and when we moved here, we kept the old house for several years so that required some long distance mobility.

                Now I have what will probably be my very last home. I started in the basement with a couple of 11-drawer steel cabinets from Harbor Freight and when I purchased the shed for use as a shop I've purchased just a few things as I've needed them, again from HF.

                Basically, I still have the two 11-drawer cabinets that I keep in the basement, slowly moving the appropriate tools out to the shed, while keeping daily "fix-it" tools in the basement space I use for my other interests. For the shed, where my sawdust-producing tools are, I purchased a YUKON 46 in. Mobile Workbench from HF to act as an out-feed table for my BT3. (Right now I have a seconday top on that, as I'm getting preparing for another project and needed a slightly wider and longer area to do some assembly work on. That particular cabinet has only one large drawer with two-doors for the storage area below. I wanted the multi-drawer cabinet but at the time of purchase, they were on back order.

                Last November I added the HF "U.S. GENERAL 26 in. wide 8-drawer cabinet which will support my 3D printer and the U.S. GENERAL 14.5 in. End Cabinet that I purchased the year before is used to support my old Ryobi 9-inch band saw.

                As can be seen in the two shop pictures, I use open shelves, and the tool cases that used to come with tool purchases fit nicely in either the overhead lofts at each end of the shed, or under the work benches.

                Note on the third and last pictures, my BT is in storage position with the rails positioned around the table used for out-feed. In use, I rotate it 90-degrees. The shop is only 12 feet wide, so it's easier to walk around when in the storage position.


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                Last edited by cwsmith; 02-21-2023, 09:07 PM. Reason: Had a devil of a time getting the pictures to post properly.
                Think it Through Before You Do!


                • #14
                  I've been following this thread as I recently moved and I've been spending time getting my new shop organized. I recently made a pull-out organizer for long hanging tools, I was so proud of the design I decided to make a video to show it off. I just recorded it on my phone so I apologize for the video quality.


                  • dbhost

                    Editing a comment
                    That's pretty cool.

                • #15
                  Am I correct to believe that these clamp storage racks are basically narrow drawers? How do you handle the weight? How deep is the cabinet?