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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
12/28/22 8:16 a.m.

For the past few years tool organization has been easy: Cram tools in an overloaded toolbox wherever they fit, then spend 10 minutes looking for them every time you need to use one.

That wasn't ideal, so I splurged and bought a much bigger toolbox:

Before I get moved in... what's everybody's single best piece of advice for organizing tools? Anything I should keep in mind?

RevRico
RevRico GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
12/28/22 8:34 a.m.

Labels on the drawers. 

As vague as "screwdrivers" or specific as "1/4" drive metric left handed sockets 2-9mm"

Helps you get stuffs roughly where it belongs, but makes it considerably easier when you have help around for them to find stuff. 

trucke
trucke SuperDork
12/28/22 8:37 a.m.

Label one of the toolbox drawers 'Label Maker'!

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/28/22 8:41 a.m.

+1 to labeling drawers 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/28/22 9:55 a.m.

Blow molded cases need to be thrown away for anything but specific tools with a lot of little hardware, like slide hammer sets.

 

Sockets go in rails on top of the toolbox, not in a drawer.  The little metal socket trays are best but I have not seen one of those in over 20 years.  I have probably a hundred sockets right there, easy to put away, easy to see if it was put away or is still out.

Wrenches go in rails in a drawer, not in a case.

 

Blow molded cases are, to repeat, the devil.  They are why new toolboxes are so huge yet hold so little.

jfryjfry
jfryjfry SuperDork
12/28/22 9:55 a.m.

Anchor it to the wall and/or NEVER open up more than a few drawers at once.   People have had very bad days when they opened one too many drawers. 
 

get the little thin foam liners

i don't endorse my system for any reason but my drawers are divided into:

 

pliers

sae wrenches

metric wrenches

screw drivers

clamps

 pullers/splitters/separators

crescent wrenches

vise grips 

tin snips

 

Measuring things

cutting things

electrical basics

ball peen hammers

Medium hammers 

Big hammers

punches

files

air tools

saws

prying tools

specialty tools

thread makers

bolt removers

torque wrenches

extra tools

allens

torx

1/4 3/8 1/2 extensions swivels adapters etc in their own little drawer each

my sockets are in the top of their own tool boxes where I can get them easily

 

bludroptop
bludroptop UltraDork
12/28/22 10:12 a.m.

Many tool drawer organizers succeed in making the drawer look full and tidy, at the expense of efficiency.  Ain't nobody got a big enough tool box for that nonsense.

 

The other recommendation I'd make is to avoid "whole drawer" solutions like foam cut-outs -  your tool inventory and needs will change over time.  Make allowances to re-shuffle drawer prioritization as time passes.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
12/28/22 10:27 a.m.

I keep my 1/4" drive, 3/8" drive and 1/2" drive stuff in separate drawers and use socket holders.  I also use my wrench bags and rolls.  Everything needs to have a place.  If you leave it out and don't put it back your system will fail.  It's worth the few minutes to put everything away after each day or job.  I found a tool I left out yesterday on the workbench.  I immediately put it in its correct spot.

Having a system or correct place works for lots of things.  I have a system at home for my keys, wallet, belts, shoes etc.  I can be ready to go quickly that way.  I also have a work system for storing personal stuff and changing into my safety gear each day.  Always stick to the system.  I even put my wedding ring in my desk but have it on everyday when I leave work.  Discipline and following your plan is the key.  
 

More space and storage always helps but not having a plan or system, and that just leads to a bigger mess.

Trent
Trent PowerDork
12/28/22 10:37 a.m.

Inexpensive, thin Yoga mats are my drawer liner of choice. 

The Snap-on KRA15A wrench rails are my favorite. I know lots of folks prefer Ernst though.

For socket organizers I am using Westling Machine billet rails. I was feeling fancy and splashed out on the expensive anodized aluminum drawer bling. Honestly they offer no benefits over the Hansen or HF style and have the drawback of not being able to take the whole set with you. Their layout simply means I can add new trays for universal/allen/torx sockets as needed.

A magnetic strip knife holder is an inexpensive and handy tool for keeping screwdrivers and ratchets in somewhat of an order, although I am using loop organizers these days. 

Pliers are in a long Pliersrack. Storing them vertically really reduces their footprint. 

 

I still contend that a large tool box is more about organization than massive amounts of storage. Do it right so you can see at a glance if something is missing and you won't lose tools ever again. I went from piles of wrenches and sockets in drawers to organized 15 years ago and have yet to loose any tool I did this with.

Someday I will go full aircraft mechanic and Keizen foam the entire box. 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
12/28/22 10:37 a.m.

Doesn't matter how big, it's never big enough.

hunter47
hunter47 Reader
12/28/22 10:48 a.m.

Is the toolbox shared or a single owner? If shared, label drawers but don't bother on foam cutouts. Tragedy of the commons, or something, like that. 

If single owner, I'd definitely splurge for some foam cutouts for stuff you know won't change. Things like sockets, filter wrenches, box wrenches. I'd also still label the drawers. 

jimbob_racing
jimbob_racing SuperDork
12/28/22 10:52 a.m.

Again. Labels on the drawers. Use a label maker and stick them on old magnets. That way you can rearrange them quickly.  Nothing is better than having a helper find things quickly and easily because of the labels.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/28/22 10:53 a.m.

In reply to Streetwiseguy :

And that is why I like the sockets on top of the toolbox.  In a drawer the rails have to be oriented that way to keep them from flopping over.  On top, you can orient them across so you can read the socket sizes.

Not that one doesn't instinctively KNOW after a while where the 12mm is, or count back from where the 8 and 10 are (most worn) or where the 16 is (least worn)...

 

Only downside is that the presence of the swivel spark plug sockets prevents the lid from ever being closed.

eastsideTim
eastsideTim UltimaDork
12/28/22 11:26 a.m.

I'll echo what everyone else has been saying, organize by type.  I'll make one exception - for one of the large drawers, top of the bottom cabinet or bottom of the top cabinet, put the tools you use most often in it, unless you have a separate cart that already has commonly used duplicates.

I picked this up from a thread I started in the shop forum, and from watching some YouTube videos.  The top of my tool cart has the following:

  • A socket rail with 3/8" and 1/4" metric sockets ranging from 5-17mm
  • Hansen style socket holders for 3/8" SAE and metric sockets, and 1/2" metric sockets
  • 3/8" electric ratchet
  • gloves and goggles
  • Some Phillips/JIS/flathead screwdrivers
  • breaker bar
  • My favorite 3/8" and 1/4" ratchets, and one 1/2" ratchet
  • a few socket extensions, including a wobble extension 
  • Loose 1/4" and 5/16" sockets for dealing with hose clamps
  • Small tape measure
  • Flexible plastic ruler
  • pen
  • permanent marker
  • utility knife
  • needle nose pliers
  • wire cutters

Your preferred setup may vary (as will mine depending on what projects are at the forefront), but with this area, and a drawer with some combo wrenches, I don't need to touch the rest of the toolbox the vast majority of the time I am working on something.

This speeds up getting going, and cleaning up, since almost everything goes in the same drawer.  I am using a cheap kitchen utensil tray to help keep things organized.

 

gearheadmb
gearheadmb UltraDork
12/28/22 12:09 p.m.

Clean off a 2' wide area on the workbench right next to the toolbox. Then as you use tools you lay them there, and it makes wiping them off and putting them away easier. I put a small table next to my box for that reason.

Those plastic socket trays with the pegs that stick up with sizes on them are really nice if you have plenty of room, but they arent a very efficient use of space if you dont.

Put the stuff you use all the time toward the top, and the stuff you dont use very much toward the bottom. That way dont have to bend over so much. 

Wax it at least once a year so it's easy to wipe dirt off.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/28/22 12:11 p.m.

If your old box is a 26" x18" red/black craftsman let me know. 

I'm in the market for a middle/intermediate box to complete my set.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/28/22 12:11 p.m.

For normal sockets, instead of the clip-on rails I prefer the little plastic holders with posts that go up through the socket and have the size number on them.  Easy to tell which socket is which at a glance, and easy to tell when you're missing one.  They're also faster/less fiddly to pick up and put away because you don't need to clip them on/off.  There are a bunch of different brands, but here's one example:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B8MCDHV5/

They're a little bit less space-efficient than the rails, but I'm willing to lose a bit of space for the convenience.

 

eastsideTim
eastsideTim UltimaDork
12/28/22 12:24 p.m.

In reply to codrus (Forum Supporter) :

My setup uses both.  I have a lot of sockets in the Hansen trays, but one rail with some of the most commonly used sockets, so I can just grab the whole rail and take it with me to where I am working on the car, for fewer return trips to the toolbox.

TJL (Forum Supporter)
TJL (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/28/22 1:32 p.m.

I like to put these cheap plastic baskets inside drawers to keep things organized. 
 

Im not a canoe Cheap baskets not a canoe

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/28/22 2:05 p.m.
eastsideTim said:

In reply to codrus (Forum Supporter) :

My setup uses both.  I have a lot of sockets in the Hansen trays, but one rail with some of the most commonly used sockets, so I can just grab the whole rail and take it with me to where I am working on the car, for fewer return trips to the toolbox.

Yeah, the right answer depends on your use pattern.  I have problems with "tool explosion" where I've got so many tools over by the car that I can't find anything, and I need to stop and spend 5-10 minutes putting everything away before continuing.  So for me, making it harder to take out more than one tool at once is a good thing. :)

 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
12/28/22 2:07 p.m.
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

+1 to labeling drawers 

I'm an idiot and always mixed up which was SAE or Metric.  Labels x 3

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
12/28/22 3:21 p.m.

This is great advice so far everybody... thank you! I'll post some after photos once I'm moved in but so far so good. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
12/28/22 3:24 p.m.
CrustyRedXpress said:

If your old box is a 26" x18" red/black craftsman let me know. 

I'm in the market for a middle/intermediate box to complete my set.

Are you psychic? Here's a photo of what I'm replacing. I don't think I'm going to have room to keep any of the old boxes.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/28/22 3:33 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Wishful thinking =P

I think I'll have to pass though. Pretty sure that you midbox is a 26 wide by 12 deep, and I need a 26 wide by 18 deep.

Congrats on the new one!

Racingsnake
Racingsnake Reader
12/28/22 3:34 p.m.
jimbob_racing said:

Again. Labels on the drawers. Use a label maker and stick them on old magnets. That way you can rearrange them quickly.  Nothing is better than having a helper find things quickly and easily because of the labels.

Great idea putting the labels on magnets - I'll be stealing that!

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