I finally found one of these to check out in person, at a Lowes around 45 minutes away, and took the opportunity to do some quick tire-kicking. It’s not the same as full long-term testing and review, but some hands-on is better than none.
What I found is that it’s obvious the Porter Cable tool chest and cabinet were designed around a price point, but they seem to have been designed by someone who would have been happy buying it for their own use. I hope that makes sense.
There are some obvious cost-cutting measures, but other aspects that seemed thoughtful, almost as if someone on the product team fought hard to keep the quality as high as possible.
Both the top chest and bottom cabinet are now on sale as part of a “Special Value” sale, for $249 each. The price isn’t reflecting on the website yet.
To me, this means that the combo was designed and built to sell at the $498 price point.
Which is not a bad thing. The price point makes this one of the most affordable large capacity tool storage combos on the market.
With this combo, Porter Cable was going for capacity and generally handy features.
The colors are decent – pale grey with a soft red with slight pinkish tint. It’s pleasant. Not too flashy, not too drab.
The drawer pulls are a good size, and the ends are capped. Budget tool storage combos don’t always have capped drawer pulls, and it’s something that higher priced units don’t always have either.
My Craftsman GripLatch chest reminds me of this all the time, when it claims its piece of flesh nearly every time I pass close by.
Gas spring lid stays are a must these days. They work reasonably well, too.
By *must*, I mean they’re a trendy convenience that buyers have come to expect. No gas springs on a consumer brand tool storage chest? That would scream “we’ve totally cheaped out.”
I’ve made good use of my Craftsman chest’s metal lid stays, but gas springs are simply more convenient. They’re quicker and easier to use.
The side handles are usable, I guess.
The top handle lids are pretty cheap, but they get the job done.
You get two handles, and use whichever one is easier to reach. When it’s time to close the top lid, reach up and feel for it. After some use you’ll surely get used to the placement.
The pull-out work surface is lacquered MDF, complete with ruler markings and common angle guide lines.
Over in the previous posts, there was a complaint or two about the pull-out drawer being hard to close.
I couldn’t close it by feel, so I took a look at the side and saw where the locking mechanism was. I was holding my son in one arm, and so I had to unlatch the work surface drawer one side at a time.
A press of the latch on one side, and then the other side, and the drawer slid back into its storage position. I’d say it was pretty effortless to do.
I took a look at one of the drawers, and there were holes in the bottom. Some of my tool chests have something similar, and I’ve never given much thought about why.
But what I noticed, and this is what prompted the photo, is that the hole was perfectly powder coated.
I also checked, but couldn’t find any sharp burrs or anything. Not the sides of the drawers, not the holes in the drawers, and not on the sides of the drawer pulls, which were capped with plastic end pieces.
Yes, Porter Cable – or the folks at Stanley who worked closely with the Porter Cable team, designed this around the $498 sale price. But the manufacturing seems to be top-notch. When there’s a price point in mind, attention to detail makes a world of difference between an inexpensive product and a cheap one.
The drawer slides are permanently riveted to the drawers.
Here’s a closeup.
And here’s a Kobalt unit, with non-permanently-attached drawer slides.
I recently had to replace the drawer slide on a Craftsman chest. I ordered the slide, took the drawer out, and replaced the slide.
“Permanent” is a relative word. If you can find replacement slides, you can drill out the rivets and replace the slide yourself. Maybe. I haven’t looked inside any of these cabinets to see if the drawer slides are capable of being replaced.
At these price points, the drawer slides are likely designed to be permanently mounted. They should give years and years of service.
Would you give drawer slide replaceability when shopping for something like this?
The drawers provide around 16″ of depth. I’m not sure what I expected, but this is a good size.
The smaller of the large bottom drawers houses a power tool organizer, which can instead be place don the left side of the cabinet.
The chest comes with an inexpensive power strip, with 4 outlets, an on/off switch, and (2) USB charging ports.
There are also 2 grommets for passing through power cords, charging cables, and the such.
I didn’t load up all the drawers with tools from the shelves – remember, this was an in-store hands-on – but I did manage to pop a few tools into one of the drawers.
It didn’t feel flimsy, but there was some flex when I checked. The combo is made from 21 gauge steel.
The internet says 18 gauge is 0.0478″, and 21 gauge is 0.0329″. (Sorry, my reference books are still boxed up.) That means that 18 gauge steel is 45% thicker than 21 gauge.
21 gauge is not insubstantial, but you might want to shop for something else if you have heavy duty needs. Keep in mind that the Porter Cable combo was designed for woodworkers, DIYers, and probably casual users as well.
Check it out in store, and a load a drawer with some tools from off the shelf. Can you open the drawers easily? Close them easily? Smoothly? Do the drawers wobble and flex under load (they really shouldn’t).
Will you get frustrated with the lid? Personally, I’m used to a centered lid with the Milwaukee, full-width with the Dewalt, or no lid as with my Craftsman.
I think that the Porter Cable combo represents a good balance between features and quality. It offers a lot of bang for the buck.
At $500, I’d consider it very inexpensive for what you get. Is it cheap? Yes, there’s a hint of cheapness, but it’s not as pronounced as I would have expected.
Would I buy it? Probably not. I’m in and out of several of my tool boxes on a daily basis. I prefer a little more sturdiness. But a few years ago? It would have been enough for my needs, maybe even too much.
Right after I left the store, I found myself unable to put my hands-on impression into words. There were a few things that looked and felt cheap, such as the lid handles and the power strip, but a lot of areas where attention mattered. The finish was excellent, even flawless, and the drawers felt pretty solid despite the medium gauge sheet metal construction.
It’s as if someone who cares about tool boxes was in charge of the product design. Often, when price is a strong consideration, you’ll see decisions that seem to be made by marketing types. That didn’t seem to be the case here at all.
This struck me as a “me to” product, and it probably is. But it seems to be well designed and well built nonetheless.