I have flip-flopped so much in the past 40 hours or so that I feel quite silly.
Last night I placed an order for (2) blue Proto 550S tool cabinets, following the great experiences I’ve had with a Proto 550S 34″ 8-drawer mobile tool cabinet. This morning I cancelled that order, but kept my order for (2) of their smaller 540S 27″ 7-drawer tool cabinets.
I really like Proto’s 550S series, and thought that the super-reinforced frame would allow for easy integration with a DIY base for stationary use. And if I choose to move things around, the casters would go back on fairly easily.
But this morning I realized that it’s not quite exactly what I want. I want a stationary benchtop setup. I want enhanced security – not against theft (but that would be a plus) – but to keep my son’s curiosity away from my sharper and pointier tools.
Yesterday he pulled out all 3 drawers of my low-to-the-ground night stand. It’s not unimaginable that he might do the same to a large tool box. Or that he might climb up on a mid-size drawer. Or hang off of a top drawer.
I’m in and out of my tool boxes every day, and often back and forth. Locking and unlocking the drawers each time, or unlocking once and remembering to lock everything again, it can be a hassle.
Since I would have to wait a few weeks for the Proto boxes, and since it would take some DIY work to get a base constructed, why not look more closely at Lista?
I had been looking at Lista’s 900-series counter-height boxes, because their workbench-height configurations didn’t have as high a drawer count as I would like.
Then I saw, in their “easy order” catalog (PDF), there are options that my intended vendors don’t carry.
SC0750-0901 is a 9-drawer box with (6) 2″ drawers, and (3) 3″ drawers. I tend to like 2″ drawers since they’re just perfect for hand tools, and 3″ drawers are great for larger hand tools and random supplies.
So what I’m thinking now is that 9-drawer box, a reduced width box with 2″, 3″, and 5″ drawers, and then another reduced width box with 2″, 3″, 5″ and a 7″ drawer.
I LOVE the cabinets I built for myself, shown above. But there’s no quick or easy lock-out. And the space efficiency is horrible when you start talking about 2″ and 3″ drawers. The aluminum frame, while sturdy, isn’t inexpensive.
Maybe I’ll bring the new Proto 540S boxes to my office workspace – I did order the shorter ones that can fit under a workbench, and then budget for small and narrow Lista boxes later on. Sorry, I digressed again.
The quest for perfect tool storage has been a very long one for me. I’ve bought quite a few ball bearing solutions, and I’ve tested quite a few too.
Deeper drawers hold taller items, but I tend to throw things in, rather than to organize them nicely. I’ve used shelves with bins, shelves with L-Boxxes, Festool mini Systainers, regular sized Systainers, and all sorts of other things in between.
I started off small, with a tool box. Then there were two. Then came a wire shelving unit. And then a Craftsman 12″ deep intermediate chest. And then a Craftsman chest, which I gave away a few years ago. I loved that tool chest, with its shallow drawers.
At the time, it didn’t feel cramped. Now? I’m used to 16″ and 18″ and deeper drawers even, and cannot go back to 10-3/4″ deep drawers.
After that Craftsman chest came another intermediate, and then a larger Craftsman chest, also with shallow drawers, more intermediates, a Beta 7-drawer cabinet, a wooden mobile tool cabinet, a 4-drawer Craftsman cabinet test sample, and then a 4-drawer Griplatch rolling cabinet I bought on sale.
I have just about all the hand tools I need. Storing them? That’s always been a problem.
I have always been short on space. Because of that, I was always seeking to maximize how much I can store and organize in a given volume.
Now, time is a bigger limitation, followed by space, and money being last.
If I have 30 minutes to work on a project, or to test out a tool, or to put something together, just 30 minutes of work, I need to be able to maximize what I can do in those 30 minutes.
I cannot waste time looking for my tools. I can’t waste time retrieving something from a storage box, a different tool box, or somewhere else. I need a tool in my hand in 30 seconds, and I need to get things done.
I’ve always known Lista to be the pinnacle of tool storage. Well, now I’m going to find out. I’m going to start off with a span of 56″ (2 standard width units) or 72-5/8″ (if I go with 1 standard width and 2 narrower width units), and that will be my main workbench.
Maybe eventually there will be a corner where I can put taller countertop-height or eye-level-height units for parts. Maybe 1 or 2 drawers will be for common parts or fastener assortments, others will be in the basement or attic for storage. There’s more space there, but the space isn’t as conducive to working.
My gasket-punching gear? In an L-Boxx with some gasket material in the basement. Pipe-cutting tools? Basement in a labeled L-Boxx.
Once I have my workspace more to my liking, I’ll build a mobile bench with drawers for L-Boxxes, so that I can rotate my more specialty tools depending on the project. For example, I might need my metal punches when working on a sheet metal electronics control panel, but I might instead want my L-Boxx that’s full of Woodpeckers box clamps when building more plywood drawers.
My experiences have taken me to realize the following likes and dislikes:
- 2″ drawers for most hand tools
- 3″ drawers for larger hand tools, sockets, and misc. bulkier stuff
- 4″ drawers for equipment and general purpose use
- 5″ drawers for larger stuff that won’t fit in 3″ drawers
- Larger than 5″ for specific things or as a general “fit anything” space
Right now in my office workspace I have my 2 cabinets, the first shown above, and the second like it but with 4.75″ drawers (4″ internal height.)
I’m not sure if I’ll switch to side-mounted drawers to build some more, if I’ll add a small Proto unit to go under my workbench next to my Beta cabinet, or eventually complement those cabinets with Lista boxes too.
I just wanted to talk about this a little more to explain my comments in the other post.
I went from “yea, this Proto tool box rocks, I’m buying more,” to actually ordering 2 more, to cancelling the order, and I wanted to explain why.
In short, because I want to go with Lista. I have very specific wants and demands, and I believe a Lista setup will be most effective for me.
I’ve got too many tools that I can’t part with – most I need, some I simply like using. Yes, I need that many different types of hex drivers!
I’m tired of hunting around for tools, I need to pack as much tool storage density into below-workbench space as possible, and I need more workbench worktop space.
Once I get that Lista workbench area going, I’ll start purging some of the tool cabinet and mobile tool storage workbench test samples I’ve been working with. As fantastic as they’ve been, they offer great bang for the buck but not that great storage density.
Testing out those units have been slowing me down sooooo much. They’re one-size-fits-all, but none are as good a match for me as a modular system would be.
Look for lots more tool storage reviews between now and Father’s Day – hopefully with pictures if I can find space to light these monstrous things up.
My project productivity and pace has been terrible these past few months. Getting myself better organized with high density tool storage is going to help. It’s helped in the past.
Or I can reduce the types of projects I like to work on, but I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
As an aside, this is going to be a big year for giveaway and “giftaways,” where I’ll be sending out older test samples as well as personal or ToolGuyd tools that are no longer needed. I just need to figure out a good way to streamline it. Maybe I’ll just bring totes to the UPS store, pay for them to pack and ship the items, and then pick up the totes to repeat another time. Ooh, maybe we’ll do mystery boxes!!
Yes, as you might have noticed, I’m still a little sleep deprived. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do any heavy work today. Hence another unfiltered straight-from-my-mind discussion.
It was Brian’s comment about Vidmar that had me reconsidering whether to go Proto or Lista. The height of the Lista bench-height cabinets had me a little hesitant, but then I realized that 33.5″ isn’t far off from the 34″ of the Proto without its casters.
Maybe you guys have other constructive advice to send my way?
In the meantime, I’ll start planning for more tool storage posts. I’ve weighed numerous options over the past few months, such as going with garage cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and mobile tool cabinets. Combined with my searches and research over the years, there’s a lot there, covering a wide range of price ranges too.
Just thinking about how much Lista boxes cost (over a grand each for the once I’m considering) makes me cringe. When I worked at a research lab, I didn’t have to worry about what goes where; we had premium heavy duty tool storage and benches in place, and I was able to focus on my work.
That’s the point I’m trying to get to now.
Right now I just want to work on my projects, tool tests, and reviews that I really wanted to complete already. I can’t think of any other way to get there but to upgrade my tool storage to a modular and standardized system to fit everything I need right where I need it, and in a secure but convenient way.
What would you do?
And before you answer that question, remember that ToolGuyd has become a business. I wouldn’t be buying the cabinets, ToolGuyd would. It’s the same pocket, but that disconnect helps me to make tougher purchasing decisions that my younger self would scream at.
I need high-density, heavy-duty, daily-use, low-maintenance, easy to set up, nearly-indestructible tool storage, and I want it made in the USA.
I dreamed about building my own, my it’s taken me 10 months to get 2 cabinets for my office workspace built, and they’re not even finished. The second bank needs 2 more drawers built, and none of the drawers are properly finished with shellac and polyurethane. There are overflow boxes of tools and supplies on top, rather than a proper benchtop, and I didn’t even start on the drawer fronts.
DIY? Simply not an option for my main workspace.
18″ tool boxes are not deep enough. Milwaukee and Husky’s mobile tool workbenches don’t have high enough storage density. They’re at good heights, but I want different drawer configurations.
I’ve run out of ideas about how to best serve my current storage needs, thus “Lista.” Maybe someone will talk me out of it. Is that what I’m hoping? Or maybe I’m hoping for confirmation that Lista cabinets are the best solution.
ToolGuyd has a budget for buying what I need, I just might have to change some of my 2017 tool purchasing plans to free up the funds. I just can’t throw much time at making tool storage, and can’t find anything quite as right to fit my needs. I just want to be sure that I’m not throwing money at the problem if there’s another way.
With that extra context in mind, What would you do?