Craftsman’s blacked-out ball bearing tool storage chest and mobile cabinet look great, but are they better as conversation pieces or sturdy tool storage? Hint: I feel they work well AND look great.
6-Drawer Ball Bearing Chest
Over a year ago I gave away my much-liked Craftsman 6-drawer chest. It was in great shape, but at the time I also had a deeper 5-drawer chest and a deep 6-drawer GripLatch chest, but a lack of space meant one of the chests had to go.
I remain convinced that Craftsman’s 6-drawer ball bearing chests, such as the blacked-out one featured here, is the way to go for anyone looking to move to ball bearing storage. There are plenty of other options – from Craftsman and other brands – but I strongly favor the high storage density these shallow drawers offer.
There are 5x 2″ drawers and a single 3-1/8″ drawer, with all measuring about 22-3/8″ long and 10-3/4″ deep.
There are a couple of noticeable differences between this chest and my beloved platinum and black chest. First, the new chest features side-mounted pivoting handles instead of recessed handles. Honestly, I’m not sure which I prefer, and I’m not going to kill my back find out. I highly doubt that there are a lot of people out there with the desire – and strength – to carry these boxes back and forth once they’re fully loaded with tools.
The lid of the new chest has gas struts, a trend that has been gaining popularity. Installing them was slightly frustrating, and they work well enough. But it’s a moot point since I almost always put something on top of tool chests.
Something that bugged me about the older 6-drawer chest design has been fixed – there’s now no loss of space in the top drawer due to a lock bracket.
One more thing to note – the new chest weighs 60-pounds, and the older style 67-pounds. Where did 10% of the overall weight go?
At the risk of repeating myself, I really like the drawer configuration of the chest. It offers maximum storage density for hand tools and smaller supplies. Performance-wise, the ball bearing slides are rated at 50-lbs per drawer, which is reasonably good for mid-range consumer tool storage.
The special edition ball bearing chest doesn’t disappoint performance-wise either. No, the drawers aren’t as smooth as the ones in the Craftsman 16″-deep sunburst orange GripLatch chest that I gave to my father, but they’re definitely better than the non-ball bearing and entry-level ball bearing drawers found on competing products.
A couple of people on enthusiast forums have been complaining that Craftsman tool chests and cabinets are now being built with thinner steel than previously – perhaps that’s what happened to the missing 7-pounds – but I cannot tell a difference. Maybe one day I’ll whip out the micrometers or a thickness gauge, but these drawers are rigid and don’t flex when loaded with weight. (I tested this by piling on a little more than 40 pounds of steel plates.)
4-Drawer Ball Bearing Cabinet (I-Frame Design)
I have quite a bit of experience with Craftsman chests (top and intermediate), but this was my first experience with one of their mobile cabinets that the chests can sit atop.
Assembly was relatively trouble-free. I say relatively because I accidentally installed the swivel casters on the wrong side at first. The handle can only be mounted on the right side, so that’s the side where the swivel casters go, with the fixed casters mounted on the left side.
This cabinet has an I-frame design, which can be identified by the recessed sides. Craftsman has a number of other rollaway cabinets with a similar design, and at the moment this version looks to be on sale for the lowest price.
The cabinet’s ball bearing drawers have the same 50-pound capacity as the chest, and while the same length they’re a bit deeper at 16-1/2″. Total capacity for the rollaway cabinet and its 4-1/2″ casters is 600 pounds.
I lined the chest and rollaway with two types of liners – regular household drawer and shelving liner (white) and toolbox liner with Zerust anti-corrosion additive (black grid). The Zerust liner hasn’t stopped out-gassing yet, and I’m not too happy knowing it will continue to give off non-toxic fumes, so it’s going to be replaced as soon as I can pickup a roll of 1/16″ foam liner material.
The all-black color scheme works reasonably well in this case. It’s not quite matte, but it’s not full-on glossy either. I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy this combo solely based on its looks, but in my opinion this is currently the best color scheme in the combo’s price range.
The top chest and bottom rollaway cabinet can be purchases separately or together as a combo. Overall, I have good feelings towards both products, and will test them over time to see if my impression changes. Truthfully I find the the 10.5″ depth of the top chest drawers a bit limiting, but that’s also because I outgrew that size of chest a long time ago. This combo can fit small and medium-sized tool collections just fine.
Do I recommend this combo? Definitely without a doubt. Are there better combos out there? Absolutely, but you’re going to have to spend more than the $400 this combo is priced at.
Buy Now(via Sears)
Thank you to Craftsman for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.