About two weeks ago I was at a nearby Sears, browsing through their new product offerings and Father’s Day tool displays. I came across this Craftsman Limited Edition ball bearing storage combo, and spent a few minutes looking it over.
Side note – I really wish I could find one of the new Craftsman Contour powered storage units to try out, but they don’t seem to available anywhere yet. They were expected to be released in Q2 2012, but that target seems to have come and gone.
Before I discuss this particular storage combo, I should mention that I’m ordinarily a fan of Craftsman’s tool storage products. I gave away or sold all of my ball bearing chests and cabinets this past year, not because I didn’t like them, but because I was moving and didn’t have space for them. I previously owned a 6-drawer 12″ chest, 2x 12″ intermediates, 1x 5-drawer 16″ chest, 2x 16″ intermediates, and 1x 6-drawer GripLatch chest.
The Craftsman ball bearing units I owned weren’t perfect, but aside from the deep intermediates and GripLatch chest stacking a bit crookedly, nothing was wrong.
What Makes This Combo a “Limited Edition?”
*Shrug,* I have no idea, so I referred to the ad copy. Looking closer, it’s the unique color combination and badges. Looking at the product description online, a unique color combination and drawer liners take this tool storage combo to another level. Available while quantities last!”
Self-Closing Ball Bearing Slides
The chest and cabinet feature self-closing ball bearing drawer slides. Great! I’ve got self-closing slides on my wood tool cabinet and new IKEA cabinets, and really like them. The way self-closing slides work, you push the drawer mostly in, and it retracts them the rest of the way slowly. That’s how normal self-closing slides work.
I don’t know what Craftsman tool designers were thinking when they selected the drawer slides for these storage products. Or maybe it was Waterloo designers’ choice, assuming Waterloo is the OEM making these products. In any case, they’re terrible!!
Self-closing drawers are supposed to be easier to close, not more difficult. These drawers resist closing. Here’s a quick 30-second video I took in-store while looking over the units. It takes more effort to close one of these drawers than it would to close them manually.
Why would Craftsman do this?! The only thing I could think of is that someone cheaped out and made a very poor design choice.
Regular ball-bearing drawer slides are better than poorly designed self-closing ones. This is how I feel, but it may not necessarily be how everyone feels. Maybe there’s a point to these “self-closing” drawer slides that I’m completely missing.
After discovering the self-closing drawer slides, I was too taken aback to continue with my impromptu review. Was the steel frame and drawer construction thinner than on previous storage products? Did the drawers operate smoothly when fully loaded to their 75-lb capacity? I can’t answer that.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
On paper, the limited edition combo looks good. It features a higher drawer weight capacity than their lower and middle-end ball bearing models, reasonable pricing, decent storage capacity, and I-frame cabinet construction.
It also comes with drawer liners. The in-store ad says that they are included to organize and protect tools. I use drawer liners to protect tool drawers from scratches and to prevent tools from sliding when opening and closing drawers, but to say that liners organize and protect tools seems a bit vague and ambiguous.
The slides on Craftsman’s mid-line ball bearing storage combos – I say mid-line because even the lower-end products now have ball bearing slides – require a bit of force to close them completely. So I never closed mine completely. With my ball bearing chest, I opened the lid, pulled out all the drawers, closed the lid, and then closed all the drawers as far as they’d go. They appeared closed, and unless the chest was tilted on an incline, they stayed closed. I used my intermediate and GripLatch chests in the same way.
Perhaps these new self-closing slides are meant to improve upon Craftsman’s standard ball bearing slides. But unlike the standard slides, there doesn’t appear to be any workaround for the self-closing feature. If the self-closing mechanism worked like the ones found in modern kitchen cabinets, I’d embrace them. As-is, I think they’re terrible.
I don’t ordinarily review tools and products I haven’t had a chance to use and thoroughly test out, and as mentioned my assessment is somewhat incomplete. The alternative would be to call it a preview and title the post “Craftsman limited edition ball bearing tool chest with horrible self-closing drawer slides,” but that seemed a bit too sensational.
Bottom-line, I would never buy this storage combo, or the separate components, even if greatly reduced in price. The in-store ad says Expect More From Craftsman. I do, or at least I did, which is why coming across this demo unit left me so disappointed. Even so, it may be a good fit for your needs, especially given its decent capacity and pricing, but I very strongly urge you try the drawers out for yourself before buying.
Buy Now(via Sears)