I am a huge fan of Festool’s Systainer organizers, but tend to favor Bosch L-Boxxes and Dewalt ToughSystem storage cases. L-Boxxes are more affordable, especially around Christmas and Father’s Day, and ToughSystem cases are larger and stronger.
Related: Which is the Best Modular Tool Box Storage System?
But when it comes to small parts storage, nothing else comes close to Festool Sortainers.
I should start off by mentioning some of the other types of storage and organizational products I own and use:
- Stanley organizers
- Bosch L-Racks with iBoxx drawers
- Bosch L-Boxx 1A’s
- Akro Mils steel organizers
- Akro Mils plastic organizers
- Schaller bins for drawers
- Quantum dividable grid containers
- Flambeau divided compartment plastic boxes
- Various other brands’ divided compartment plastic boxes
- Durham organizer drawers
- Akro Mils bins
These are just the ones out in the open or pulled from immediate memory.
Why mention the other products? Because Sortainers are currently priced at $145-160 EACH. That’s a lot of money, too much to spend on a whim. I am very familiar with what’s available, and for some of particular storage needs Festool Sortainers are simply more suitable.
If you’re looking for new storage and organizing solutions, consider less expensive options first. That’s what I did, and will continue to do. But there are certain times when I just cannot settle for less. That’s why I now have 10 Sortainers.
The 12-drawer unit is great for small parts. Each drawer is 3-1/4″ wide and about 11″ long, internally. I find this configuration to be best for holding fasteners and small parts. Drawer height is a hair under 1-3/8″.
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6-Drawer Festool 491984
The 6-drawer unit has double-width drawers that measure ~6-3/4″ wide x 11″ long x 1-3/8″ tall. I have one that Festool sent over as a test sample a while back, but tend not to favor this configuration. I plan to load one of these drawers with foam and precision screwdrivers, so maybe my opinion will eventually change.
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The 9-drawer unit is configured with (6) single-width drawers and (3) double-width drawers. If you owned one 12-drawer unit and a 6-drawer unit, you could swap the drawers to create two of these 9-drawer units.
I have more of these 9-drawer units than of the other configurations since the two drawer sizes offer greater flexibility.
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I also have a 4-drawer unit that Festool sent over for testing, and I don’t really like the super-large drawer. This would be the kit you load a cordless drill/driver, battery packs, and an assortment of drill bits in fasteners in.
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These cases have steel reinforcement between each level. This image is of the 4-drawer unit with the large drawer removed.
The drawers lock into the cases and can be easily removed when needed.
The drawers can be inserted into the cases from either the front or the back.
Sortainers can be stacked together, and if you wish you can lock them together as well. If you wish to combine them with T-Loc Systainers, Sortainers must be on the bottom.
Carrying handles allow for easier transport.
Drawer dividers are included, and additional dividers can be purchased separately.
The small and medium sized drawers can be moved around as desired. Do you want to create a 7-drawer unit with 5 medium drawers and 2 smaller ones? No problem.
Sortainers are really well built and are a pleasure to use. The drawers are made of plastic, but feel rugged and well-built. The drawer latches are rugged as well, and can be replaced if you happen to destroy them.
This is a very minor gripe, but I can never figure out why small drawers in the two bottom middle positions always seem to get a little stuck. This happened with the Sortainers I tried years ago, and is still the case with the ones I use now. If I pull up on the latch with my pointer finger and press against the Sortainer housing with my thumb, there’s no issue. If there’s a medium drawer or drawers in those positions, no issue.
Another minor gripe is how difficult it can be to clear a jammed drawer. Solution: take extra efforts reduce the likelihood of a jam by not over-filling the drawers.
Pricing is really the only major downside. Sortainers are NOT inexpensive.
How I Use Them
My Sortainers don’t get moved around too often. In fact, except for one or two, they’re all stationary most of the time.
I have found that Sortainer drawers are just the perfect sized for random small parts that cannot be grouped with other components. For instance, one of my Sortainers is holding a couple dozen 1/2″ square high-clarity acrylic cubes. Another contains all of my Wago Lever-Nuts, while an Akro Mils 64-compartment organizer is home to my other wire terminals and quick-release connectors.
Another Sortainer houses specialty woodworking fasteners, such as the kind meant to be used with dowel nuts. My Woodpeckers cross dowel jig is nearby in a larger drawer.
I do keep some often-reached-for machine screws in there as well, but most are kept in my Durham, Quantum, and Akro Mils organizers.
It might sound strange, but I also use medium sized drawers to hold small electronics projects. They have no problem housing breadboards and related components. Sometimes I won’t be able to get back to a project for a day, a week, or longer, and so a self-contained project is one that doesn’t get lost. When I’m ready to pick it up, I know exactly where it is.
Mainly, I use Sortainer drawers when I want to store or organize parts in a single lockable, removable, mobile, and dividable drawer. There’s not quite anything like it from anywhere else.
Right now I have eight Sortainers, with two more incoming. Four of these Sortainers were supplied by Festool, one was purchased from Festool Products (Tool Nut), and the rest were purchased from Amazon.
Festool Sortainers aren’t suitable for all types of users. They’re expensive, and although versatile there is limited configurability. Do you need a tall narrow drawer? Look elsewhere.
You pay a little extra for the connectivity, which does come in handy now and then when I need to take a Sortainer on-the-go or when I want to bring it closer to a project.
Sortainers are great organizers, but require a bit of extra research ahead of time. The Festool Owners Group has some great examples of what different users store in their Sortainers. Some use it for tools, others parts and supplies, and others like myself use it for unspecific workshop storage needs.
Note: (4) Sortainers were provided by Festool for review (thank you!). I reviewed these a while ago (Make Magazine, Vol. 32) and kept them in use. As of 3/21/14, I purchased (6) additional Sortainers.