In late May, Milwaukee Tool kindly sent me a 30″ ball bearing tool storage chest and cabinet combo for review (48-22-8530). While its larger 46″ predecessor has been around since last year, this size storage combination has only been available for few months at Home Depot.
Stuart’s already written a post introducing this 30″ storage combo and giving you his first thoughts, so rather than go over all the specs, let’s dive right in.
Delivery and Packaging
The delivery truck pulled up to my driveway on a Tuesday morning. I moved my wife’s car out of the garage so that the boxes wouldn’t get rained on. While I was talking to the delivery guy, he told me how some of the guys at the yard were joking around saying that they’d love to have this tool chest, that maybe these boxes should have gotten “lost.”
The packaging was in excellent condition so I signed off on the delivery. Then the boxes sat in my wife’s stall for half the day while I took care of some other business.
When I was finally able to get around to opening the packaging, I was impressed. Not only did they use the standard Styrofoam, but they also had pretty hefty cardboard angles reinforcing all the edges.
Milwaukee also thoughtfully placed tags on both the cabinet and the chest showing the location of the hardware. This was a nice touch so I didn’t have to dig through all the drawers to find it.
After I’d cleaned up all the plastic bags, I thought I should get a shot of all the packaging. It’s going to take me several garbage cycles to get rid of it all, but that’s the tradeoff for ding and dent protection.
Putting it all Together
When I flipped the cabinet over onto some of the packaging to protect the finish, I took note of the construction of the base. The bracing the casters bolt onto and the frame around the perimeter are nice thick angle iron, I measured it to be 0.185″ or about 3/16″.
The casters are extremely beefy. I was a little disappointed that they were hard plastic rather than rubber, but once I had the cabinet put together and filled it up, I had no problem rolling the cabinet over my dirty garage floor.
The only real question I had about the base was the small washers that shipped with the caster bolts. It seems to me, that for the size of the slot in the castor, you’d want a slightly larger washer to distribute the force more evenly. I could be wrong, and I’m sure the smaller washers do the job, but that little detail bothered me.
Once I got the cabinet flipped upright again I installed the handle and the bumpers.
In the picture above you can see the 5-1/2 foot, 14 ga cord for the power strip at full extension. If you don’t need the entire length you can either install the two supplied cord wrap brackets below the cord opening, or you can just stuff the cord back into the cabinet in the space between the inner and outer wall.
The other two pair of holes under the power strip match the mounting slots on the back of a Milwaukeee M12/M18 charger, and you get screws to mount them with.
The lower cabinet also comes with a full set of drawer liners and a thicker mat you can use on top of the rolling cabinet if you don’t mount the tool chest on top of it.
There isn’t much assembly for the chest, just placing all the drawer liners and top mat.
I thought maybe if I took out all the drawers out of the upper chest, it would be light enough for me to lift it by myself. The problem was that it was just too wide for me to get my arms around it to pick it up using the handles. So I called my daughter out and she helped me lift the tool chest up into place on the lower cabinet.
The upper chest is attached to the rolling cabinet by two brackets with four screws each. Like Stuart, I was a little surprised at how small the brackets and screws were. The screws are smaller than those used to support the plastic bump guards. But if you think about it, the brackets just have to stop the top chest from sliding around on top of the lower cabinet. It’s not like you are going to try to lift the lower cabinet with the handles on the chest.
Other products of this type typically have a short raised sheet metal lip around the sides and back of the cabinet for keeping a top chest in place.
Removing the drawers allowed me to see some more of the construction. The back of the drawers had these clips with holes in them. Just about all of them were bent at funny angles, I’m not sure what they are for though. You can also see the thickness of the steel that makes up the drawer. I measured it at 0.031″ which puts it around 21-22 gauge.
I got curious to see how thick the actual steel sheet that made up the carcass actually was. There was really no place where a bare edge existed. So I took off one of the side handle plates to measure the thickness underneath. I measured 0.043″ so it is probably 19 gauge. Also I expected to see it, but it’s good to verify none-the-less that the internals are coated the same as the outside.
Something strange I noticed was a little loop underneath the lid. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be used for. My first thought was that maybe it was a loop that you could stick your finger in and grab the lid to close it. The cabinet is pretty tall and if I were any shorter closing the lid using the handle might be a problem. After I tried it closing it a few times with the loop, it seemed a little small for my index finger and it really doesn’t have the nice finish you’d expect of a handle.
Maybe it’s a mounting point for a worklight hook? Does anybody have a better idea what that loop is meant for?
Finally I tested out all the locks to make sure they worked right. I was pleasantly surprised that the locks on the upper chest and lower cabinet actually matched. (More on this below.)
Right now the 30″ chest and rolling cabinet are only sold as sets, which might explain the matching keys.
Loading it Up
Once the cabinet and chest were assembled and bolted together, I began the task of transferring most my tools from my old Craftsman 26″ chest and trying to figure out how to organize them with the new layout and larger drawers. One thing that is different from my old cabinet is that the drawer sizes go shallow to deep as you go down the chest, so some of the tools that I was used to having up high on my old tool chest would have to go lower on this chest. I’m still opening the wrong drawers.
I won’t go through every drawer, but I’ll highlight the more interesting storage locations or ones that I haven’t quite figured out what to do with yet.
I’m not a big fan of leaving power tool batteries in my garage because of the temperature extremes they’ll see. In the summer, with the garage door closed, it can easily get up to 120°F or higher and in the winter well below 0°F. I mounted a spare Milwaukee 12V/18V charger on one of the charger spots anyway and the mounting holes lined up perfectly. In the second spot, I placed one of my Ryobi chargers for charging the battery to my string trimmer, but I could only get one of the mounting holes to line up.
I’ve found it’s handy having chargers out in the garage for when I’m working outside and it’s a nice touch having the chargers located on the side so they don’t take up space in the top.
I’m still puzzled at what I should put under the lid. I can also see it becoming a mess quickly since it’s a nice flat surface to “temporarily” place a bunch of things. I did find a screwdriver holder to put on the pegboard to hold safety glasses. I also put some of my other safety supplies like a mask and neoprene gloves. There’s also the grommet in the top to run a cord through which would be nice for a radio if I used one.
Here’s a good view of how much larger the drawers are than my old 26″ cabinet. I took the wrench holder out of my Craftsman cabinet and put in one of the 30″ cabinet drawers. there’s a little extra room for a few of my larger wrenches.
I find it interesting that rather than have a separate work surface, Milwaukee decided to put a lid on one of the drawers. It makes sense that you wouldn’t be able to access the drawers below a work surface and this allows them to make another drawer slightly deeper. But with the way the hinged surface flips up, there’s space for tools to get lost under the lip.
I still haven’t figured out what to store under here that would merit a drawer that can be locked and unlocked separately from the rest of the drawers, so for now it’s my catch-all drawer.
Since it’s independently locked – if you want to lock it – it would be a great place to put a tablet, laptop, or other such equipment.
Or, you drill out the rivets to remove the hinged worksurface lid.
The bottom drawer is another conundrum for me. It’s designed to store power tools, but since I don’t like leaving batteries in the garage, storing power tools doesn’t do me much good. This is where I miss the locking door on my old craftsman. I could throw a toolbox underneath and other tall items like a pump sprayer.
When I was attending the 2016 Milwaukee New Products Symposium I got a chance to have the few concerns I brought up addressed.
There is no way to ensure that you get matching keys if you buy the cabinet and chest from the store. The only way to have matching locks is to ask Milwaukee for replacements. The product manager didn’t say what that would cost, but he said that it wouldn’t be a huge investment.
In the case you get different locks for the top and bottom, you should be able to swap the locks between the chest’s worksurface, which is keyed alike with the main chest lock, with the cabinet’s lock.
Stuart’s Note #1: The tool storage combos were shipped from Home Depot, who I’d assume is shipping matched chests and cabinets. Maybe we received special treatment to ensure that the review samples had matching keys, but that seems unlikely if not impossible.
About the small washer on the casters, I wasn’t really able to get a straight answer. He assured me that the bolts were spec’d to be fine with the larger slots even without the washers.
I asked him about the tray liners sliding around, and he said that’s why they included the double sided tape. Mention of this just didn’t make it into this version of the manual. I can’t believe I didn’t figure that out.
With the small screws and brackets, it was pretty much as I expected – the chest is really heavy enough to not slide around, and when fully loaded it isn’t going to budge. The Product Manager said they could have used even smaller brackets and screws.
What I like about the Milwaukee storage combo:
It’s solidly built for a $500 tool cabinet. I was at Home Depot the other day and I compared it to the Dewalt 36″ tool chest. When I opened and closed the drawers of the Dewalt, the whole cabinet wobbles, whereas the Milwaukee is much stiffer. The casters on the Milwaukee cabinet are beefier by far and have a nicer locking mechanism.
There’s plenty of storage. This storage combo is tall and there’s 11 good-sized drawers in which to lose your tools.
The soft close drawers are nice, push them in most of the way and they’ll close slowly the rest of the way. It’s not just a luxury feature; when I close the drawers too quickly on my Craftsman cabinet the tools shift around in the drawer.
Each drawer is rated to 100 lbs, except for the bottom drawer, which has 2 pairs of slides for a 200 lb load rating.
It’s pretty well thought out. I liked the cable pass-through and pegboard in the top compartment, the ability to hang chargers off the side near the built-in power strip, and I already mentioned the really nice locking casters.
There really isn’t much I don’t like. The things I didn’t care for, like the large bottom drawer, are more of a matter of personal preference than flaws with the storage combo. Stuart mentioned the little bit of play with the open drawers, but unless I started wobbling the drawers from side to side, I didn’t notice it with normal use.
Stuart’s Note #2: When reinserting 2 bottom cabinet drawers on my own sample set, after removing them to more easily move the lower cabinet into place up some stairs, I must have mangled something. Or maybe I bent a drawer slide as it extended out the cabinet. Now, one of the drawers hesitates to open fully, and another jams on the left side and requires a strong tug to go to full extension the last 2 inches or so. They close easily. The downside to this and other recent models is that you cannot easily replace the drawer slides yourself. Some competing brands’ products in this price range have easily removed slides which you can replace yourself.
It’s a growing annoyance that I mangled a slide or two and cannot easily correct the situation. I’m assuming that the issue resulted from user damage and not factory defect. What I might do at some point is source out replacement slides, which I think I should be able to attach by drilling out some rivets.
The only other potential downside I can see is with the matte, textured finish. If you are somebody who likes to keep their work area spotless, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep this clean. It’s going to take a little more elbow grease to clean off dirt and grime.
Stuart’s Note #3: On the 46″ combo, I rapidly tore off a product feature decal from the large bottom drawer, taking off a large piece of powder coat with it. This didn’t happen with the 30″ combo. Be careful when removing the decals.
The top chest and bottom cabinet are sold as a set for $498 at Home Depot. Since the top chest weighs 188 lbs and the bottom 171 lbs, this was not something that I would have been able to unload out of the back of my pickup truck by myself. So unless you have a couple of buddies willing to help you unload these heavy, unwieldy boxes, paying Home Depot $55 for the delivery, if you are in the right area, might be money well spent.
Stuart’s Take: I’ve spent more time comparing 26″-sized tool storage cabinets and chests than I’m ready to admit. I own several recent-years Craftsman tool storage products. No, this Milwaukee combo isn’t perfect. But the finer touches, such as the soft-close drawer slides, easy-pull full-width drawer handles, sturdy tubular handles, easy-toggle caster locks, and the way the top compartment is constructed and laid out, they make this an excellent product. I believe that, for $500, this is the best tool storage combo out there right now.
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Thank you to Milwaukee for providing the review samples unconditionally.