This weekend I will be giving away my favorite tool chest and an intermediate chest to my cousin-in-law’s husband. As I empty and clean them out, I think back to why I purchased them maybe 3 or 4 years ago.
Back then, I had quite a few tools and supplies, but most stored neatly into the two 3-drawer intermediate chest units I already owned. When I started accumulating a considerable amount of overflow, it was time to purchase more storage. I scoured through Lowes, Home Depot, and Sears, multiple times of course, and poured over print and online catalogs. I had a relatively small tool budget, not a lot of space, and was aware that I would have to carry the storage chest or cabinet up 28 stairs.
After much searching, I discovered Craftsman’s then-new 6-drawer ball bearing chest. The unit had a 26″ wide and 12″ deep footprint and 10-3/4″ deep drawers. Unlike Craftsman’s other 6-drawer units at the time, this new design had 6 full-width drawers instead of the more common 3-full and 3-split drawer design. The chest was only available in platinum grey/black, but that’s okay as it matched my already owned plat/black intermediate chest. I waited for a good sale, and picked up the chest when it dropped to maybe $160.
Since then I have often recommended this particular unit to friends, readers, and colleagues looking to start out. It features 5 relatively slim drawers (2″ height) and 1 taller drawer (~3-1/8″), which I feel to be perfect for most people making their first ball bearing tool chest purchase since it is extremely space-efficient. That’s also the reason I kept it around for so long even after purchasing several more spacious chests.
Most recently I had been using the chest to store my EDC items (flashlights, pocket knives, multitools), hardware, assorted fasteners, and photo accessories in the lid compartment.
I plan to move in a few months (definitely less than a year) from now once my research project is complete, and have come to the realization that not everything I own will find a place in my new home, wherever that will be. While I won’t be able to splurge right away, I plan to upgrade my storage setup with a larger high drawer-density setup.
And so in an attempt to curtail my current excesses, I decided to offer both the 6-drawer chest and its matching 3-drawer intermediate to my cousin in-law’s husband. He’s an engineer and just moved into a new house with his wife (my wife’s cousin), so I know he’ll be able to put the tool storage units to good use. Maybe he’ll put it on a workbench, maybe he’ll stack the chest on top of the intermediate with both atop a DIY-built platform, or maybe he’ll stash them both on some heavy duty shelving as I once did.
That’s another reason why I really liked these units – they were (relatively) easily repositionable. I didn’t have to arrange my workspace around the tool storage, I arranged the chests around my workspace (several times until I was happy), and it worked out well.
I know that a lot of people have been bashing Craftsman ball bearing storage quality recently, but I honestly have never had an issue with these chests. The steel is as thick as it needs to be, the units feel sturdy, and the drawers still glide as smoothly as ever.
In case you’re wondering, I still have two roll-away cabinets, two larger top-chests, and two small intermediates holding many of my tools. And no, I’m not giving these away, at least not anytime soon!
Craftsman 6-Drawer Ball Bearing Chest via Sears (Red/Black, but other colors are available as well)
Craftsman 3-Drawer Ball Bearing Intermediate Chest via Sears (Red/Black)
These days I often recommend the above linked-to red/black versions of these chests since they’re usually available in-store and priced a bit lower than the catalog-only versions. The features and build quality should be comparable if not identical.
Stuart, I have a very similar model Craftsman, with the drawer split into three 1/3rd size drawers. Purchased about eight years ago at a scratch/dent clearance at the local Sears hardware department. It sits atop an enormous, 41″ Kobalt (Lowes) rolling floor chest that was also a scratch and dent…but that one was really dented (fell off the delivery truck). The Lowes manager let me cart it away for $75. It took some persuasion with a dead blow hammer before it was straight enough for the drawers to open cleanly, and it will never be perfectly straight, but since they normally sell for about ten times what I paid, I don’t mint the slight bends and creases.
I have a couple off-brand chests as well. The ball bearing designs definitely handle more weight than the friction slide models. The Craftsman is quality better than the entry level stuff (bearings, paint, overall fit and finish), but any of them work suitably as long as you don’t overload the drawers with too much weight.
I watched for a while but could never find a scratch & dent or return/open box like my first intermediate chest was. I did manage to buy my other chests during a good sale with gift cards, or when the color (sunburst orange) was being clearanced.
Ball bearing slides vary greatly, from 25lb capacity entry level units to I believe 50lbs for the mid-level Craftsman ball bearing units as shown above, to 75lb or 100lb and up for the higher-end models.
I have looked closely at the Kobalt chests and roll-aways in the past as well, and for the most part they seem decently built as well. Some of the features, like the air-piston-lift-assist lid looked quite handy as well. Ultimately I chose based on price, availability, and looks.
Fred @ One Project Closer
Always a little sad to let one of these go… but I get the logic. It’ll be fun to see what you pick up in the next house. I’ve got a shed on order right now and as soon as that arrives (it’s coming up on 2 weeks late), we’ll be diving headlong into the shop. We’re looking forward to a lot of fun.
Right now I’m thinking a tool box from Strictly Toolboxes, or a Lista technician box. Eventually, though, I would ideally want a stationary Lista cabinet or two, but that’s way, way, waaaaay in the future (after I win the lottery). I’ve got nothing against Vidmar or Lyon, but Lista seems to be easier to make non-industrial purchases from.
I probably mentionned that we have both Lista and Stanley Vidmar products in our shops. In my home shop it is old Kennedy chests and cabinets. If I were to pick again – I’d say Lista would get the nod – but wouldn’t give up our Rotabins for parts storage.
Craftsman pulled one all their chests. They discontinued this model even though many are looking it. Its obvious they are playing marketing games by selling this configuration for 3x more (the “edge” series… edge on you maybe. clever… http://www.craftsman.com/craftsman-edge-series-6-drawer-premium-heavy-duty/p-00940762000P?prdNo=7&blockNo=7&blockType=G7).
Thought everyone should know of bad marketing practices. I recommend staying away from craftsman until they sort their business practices. Craftsman then is not craftsman now. 2014
I have one and I have not had any problems with mine. I would even be interested in getting another one if they offered it.