In my Journey to an Organized Workshop series, I walked through the process of how I designed and built my modular tool storage cabinets.
In this post, I’ll dig into the variety of different ways I have organized the inside of the 56 drawers that I built!
Other Posts in this Series
Rather than letting everything slide around on the plywood drawer bottoms, I decided to line the drawers with a material that would help hold everything in place. To achieve this, I used a vinyl flooring product I found at Lowes. It comes in a 36″ wide roll that is cut to length in the store. At just $2.55 a foot, it’s pretty cost effective.
I cut the pieces to size with an Olfa Rotary Cutter and fixed them to the drawers using double-sided tape.
I’m really pleased how this worked out, especially because the ridges running across the drawers hold almost every tool firmly in place. The material is great for drawers with larger items, such as drills, hammers, and saws.
I wanted to organize the smaller items using a system of boxes. I already had a sizable collection of Schaller Boxes, so I doubled down on this investment.
See Also: Stuart loves these bins too!
Schaller’s 1″ tall boxes come in ten different sizes, ranging from $0.45 for the smallest to $2.16 for the largest. They also have 2″ boxes in a similar size range. If you need even deeper bins, they also have boxes with 3″ depth.
The nominal heights of Schaller boxes are 1″, 1.75″, and 2.75″.
I have organized ~10 drawers using Schaller Boxes for storing knives, router bits, drill bits, drive bits, pens, etc.
Stuart’s Note: Sorry, I couldn’t resist showing how I’ve used Schaller’s 1″ boxes for small tool storage in the past.
Schaller’s removable boxes are made in the USA. While they do have some color options, I hope you like red. If you’re not sure about what sizes you might need, they do sell sampler packs and larger drawer-filling assortments.
Some Drawers Have More Drawers
When I was researching custom-made tool cabinets on Pinterest, I picked up on the idea of having small removable drawers inside a bigger drawer.
I built around 10 of these smaller drawers using offcuts of plywood. I then installed a strip of plywood on either side of the main drawer to rest the removable drawer on, attaching it using double-sided tape.
These worked really well in the drawers I use to store router bits, drill bits, and screwdriver bits. I tend to store the most regularly used pieces in the removable drawer and I can slide it out of the way to access less frequently used items.
Auer Removable Bins
I recently reviewed Auer Packaging Assortment Boxes. I was really impressed with their product, so when I purchased a large collection of their boxes, I purchased enough of their insertable bins to fill two 3″ high drawers.
My plan is to use these drawers to store small parts I use regularly, saving me the need to locate and open the right Assortment box.
Dewalt T-Stak Tubs
A couple of years ago I purchased ~30 Dewalt T-Stak bins. They come in two sizes and have a removable lid, priced at about $2.50 or $3.50 each.
These work really well in my 6″ drawers for storing bulk items and random parts. Depending on how the Auer bins work out, I may sell these on eBay, as I’m not sure if I need three different types of removable bins.
I have a love-hate relationship with Kaizen foam. Kaizen foam is amazing for organizing a drawer so that you always know where to find a particular tool.
See Also: How to Organize Your Tool Drawer with FastCap Kaizen Foam
However, it does not maximize the use of space and is time-consuming to get things laid out and cut right. Worst of all, if you don’t plan ahead, you may have to start from the beginning to add a new item.
I have organized three drawers using Kaizen foam so far, and as time allows I will do 2-3 more. It works particularly well for my Woodpecker layout tools drawer, as shown in the image. With the Kaizen foam approach, I always know where to find the right tool, and there’s less chance of them getting banged up. I can also spot at a glance whether a tool is left out and wasn’t returned to its proper place.
Kazien foam starts at $13.19 for a 2′ x 4′ sheet, but for a cleaner and more professional-looking installation, you’ll likely need to spend ~$45 on a couple of tools:
FastCap Long Nose Marker: The long reach of the marker allows you to accurately trace around the tools you are looking to store.
Kaizen Knife and Thin Blades: FastCap’s thin blade is a specialty blade that fits their Kaizen snap-blade knife, featuring a very narrow profile designed for cutting out intricate shapes.
Kaizen Foam Hot Knife: adds the final finishing touches by melting a smooth bottom into the section you have cut out.
FastCap’s tools work well, but you’re not limited to that one brand. For example, Benjamen was able to achieve good results using a hobby knife.
At some point, I intend to experiment with cutting out tool layouts using my Shapeoko CNC router, which should result in an even cleaner finish. The trade-off is that laying things out might be much more intensive than simply tracing around tools with a long-reach marker.
One of my first projects with my Shapeoko CNC router was creating storage trays for my Wera Socket set. I created a prototype using MDF and still haven’t gotten around to picking a material for the final design. To be honest, it worked out really well, so I moved on to more pressing jobs.
My goal this year is to finish the project and also create trays for my wrenches and screwdrivers.
If you don’t have a CNC router, you can do something similar with a drill or regular woodworking router.
Whilst not actually a storage drawer, I’m enjoying the usefulness of my pull-out worktop, which I essentially use as a cutting board.
From the outside, it looks like one of my normal 2″ drawers, but when pulled out it reveals a 24″ x 18″ Dahle Vantage self-healing cutting mat ($16-22 via Amazon).
Labels for Everything
Of course, with all these drawers, it can be hard to remember where everything is. The obvious solution is to print out labels for every drawer. I used 3/4″ wide clear tape with black writing, and it stands out really nicely on my aluminum drawer pulls.
At some point, I will also label the Schaller boxes storing drill, driver, and router bits and accessories. I’ve been putting this off because it will likely take hours.
I use a Brother P-touch PTP750W ($111-122 on Amazon), a wireless label maker that features Wi-Fi connectivity and can run on batteries. This makes it ideal for bringing to the workshop temporarily to print out labels.
My quest for the perfect workshop storage solutions is neverending. There are so many different tools and parts to organize that it’s impossible to pick just one solution. I’m pretty satisfied with the different approaches I have taken, and am excited to see how far I will get creating custom-made inserts using my benchtop CNC router.
I hope the solutions I’ve outlined in this post give you some inspiration to come up with your organizational strategy!
What are some methods or products you have used to organize your toolbox drawers?
Tools and Materials
- Vinyl Flooring Runner via Lowes
- Olfa Rotary Cutter via Amazon
- Schaller Boxes via Schaller Corp
- Auer Insertable bins via Auer Packaging
- Dewalt T-Stak Bins (Parts H1200317REC, H1200323001, H1200318REC, H1200324001) via Dewalt ServiceNet
- Kaizen Foam via Fastcap
- Long Nose Marker via Fastcap
- Kaizen Knife, Thin Blades via Fastcap
- Kaizen Foam Hot Knife via Fastcap
- Dahle Vantage Cutting Mat via Amazon
- Brother P-touch PTP750W via Amazon
Amazing! Thanks Ben,
The quality in Wera Sockets tray is over fussy expectation, I wish I could make these organisers for myself, I love your works, specially the racks you made for DeWALT/Craftsman accessory cases for Jigsaw blades, Why don’t you make these specially made items for selling online?
Maybe one day! It’d definitely be nice to create a little business out of this 🙂 I think the main issue is how long it takes, you have to “watch” a CNC machine like this to make sure nothing bad happens. Which would rapidly jack up the price, the materials are dirt cheap.
My cousin has a Haas and you can let those run whilst you do something in parallel. But they cost $$$$$
I agree, I have seen some movies of CNC machine accidents, was very scary. I would not feel comfortable to leave CNC machine alone and do something else while it works on a piece of wood. metal or plastic. But if you do I can be a regular customer for you plus some of my friends would also be.
Thanks for the over fussy quality 🙂 It is nice to see some people more crazy than me, I feel a bit distressed now…
Actually, Haas is low end for CNC. High end is Japanese, German, or combined (like DMG Mori CNC lathes)
Are there any alternatives to Kaizen foam? I need some but in a larger size than they make.
Of course! There are other companies that make tool foam, in various sizing. Cascade (http://toolfoam.com) has sheets of 4′ x 9′ in one style, and widths of 27″ and 54″ (also 9′ long) in the other.
Larger quantities ship on a pallet, smaller are rolled up, depending on size.
Standard tool foam from Cascade and other brands require a little more work and care to layer-up and cut, but it also looks better when done well. Kaizen is layered and easier to cut and remove material.
You, sir, just might be a lifesaver.
I struggle with getting Dymo labels to stick to, well, anything in my garage that is subject to extreme temperature ranges (-40 to +120) each year. Suggestions?
cover over it with clear packing tape. would be my first thought.
or use a decal edge sealer like is used on aircraft decals. 3M makes the most popular one. It’s a 2 part epoxy like system – so once on – it’s on. but it can be chipped off.
depends on what the back material is used for. The decal edge sealer will come off aircraft paint with minimal damage.
One option: skip stick-on labels altogether. Instead, grab a slid-in label holder. Those attach permanently, and then you can reorganize and relabel to your heart’s content without ever having to pick off label-glue residue.
I made the switch when I realized that I was actively choosing to keep things in a suboptimal organizational state that was slowing down my work, simply because I didn’t want to have to change labels around.
I live just outside of Seattle so the weather isn’t too extreme here. I have found the Brother indoor\outdoor weatherproof labels work really well in my shop:
First off Ben you’re crazy. I like it but you’re crazy.
How much would you charge for that socket tray thing. you might could recoup some costs making those – and what’s wrong with the MDF – maybe after cut – paint it or something to seal the pores – as good as most other things and cheap.
Other- thought would be a nylon but again costing.
I will admit you’ve got me thinking about buying bins.
thanks for the article.
That’s a pretty common reaction when people see my shop in person 🙂
I agree there’s really nothing wrong with MDF, finishing it with some heavy duty varnish is probably all it needs.
In terms of selling them, it’s specially made for a full set of the Wera metric + imperial socket set. Making a copy is easy, maybe an hour watching the CNC, but making variations would be very time consuming because it needs designing in CAD.
Maybe one day I’ll branch out 🙂
Probably not worth your time yet, but there are ways to do customization in MCAD.
One approach would be to employ something like OpenSCAD. Second, many parametric MCAD programs allow using spreadsheets or similar to control dimensions (probably wouldn’t work for socket sets, but good for single parts). Finally, many MCAD programs support scripting.
BTW, you can do a lot with the Brother label printers. It’s not as high end industrial as something like Brady, but you can get tapes designed to work with cables.
You can also batch print labels (I’ve done it once to label my Grove sensors: create a label format with fields, create a spreadsheet with the desired info, export to CSV, import, and print).
To finish the socket tray…
Paint then varnish undrilled tray. Cover with painter’s tape. Drill holes ~1/8″ oversize. Paint holes. Dust holes with flex seal. Remove tape. Attach finished screen molding to edges. Call wife & friends to look. Drink beers. Easy!
I use the Westling Machine socket organizers which are very durable and make locating specific sizes easy with their labeling.
They’re great! I reviewed them here: https://toolguyd.com/westling-socket-organizer-review/
Agreed, I brought a set and was very impressed.
I returned them only because I don’t use socket sets too often. I have the full Wera set and that’s all I need. It only took up 1/2 of the space on the Westling, so it wasn’t particularly efficient!
Stuart, I won a giveaway of Westling socket trays from you a few years ago. After using them for years now, they are a quality product that I really like except for 2 small things I would improve:
1 – the pegs are a little short so small diameter deep sockets want to tip if the drawer gets closed too quickly.
2 – the 1/4″ and 3/8″ drive baseplates are all different sizes (length and width) so its hard to set them in a drawer and have them line up to allow for something else to fill the empty space neatly. Seems like a little thing but drives me nuts every time I open the drawer.
Thanks for a great site and the chances to win tools periodically!
The DeWALT TSTAK inserts are in yellow colour, you can get the black colour version of them from Toughsystem boxes DS250, they are exactly the same just black coloured.
This a great write up. I always love seeing ideas on how to organize as it’s a giant pain in the butt. As you mentioned with the foam “I can also spot at a glance whether a tool is left out and wasn’t returned to its proper place.” <— That is a biggie. Good for tools with high use and high value as you're able to quickly see if a tool is gone.
Maybe do another article on portable tool organization and how to keep things from moving around. Guess it would just be buy one of those Milwaukee packouts and call it a day.
As someone who suffers with tool storage OCD, I completely love these ideas, especially the socket organizer. Great work.
As for the labeling, why the inconsistency, using “and” for one drawer and “&” on another? And what’s a “dill bit”? J/K, simply that OCD acting up again… 😉
Thanks for the article!
lol, I spotted this about a day before you do and have since fixed it 🙂
Seem to remember someone mentioning Madesmart bins for a cheap way of draw org if you are in the US. Pack of 8 for $6.32.
Scraps and a tasty dairy snack = an organized work shop for small screws and/or bits.
I got a Prusa i3/MK3S 3D printer as a hobby for COVID lockdown, and have been cranking out organizers for various odd-shaped things with it. If you use OpenSCAD, it’s very easy to make them parametric and reusable.