Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Build a Highly Organized Tool box

    We've all been there. We want to get a  job done but we can’t find the special pliers we need. The bottom of our tool box is a hodgepodge pile of tools. Now we’re off on a hunt to see where that needle nose, or vice grip went, instead of simply getting the job done. This tool box organizing method addresses and solves this vexing problem. All that is needed is a few hours of time and some simple and inexpensive materials and we can turn that toolbox into a job finishing machine.
                                                            The Job at a Glance
  • Tools: tool bench,  metric tape measure or ruler, marker, straightedge, jig saw, file, clamp, electric drill and a set of bits. 
  •  Materials: Tool Box, 1/8” pegboard , eight  2 1/2” angle braces, 8-32 machine screws and nuts from ¾ to 2 inches long, pegboard hangers, nylon cord, scotch tape
  •  Cost of materials: $13.74 total.  $.53 for the peg board at .25 sq ft (4’X8’ sheet $7.99), $5.20 for angle braces at $.65ea X 8, $5.90 for  pegboard hangers, $2.11 for hardware.
  •  Time to complete: 3 to 4 hours  

                                                             Building pegboard stands
     The pegboard stands are the heart of this tool box organizer. They will be cut from 1/8” thick pegboard and made into stands with angle braces. These materials are cheap and easy to find.

1) Measure the box dimensions: I prefer the metric system. My box is 47.3cm in length. Subtract 8mm (1/4”) from the length to allow some space for removing and inserting the stands. Final length is 46.5cm. Now measure the height where the stands will be and take 8mm from that dimension for overhead clearance
Measure the length and take off 8mm for wiggle room

2) Mark and cut two pieces of pegboard to that size with a jig or hand saw.
3) Cut the angle braces. We are using two pegboard hangers. There is some precision needed here. There will be two feet mounted on the end of each stand. Measure the width of the box. My box width is 17.4cm. Take 4cm off that to get some clearance when taking the stand in and out of the box. That leaves 17cm. Now we must account for the width of the peg board and the angle braces. The combined width of these is 1.1cm. Subtracting that from 17 leaves 15.9cm. Now we must divide that by 4 to find  where to cut the angle braces. That's 3.9cm. Mark and cut two of the angle braces at this point.

Measuring to get the angle braces right is critical

4) Mount the angle braces. Clamp the braces in place on the peg board with a c-clamp. Set the board on a level surface and drill a hole, using the holes pre-drilled in the bracket with an 11/32” drill bit. Mount with 8-32 by ¾” machine screws, washers, lock washers and nuts. Remove the clamp and drill the lower holes and mount. Repeat on the other board.

5) Check the fit of the peg boards in the tool box. If the fit is good move to the next step.

Check the fit in the box. Looks good.

6) Collect the tools that need organizing. Keep in mind utility first. Give some thought to what tools you use the most. Definitely hang safety glasses and earplugs. A flashlight, scissors and a multi-tool are very useful.

Hanging the tools

    I find machine screws and nuts to be inexpensive and versatile for hanging tools. I use mostly 8-32 ¾” long screws and nuts in this project. It is economical to buy them in a bulk box. Lowes carries such a box of 75 for $4.97. Of course whenever possible pegboard hangers will do an effective and quick job.
    General considerations. Keep like tools or tools that are used together in the same area. It makes them easier to find. Try to keep the weight fairly even on both sides of the board for ease of lifting and moving the stands. Also, make sure the tools will stay in place as the box is moved around. I will discuss some simple and not so simple ways to hold troublesome tools in place. Don’t forget safety: safety glasses and ear plugs are a must. Otherwise anything goes, get creative and build a great stand. Here are some examples of methods for hanging certain tools
   Sockets on bars: I like a set of metric and standard sockets, 3/8” drive along with a ratchet and six inch extension. I used metal socket rails. To hang them from the pegboard use 8-32 machine screws and a nut. An additional nut is handy for as a keeper so the bar can’t fall of the hanger. Drill a hole in the end of the bar large enough to go over the nut. The weight of the sockets will keep it there.
   Ratchet: Next I used peg board hangers to mount the ratchet horizontally as well as the extension bar. If they don’t fit the tool well enough to hold it, simply bend the hanger to fit. .
   Pliers: I mounted  a vice grip pliers diagonally , efficiently using the space left by the  above two.
    Safety glasses: I mounted safety glasses to the other side on the end using a case. I cut the case down so it was flush with the top of the board and then used a ½” 8-32 screw, a washer and a nut to hold the case.
    Ear plugs: put them in a small plastic case from hardware or other item that has a store hanger on it.
    Pencils, markers, nail set, punches: these are very handy in have in the tool box. A good solution is to some leftover pieces of metal angle braces or wood right angle mounding. Wood is just easier to work with for this, but metal angle brackets will work also. I cut two of these to fit the space left on one side of my pegboard stand. First mount one on the bottom by drilling two holes equally apart through the angle pieces and pegboard. Then mount them with 8-32 hardware. On the top angle, take out the shortest tool that will mount here and set it on the existing lower angle piece. Now mark with a line the highest point where the upper piece can mount. Level it and drill two holes equally apart. Now drill holes close to the size of the markers and tool that will mount there. It may take several drill bits, each gradually bigger to reach the final hole size needed.
The finished marker and skinny tool stand

   Utility knife: These often have one hole in one end for hanging. The standard up-pointing pegboard hanger won’t fit though. What works well is to bend an upward curve into a one inch long 8-32 machine screw. To do this, first turn two nuts onto the screw about 3/8” in. Tighten one nut against the other to lock them in place. The nuts are there to protect the threads. Now remove the threads. I used a Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel. Be careful not to remove anything more than the outer threads. Finish with a file if necessary. Now put the screw in a vice, holding it by the nuts. Use a channel-lock pliers to bend the reduced end up. The nuts can now be turned off and the hanger mounted on the pegboard. Hold it in the upward position as the nut is slipped back on and tightened.
   Hammer: Mount it at the very bottom of the pegboard. This is an excellent place for half-circle pegboard hangers.
   Pliers: Often the oval-opening pegboard hangers work here.
   Screwdrivers: A multibit screwdriver is excellent in a toolbox. If the screwdriver won’t fit, Mount the standard double hole pegboard hanger at a slight angle. At least one new hole will have to be drilled to get it to fit. Take your time marking and drilling the hole, so the hanger will fit exactly.
   Multi-tool: I like to keep my Leatherman in my tool box.  To make it stay I filed a second (retainer) nut down so the grommet in the case would slide over it. The weight of the tool keeps it from coming over the nut.
   Flashlight: if it has one, use the carrying case and mount with a tie-wrap or two.
   Channel- lock pliers: mount with three 8-32 machine screws, one in the jaw hole, one under the lower grip and one under the upper. Spin a holding nut onto the end of the threads.
                                                Finishing Touches and maintaining order 

Installing a carrying handle or strap
     A nylon cord works well for lifting the stand in and out of the box. It’s lightweight and sturdy and comfortable.
1) Find and mark the balance point. Once all the tools are mounted on the board, use your thumb and forefinger to find the balance point. Lift until it balances. Mark this spot and now measure two inches or so on either side of it and mark. Drill 5/16” holes at these marks.
2) Prepare a piece of nylon cord or rope. Cut a piece of cord  approximately 14 inches long. Tape the ends into a point for easy pulling through the holes.
3) Push through the holes from both sides of the pegboard.
4) Tie a knot in each end of the cord leaving as little excess beyond the knot as possible. Cinch up the knot tight. Test it. It should lift evenly.

                                                      Keeping the tools in order

Now that we’ve gone to trouble to organize our tools, it’s important to take a few measures to keep them that way.

Shadowing the Tools
      Draw an outline around each tool with a Sharpie marker. This insures that the tools go back in their proper place after use. If a tool is missing from the box, the shadow lets us know which tool is missing, so we can retrieve it and put it back in place. It’s a good idea in some cases to write the name of the item inside the shadow. For example, socket bars should be marked “metric” and “standard.” To do the best possible jog of making a good outline, some tools will need to come off their holders and placed flat against the board. Often adjacent tools must be removed to make a good outline.

Shadowing the tools with a marker will remind you where they belong

     Take a digital photo of each side of the stands. It’s a good practice in case things get messed up. I like to print a picture of each side and put it on the outside of the box. This just lets me know what tools are in the box, without opening it up. I have several boxes like this one and it refreshes me on what is in each box.

    Conclusion: It took a little time and work to organize the tool box. But that time will be more than made up for with the time saved over the years looking for missing tools.


                                                  I made some videos of this method:
                                                                       Part 1

                                                                        Part 2

                                                                        Part 3



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