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Old 01-03-2009, 12:19 PM
Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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New Years Resolution, orgianize your tools.

Moderator, you can move this to the tool forum if you want but I figure this isn't something you "want" to do so if you aren't thinking of tools, you are never going to see it there.

Tool box organization

By Brian Martin

Well, today is Jan 2nd and of course we are getting a head start on all our New Years resolutions right? One of mine was to get my tool box back in order. It has gotten a little “jumbled” and needed a freshen up.
A number of years ago found myself rolling my tool box into new job at a shop. I had a relatively small tool box for a bodyman being I had a shop to store all my tools, the box was just for my simple hand tools. Well now all my tools I used everyday as a body tech had to be kept in my box, some changes were in order. First, I had to take everything out of the box that I didn’t need. Then I had to move all the tools into the box that were previously in some cabinet on the wall, on or in a bench or another box that I had in the shop. Some serious condensing was in order.

I have a MAC MB1100 “bottom” box with nothing on top. I got this box after seeing my hero in the bodyman world at one of my first jobs and how he had set up his box. I had never seen a guy work without a top box. Emory Robinson had made a cart for a large bottom box with larger wheels. It had a locking side box on one side, and then a shelved rack he had made (nothing was available at the time) for his air sanders and blocks. The entire top of the box was clear and a “bench” to work off of. He rolled it around next to the jobs he was working on, he was way ahead of his time, a brilliant man in every sense of the word. Now mind you, this was about 5 or 10 years after working with him but that box of his had stuck in my head.

Anyway, it is a small box, just perfect for rolling over to the job instead of leaving it up against the wall across the shop! But it’s space is limited and I had to do something, I had to make big changes if I was going to work out of it.

I would be working on late model collisions so all the SAE tools were removed, there hasn’t been an SAE bolt on a car since the early 80’s so no need for them taking up room in the box.

For years I had my box set up the same way mechanics and bodymen had for decades. All the tools were divided into drawers, ratchets in one place, wrenches in another, air tools in another, screw drivers in another. etc. Heck, boxes were made this way, a top box would have 10-15 tiny drawers for all these little “collections”. Being my memory isn’t so good I can’t take credit for this revelation I had, I may have seen it in some book or something I don’t remember. But having these tools that are used together all in separate drawers made less and less sense to me. Why in the heck would you want your ratchet in one drawer, the extensions in another and the sockets in yet another? You certainly weren’t going to grab a ratchet and then go to work with it, you needed the sockets every single time you used it, why have them in separate drawers? How about the air tools, most mechanics still will keep their air ratchet in a big drawer in the bottom of the box with all their other air tools. They will bend over and open this big heavy drawer, then get the socket to put on that air ratchet out of the top of the box! It makes no sense!
What I did was put all the tools I used most in the top drawer, the second most used in the second drawer and so on. I was a little cramped in that some of the more used tools wouldn’t fit in the shallow upper drawers, but I did the best I could and just put them as high as possible.

I also put all the tools used together in the same drawer. No more sockets in one and ratchets in another.

I put the tools that I thought would be used most in the upper drawer, a combination of screw drivers, Torx, 3/8” and ¼” socket sets with the respective air ratchets and air impact with them. This is what I use most doing late model collision repair, what a guy doing brakes and suspension would a totally different top drawer. But it is amazing, these tools are probably used 50 to 75% of the time in my day to day work.
The second drawer had the wrench sets, and specialty tools like door panel clip tools, long needle nose, channel locks, wire cutters that sort of stuff. Then the next drawer are the hammers and dollies. The next, my ½” sockets, ratchets , extensions etc. along with rulers, files, etc.

I put rivet in dividers and got some trays, and tried a number of different ways to hold the wrenches finally settling on a cut to length one that Snap On sells. All these were temporarily mounted until I knew exactly where they would work the best.

I worked out of the box for a number of weeks moving tools from one drawer to the other, fine tuning my “most used” from my second most used, and so on. When I was happy with the lay out I went about making holders for them to keep them in place. I went on the Snap On truck and asked for something to fill the bill. The guy showed me in the catalog a foam kit where you cut out the shapes of the tools in the foam. AWESOME, that is exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t know it, but that was exactly what I was after. I asked how much, ahhhhhh how about $350! No kidding, four pieces of foam was $350! Well, I went looking at Sears to see if they had something, how about $15.00! Now, this item is now $19.99 but it is still a deal.

I did a few drawers using this kit and I have to say, it is one of the best “tools” I ever put in that box! You can see immediately when a tool is missing, I haven’t lost but a couple in the years I have been had it in my box. You can find things RIGHT NOW, there is no wasted time looking for something. I can literally be sitting on the floor doing something and reach my hand up into the top drawer and without even looking grab the tool I need!

Over time new tools, better tools for the job come along so the drawer foam has to be redone. I had been working for way to long with one of my drawers all messed up and the foam not even being used for half the tools in there. So today I broke down and redid the foam. It took me all of about a half hour, done deal.

The nearby Sears store didn’t have the foam in stock anymore. I decided to check the local foam supply house and found something very similar for pennies and got me some. The original kit came with a nice razor knife and a piece of white contact paper to draw your shapes out on to then transfer to the foam. I asked the wife and she had a roll of shelf liner that worked perfect. I used my Exacto knife being my Craftsmen one had lost its tip a little.

Start by cutting out your contact paper the exact size at the section of drawer you are putting it in. A whole roll of this stuff is only $4.00

Next arrange the tools on the contact paper. This can take a while. I actually decided to leave a few off that I had there just to clean it up a little. After thinking about it, I didn’t use them much so they will go in another drawer. On arranging the tools, they can get pretty close without a problem, amazingly close. If you did it like they show on the Sears web site you could only get about half as many as I did. I put them backwards and forward sideways and intertwined. They should be as comfortable to grab as possible and do set them up that way, but to get as many as I needed on the foam I had to put some backwards. But those are the least used of the bunch, always keep that in mind.

To draw the lines around them, just remove them as you go, or remove one and then set it back down when you get it’s neighbors outline done.

The foam I bought was very similar to the Sears stuff. It is about a half inch thick, and pretty dense. It is a little more open celled than the Sears stuff but made of stiffer material so it is a trade off. I also got some 1” thick stuff for another drawer, I’ll give that a try.

Stick the contact paper on the foam and press it down firmly.

A metal ruler and sharp Exacto knife make a nice clean cut thru the foam.

Cut along the lines of your shapes by sticking the knife all the way thru until you feel the surface under the foam. Slide the blade thru the foam around the pattern with the tip of the knife running on the surface below to fully cut it. Press out the piece and you have began.

On the smaller tools, you can slice the piece you cut out and stick half of it (or how ever much you choose) back in the hole so the tool rests nicely.

A test fit to find out if you are on the right track, and move on to the rest.

The long razor knife that came with my Craftsman kit is awesome for cutting the pieces in half on the larger tools like the channel locks.

You can adjust the patterns a little as you go as well. Here you see where I found that the little pick I was putting here needed to be moved down alittle.

Here it is complete before pulling the contact paper off.

Here it is with the paper pulled off, ready to rock! The holes for the larger handled clip removing tools will be black as well being the bottom of my drawers are lined with that very thin black foam that mechanics used to line their drawers with back in ancient times.

Here it is done as it will look in my box along with the few tools it took to do it. I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday to put it in the box. Those three red handled clip tools, they are the BEST hands down of any I have ever used, and I have had every one to ever come out I’ll tell you that!

This is a few pictures of my boxes drawers showing the foam in action. You may notice that the middle one on the right is where this foam I did today fits. This picture was taken when I was using my obsolete clip tools. The evolution of tools necessitates the replacement of the foam every once in a while.

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