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We see a lot of tools here at Toolmonger, and most of the time they ship in a case. Classically, we’ve seen tools arrive in molded plastic cases designed to hold the tool and accessories in a manner safe for shipping. But I can count the number of times I’ve seen someone actually carry a power tool around in a molded plastic case on one hand. Maybe even on an old shop teacher’s hand.

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Recently we’ve seen a shift to soft cases — usually a nylon bag big enough for the tool and a few extras. I have seen a few people carrying around tools in these bags, but I still suspect that the majority of folks ditch the bag (or case) minutes after unboxing the tool.

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So here’s the big question: What kind of case would you actually use? Is there such a thing? Or are everyone’s needs so dissimilar that there’s really no way to offer any kind of standard that’d do anyone any good? Would manufacturers be better off skipping the bag/case and just lowering the price of the tool a buck or two? Let us know in comments.

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45 Responses to What Case Should Manufacturers Include w/Power Tools?

  1. SharkyTM says:

    I use the cases to store the tools, and to keep accessories organizer. Case in point: My Dremel Multimax. The case fits the tool and every cutting blade I have for it. Is it ideal? No, but I still can throw the case into my truck’s backseat and know that I’ve got everything that I need. Ditto with my old-arse Bosch Jigsaw. Its got a rectangular metal case, and it holds the saw, the screwdriver to change the blades (like I said, old-arse), as well as about 300 blades, each contained in its original paper/plastic sleeve.

    I’ve never used the bag from my Makita LXT Lith-Ion set. I just throw the drill/impact/sawzall into the truck with a drill index or impact set.

  2. Mike says:

    I am currently one of the people who use the soft bags for each tool. I realized I had accumulated a number of them. I would love to have something like the Systainers that would give me a uniform size for each tool, but using the soft sided bags I have found that I Can pack my truck toolbox with more powertools. Since my tool storage is in the basement and much of the work I do is outside I just bring up a few bags for what I need. Also makes it useful for telling my wife what I need. “Hey honey, can you bring me that grey Porter Cable bag?”

  3. o1d_dude says:

    I have a large pile of these plastic tool cases stashed in the utility area of my yard. I suppose I could recycle them or simply throw in with the trash.

    It was quite liberating to remove these cases from my workshop and free up quite a lot of shelf space.

    For the record, I have never used these cases once I brought the tools home.

  4. rob says:

    I wore out the bag that came with my 6 piece makita lxt set from over filling it and using it as a tool box

    I currently keep all of my cordless stuff loose in my big stanley rolling tool box all 9 cordless makita tools fit
    with room for other tools and a tray for the small stuff

    but if a tool came with a bag that was as tough as the veto pro pak bags I would use them

  5. rob says:

    granted my corded sawzall lives in its blow molded case
    with a few blades but it just about never gets used

  6. Mike47 says:

    Almost all of my power tools live in their blow-molded cases on a shelf or in a cabinet. I have 2 soft-side bag-cases, one a Dewalt and another is a HUGE Milwaukee bag, that I never use. Both were given to me by people who also never used them.

  7. CJD says:

    I prefer the hard cases. Makes it way easier to keep everything organized in the field and when I store everything when they’re not being used.

  8. Aeroaggie says:

    I use the hard cases, to keep everything organized, and to protect it.

  9. I use the hard case ONLY for the tools I rarely use. Being (mostly) a metalworker, I only use a circular saw about twice a year, and the hammer drill maybe 3 times a year (at most). So those stay in the hard cases. The cordless drills, etc get hung on the wall. I’ve got a couple of the soft bags for any time I need to carry a bunch of tools off-site, like to help a friend build a shed or whatever. But the bags are only good for a few uses, and I either bust a hole in the bottom, tear up the zipper, or rip a handle off.

    I think new tools should come in a 5-gallon bucket.

  10. Mike Griffin says:

    I like the Milwaukee soft cases. you can throw the tool & some bits/blades etc. For specific jobs I like to throw the tools I think I might need into a soft sided Husky toolbox I got at the Depot

  11. Rick says:

    For me, I think it depends on the tool. I agree with SharkyTM – the Dremel would be a mess without its case. Those small parts and accessories would end up everywhere.
    I recently bought both a Bosch grinder and a RIDGID Fuego saw and neither came in anything other than the carboard box. I find that my tools in a bag end up with a lot more scrapes and ‘character’ marks than my much older tools that reside in a box. I’m fine with some things in a bag such as the bulky 2 1/2″ vacuum cleaner accessories. But power tools I think should be in a box ‘system’ sort of like the Systainers (or Pelican boxes would be great). Such as all the similar sized tools – could use the same box with a different insert to give the tool a custom fit.
    I guess if I want the Pelican boxes, I’ll have to do it myself.
    Tools are expensive, they should be in a protective container of some sort.

  12. DoItRite says:

    I’m with the minority, I do like the hard cases. I like to throw the tool with the accessories into the back of the truck without worrying about a little rain or a lot of dirt. They keep things together, protected, and easy to carry it all with one hand.

    The jobsite can get pretty cluttered, but I put the tools back in the cases at the end of the day I know that I’ll have all the parts, blades, bits, etc in the morning when I need them.

    I pay a lot of money for my tools and I think that the more that I can protect them the longer that they will last.

  13. Phil says:

    It depends. I have tons of corded and cordless tools. Half the tools that came with zippered cases (mostly cordless tools or later corded ones) are often piled together on a couple large bags, with the original cases stored empty and away. Others live in their hard cases with their respective accessories. Rotary hammers are in their boxes along with most of the bits. Same with hammerdrills, jigsaws, bandsaws, and other, more specialized stuff. This way, these tools is available with all the requisite pieces and accessories needed for a job. Standard drills and drivers tend to get stored together, saws on shelves in cabinets, and the very specialized items like the auto scanners, borescopes and other very specialized equipment gets protected in their own individual containers. In a lot of cases (no pun intended) there are a lot of accessories that pertain to one particular tool, and keeping those items with the tool in its original (or larger aftermarket) container is the best means to keep like items together and not have to search for accessories that are in a different building than the tool itself.

    This method allows me to throw all the particular cases in the truck to take with me to do a certain job offsite. I’ll know I have not forgotten anything, since its part of that particular kit.

  14. Dan says:

    I prefer hard cases, preferably with space available for bits, blades or other accessories. It helps me to keep everything clean and organized and I know when I grab the case that I’ll have at least the basics for that tool with me.

    I would like to have a standardized size or matching sizes, at least within the manufacturers’ own lines. Something like a smaller box that match the width or depth of a bigger box. Square sides instead of irregular angles or curves would also be preferred. That would make everything nicer to store and to pack for transport.

  15. PutnamEco says:

    I’m not a fan of bags, I much prefer hard cases for tools that are going to be used on the job site. Nothing like having to go down 10 miles of dirt roads with loose tools bouncing around in the back of the truck. Most tool sets that come in bags get pretty banged up after a few months of that kind of treatment, while the tools in a hard case remain unscathed. I miss the old style metal cases, they seemed to be able to hold a lot more accessories, although I doubt they offered any more protection. I have suffered some plastic cases breaking. Hinges and auxiliary box covers would seem to be the weak spots. The metal cases I’ve owned have most often suffered broken latches and dents that prevented the cases from closing. My tool bags most often have failed zippers or had holes worn through them (especially any pockets that end up carrying blades or other sharp objects) with the occasional ripped off carrying handle.
    I’m with Dan on wishing for some standardization on sizing and dislike of odd shaped cases. I often have to stack or stand cases to get them all to fit in my truck. Reminds me of the other reason I don’t care for bags, how the contents suffer when other things get stacked on them.

  16. Mike says:

    I do a bit of both. At work, I’ve pulled all of the shop tools out of their cases because they live in a large cabinet and if they are needed further than the next room the whole cabinet can roll closer to the job..
    At home, I keep my power tools in the cases they came in. For the Ryobi cordless set I even bought a large soft sided bag to carry them in. Around the house, the cases/bags only help to keep them organized. When I leave to do a freelance job or help friends/family, the cases make it easy to keep tools and accessories together and only grab what I expect to need.

  17. Fong says:

    Blow-molded cases with their corresponding accessories..stored in cabinets or on shelves..used during transport for protection. They hold up better than bags and stack better too.

  18. jesse says:

    I love the fitted, blow-molded HDPE cases. I have never had one seriously damaged, never mind worn out, whether a small bit case or a full-sized power tool case. And you can tell in an instant what components might be missing.

  19. Bob says:

    I prefer the hard cases with room for accessory storage. That way I can grab one case when loaning it out or taking it to help someone. Or asking my wife/kids/helper to get it and know that it is all together. As well as the protection factor when it is bouncing around in the back of my truck (or someone else’s).

  20. WDS says:

    +1 for a systanier type system, it would be nice if the tool companies standardized on 1 system so that everything worked together but I’m not going to hold my breath. The bags are worthless, although my Bosch PS-20 soft case does make a great lunchbox. My main problem with the blow molded cases is they have so much wasted space, most are twice as big as the tool they house and they don’t have any standard size or design. The Dremel 400 XRP case is the one exception, they did it right, not a whole lot of wasted space, the have a specific place for everything that comes with it AND a space for every available accessory so it still works perfectly when you expand down the line.

    Dremel Case:
    http://www.rainydaymagazine.com/RDM2006/RainyDayRenovations/Dremel/RDMR_Dremel400FirstLook_Overview.htm

  21. Jerry says:

    I use the hard cases for in the shop storage on shelves. Keeps everything neat and easy to find. I find the hard cases to be a real pain when getting busy working though. They seem designed to insure that you won’t be carrying much else in the case. The soft bags allow me to throw a bunch of extra stuff in with the tool – drill bits, saw blades, misc. hardware for the project. For small projects away from the shop – lots of those – I toss everything I need into a soft DeWalt bag that I acquired a few years back. It’s nice to be able to toss most of the needed tools and materials into a single container and tote it with one hand.
    If the manufacturers of those hard cases would just leave all the empty space open so it could be used…….

  22. Angelbane says:

    Well I like the plastic cases for storage.

    The bags are better as gym bags or if you don’t care about your tools.

    My dad and I used to install window treatments in some pretty nice places back in the day and he was religious about keeping his tools in clean and pristine shape in their original hard cases. I never really understood why until one day the owner of one of the high rise condos commented on his professionalism, and specifically remarked on how he took care of his tools.

    The funny thing was that on that particular job he had done as a favor for a friend who needed to be elsewhere.
    after that my dad was the only installer that the owners in that building would use.

    So given the situation using the cases are a good thing and to this day I tend to measure how well a job is going to be done by how their tools are taken care of. and you know what 90% of the time I am right.

  23. CJ says:

    This is the 2nd time I am re-righting my comments. I use whatever my tools come in… and I REALLY don’t like to buy tools that don’t come with some kind of case. So my answer is give me soft case or hard cases I will use them. Give me nothing and I probably won’t buy your tool.

  24. fred says:

    I’m with PutnamEco and others that bags offer no protection. Unfortunately some of the blowmolded cases may provide “dead-air” space that cushions the tool from outside impact – but also takes up an inordinate amount of room. I guess the old metal boxes just got too expensive. For some tools in the past – we used to have a local fabricator who made up fiberboard boxes. I still have a bunch of older PC sanders and power planes in these. On larger jobsites – we bring Knaack boxes that we compartmentalize with plywood – and sometimes a bit of scrap foam – and every portable tool inside has its own space.

  25. Lee Gibson says:

    Systainers for the win!

  26. ambush says:

    Anything with small parts such as bits, taps and sockets needs some kind of case. A circular saw does not. I use my cordless drill case but mostly for accessories. Come to think of it I don’t really take the case out of the shop with the drill generally anyway. and not enough accessories fit unless you take out the charger.

  27. Jeff says:

    Festool anyone?

    • tsander says:

      I guess you are talking about Festool’s systainer system. Lovely idea, but way outside my price range. In the case of my no-name drill, the right-size systainer costs more than the tool! I can see ToolMonger regulars ponying up the cash for it though.

  28. dexm says:

    I like systainers as well. Would love to have a set up like that. Right now, I use my hard metal cases (older Milwaukee) and Metabos. Most of my other drills use the blow-molded cases. I store my grinders (Metabo) in the metal cases as well. A few cheapie drills (some Dewalt), I don’t bother with cases.

  29. Dreamcatcher says:

    I always use cases. I know a few guys who don’t. Their tools break more often than mine and I refuse to loan them any tools.

    It really comes down to attitude, gratitude, and respect. My tools are my livelihood so I treat them well, keep them protected, perform proper maintenance, and make sure they are clean and sharp. In return they work like new although some are 15 years old. Some even look new still.

    I hear a lot of people advocating Systainers. I think it’s better to have a custom case made just for the tool than a generic box made for any tool. I couldn’t imagine my rotary hammer or portable bandsaw fitting into a Systainer, likewise I don’t think my tiny little soldering gun should require even the smallest size Systainer. I think that if tool cases were standardized there would be even more complaints.

    Bags are nearly useless – sometimes a dealbreaker for me. Most bags end up with an inch of sawdust and garbage at the bottom. They don’t stack and rarely stay put. Shifting weight inside tips them over.

    Metal cases were nice but I don’t miss them. One scratch and it’s a rust box. Hinges stop working and break. One wrong move and the whole case is tweaked out of square then won’t close properly.

    For the most part I am happy with the blow molded cases. Some companies do better than others. In my tool collection, Bosch seems to make the best cases although it can be hit-or-miss at times. Porter Cable seems to make the worst cases; least storage and hardest to close while keeping the cord inside.

    DC

  30. tsander says:

    I have half a dozen tools I use regularly – circ saw, jigsaw, cordless drill, cordless screwdriver, RO sander. During the summer they go on a custom build power tool rack next to my workbench. It’s nothing fancy, just a shelf with notches and compartments to hold the tool and keep the cords tucked away.

    Tools that I use a couple of times a year (hammer drill, impact driver, recip saw, etc.) stay in the cases until I need them. The cases keep the accessories together with the tool.

    Come winter the garage is used for the car and all the tools go back into their cases and go into the utility room. The utility room is too small for anything but a Vikas folding workbench, but the tools are still available for any light jobs I do indoors.

  31. StevH says:

    90% I ditch those lame blow-molded cases. They are not light enough and are too bulky for storage. Add the often failure prone flexible plastic hinges/latches that snap off and its a no brainer. I only use the blow-molded Craftsman socket case because I need it to keep everything organized.

    Now the clam shell type (sorta like a plastic lunchbox) case that my DeWalt drill came in was nicer. It has a great folding handle and bulletproof metal latches. What would make it even more desirable would be if they added logical extra storage space within the case for extra bits/blades etc. rather than just the space for what comes in the tool’s original box.

  32. RickC says:

    I use both, for different reasons. The hard cases for tools that either come with them, or have fragile pieces,
    Soft bags, for example, are good for my Biscuit joiner,
    my collection of Roto-zip heads and bottoms, as well as the semi-framed open bag I have for the cordless drill.
    All the bits/crap, and extra batteries fit in the open middle, and the pockets around the bag hold special bits.

  33. Chris says:

    I have tried every type of tool storage going and ended up with around 30+ systainers of all different sizes and styles. There’s nothing better.

  34. GadgetLovingGeezer says:

    Make mine steel. I don’t trust the integrity of hinges on plastic cases.

    My tools are for home use and I keep them inside their individual steel cases if supplied with such.

  35. pete says:

    i hate blow-molded cases: cheap plastic, cheap hardware (if any) and take up way more space than the tool should. The perfect example of a terrible case is the Makita circular saw, chances are you have duct-tape holding yours closed if you even have it

    I WISH more hard cases were like the one my dewalt 14v drill came in. Very rigid, and compact, the case wasn’t much larger than the drill and charger…plus it had real metal clasps! I lost it : (

  36. pete says:

    …after reading a few systainer recommendations, i looked them, nice, but my issue is the handle on the lid, as opposed to the top edge, i don’t see that as a comfortable way to tote a tool around, especially lugging through a house trying not to hit every doorway. its also easier to carry a heavier tool close to your side

  37. Bor says:

    6 of one half a dozen of the other. Hard cases protect better, but some of them are such a hassle to get the tool in. Adjustments like blade depth and angle sometimes have to be set just right, the cord has to be a certain way and so on.

    With a soft case, at most it’s a few velcro straps holding the tool in place and you’re good to go.

  38. David says:

    I absolutely prefer hard cases, especially with my saws. Hard cases offer much more protection. To invest so much money, and just toss it an a bag to where things can bent, scratched up, doesn’t make sense to me. Plus I have seen, the soft cases rip and tear, and if you have any blades in the bag, they can fall out.

    There is only one complaint that I see with hard cases. I think that hard cases need more room inside that way, the cord can be wrapped up easier. Adding a little room would also allow to carry extra blades or bits or accessories as well.

  39. TominDC says:

    While I do keep some tools in the plastic mfgr box, I use bags to bring tools to the worksite. I have a bag for my impact drill, all bits and hole saws, one for my recip saw, one for my multimaster and accessories, one for tile and masonry tools, and one big open-top one for my everything else tools. The latter ways a ton, but it save a lot of trips to the workshop. Bags are light and take up less space under my workbench.

  40. KeithFromCanada says:

    Personally, I keep my larger/expensive tools in their cases. I agree with those who don’t like the blow-molded cases for loss of storage space; I keep all kinds of useful things in my DeWalt cases. My pet peeve is cases with rounded/oddball edges/faces/etc. If I had my way, every single case ever made would contain only right angles, so they can easily be stacked as needed.

  41. Monte says:

    Systainer or L-Boxx

  42. Brian says:

    I’m a finish carpenter and use all of my tools every day. They all arrive to the job site in their respective hard cases and that’s how they leave. I am more organized than any contractor I’ve met and that’s a big part of it. When you’ve got thousands of dollars worth of tools it’s foolish and even disrepectful to throw them in a bag or the back of your truck. And, hard cases actually take up less space on shelves and keep your shop more organized, and therefore more productive. If that little bit of extra space is crowding out your shop it’s time to lease a bigger shop anyway. I only buy tools with hard cases, and my hand tools get to jobsites and back to the shop in Stanley hard plastic weatherproof toolboxes. My shop is always clean, my truck is always clean, I’m happier, my customers are happier, and I make more $$. Hard cases all the way.

  43. Gravlore says:

    I use soft bags for travelling and used to toss the hard cases since nothing ever found exactly how to sit properly. Recently I have cut out the core of the hard cases and they are now essentially small suitcases. Everything else is put into a right sized Rubbermaid storage box with lid, labelled and shelved.

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