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The war rages on between Toolmongers who favor store-bought shop storage and benches and those who prefer to build it themselves.  In the Toolmonger shop we’ve always had some of each — we support the DIY ethos, but who really has time to build their rolling tool chests?   Still, we’re curious about store-bought systems, like Whirlpool’s Gladiator line, that try to address all your storage issues.

Storage systems like the Gladiator consist of benches, cabinets, wall components, and flooring, available in configurable chunks so you can create the setup you need and stay flexible.  But most folks point out first-thing that these store-bought systems don’t really handle everything, which is true — only custom-built rigs can.

The next comment is about price:  the store-bought gear is expensive.  For instance, the Gladiator 6’ modular bench with a steel frame and solid maple top will run you about $530.  A home-built bench that serves the same function might cost half that or less, and the cash you save could be put to good use buying tools and doing projects.

In many shops we find a mix of both:  buy what you can’t, or don’t want to, build and make the rest yourself.  In the end, getting the shop “just right” is far less important than what you do in it.  If you happen to wind up with a mash-up of gear, so be it — interior designers call that “character.”

So what do you think?  Let us know in comments.

Gladiator Garage System [GarageWorks]
6′ Modular Workbench [GarageWorks]


19 Responses to Hot or Not? Store-Bought Storage

  1. Tom C says:

    I had had good luck using old cabinets, and file cabinets from the local University (U of Michigan). They have a whole warehouse (with wacky hours) that is full of old computers and office/dorm furniture for cheap.

  2. ToolGuyd says:

    Definitely hot – for some applications. In some cases, store-bought storage can be modified to produce something far more suitable than pure store bought or DIY options.

  3. Jim says:

    For a rolling cabinet, I’ve had good luck with the US General Industrial Quality tool chests sold by Harbor Freight. They’re heavy duty, bb slides, welded, powder coated, rubber mats, and lockable. They’re often on sale or if you sign up you can get e-mail coupons (15-20% off). I looked at the Craftsman line and these just seemed way better.

    In terms of wall cabinets and benches though I don’t know of a good value, unless you’ve got more money than time. It does take time to sort through lumber and find good materials, cut, mill, assemble, etc.

  4. fred says:

    In my commercial shops we have a combination of shop-built and manufactured storage solutions. We like the Stanley Vidmar, Lista and Rotabin products that we have. These are part of the capitalization of our shops, are on a depreciation schedule and not only increase our productivity – but add to the marketablility of the shops – should we decide to sell them.

    At home – I am much more modest – and also think that half of the fun and learning experience comes from building your own.

  5. Snork says:

    Sometimes the best option is found items. Three of my work benches were found. The main one is an old solid oak desk with a water damaged top but otherwise in great shape. The other two were from moving sales. Do a cost benefit, sometimes free or cheap isn’t worth the ultimate cost.

  6. paganwonder says:

    Building your own is sometimes the only projects I don’t have to get some one else to approve/pay for- I wouldn’t give that luxury up in my own shop. For my trucks everything is commercial purchase because it has to ‘look’ professional.
    My father-in-law has that refrig and I definitely lust after after that huge castered beauty!

  7. Brad Justinen says:


    Half the fun of owning tools is building your own storage systems for them.

    I have a mix of old tables, desks, and commercial shelving all tied, screwed, nailed glued, and welded together.

    Here’s an example:

  8. Lex Dodson says:

    Workbenches and tables I scavenge from wherever possible, but I’m not good enough at fabrication to make my own tool chests (yet). I have a Kobalt box that’s serving me very well in light of its cost, but I’ll need to expand it soon. I use rare Earth magnets to stick all kinds of stuff to the sides, including my creeper and tube o’ rags.

  9. Bill says:

    You have to be careful. Many many years ago I saw an idea in a car magazine about making rolling cabinets out of old washing machines. Of course, I had to scrounge a washing machine and build myself one. I still have my cabinet, but if I counted my time worth ANYTHING at all, I would have been better off to buy something commercial. Granted, sometimes there is the fun factor of scrounging and I’m all into that.

  10. Dan says:

    How much was the learning valued at? My guess: it offset the time.
    Just my .02$

  11. russ says:

    My wife found some nice cabinets (a set of 7 or 8) including one with a sink for about $200 bucks from Craiglist. I bought a faucet and they are in my garage. I have a place to wash up before I go into the house now. My shop ones are only beat up freebies but built well enough with some minor fixes to work out pretty well.

    When time, wood supply, and money allow me I will make some for the shop. The learning experience is worth it plus you can customize it for your needs.

  12. russ says:

    Oops meant 8 not the 🙂

  13. Wayne D. says:

    You could go to a place like Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store (http://www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx). I have found some great counter tops there from granite at $10 linear foot (2′ deep), Corian(?) at $5/ft to wood at $2/foot. You can get and entire nice cabinet set for about $400 (I mean really nice). You can buy pretty much anything there and still have money left over to buy a decent large tool like a table saw compared to store bought. Sure, it doesn’t have the diamond plate, but who really cares?

  14. Sean-T says:

    Just this week I spent way too long gawking at the craftsman catalog (accent lighting and cd player. Really?). I am thinking about using re-re-purposed cabinets from the laundry room and an old door. I’m trying to decide between 4×4 legs and a folding down surface attached to the wall with piano hinges and chains. I’m not sure whether the fold-down solution would be sturdy enough, but space is at a premium. Any thoughts would be helpful.

  15. bob says:

    Wayne’s right.

  16. paganwonder says:

    Sean-T, I’ve always got a project in progress on my benches so fold-a-way would never get folded away.

  17. Great question Sean! Great discussion and points in the comments, too! It’s a topic that we deal with in many ways. We’re always interested in finding out what works best for the shop since it’s a challenge all DIYers face. We’ve passed this post along to our Facebook Community, as well, so they can join in the discussion.


  18. LAS says:

    Interesting ideas but you have to weigh appearance with simple function. If function is all you are interested in, scrounging can be fun but if you want the garage to be functional and stylish the Gladiator products definitely fit the bill. I’ve got them in my garage and my neighbors have garage envy. Some have been inspired to start working on their own garages. The cabinets are sturdy enough to handle the heavy paint cans without bowing and so much is behind closed doors that it always looks clean when I pull into the garage. Gardening projects are easier too now that I have a separate station near the garage door just for this activity.

  19. seraph037 says:

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to say not. They are VERY expensive, and really quite flimsy. I don’t see how they can justify the cost on most of them. And I agree that it is more rewarding to build your own with the added bonus that you can make it to your own specs/wants/needs.

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