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I came across a piece last week (via Lifehacker) on and it got me thinking: How many of you hard-core Toolmongers currently own older storage solutions — either restored or not? While I haven’t bothered to throw on new paint, my shop is full of a mix-match of various storage gear I bought and inherited. Pictured above, for example, is a Kennedy machinist’s toolbox that came out of my father’s shop.

Most folks dismiss the Kennedy as old and dirty, but I disagree. Well, it is old and dirty, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a sturdy precision case that’ll hold scores of heavy bits and mills with nary a complaint. Sure, it’s not too pretty. But the drawers still slide out smoothly, and I only had to replace a little bit of the felt inside.

The theme continues along another wall, where my hodgepodge of mechanic’s tools reside in a pile of Craftsman roll-aways. Admittedly I only purchased one of them (the closest) from Sears. The other two I inherited, and both of them came from garage sales. The farthest one ran $75 and required a little drawer repair. The center one was the real steal: My father found it in a shop sale for $25. (There’s a medium-sized ding in the back of it that doesn’t affect the drawer movements and is purely cosmetic.)

But what about you? Have you recently purchased new storage or found something used? Know the secret to a great deal? Dish!


18 Responses to Tool Storage On The Cheap

  1. Mike Lee says:

    I have many old tool boxes(20+) that I had restored. I pay $25 or less and the tools boxes new would cost more than $200. I have brought new craftman 8 draws boxes for 35 dollars, but they aren’t as good as the old ones. The only draw back for the old boxes is that you have to degrease and paint them. What I like about old boxes is the history. You just imagine who had the box and the history it been through.

  2. Toolhearty says:

    Old toolboxes? Someone cue Txinkman (man, I hate that guy… but only because I envy his patience).

    My toolbox story: When I was growing up, there was an old, wooden box shoved in a corner of garage that contained mostly junk (misc. bits of plumbing, boxes of rusty screws, etc.). Long after I had moved away from home, I happened to ask my dad about that box. He told that was my grandfather’s tool chest (he was a carpenter). I asked if I could have it (“Sure, take it.”) and after scrubbing off years of filth and applying a couple coats of varnish, it turned out to be a really spiffy looking chest and is now storage for my halfway decent woodworking handtools (saws, planes, chisels, etc.).

    The rest of the tools are in a couple of Craftsman roll-arounds (bought new, sadly) and a few machinist’s chests that I managed to pick up cheap.

  3. Eric says:

    My tool storage is primarily on pegboard. But my “pride and joy” is my newly-organized hardware center. About 5 years ago, I bought several of those modular specialty hardware organizers that the hardware stores have – the ones that are 6 drawers, and each drawer is a plastic tackle-box-like tray – for their specialty hardware. I found them at a “going out of business” sale. I added several sets of Harbor Freight organizer bins to the collection.

    Over the long holiday weekend, I finally took all the boxes and bags and coffee cans full of hardware and spent my time sorting them by type and then by size, etc. I used tape and labels to identify all of the compartments, stacking the bins and drawers appropriately on an old bookshelf.

  4. A.Crush says:

    I’ve got a few of the Craftsman 2/3 drawer and 20 inch toolboxes from when they were still made in the USA, and two of the newer made-in-China 20 inch black toolboxes.

    Having a lot of various tool storage makes for an interesting shop, but after dealing with so many things being in different places, I have to say I’d rather have one main rollaround for the sockets/wrenches, and either put everything thing up on pegboard or have a workbench or something.

    I’m still waiting on a decent clearance price to buy a Craftsman rollaround, though it would be nice to find something used. Black seems to be hard to get, though.

  5. fred says:

    In the post about spring-assisted hand saws – I mentionned that old Carpenters sometimes used a Kennedy hip roof box that could accommodate a longer hand saw and even a framing square (via a cut-out slot in the top of the box). I have such a box – a Kennedy #32 – crinkle brown finish – 33 inches long – with a canvas strap that I’d no longer trust to carry any weight. Mine actually has some old pipe threaders stored in it.

  6. KG2V says:

    Should I tell you about the Gerstner I found being thrown out – neary mint? some CRAYON marks on the inside of a couple of the drawers, but other than that…

  7. moco says:

    i have an old looking stackon metal tool box i got at walmart. its already starting to show ” character” i also bought a craftsman tool chest up my street must be about 20 years old. works good.

  8. Toolhearty says:

    KG2V Says:
    Should I tell you about the Gerstner I found being thrown out – neary mint?…

    No! (grumble, grumble, grumble…) 🙂

  9. Bob says:

    We bought our Gerstner at an auction for $50. Took some cleaning up but my wife loves it for her jewelry tools.

  10. kg2v says:

    I was walking down West 66th in Manhattan, (having just parked my truck), and there, right outside one of the big residential buildings (across from ABC) was the Gerstner sitting on top of all the garbage bags – I guess the owner figured someone might want it – it was neatly placed. Needless to say, I grabbed it, walked back to my truck, and put it in before headding off to work. That’s my 4th Gerstner, only 1 of which came from the factory

  11. Moose says:

    My pride and joy, seriously don’t laugh ok? Is my grandfather’s old JCPenney box. 1 tray matte black finish (now). Any time any work needed to be done on my Dad’s houseor my older brother’s place here’d come my grandfather with that black tool boc from Penney’s. We gave him hell but he didn’t care. When I was real young I used to think he had all the tools a man could have in that one box. Boy, was I a foolish kid!

    I still have it and will keep and give it to my son one day. So he can start his tool collection.

  12. DaveD says:

    I just jump on cheap deals for Craftsman ball bearing boxes via places like slickdeals or fatwallet.

  13. laz says:

    FWIW, the consensus on “the garage journal” forums is that the harbor freight rolling chest is the best cheapskate option, and is a better product than the same range craftsman ones.

  14. mickeyrat says:

    I make toolboxes and aside from a old Kennedy machinist and a couple of Crapsman kick arounds the rest are mine I built and try to sell(not much luck) One day I will post some pics here.I made a nice roll around out of baltic birch,cherry, birdseye and tiger maple with a built in workbench,clamping system of my own design,full extension slides,the whole nide yards,everyone liked it bit said it was too nice to use as a workbench,go figure.My other boxes are based on a old German design

  15. Jim K. says:

    Add me to the list of those that have refurbished up an old toolbox rather than buy new. Two of my favorites came completely free this way (a nice machinist and a simple carry-around). The machinist box took a bit of cleaning up and repainting, but was otherwise in good shape. The carry-around I just cleaned and left as is. Add to my free jobox (acquired when I agreed to remove it from storage along with whatever was inside of it, it was locked) and I’ve got a nice little collection of tool storage that I paid pretty much nothing for. By the way, the jobox held a bunch of cardboard from boxes, a hoisting strap in new condition, and a pipethreader. I sold the pipe threader and strap for around $25, recycled the cardboard and actually made a few bucks on that one. 🙂

  16. miss frannie says:

    I picked a old kennedy tool chest out of someones trash. I believe it to be a carpenters framing chest as it has a knock out for a framing square, and it is long about 30 inches. I’m always amazed at what people will pitch in the trash!!!…

  17. luke says:

    A friend of mine found a old craftsman machinist box in the trash orange with rust. to my surprise everything inside was clean so I scrubbed the box with acetone then sprayed it with automotive black threw on some pinstripes then dusted the whole box with some flat black to bring back the age. everywhere I bring the box people ask about where I got it, I tell them the trash, they cant believe it.

  18. matthew webster says:

    Where can i find “craftsman red” paint to restore a craftsman rolling tool chest?

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