'tis better to have tools you don't need than to need tools you don't have

Published May 4, 2011

Small parts storage

Keeping small parts stored, organized and (most important) accessible

Stanley 25-Compartment Professional Organizer (best quality)
Harbor Freight 20 Bin Portable Parts Storage Case (poor quality clone of the Stanley, but serviceable)
Harbor Freight 15 Bin Portable Parts Storage Case (nice size, great bargain on sale)
Harbor Freight 8 Bin Portable Parts Storage Case (avoid this one)

One of my major issues has always been storing, organizing, and finding small parts like bolts, screws, nails, washers, etc. I've tried bins, boxes, wall cubbies, all sorts of stuff. Finally, I've hit on a system that really works for me.

It starts with small storage boxes. I started off with some Stanley 25-bin Professional Organizers, which I really like. They're well-built and give you plenty of bins in a variety of sizes. What's nice is that the bins are removable and the sizes are modular (two smalls are the same size as a medium, two mediums the same as a large) so you can mix and match bins between organizers. This lets you create organizers with lots of small bins or just a few large bins, depending on what you want to keep in them. Stanley also makes a double-deep model with very large bins for larger quantities or bulkier items. I don't have that one listed because I can't find it at a reasonable price online, best to get that one from your local Lowes or (gag) Home Depot.

As much as I like the Stanleys, at $17 each, the costs start stacking up. Harbor Freight makes clones of the Stanleys that are almost exactly the same size but the bins are a little deeper. They're definitely a lower quality product, but if you catch them on sale they're half the price. In addition to the lower quality (lighter plastic, poor fit) you get fewer, larger bins, but they're so darn cheap I have a pile of them anyway. Harbor Freight also has a clone of the Stanley double-depth model, but it's even worse in terms of poor fitting parts, I recommend you avoid that one.

Recently, Harbor Freight also started selling a different model that's half the size of the others. These new models only have small & medium bins, which I find more useful. And only $4 on sale! However, they have the strangest warning label on them, who knew a small plastic box could be so dangerous?

The organizers are designed to stack up, but when you've got several dozen of them getting one out of the middle is a pain. So I built this cabinet for them to live in, I can just find the one I want and pull it without disturbing the others. I sized the bays so that either size will fit and the half-sized ones fit two to a bay.


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