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Tips and Jigs for the Shop #6: Tool Totes – Purpose, Philosophy, Design, Construction, and Usage

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Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 12-06-2009 11:10 PM 8541 reads 13 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Large Sled - Sketchup Part 6 of Tips and Jigs for the Shop series Part 7: Revised sled.......Soooper Sled Design »

Note: I was asked to describe my tool tote after it was noted in my push drill blog. So here is my command performance (-:
....probably more than you asked for.

My tool tote was born out of frustration and need. I had a plastic one that started falling apart, and was totally inadequate in any case. So I built mine, lets call him Tommy, and his sidekick Betty Bit Box. This is a utilitarian as it gets. Built about 22 years ago, it has traveled all over the state in the bowels of my motor home, suffered through rain storms (motor home fixing), snow storms, trips to the attic, out to fix the gate and the fence, onto the roof to install antennas and fix the flashing and shingles, etc. It has primarily an electrical bent, but is used for plumbing, woodworking, any shop project, etc. I suspect I will build a totally woodworking one and put different and new tools in it. So here is my thoughts on tool totes:

PURPOSE:
Whatever you are interested in. Really, if you are going to build one, build two or more at the same time. The concept is simple. Carry your tools to the job in a tote that has dedicated tools, that are never removed from the tote, because then you always know what is there.

I think there may be two main types:
Portable Fixitup Tote: That would be similar to Tommy
Workshop Tote: Mostly for moving commonly used tools to the point of action. Some people make large ones and put them on wheels. That is something different than Tommy, but has the same philosophy.

PHILOSOPHY:
Totes should fit you, and your tools. They should be extremly tough and durable. They should be mutable, meaning tool racks should come off with a few screws and be replaceable. They should be portable. You never have enough totes, I need more.

DESIGN and CONSTRUCTION:
There should be as many different designs as there are totes, meaning, this should be about as custom and unique as things get. Build it to fit your tools.

Considerations include: Size: too big and you can’t move it. Weight: this is a big issue, Tommy is heavy, so construction materials and size should take weight into consideration Durability: Metal would be fine, but it is not too mutable. Wood is mutable, but heavy. Plastic is probably just not workable. I chose wood, because I can build in wood easily, you can make it as tough as you want, refinish it with ease, and it is mutable. Construction: I used nails and glue for much of the main construction, and then screwed add-ons to the main frame. Trust me, nails and glue with butt joints, even with ¼ plywood is amazingly strong. Tommy is 22 years old, and nothing on him has broken. Finish: Danish oil works great, refinishing is easy, nicks, scratches etc don’t destroy the integrity of the finish. Parts: Totes are a great use for scrap, salvage drawers ( Tommy’s are from my old broken purchased plastic tote), and Rube Goldberg designs. Handle: It should be a rod so that you can pick it up at the point of balance. You will pile things on it and in it, and the center of gravity will change drastically. So use a rod over the top to carry it. I used a dowel.

My tool tote, Tommy, and his sidekick, Betty the bit box
.
Betty contains screwdriver bits, extensions, countersinks, etc.

Tommy got his 3rd, or is it 4th coat of Watco today, just so that I could show you the construction, and give you a better idea of how it is used.

Tommy with his tool racks off
.

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Tommy’s tool racks
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Tommy’s drawer fittings, the plastic drawers have to be lifted slightly to pull out, so they don’t open on their own
.

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Tommy’s contents
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Tommy’s drawers
.

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Betty bit box open, note the piece of a rubber baby buggy bumper that stops the sliding top.
I took this picture after turning Betty upside down and shaking her. Betty is designed to keep
everything in place when the top is closed.
.

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Betty nearly closed, you can see the latch mechanism, it is very firm and it never opens unintentionally
.

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Tommy filled from the left
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Tommy filled from the right
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-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska



35 comments so far

View pommy's profile

pommy

1697 posts in 2435 days


#1 posted 12-06-2009 11:14 PM

Wow Jim that puts mine to shame maybe i need to look at making a new one LOL….......

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#2 posted 12-06-2009 11:18 PM

Pommy:
Tommy is about 22 years old and still kicking. Gets changed here and there periodically.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View bigike's profile

bigike

4034 posts in 2032 days


#3 posted 12-06-2009 11:23 PM

wow, thats a real nice tool box everything at reach no clutter organized sweet.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://www.icombadaniels@yahoo.com

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#4 posted 12-06-2009 11:49 PM

bigike:
I have used it so long that I took it for granted. Until Timbo spotted it and got interested in the concept. Thanks for the perusal.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5387 posts in 1976 days


#5 posted 12-07-2009 02:21 AM

Fascinating how you blended the idea of an old wooden tool tote, with the fairly new advent of plastic drawers. Good inclusion.

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#6 posted 12-07-2009 03:13 AM

dbhost:
I took a good look at those drawers before using them. I remember contemplating making them, and realized they would be much heavier, and hold less in the same space. They were the one thing on that old plastic tote that had no damage and they looked well made. Well, 22 years later, I guess they were well made. Still none of them have any damage, and they look like they are ready for another 20 years. Some sort of vinyl, flexes some, not at all brittle. The screw drawer in particular has gotten heavy use, and it and the other seven look basically like new, except for surface blemishes. The plastic tote was obviously not made of the same stuff as its drawers. Something made of crappy plastic, usually has all its parts made of the same stuff. Hmmm. The tote was a different color. Bet they outsourced the drawers. Oh well, got a set of 8 good drawers, and the impetus to make a good wooden tote body.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#7 posted 12-07-2009 03:28 AM

dbhost:
Few more thoughts. I suspect one of the reasons this tote has worked out well is because of the folding project tables I have, not that they are folded up often, but that they are light weight get moved all over the place, so they are always available. I usually have the tote on one of them instead of the tool bench. I actually do most of my work on the project tables. Occasionally I place it on the mobile aquarium stand remake that I now use mostly for my router table stand, but it will be a good place for the downdraft table as well.

Those light weight project tables have had a profound influence on how the shop functions and how I work. You really ought to make a few of those. They are cheap, quick to build, and are extraordinarily useful. And they are strong and stable. Use them instead of sawhorses. You know the tops of those are low density particle board. You really don’t need to spend any money on them. You can clamp things to them. They are also my outfeed table for the TS.

I never thought I would get that much use out of those tables…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View DocK16's profile

DocK16

1140 posts in 2831 days


#8 posted 12-07-2009 04:41 AM

My brain just got put in design mode.

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#9 posted 12-07-2009 04:51 AM

DocK16
Watch out, the project might be bigger than you think! (-:

Thanks for the comment….....have fun, ‘tis the season to be jolly…..........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1479 posts in 2309 days


#10 posted 12-07-2009 04:54 AM

Thanks Jim! Great pics, I think I’m going to make a tote for the shop to keep all of my most used hand tools.There are several good ideas I will use from this blog.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#11 posted 12-07-2009 05:03 AM

Timbo:
Hope it is useful. These things are so very personal and unique that there is no plan that would have widespread application. I am going to make a new tote or two, not soon, but that will contain the woodworking tools I will use most frequently. I am getting a feeling for where I am going in this hobby, but not certain yet. Remember, more than one tote may be useful. Or….......you may be the one to have a wheel mounted large one…......

Later…........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View zlatanv's profile

zlatanv

689 posts in 1978 days


#12 posted 12-07-2009 05:54 AM

Allot better then my bucket. I need one like this, where everything is in sight and reach, I hate looking thru that bucket!

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#13 posted 12-07-2009 06:03 AM

zlatanv
Hmmmmmmm…....bucket list…......hmmm…...don’t think that’s what you mean. I know what you mean about buckets, that’s why I built my tote, a long time ago, but then, I am not young…....(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View stefang's profile

stefang

13623 posts in 2078 days


#14 posted 12-07-2009 11:06 AM

I will surely be making one of these in the near future. Then I will need someone to carry it around for me. Just have to get my Christmas stuff done first. Thanks for this thorough blog Jim. There’s a lot of good ideas detailed here.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3684 posts in 1908 days


#15 posted 12-07-2009 05:13 PM

Mike:
Weight is definitely an issue. Maybe a rolling tool station might be your item.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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