Organize Parts Storage Stacking Cases

It all started with this video from Tested.
tested, adam savage, sortimo, sorting cases

And in case you are wondering what the final result looks like, this is my rolling case to organize all my parts, screws, bolts, brackets, etc...
organize parts, storage stacking cases, harbor freight, 20 box

You can watch the video of the build here, but for more pictures and explanation continue reading.
Organize Parts - Storage Stacking Cases

For some reason i recently became interested in organizing everything in the workshop.  I saw pictures like this one and just got really motivated to clean all the junk from my basement shelves.
how to organize your shop, organize bins, sorting, organize, shop, workshop

Here's a picture of a portion of Adam's shop.  He has spent years arranging everything the way that he prefers, but he is still changing and making it better.
adam savage workshop

I've talked before about how much I like watching the Tested channel on YouTube.  It's hosted by two guys Will and Norm, but the main attraction to it is Adam Savage from Mythbusters.  There's lots of really great videos which show Adam working on different projects and making really cool things in a shop.  A couple of months ago I built a folding case for my nail guns.  I was inspired by the case that adam built on Tested.
folding toolbox, tool box, nail gun case

One of the earliest videos on the Tested YouTube page was one which showed how Adam sorted and organized all of his parts/hardware. 
mythbusters shop, how to organize bolts, washers, nuts

Lots of people use jars or trays, sometimes you'll see a whole wall rack with different compartments for the nuts or bolts.  These types of systems seem like a good idea at first.  But then you start adding parts and pretty soon they get over filled and become just as difficult to find things as a big jar.
harbor freight colored trays, sorting, bolts, shop

Or if you're like me you had everything spread over your garage and workshop in coffee cans and buckets.  I've had this gray set of drawers for many years and it did work really well.  I've just accumulated more stuff then will fit in the drawers.
sort bolts, screws, nuts, washers, parts, how to sort, stay organized

But Adam had a system by a company called Sortimo.  It's individual cases which have modular compartments on the inside.  Basically modular cases inside of a larger case.  For example one case will hold all different sizes of bolts.  Those bolts are separated into individual cups which can be moved or removed from the case.  Also these cases are designed so that when they are turned sideways or upside down everything stays in place.
sortimo tbox, tboxx, case price, review, price, sale, compare

Adam had about 20 of the Sortimo cases on a rolling rack in a shop.  I thought it was a wonderful way to stay organized and easily get to any part you need quickly.  No more having to search through piles and piles of junk all mixed together in one container.  One big downside of the cases and rack system that Adam used is the price.  I looked online, the Sortimo cases cost more than $50 each and the rack was several hundred dollars.  That meant that if you wanted to purchase the same thing that Adam had, you would have to spend close to $1000.  So i decided to come up with a cheaper alternative, which worked the same way.  The first change i made was with the case itself.  There are other companies that make these sorting cases. Lowe's has cases made by the company Kobalt which cost around $12.  But i decided to buy my cases from Harbor Freight.  They had three different case sizes and i decided to buy medium sized case.
harbor freight 20 bin portable parts storage case, review, build, cart, box

The original price of the case at Harbor freight was $10.  Although 99% of the time you can purchase it in the store for $7.50.  Then on top of that, you can always print out a 20% off coupon for one individual item, plus you can print out another coupon for one free item.  Luckily I have a Harbor Freight on the way home from work.  So I printed out eight 20% off coupons and eight free item coupons.  Each day I would go to the store and grab one plastic case and either a free flashlight, free measuring tape, or free volt meter.  So I was getting the plastic sorting case and flashlight for just $6.40.  Which is half of the case at Lowe's and way less than the Sortimo case.

After buying eight cases and getting 8 free items I got a little impatient.   I realized that although right now i only need 8 cases, over time i would probably need a lot more.  So i ended up buying a total of 12 cases from Harbor Freight.  

Now before I begin talking about building the rolling organize cart, I want to mention the actual Harbor Freight sorting case.  All of those type of  cases come with a clear cover so that you can see everything inside.  However with Harbor Freight 20 box case there is a large sticker which is attached to the front, which is impossible to get off.  After searching online i realized that many people had the same annoying problem.  One solution that someone had was to peel off the thin plastic coating with a razor knife, then using carb cleaning fluid or transmission fluid, dampen the paper sticker until the glue breaks down and it could be easily removed by scraping with a flat razor knife.  That method worked really well and i was able to remove all 12 of the stickers.

Then it was time to begin sorting all of my nuts, bolts and miscellaneous parts I had lying around my workshop.  I had things in coffee cans and jars, in bowls and just lying on the shelf.   I did have a nice little sorting box which I've used for as long as I can remember.  It was great when I was a kid but I definitely filled it up years ago and needed more space.  So I dumped everything out on the table and began sorting.  The whole process took 3 days and i filled up 9 of the 12 cases.  This is what it looked like after i had purchased just 5 cases. 
sorting parts into cases, workshop, tools, how to organize

It was very enjoyable going through, dumping everything out, sorting them into their own tray, then deciding what trays should be grouped together into a case.  I was finding things that i never knew i had.  Also it was great knowing that i would never have to spend minutes each time having to look for just the right sized bolt.
harbor freight case, garage, rolling cart, case, adam savage

So now I had all the cases sorted and it was time to build the mobile stacking cart to keep it all together.  I drew several different sketches of how I thought the cart showed work.  At the end I figured that the simplest design would be the best.  Just a wooden 5-sided box with wooden sliders for the cases to rest on.  Then i drew the cart up on AutoCAD.  Using the computer to design, really helped with getting all the dimensions.  It forces you to think more about what all the board dimensions will be and all the spacing.  Here was my final design.
plans for a rolling cart, case, workshop, toolshop, woodshop, dimensions, case, sortimo

The dimension of the rolling case itself was based on the size of the Harbor Freight cases.  I gave about 1/2" room on either side, it didn't have to be the exact size of the case.  However i did design it so that the cases were flush at the front.
plans, build, how to, boards, make, cart, wood, rolling

The wood I decided to use was 1/2" OSB.   I've used this wood many times before on different projects, basically for the same reason.  It's adequately strong and as cheap a 4'x8' board you can buy.  The 4'x8' sheet of OSB is only $10.  Compared to a piece of 1/2" plywood which might cost $35.  You can see in this picture the sheet of wood that I started with.  The best thing is that i had already used this board on a previous project.  Luckily there was enough of the board left, that I could cut out the top, bottom, back, and the two sides.
osb wood, 4x8 board, layout for organize cart, case

I still have to improve my technique for cutting a large sheet of wood on the table saw.  I probably should have used a circular saw with a straight edge.  But I was able to cut the rough dimensions and then later i recut it exactly to the right size with the table saw and 90° fence.
table saw, cross cut, osb, craftsman, guard

Here are the wheels that I was planning on using.  They were a little pricey at $4 each, but they're really nice and roll quietly.
harbor freight wheels, rollerblade wheels, smooth, quiet

For the small boards that the cases would ride on, I used a piece of 1"x2" pine.  Again these come in 8 foot pieces and only cost $1.00 each.  I cut them down to size, 13", then attached them to the sides.
glue slats, 1x2 pine, how to clamp, cart

The method used in attaching them to the side boards was a little bit complicated.  First I added glue to the slats and clamped them to the side.  Then I flipped the whole side piece over and nailed them from the outside.  Once they were nailed in place I could remove the clamps and move to the next piece.  This process was repeated over and over until all of the eleven 1"x2"s were attached.
nail gun, bostitch, build cart, shop rolling cart

Here are the completed side boards waiting for the glue to dry.
side boards, bostitch air compressor, dimensions

Well my plan was for them to be set to the side and dry, but instead I decided to build the whole case that day.  That's the great thing about using a nail gun and glue, normally I would have to wait for the glue to set for 24 hours and have to use several clamps.  But with the nail gun it's all held in place and I can continue to work.  Here's how I attached the other pieces.  With everything lying flush on the ground I glued the top on and nailed it together.
building the case, wood case for shop, tray, verticle, stacking

I then repeated that step for the bottom piece and the back.  And here is what the case looked like at that point.  Only then did i leave it and let the glue dry overnight.
vertical stacking case, cart, rolling

The next morning I tested the plastic cases to see how they would slide in and out.  It was a little bit of a tight fit so I decided to round over the edges.  I used to wood rasp to knock down the sharp edges of the OSB and 1x2's.  This helped a lot and allowed the cases to slide smoothly on the wood rails.  Next I did pass over everything with the belt sander.  I didn't spend too much time sanding, but I did knock down all of the sharp outer corners as well.

Then it was time to start painting the case.  As with many of my other projects, I just use whatever leftover paint I have in the basement.  This time the old paint was a sort of a whitish lime green color.  It was leftover in the basement from the previous owners of the house.  I don't think the company which made the paint still exists.
paint shop cart, stacking case, mobile, wheel

Here's what it looked like after the first coat.  I wasn't real happy with the lime green paint so I decided to give it a little more weathered look.
painted, white, wood, cart, case, wood, cheap, free, clean, organize

On the right is the lime green paint I used, on the left is polyurethane.  To do the weathering all I needed was the brown and black paint in the middle.  I've done weathering techniques before on my nail gun case and tool box.  I got the idea from Adam Savage and his YouTube videos.  The tool box i weathered looked way better after it was old, dirty and scuffed up.  I thought the organize case would look better weathered as well.
paint and polyurethane, how to weather, weathered wood, adam savage

The way to weather something starts with wetting down the surface, then brush on the brown or black paint.  I try to get the dark paint in all the nooks and crevices.  Then take a rag and try to wipe off as much paint as possible.  Weathering OSB has a definite look to it because it is not a smooth piece of wood, it's actually several pieces glued together.  Filling in those cracks with dark paint gives it more of a textured look.
how to weather a case, give something character, osb, paint

I had never weathered something this large before, it turned out all right, but not as good as the other two projects I had done.  Although I definitely like it better than the solid lime green paint.
stacking vertical wood case, organize, plans, build

After the weathering I added two coats of polyurethane to protects everything.  The last step was to add the 4 wheels.  This was the first time i got to use my new cases.  I had to find 16 screws to attach the wheels and they had to be the right size.  It was so easy finding just the right size screw to use when everything is neatly sorted.  Normally I would have to dump out coffee cans on the floor and try to find screws that were roughly the same size.  You can see here how easy it is when everything is in its place.
harbor freight, case, organize, wheeled cart, vertical cart, box, wood, plans

Here is what the final case organizer looked like.
great organize cart, pinterest, cheap, harbor freight, case cart

I'm really happy with how it turned out.  I do realize it's not the most complicated thing in the world.  Just a square box with some wood slats glued on the inside.  But it didn't need to be any more complicated then that.  It's simple, strong and works great.  So far i've used the cart a few times to find bolts or washers and it's saved me lots of time.  If I need a specific piece I can just pull out the labeled box and find the exact one I need.
pinterest how to organze shop, organize, fabric, screws, man

Yet again this is one of those projects that I wish I had done years ago.  I can just imagine how many hours it would've saved me over the years.
cool cart, case, organize, sort, neat, compact, woodshop,


Unknown said...

OK, it's 6+ months later. How are those HF cases holding up to use? Are you still finding the system convenient?

Notitlerequired said...

The cases have worked perfectly. Not saying that i'm using them "heavily" but i am super happy with the cases and stand.

It's so nice being able to find the right size bolt or screw without having to search through coffee cans.

It's something i should have built years ago. Even if you don't build the wood stand, buy a bunch of plastic cases just to organize everything.

Mickey said...

Hey Dave, I tried to share this with you on Pinterest but couldn't do it right. Still new to Pinterest. Anyways, from your inspiration I made my own version of this cart. I was nervous about the holding power of the slats for the cases so I did dados for each one. I also wanted my cart to be 18"x18" so I made another set of adjustable shelves on the back side of the cart. I did the plans in SketchUp because I wanted to make the parts correctly. Thanks for sharing such a great idea!


Darren Pruitt said...

Nice design so I copied it!

Rolling storage


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your project. I am going to build this tomorrow.
One thing I am going to to try is leave both of the sides together as one piece and glue the rails as one piece and then "Split" them into their respective sides on the table saw. I'll let you know how that goes.
I am also going to put a 1" lip around the top so when I pull out a case it can sit on the top without the danger of me knocking it off.

Unknown said...

Wow! I've also been looking for a better "coffee can" for years!! I just bought the trays and casters at my own local Harbor Freight and will get started on it after I finish the list of Christmas projects I signed up to build. I think your project is a great one and maybe I'll quit driving to Lowes whenever I need some hardware (dumb). I'll send some pix when I'm done. Thx again for sharing.

forseeme said...

It's been a bit since you built it. How are the rails holding up? Others seem to go with 3/4" and dado the sides to hold the rails; but that's a lot more work, and if your's are holding up, I would rather do it how you did.

Notitlerequired said...

The case and rails are still perfect. I have some cases loaded up with nuts and bolts and they weigh maybe 20 pounds and i've had zero problems. Nails and glue has been fine for me.

Danny C. said...

Have the wheels/castors on your case developed flat spots by any chance? I had similar clear wheels from harbor freight, rated at 200 pounds each, and they developed flat spots from way under load.