Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2001   by Dean Askin

You’re Not Just Buying a Tool Box

Tool storage has come a long way since the days of the bare-bones red metal portable box or roll cab that offered automotive and industrial maintenance mechanics a better way to store their wrenches, ...

Tool storage has come a long way since the days of the bare-bones red metal portable box or roll cab that offered automotive and industrial maintenance mechanics a better way to store their wrenches, sockets and other hand tools.

“Stop taking up valuable floor space with cumbersome, old-fashioned wooden benches that become catch-alls for everything yet provide inadequate tool storage,” read one 1945 catalogue promoting the latest in roll cab tool storage of the day.

While the more advanced units of the time offered features such as a built-in work light and a rubber-matted surface, most units and boxes were bare-bones utilitarian by today’s standards.

And there wasn’t a lot of choice, either. In its 1945 catalogue for example, one manufacturer offered a mere nine portable tool chests, and five roll cab and top chest combinations. Today from the same manufacturer, there are more than 60 different tool storage products, from basic portable boxes to the most sophisticated complete workstations.

Decades ago, toolboxes were just that – simply a place to store the basic hand tools mechanics needed and purchased with hard-earned Depression- and World War Two-era dollars.

Today, there’s a tool storage unit for every kind of automotive or industrial need. From small boxes, to portable top chests, to small and large roll cab and top chest combinations, to add-on drawer and end sections, to modular workstations.

Depending on your needs, choice of unit and work environment, a tool storage investment can be substantial. Although a good-quality, high-value basic roll cab and top chest unit costs less than a complete modular work station, be prepared to make a significant dollar investment. Weekly payment plans with automatic bank account withdrawal options, however, make it easy to get the unit you need and pay for it over a specified time period. It’s no different from buying a new couch or a new car.

You’re not just buying a toolbox, anymore. Roll cabs, top chests, drawer sections, end cabs, mid-sections and risers are designed to work as a complete system with plenty of functionality. Many models in a series can be mixed and matched. Today’s “ultimate work space” includes ample space to store and organize an array of hand tools, power tools, diagnostic tools, manuals, technical service bulletins and other necessities, plus a durable maple hardwood or stainless steel work surface.

You can start with a basic combination and add on as your needs grow; you can customize drawer arrangements to create your own personalized ultimate work space. And you can have it in a wide array of colours; or perhaps with special-edition graphics designed to appeal to those who want their unit or work space to stand out from the rest of the red boxes in the shop.

Where do you start when you’re investing in your first tool storage unit or upgrading your existing one?

First and foremost, think about your needs – for today and the future. Do you need just a portable tool chest? Do you need a double- or a single-bank unit? How much floor space do you have for your unit – do you need a small, low-profile unit; an all-in-one roll cab/top chest; a medium- or high-capacity roll cab and top chest combination; or an entire workstation? Are 11 drawers and 6,000 cubic inches enough space; do you need a 24-drawer combination with 60,000 cubic inches; or something in between? Should you buy a smaller unit now and trade up later, or should you invest in a larger-capacity unit from the start? What’s your monthly tool storage budget? What features and benefits are important to you?

The overall look may hit your “hot” button, but consider other things: The storage capacity; the number and configuration of drawers; the locking system; the thickness of the metal; the durability of the paint finish; whether you’ll be able to get parts for your unit a decade or so down the road if any component breaks down.

The construction and finish of a tool storage unit are important. Double-wall, heavy-gauge steel construction with ample reinforcement gives drawers and units extra strength. Drawer liners protect the drawers from scratches, and dividerless drawers give you a lot of flexibility in storing your tools. Ball-bearing slides with a quick-disconnect feature make drawers easy to open and reconfigure for your needs.

Heavy-duty, oil- and grease-resistant casters mean the unit can hold plenty of weight and will stand up in a rugged automotive or industrial environment. A drawer latch mechanism that prevents drawers from opening until finger pressure is applied, makes the unit safer. Special electro-deposition painting provides complete coverage inside and out – for both rust protection and good looks.

Talk to your colleagues about their units; talk to your tool and equipment supplier about your needs. Whether you’re purchasing a single unit for yourself, or several units for an entire team of people, don’t base your decision on price alone. You need to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. Invest in the unit that’s right for you.

Dean Askin is a Marketing Communications Specialist for Snap-on Tools of Canada Ltd. SSGM

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