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Home Tools Advice How to Organize a Tool Chest: A Guide from Expert

How to Organize a Tool Chest: A Guide from Expert

Whether you’re a professional contractor or a serious hobbyist, chances are you’ve amassed an impressive collection of tools.

You may already have outgrown your first or second tool storage solution. Whatever your reason for buying a tool chest – you’re in the big leagues now!

However, a fancy tool chest doesn’t do an ounce of good if it’s not properly organized. Read on to discover the best ways on how to organize a tool chest to be efficient and tidy.

Good Reasons Why You Should Organize Your Tool Chest

Before we begin, if the task ahead appears daunting, remember these good reasons for having a well-organized tool chest.

  • Increased Productivity – Having your tools neatly organized and where they’re supposed to be saves time on the job.
  • Improved Quality of Work – If you can easily access the tools you need, you won’t be forced to make a less-than-satisfactory solution that impacts the final product.
  • Reduced Expenditure on Duplicated Tools – Knowing what tools you have and where they are will save you from buying unnecessary duplicates.
  • Missing Tools Easily Spotted – If your tools are disorganized, it’s not easy to spot when things are missing or stolen. Discovering their loss may enable you to locate them before it’s too late.
  • Reduced Frustration – All of these benefits will lead to less frustration. When you’re free to enjoy your task, you’ll do your best work.

How to Organize a Tool Chest: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step #1 – Decide Your Categorizations

Sort your tools by categories. The customary categorization of tools is by tool type:

  • Screwdrivers – conventional and specific (like offset, ratchet, Hex, bolster, and insulated), slot-head or Phillips-head, and other (Pozidriv-head, Torx, resistorx-head, and hex-head)
  • Wrenches (spanners) – conventional (of different sizes and head types) and specific (half-moon, offset, cranked, hinged-locked, angle-socket, box, tee socket, high torque, flare nut, ratchet, extension shank, various adjustable, strap, and insulated)
  • Pliers and Cutters – gripping, turning and twisting, and cutting (or a combination)
  • Hammers and Mallets – of different weights, face shapes, and handle types
  • Chisels – point, flat, gouge, and shape (of different sizes)
  • Scribes and Punches – prick and center, drift, pin and alignment, and hole
  • Hacksaws and Files – typically 14, 18, 24, and 32 teeth to the inch blades and different shaped files
  • Clamps – different sizes
  • Small bits – screws, washers, bolts, nails, nuts, etc.

A lot of these tools are very specialized and won’t be used regularly. Some people find it useful to create a separate, combination category of commonly used tools. Separately storing commonly used tools can save time on routine jobs.

Step #2 – Clean, Oil, and Dispose of Broken Tools

While sorting your tools into categories, take the opportunity to clean and oil those that need it. Also, dispose of any tools that are broken or any that are bent out of shape to the point they’re of no use. Be sure to dispose of them in an eco-friendly and safe fashion.

Step #3 – Assign Your Drawers

Having sorted your tools, you can now decide what drawers to store each tool type in. Some will be determined purely based on size, but the heavier tools typically belong at the bottom of the chest so that it is adequately stabilized.

If you’ve elected to store your commonly used tools together, first choose a convenient drawer that they all fit in comfortably. Most of the time, you’ll only need to access that one drawer.

Once you’ve assigned drawers, label them clearly. Use durable labeling that won’t scuff or wash off. An embossing label machine will make a great addition to your tool collection and is the perfect way to label your chest drawers.

Step #4 – Tool Organization Solutions

Storing your tools loosely in drawers will damage them as they knock against each other. It will also make it difficult to carry the chest without weight shifting uncomfortably and potentially dangerously. Also, clashing metal tools make a terrible noise!

Depending on the type of tool, there will be a packing solution to keep them safely in place.

  • Drawer liners prevent tools from rolling and protect the drawer from grease, dirt, and scratches. They should be easy to clean and thick enough to cushion your tools. Some brands offer corrosion protection.
  • Containers and zip lock bags are perfect for small bits. Make sure that whatever you choose seals correctly. Having containers spill open can mean wasting hours to clean up spilled pieces.
  • Foam is another convenient packing solution. It comes in different thicknesses, densities, and colors. It can be cut up to form dividers or it can be cut into custom-made slots for individual tools. To make perfectly shaped indentations in foam, heat metal tools in the oven (only if they don’t have parts that will melt). Handling them carefully with tongs or oven gloves, position them on the foam and leave them to melt their way into it.
  • Pegs and hooks can be attached to your chest walls or drawer bottoms.

Tool-Related Paperwork

Tools generally come with manufacturer warranties and instructions for use and care. Some people choose to store this paperwork with their tools, so they have everything handy in one place.

If that’s your choice, paperwork is best stored in waterproof ziplock bags underneath a drawer liner. Alternatively, you can file paperwork at work and keep photos of relevant pages handy on your mobile phone.

Consider a Portable Addition to Your Tool Chest

Lastly, if you need your tools portable and your full tool chest is too cumbersome to carry, consider a portable addition.

Some chests have stack-on options that can be removed and used on their own. Tool bags are also a very popular portable option with contractors. They are lightweight and made of durable, washable canvas fabric. They can even be folded and stored in your tool chest when not in use.


Hopefully, we have inspired you in your quest to get organized. Look after your tools properly and you will extend their lifespan, allowing you to enjoy them for years to come. There is nothing left to say but to wish you the best of luck with your projects.


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