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In part 2 of our series on how to choose your next toolbox, we focused on the drawer system. We specifically explored drawer design and slide types.
In our final instalment, we will turn our attention to casters and the locking mechanism. With that in mind, let us begin.
Although entire full-length articles can be written solely about casters, we are going to focus only on the key essentials.
In part 1 in our series, we defined user needs and expectations, and focused on frame construction.
In part 2, we will focus on the drawer system; its key elements and how it impacts the toolbox functionality and durability.
The main and obvious function of the drawer system is to store tools safely, while allowing easy and secure access to its contents.
Drawers (including the slides) are generally the most expensive part in the overall cost of manufacturing a toolbox. Not only is each drawer a separate production process, but each one requires at least one pair of slides.
As a rule of thumb, the greater the number of drawers the higher the price of the toolbox. Keep in mind that cost is not the only true indicator of quality.
On that note, let us examine quality and production differences in greater depth.
Although drawers can come in many different widths, depths, and heights, some characteristics are universal signs of a superior quality:
Apart from construction, pay close attention to your current and future storage needs.
Roller cabinets with many shallow drawers are ideal for holding flat tools such as pliers, wrenches, micrometers and other hand tools.
If your tool collection includes larger bulkier items such as welding helmets, power tools and deep sockets consider a box with deeper drawers. As a general guideline always purchase a roller cabinet with as many drawers as you can afford. This prevents your tool collection from looking like your child's chaotic toy chest.
Manufacturers often ignore drawer construction details in favor of stating specs on slides. The most commonly communicated specification is the maximum load capacity.
However, like all other elements in a tool chest, it is important to look beyond the numbers as not all components are created equal.
Slides can generally be categorized into two types: friction and bearing.
Friction or non-roller bearing slides work like just like roller bearing slides. They require insertion of the female glides (on sides of drawer) into the male channels (located inside the cabinet).
As the name implies the slides do not have bearings and therefore open and close using purely kinetic friction. The steel on steel contact results in a difficult (greater force required by user), noisier, and slower drawer movement.
Although unsophisticated in their design, friction slides provide numerous benefits and advantages:
Bearing slides work in the same manner as friction slides except their design incorporates ball or roller bearings. The use of bearings provides a smooth surface on which the male and female glides will move along.
The result is a virtually effortless, quiet, and faster drawer opening experience. Bearing slides are the mostly common type of slide used today.
As bearing slides have become commonplace it is important to differentiate the great from the average:
· The most commonly communicated feature by manufacturers
· Premium roller cabinets will have capacities 100lbs or greater
· The higher the number the greater the load the drawer can handle
· Not all slides are designed to extend all the way. This means a drawer with a 75% extension will always leave 25% of the contents inside the cabinet. This makes finding and retrieving your tools more difficult and inconvenient. Look for models with full extension slides.
· Understandably manufacturers seldom indicate this fact, however before you spend your hard-earned money ask how many cycles the slides have been tested to. A quality slide will have test cycles in excess of 20,000.
· Having the added complexity of the ball bearings means things may break. If you are going to invest in quality it is worth exploring the manufacturer's policy on repair parts. It’s a shame to have to replace an entire toolbox due to a damaged slide(s) or drawer(s)
Number of Slides Per Drawer:
· Premium roller cabinets will have double slides (4 instead of 2) on deep drawers. This allows drawers to hold more weight while lessening the likelihood of damage due to overload
· High-end roller cabinets also feature additional under mounted slide(s) on extra wide drawers (50" wider). This extra allows the drawer to hold more weight, while preventing drawer sag in the middle section of the drawer
In summary, it is important to choose a roller cabinet with quality drawers and slides since you will be opening and closing them many times daily. It is also equally important to consider the size and makeup of your tool collection and understand your expectations.
If you open your drawer frequently and expect to heavily load the drawers, a roller cabinet with a mix of shallow and deep drawers equipped with heavy-duty, high capacity slides is an ideal choice.
If your tool collection is small, a box with few drawers and friction slides could be the budget friendly choice for you.
In future posts in this series we will look at other key components such casters and the locking mechanism.
If you are a field technician performing the bulk of your work on location, your expectations from the tools you use is pretty straight forward.
You want dependable tools that will not let you down in the middle of the job. You also need your tools to be easy to carry and take as little space as possible in your service van or truck.
The new Mobile Technician we recently introduced are meant to meet all these requirements in a complete, quality package.
If you waste a lot of time searching through worktables, closets, boxes, tool holders, or pouches trying to locate a tool, it is time to consider purchasing a tool chest.
The same holds true if your current tool chest has exceeded its storage capacity. Depending on its condition and your space constraints, you might want to consider buying an additional one or a replacement that will provide room for your existing tools and enough space to grow your collection.
The most popular option professionals choose to house their tools is a roller cabinet or mobile workstation. A roller cabinet is a toolbox on wheels that can provide centralized, easy-to-access storage for the tools you have collected over the years.
Starting a career in trades has its challenges: dividing your time between completing your curriculum requirements and gaining work experience means little time to shop for tools. Building a tool collection that will withstand the demands of daily usage can be a big expense.
This is where the Gray Student program can “lend” a hand. It was designed to help full-time students enrolled in vocational and trades schools start their career with the quality tools they need to be successful.