My father needs a new tool cabinet, and I can’t decide on what to get him.
My parents moved a few years ago, and my father never really set up his tools. I think that part of this is because he’s not doing too many home improvements or repairs himself these days, and part of it is due to having a very different space than before.
I contributed towards his current mess of a setup. My father has 2x 16″ intermediate chests, a 12″ deep top chest, a 12″ intermediate chest, 2x portable chests, and a DIY dolly/cart that’s nowhere to be found.
Tools are spilling out, some drawers and empty, and the entire pile is not at all portable.
This is partially my fault – when my storage configuration changed around 10 years ago and then again 8 years ago, I gave my unneeded storage pieces to my father. Because of this, he has a jumble of tool chests and pieces that don’t really work well together.
He used to be a tools-on-a-pegboard kind of person, with parts and other tools on shelves. But now, his needs and space considerations don’t allow for that.
What my father really needs is a good 26″ wide roller cabinet, preferably a taller unit. Or at least, this would be a good start.
And here’s the problem – these are very hard to find these days.
Stemming from a Waterloo (now owned by Stanley Black & Decker) complaint, the ITC has imposed steep tariffs on a wide range of imported tool boxes. This has led the tool box industry to move towards deeper tool boxes, with 22″ and 24″ depths.
I think an ~18″ deep box would be best. A tool box of this size would be easy for me to transport to them, move through the house, and then carry down the stairs to their basement.
But… would a 22″ or 24″ tool box be better?
A larger and heavier tool box might be more difficult to get into position initially, but I also worry that tools will get lost in larger drawers.
Bigger drawers would certainly be helpful, but too big of a box might hinder quick access.
A 40″ or wider tool box is out of the question. Maybe a 30″ width would work okay, but anything larger than a single-bay box would be unneeded and unnecessarily heavy, not to mention pricey.
The way I see it, there are 5 options.
Craftsman – USA production means that Craftsman’s boxes aren’t subject to the same tariffs or workarounds as most imported boxes. But, the boxes don’t seem to be made as well as they used to be. Options are also very limited.
Proto – I kind of like my bare-bones Proto box – it has low-profile drawers that are great for holding hand tools, and it’s taller than most single-bay tool boxes, and so it holds more tools. But, Proto discontinued the entire 450-series lineup in favor of a new larger (and pricier) series.
Proto still sells the basic 450-series boxes, but there’s a problem. When I bought my 7-drawer 27″ W x 42″ H x 18″ D unit 4 years ago, it was $765 from a supplier, before any discounts or savings. Now, it’s $2,766. That’s way too high for the size and basic build quality.
Proto has some larger boxes, but they’re better fit for industrial spaces, and not for moving up or down residential stairs.
Beta – Beta’s tool boxes are a bit pricey, but they seem to be immune from the import tariffs. But, my father’s not going to be happy if I spent ~$700 on a single-bay tool cabinet. Plus, they recently upgraded their roller cabinet, and the new build quality is untested.
I really like my Beta tool cabinet, but the newer ones look to have a lot more plastic in their construction.
DIY – I can build him a custom solution with metal framing and wood drawers. I’d have to pay special care to finishing the wood to make it resistant to humidity, and I would absolutely come in way over budget. And, it would take me a year or two given my current pace.
One of My Boxes – I have a Milwaukee 30″ tool box stack (test sample) that I’ve tried to donate a couple of times. The roller cabinet by itself would be a good size here, but I’d have to find a different home for the top chest. I have a more budget-constructed Craftsman box that was sent for holiday promotion a long time ago, and a better box I purchased.
I also have my Proto 450 27″ x 42″ x 18″ tool box, and a Beta tool box.
It’s not that I’m too attached to any of these pieces, but that they’re not very well-suited to my father’s needs. My Craftsman 4-drawer cabinets are not going to hold enough – more drawers are needed for organizing hand tools. My Beta cabinet might be a good fit, but I would just replace it with a new Beta. If I’m going to do that, I might as well get him the new box.
My Proto roller cabinet is replaceable, although not affordably these days. Not to mince words, there are much better boxes for the same or less money. This was true when the box was $700 and change. Now? The current $2700+ price tag is unconscionably high for what you get.
Here’s the really frustrating part. If you’re looking for a single-bay tool box with decent construction, a $300 budget used to be enough for a 4-6 drawer roller cabinet or so with ball bearing slides.
Now? 40+inch cabinets with 24″ depths, power strips, and much higher price tags seem to be the new standard.
Harbor Freight’s has a US General 26″ wide x 22″ depth single bank roller cabinet, and they’re available in a range of colors.
The price is $310 with free pickup. Some colors are backordered to November it seems, others might be more immediately available.
The box weighs under 200 pounds, and I can probably move it down stairs if I take the drawers out. My Harbor Freight tool cart is decent – a good value and decent construction, but with compromised finish quality.
Is this going to be the best tool box for my father?
My father would likely veto to Beta for costing too much money. He’d probably say he doesn’t need even this one, but I know he needs a mobile solution.
Is there anything better than this Harbor Freight US General box?
Maybe I’ll look at the Craftsman 2000 series roller cabinet again – it’s priced at $249, but its 5-drawer configuration doesn’t seem as ideal for hand tools.
If you were looking for a roller cabinet for storing both hand tools and bulk supplies, with mobility, quality, ease of use, and smaller size as high priorities, what would you lean towards?
Cabinet Size: 26-27″ width for easier transport by car and down residential stairs, and for greater mobility.
Cabinet Depth: 18″ would be great, 22″ would also be manageable, but could lead to greater drawer clutter.
Drawer Count: 7 would be ideal, for a mix of hand tools and commonly used parts or supplies.
Quality: Drawers should be smooth, better casters for easy mobility.
Basically, something like the Beta C24, but less money. Beta’s load capacities aren’t impressive – 55 to 77 lbs per drawer depending on size.
That makes these cabinets a harder sell for me, and the price would be a hard sell for my father’s needs and wants.
Price: $320? My father will say “I don’t need a tool cabinet” or “only if you have something you no longer want and are getting rid of.” I think a little more than $300 would be the line between “thank you” and “I feel bad, you spent too much money.”
What’s frustrating is that there used to be so many great options. But now? What’s there to choose from?