View Full Version : Drawer organizer for tools

11-29-2011, 03:47 PM
I've gotten a bit spoiled with the Lista/Vidmar type drawer separators. They consist of what amount to wall dividers with vertical slots on the sides. The main walls can be oriented front to back, or side to side. Once the width is established, you cut 14-16 ga dividers to go from the slots on one to the other. In this way, you have a very flexible set of pockets for containing your tools in whatever grouping makes sense.

Recently I decided I wanted to put my mechanic tools back into a largish roll-around for use as a "task work station". Problem is, there is no built in mechanism for partitioning the drawers, and I really hate getting all my wrenches and screw drivers scrambled. I could adapt some of the high end dividers, but buying individually is terribly expensive. Seems most "organizers" I find are either set size pocket/box affairs, or specific layout oriented (for instance, 10 wrenches largest to smallest). Thats really not what I want. To wasteful and never works out quite right. Always one wrench too many, or maybe not enough, or proportions don't work, etc.

So, short of custom foam pockets (too much work and too much change over time) and fitted boxes, what do you guys suggest and/or use?

11-29-2011, 05:07 PM
I often find that by the time I make a custom organizer, i need them organized differently. I hear ya on the stock organizer thing..... I like to organize in sets that I use at the same time(ie lathe wrenches).

For another project I built an inexpensive thermal vacuum former ....so for any sort of trays/organizers I put the tools on the bed in the orientation I want them to be in the tray, load the material (i use pvc flashing from hardware store), heat, vacuum & flip it over, & there's your tray.

I have only done a few thus far & they work nicely...Planning on using that method a lot in my winter organizing. The thermal former is a handy, inexpensive tool to have around the shop.

11-29-2011, 05:22 PM
During my apprentice years I made several metal dividers for the drawers in my tool box.It consisted of a strip of galvanised steel about 1 3/4 inches wide and about 1/16 thick .
I measured up equal width divisions ,about 1 1/4 inches apart and cut a slot which went a bit over 1/2 way across the strap with the power hacksaw, as the blade thickness would result in a slot which allowed me to slide the dividers in .This looks something like the old aluminium ice moulds or small pidgeon holes .
I could adjust the width and lengths by moving the dividers .
Edge pieces were a bit harder to make as there was only about 1/16 thick by 3/4 deep tabs , these allowed the dividers to fit under the rolled edge of the drawers.

11-29-2011, 05:49 PM
Have no idea if these are still available but "Snap On" used to have some inexpensive,, (yeah i know,, but they weren't much back then),, anyway they were little spring steel clips that you could wedge ?? your dividers into, they were easy to move to different spacings, and would last a heck of a long time,,, and they stayed put.

11-29-2011, 09:01 PM
Kind of like they use in Kennedy tool boxes.

11-29-2011, 09:14 PM
In one of my drawers I put lengths of 3/4 inch pine cut to the drawer length and ripped to drawer height. I then cut 1/8" grooves across each piece half way through spaced every 2". These go against front and back of the drawer. 1/8" hardboard cut to drawer height fits into the slots, making an adjustable set of dividers. Works especially well for screwdrivers and punches.

tyrone shewlaces
11-29-2011, 09:32 PM
Kind of like they use in Kennedy tool boxes.

I had some of those in a Kennedy box and after a while I threw them out. They didn't stay in place so I had jumbled tools AND a divider and spring things sliding around in the drawers. Maybe others had better luck.

I don't have any, but the nicest DIY one I saw was just a wooden Lista-ish simulation kind of thing. One of the veterans I worked with made a wooden frame which fit the perimeter of his drawers and had dadoes cut along the edges all the way around, then he placed various dividers into the dadoes which also had dadoes cut into them on both sides. Not quite as universal as tinkertoys because they still had to fit what he had of course, but he could change them around quite a bit to suit needs and whim. The perimeter frame thing was the only thing glued/fastened together and never got moved of course, but could still be removed if he wanted. I always wanted to do that for mine but I haven't found any round tuits lately.

The other feature I thought made sense was even the deep drawers had the same width (depth) of divider as the shallow drawers because larger items still just need to be divided at the base and not all the way to the top of the drawer, plus this discourages piling a bunch of loose small things you have to dig through later. So making the thing amounted to ripping a bunchload of stock to the right width and thickness for the whole toolbox, then cut & dado perimeter frame pieces and dividers to suit. I think he said it took about 20 linear feet or so per drawer.

Paul Alciatore
11-30-2011, 02:48 AM
I just bought a tool chest so I am watching this thread for ideas.

One thing I have done in the past was to cut saw slots in pieces of 1 by and 2 by lumber for various tools to fit in. It is cheap and can be easily replaced or modified when new tools are added. Not good for everything, but it works for screwdrivers and wrenches. It is most easily done on a radial arm saw with the tools piled on the table for easy spacing of the slots.

11-30-2011, 09:16 AM
I got a loaded Kennedy rollaway from a retiring machinist once. In his smaller drawers he had cut hardwood to fit in the drawer bottom, then he had figured out his layout and milled contours on a CNC mill so all his tools nestled nicely in their fitted cutouts with little pockets done nicely so you could grab them with your fingers.

11-30-2011, 04:48 PM
I just use cardboard boxes and/or plastic tackle box inserts. Old file boxes work great for long skinny tools, a top and bottom is 2 boxes. Just put them in loose and arrange them as desired, easy to rearrange or add and subtract. Also, silverware holders and similar kitchen drawer organizers are cheap and easy to get.

11-30-2011, 05:04 PM
Great ideas, thank you all! Some I had already considered, some not, all appreciated...

11-30-2011, 06:26 PM
Russ...you're still here!!! Geez...I was thinkin of you the other day.....
There's a soiux valve grinder for sale on Kijiji....been there for awhile...
A few other odds and ends...put it all together and I'm bettin I could make another gadget that'd make your head hurt...lol!

11-30-2011, 07:51 PM
If anyone could, it would be you... :p

12-01-2011, 07:45 PM
I ended up buying some 1/8" thick aluminum bars (different widths for different drawer heights) and tig welding up various drop in dividers for the drawers in my big mechanics tool boxes. The advantage was I could build whatever configuration I wanted and dimensions weren't too critical. I could easily coble up triangular, rectangular, square shapes for the same drawer to subset whatever I had in that particular drawer.

Besides, I had just bought a $1800 inverter tig machine and needed to at least learn how to 'turn it on and glue metal together';)

12-02-2011, 01:11 AM
Hehe, that sounds familiar.

I did make my file drawer dividers from some 1" x 1/8" aluminum angle I picked up from scrap. Just a simple mill/offset job and turned out great. If it were not so darn expensive now to buy that much aluminum, I would definitely go that route again. Hoping for a scrap bin find, but that's hard to come by the last few years...