The Toolbox I’ve Always Wanted

I got my first toolbox roughly 17 years ago, and it’s been a constant struggle to find the right mix of tools and the right container to store them. But for tools with everyday utility, I finally managed to come up with a flexible recipe for a tool container that satisfies me. A set of connected steel tubes keeps my tools vertical so that I don’t need to dig in the bag — each tool is easily visible and accessible.

The first attempt at this design was done with a smaller tool bag, and used 1.5″ PVC pipe for the inserts. There were 16 pieces (each 4″ tall) arranged into 2 patterns of 7 with 2 pieces added to join them together. Since PVC cement would have lacked the amount of surface area needed to stay rigid, I used packing tape to stick it all together.

This proved the concept, but had some drawbacks. Aside from losing a fair amount of space to the thickness of the PVC, some tools were too big and some were too small to properly fit in the tubes.

The solution was to switch to EMT conduit in 2 sizes: 1.25″ and 2″. The challenges for this option were twofold. First, the difference in sizes prevented me from using a simple honeycomb pattern in the bag. Second, the preparation of the metal was more labor intensive than for the PVC — it required an abrasive chop saw instead of a simple jig saw (for the cuts) and a lathe instead of a file (for the deburring).

The pattern was a set of 3 “diamonds” (2 larger tubes connected to each side of a pair of smaller tubes) welded together in a repeating pattern, with extra tubes put in where possible to fill the space.

Rather than filling the entire bag, the tubes leave room for longer tools that need to be stored horizontally instead of vertically.

I left some extra space for tools that might catch my eye in the future. It never ends.