Tool boxes represent a great underappreciated necessity for your workshop or garage. As your mechanical skills grow, so does your need to purchase quality tools. As your abilities grow, you realize that a wider variety of tools can help you do your job more efficiently. As a result, your tool collection expands, and that’s great. But stacking your tools on your workbench, or in various portable carriers, or on scattered shelves just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The scope of this article will focus on what are known as professional-grade or machinist-grade toolboxes: tool chests, roller cabinets, or a combination of the two. While you can certainly consider portable toolboxes, rolling tool carts, storage cabinets and small organizers, these are outside the scope of today’s discussion. We’ll zoom in on the all-metal, multi-drawer types of boxes you see in dealer service departments and well-organized workshops.

Tool Box Types

Let’s define tool box types as the industry does first:

1.”Toolbox”, also called “Top Box”: a multi-drawer toolbox that can be used as a stand-alone toolbox or placed on top of a roller cabinet. Please note that due to their size, “tool boxes” are designed to be at least waist-high. If used alone, they should be placed on a worktop or table. They usually do not come with wheels.

2.”Roller cabinet”, also called a “base box”: a multi-drawer tool cabinet designed to be used as a stand-alone tool box or as a base for a tool box. Roller cabinets often include casters and are therefore designed to sit on the floor.

3.”Combination boxes”, also called “combo boxes” or “combination units”: are a combination of a tool box (top box) and a roller cabinet (bottom box). Sometimes these cases are sold as a unit so that the user has cases from the same manufacturer and is assured that they will work well together.

4.”Side Cabinet”. A sideboard is a toolbox that is not designed to be used on its own, it is hung or mounted on the side of a roller cabinet to increase its capacity.

5.”Pit Box”. Similar to roller boxes, pit boxes have larger wheels and an oversized handle that can be used to pull the unit. Some loaded pit boxes are so heavy that they must be pulled with a small tractor. Racing teams use pit boxes, and they need more capacity to move the boxes from one place to another, occasionally on less than level terrain.

When you’re ready to buy, the initial factors to consider are 1) the amount of storage needed based on tool ownership now and in the future, and 2) the space available at your desired location. Let’s start by addressing storage needs. Make a careful assessment of your current tool inventory. Do you have what you currently need, or do you envision increasing your purchases in the near future? Have you been putting off buying tools, waiting for a good toolbox to be in place in the first place? At the very least, the box you want to buy will hold what you have now and will give you some clues for future expansion. Also, if you need more space in the future, consider buying add-ons.

Where are you going to put these boxes? The garage? The basement? Assuming you are looking for a rolling cabinet or a combination unit, measure the width of the space. Here are two more points: try to fill the width you have because you will gain a lot of storage space; remember, the top box can be the same width or less, but no wider. Maximizing the width will also keep the overall height at a reasonable number. While you may have space up to the ceiling, you don’t want to have to use a ladder every time you need a particular wrench! So, you have to have plenty of room.

The best advice we can offer is this: buy the highest quality tool storage you can afford, sized to make the most efficient use of your space.