Roller cabinets and top chests are great for the garage or workshop, but theyre not real practical for hauling around to various work locations. Theyre really not even practical for rolling through your house to make repairs. For those projects that require carrying tools with you, or for just having a tool kit in the trunk of your car, you need a portable tool box.
Theres really no such thing as an ideal portable tool box. A lot depends on what types of tools you are taking with you and the type of work that you do. What will work out perfectly for one person may not be useful at all to another. You really need to find what will meet your needs the best, not what works well for your buddy. Fortunately, there are a lot of portable tool boxes to choose from.
Portable tool boxes come in a wide variety of styles, each of which has a large number of models, from a large number of manufacturers, to choose from. The basic styles are:
- Stacked roller box This is like a smaller version of a roller cabinet, without a lot of drawers, but designed to move like a hand truck. They are usually made of plastic or a mix of plastic and steel.
- Multi-drawer box These are similar to a top chest, but designed to be portable. A handle in the top is used for moving them around. They are available in both steel and plastic.
- Top tray box These have a tray mounted in the top which can be lifted out, providing access to the main storage area. The tray is useful for small tools and parts. These can be metal or plastic.
- Cantilevered tray box Cantilevered trays are usually mounted on both sides of the angled top, which flips open to both sides, providing access to the trays. They give a lot of room for sorting small tools and parts, with a main central storage area as well. Usually made out of steel.
Manufacturers build toolboxes out of both steel and plastic. While the steel ones are stronger, there is a definite place for plastic toolboxes. The plastic is lighter than steel, making it ideal for those who dont want to practice their weight lifting every time they have to move their tools. The better quality plastic toolboxes can hold quite a bit of weight without any serious risk of damage to the box.
With any tool box, the ability to organize it well is an important consideration. Tool boxes with multiple drawers and cantilevered trays make this easier, dividing the space in the tool box into smaller segments, so that you can more easily organize it. However, they are limited in how many large tools will fit, as part of the space is taken up with the drawers and trays for the smaller stuff.
Rarely do portable toolboxes come with built-in locks, although most have some way for you to lock them with a padlock. Even the plastic ones will be somewhat secure in this manner, as most people wont bother to cut the lock or the toolbox to get to whats inside.
This unit consists of three portable boxes, latched together making them one. Integral wheels allow moving it easily, just like a hand truck. Read Full Review
Some manufacturers are starting to stretch the word portable in their designs; like this oversized portable from Stalwart. The unit is definitely portable, but only because it comes on wheels, allowing it to be moved around like a hand truck. The three separate tool boxes connect together for movement and can be separated for work or to put them in the trunk of a car. The top box has a removable tray for small tools. All three boxes have hasps for locking them.
Bostitch also makes a multi-box unit, this one with four drawers. The unit is beefy, even though it's made of plastic, and can hold a total of 70 pounds of tools. Read Full Review
Bostitch also makes a multi-box unit, like the Stalwart. This one has three drawers, all mounted on ball-bearing slides, along with a top box with tray. Total tool capacity is 70 pounds, in this 10 gallon capacity toolbox. Individual units are separable for ease of movement and storage. The whole set is mounted on an integral dolly with collapsible handle, so that you can easily take it with you.
Craftsman provides some of the best value around in toolboxes. This four drawer portable chest provides lots of room, while still being fairly easy to carry with one hand. Read Full Review
Craftsman has a wide range of toolboxes, including this four drawer conventional top-chest style box. The drawers provide plenty of room for organizing tools, while the top tray holds larger items or those that are needed more frequently. A top-mounted handle makes it portable. With all steel construction, the box is a bit heavier than a plastic one, but also more durable. Two latches hold the top lid on, which also locks the drawers. A hasp is provided for using a padlock to secure the box.
All plastic construction makes this toolbox lighter than steel ones. Even so, its three drawers and top area will hold quite a few tools without suffering any problems. Read Full Review
Plastic construction makes this toolbox much lighter than the Craftsman we just looked at. Even so, its not much smaller. The three drawers are mounted on ball-bearing slides, something thats rarely seen on a plastic toolbox. A central locking mechanism locks the drawers closed when the lid is closed. Two latches ensure that the whole box stays closed. The full-width carry handle is padded, making it more comfortable to take with you.
This cantilevered box provides two trays on each side, making it easy to organize. When open, everything inside is easily visible. Read Full Review
This is an all steel cantilevered box, with two cantilevered trays on each side. That offers you a lot of options for sorting and organizing your tools. When the lid is opened, the cantilevered trays swing out, giving you visibility to everything in the box. Dual steel handles make it easy to carry and hold the box closed at the same time.