Ridgid toolboxes... and fixing the sadness #1: Where it starts

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Blog entry by Tony Ennis posted 07-18-2017 03:21 AM 1704 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Ridgid toolboxes... and fixing the sadness series Part 2: Tetris »

After a few years of neglect, I recently started bringing my woodshop back to life. So much junk everywhere. I took old power tools, a tackle box full of stuff, and two beat up toolboxes (with some tools) down to the road. These toolboxes had been dropped from my father in-law’s truck 10 times. None of this stuff meant anything to me. That is, a dried up can of plumber’s putty and rusty cast iron fittings hold no sentimental value.

Anything at the end of the road is fair game and someone took it immediately. Heh, you get what you pay for. I hope they find a use for it, or sell it for some beer money.

So, while I was cleaning, I realized I didn’t have a single toolbox that actually closed. All my FIL’s were battered. I decided I was too damned old to not have a toolbox that closed, and went straight out to the Big Box Hardware store.

I was amazed at the variety. Long story not as long, I came back with a Ridgid medium and small toolboxes.

The purpose of these toolboxes is to contain the things I use around the barn, so I don’t have to remember where I put stuff. So they are not really ‘fine woodworking’ tool boxes. At least, not for me.

The toolboxes are made from some manner of resin. They are very tough and all the hardware seems really good and sturdy. The toolboxes stack and lock securely onto one another. You can put them on a hand truck with confidence.

Ok, since we like pictures, I post.

Here are both boxes, stacked. For scale, they are about 22” wide.

This is the small toolbox. It is intended to haul the expendables one uses the most. There are 6 plastic bins and a central section for storage of other expendables, screwdrivers, bits, whatevs.

A meh picture of the medium box with tools in it. By the way, this is where the saga begins… more to come on that.

And a picture of my dog. He doesn’t bark. Funny looking but I love him for what he is.

Ok, and now it begins, the medium box is good, but the tool tray is tiny. I can’t even get a speed square in there. And I hate it when my rules and squares are bashed against hammers. I seriously can’t figure out how the designers thought this was a good idea.

So my project is to build a better tray. Easy. How deep should the tray be? How big are my tools? How heavy do I want the toolbox to be? This toolbox is about 20”x10”x10” internally. If I filled that with steel, it would weigh about 550 lbs. Therefore, it is not helpful to fill the entire area with steel. :-D In fact, this tells me not to worry too much about filling the box up; if only 10% of the inside is steel, it’s still over 50#. That’s plenty.

And this means there’s no point to having a tray greater than about 3” thick. In fact my largest tool is a 3 lb sledge hammer and its head is only about 2.5” thick. And I am not pulling a sledge hammer in there anyway.

As I looked at the tools I wanted in the box, it became clear that one tray was not enough, and a thick tray would be too heavy. It’s wasn’t long before my shallow tray became a box deep enough to hold a few trays, and leave about 3” of purgatory at the bottom of the toolbox. Here’s the box, in 1/2” plywood, in the Ridgid, and hanging from the same hooks the plastic tray hung from.

The sides look really thick but they aren’t – there’s a 1/2” square plywood batten running around the top, forming a lip. That box has a 5.5” well, and there’s 3 more inches below it.

Next up are the trays. I know I can fit 3 (counting the bottom of the plywood box) but would like to sneak in 4, space permitting. My goal is to have tools that stay put and don’t rattle and smash into each other. Now, do I care of my lineman’s pliers contact other pliers? No. But I want to know where to find them and see quickly if any are missing.

The trays came out to be 17.75” x 9”. The intent is to contain each tool to an area by hot-gluing to the tray custom-fit dividers. Delicate tools like squares and chisels will not contact other tools. I will use hot glue so I can easily remove dividers if I decide I need different tools.

Tray #1 – marking tools. I intend to put my tape measure, square, combo square, speed square, rule, paper, and pencils in this tray. Basically I want to be able to open the box and design something, or grab the tape measure and go out to a chicken coop and do what comes natural. This tray can be as little as 1.25” thick, including the 1/4” plywood bottom.

Tray #2 – Two screwdrivers, 4 chisels, 6 pliers of various types. Looking like 1.75” thick, including the bottom.

The bottom of the well – 2 1/2” thick. There isn’t much I have that is this thick. I might try to sneak in an extra tray that contains a piece of glass and some sandpaper for sharpening the chisels. Or maybe I’ll get some stones.

It’s amazing how many tools will fit.

I will share an epiphany. In the beginning, I bought a toolbox and the tray was grossly insufficient. So I made a box to hold some trays. The wife walks in the shop and says, “It will annoy you to find some flat space to put those trays when you need a tool in the bottom.” And I thought too bad I can’t have the trays slide out of the front of the box. And in an instant, I realized I had taken the same journey that craftsmen took centuries ago:

1. In 1600, craftsmen made a box and put tools in it. Airline baggage handlers destroyed their stuff.
2. By 1700, they had stacks of trays in boxes. Wives pointed and laughed.
3. By 1800, they had smaller trays and a well to the bottom.
4. By 1805, they got tired of bending over to get stuff out of a chest and put it on legs.
5. By 1806, they realized they could not reach inside the chest and added drawers.
6. By 1970, all these lessons were forgotten and Big Box home centers sold what were effectively the same box that they had in #1, above. Hilarity ensues.

So welcome to my exciting adventure on how to make this otherwise great toolbox greater again.

The next entry will probably have to do with handles or the first tray. I tell yah, getting these trays out of the box is not easy. There’s nothing to grab! Must fix that!

-- Tony

5 comments so far

View Donovanwoodworking's profile


3 posts in 1343 days

#1 posted 07-18-2017 12:29 PM

Great story and adventure Tony!


View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1662 days

#2 posted 07-18-2017 12:59 PM

I love your dog, I have several but they are smaller.

View nkawtg's profile


297 posts in 2138 days

#3 posted 07-18-2017 04:49 PM

Nice dog, does he bite?

Love the history lesson..

View Tony Ennis's profile

Tony Ennis

139 posts in 4023 days

#4 posted 07-28-2017 02:49 PM

Nice dog, does he bite?

- nkawtg

I think this tells you what you need to know:

-- Tony

View JohnTM's profile


91 posts in 1165 days

#5 posted 08-24-2017 08:15 PM

Late to the dance, but I’m new. Great story and style.

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