Build or Buy?

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Forum topic by PPK posted 10-04-2017 02:35 PM 1072 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1630 posts in 1411 days

10-04-2017 02:35 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m having a small dilemma: Should I build a tool chest, or buy one? I have so many hand tools and bits, etc. floating around and piles of stuff. I use them all, so I need to get at them, but it’s becoming very obvious I need a better way to store them. Drawers are the obvious solution… But to build or to buy?

I’d buy something like this:

Or build something like this: (photo is from

I’ve considered adding drawers to my workbench, but it’s set up with a mobile base, and bench dog holes, so I really don’t have any space underneath it. I’d have to build some funky narrow thing, and it wouldn’t really be enough storage.

-- Pete

27 replies so far

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2597 days

#1 posted 10-04-2017 02:57 PM

I always look at it like this….do I have enough shop time to build this piece of shop furniture and get the other projects (like perhaps a piece of furniture for the house) done?

If not, and I have the money, I will buy something suitable. If there is nothing suitable to buy…the building is the only choice.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Woodknack's profile


13002 posts in 2982 days

#2 posted 10-04-2017 04:27 PM

I think Brian covered it.

-- Rick M,

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4699 days

#3 posted 10-04-2017 04:28 PM

I prefer the look of the wooden chest. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4250 days

#4 posted 10-04-2017 04:33 PM

Metal tool chests vary quite a lot in quality,
as you would expect from the price variances.
Some have unpleasant drawer action.

I only build shop furniture from scratch under
duress. I prefer to salvage or modify existing
items to save time and money.

Lee Valley sells metal drawer sides.

Blum sells Metabox drawer sides. The attached
slides aren’t anything special but the drawers
go together fast and it’s not expensive.

Over the years I have acquired a small collection
of commercial quality steel cabinets. One advantage
of steel drawers is there’s more room inside
compared to wood drawers. The commercial
ones have excellent quality ball bearing slides
that can take a lot of weight and operate smoothly.

SteelCase is a good brand to keep an eye out for.

View PPK's profile


1630 posts in 1411 days

#5 posted 10-04-2017 04:38 PM

Oofda, you guys have a lot of good points… that aren’t making the decision any easier! lol.
I too really like the look (and idea) of a nice shop built cabinet… but I really should be working on my paid projects, and I really should be cleaning up my piles of tools… I’m leaning toward buying one. Anybody have and like the Waterloo brand of cabinets?

-- Pete

View Desert_Woodworker's profile


1974 posts in 1816 days

#6 posted 10-04-2017 04:48 PM

Probally being a full time worker, purcasing one will fee up time for projects and enterering AZWoody’s contests….......
Also, should you decide to move it may be more durable, just sayin…

Waterloo looks like a good one, but if I were a young man…

-- Desert_Woodworker

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1630 posts in 1411 days

#7 posted 10-04-2017 04:53 PM

Waterloo looks like a good one, but if I were a young man…

- Desert_Woodworker

I could be considered a young man… Lol. I love it.
“Son, go get me the tape measure out of the ragin’ monkey cabinet!”

-- Pete

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4250 days

#8 posted 10-04-2017 04:55 PM

I look for steel cabinets occasionally. A couple
of years ago there was a gorgeous Steelcase
credenza I almost bought but I didn’t really
have a place to put it. It had a lot of drawers
and I knew from experience the slides are
excellent. Steel cabinets have become a kind
of hipster-chic these days but there are still
bargains to be found.

I found a tooling chest near me on ebay once
being sold by a place that does industrial
liquidations. I got it for like $60. It’s about
42” wide x 30” deep and 26” high with three
drawers that pull all the way out on insanely
robust slides. It holds an epic amount of stuff.
It would have cost me a couple hundred at
least to build something comparable from
wood with slides that could carry the same

View EarlS's profile


3409 posts in 2950 days

#9 posted 10-04-2017 05:10 PM

Pete – with a toolbox like that you will always be monkeying’ around when you go out to the shop.

I’ve mostly bought rolling tool chests since I can move them where I need them and my “to do” list is longer than my arm without adding another project. I may build a rolling cabinet as practice for the base kitchen cabinets when/if I get to the kitchen remodel.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Woodknack's profile


13002 posts in 2982 days

#10 posted 10-04-2017 05:11 PM

There are tons of reviews on steel tool cabinets but the one that seems to impress people the most in value per dollar is ironically the Harbor Freight. For a company known for peddling junk, they have stepped up their game apparently in mechanics tools. We have a Kobalt (Lowes) and Snap-On, the SO is obviously way better quality, you could stand on the drawers. The Kobalt does the job but the drawers are flimsier and I wouldn’t lean on them, let alone try to stand or sit on one. I’ve heard of Waterloo, good things, but I’ve never seen one in person.

If I were woodworking for bucks, I would probably buy a cabinet. If a hobbyist, it depends on where you want to spend your time.

-- Rick M,

View jimintx's profile


933 posts in 2186 days

#11 posted 10-04-2017 05:25 PM

I got the Harbor Freight, 26” wide, combo. I am very very happy that I got this and then went on to other projects. It has made essentially everything I do in the shop more efficient.

Building a lot of shallow drawers would be a pain to me, and the cost of doing it would not be tiny.

I didn’t hesitate to buy what I thought would work, and to get one that was economical but at least to the eye and hand, was study and well-assembled.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View JCamp's profile


1036 posts in 1153 days

#12 posted 10-04-2017 05:53 PM

I actually have building a nice wooden tool chest on my list of things to do…. But in the mean time I have 4 metal tool chests and one plastic. To build something fast it wouldn’t be bad building one. To build a nice one that will last a life time it will take a while plus a lot of money in nice “special” lumber and hardware. Id recommend that you look on craigslist for a couple tool boxes that you can use now. Most of the time there are some cheap ones there (I actually picked one up along the road for free a few months back) then study up on how you want to build one and collect the lumber and ideas till you are ready.

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View PPK's profile


1630 posts in 1411 days

#13 posted 10-04-2017 07:19 PM

I just ordered a steel 6-drawer one. Now I just need AZWoody to post another lumber ID so I can get back to work! :-P

-- Pete

View LucasElef's profile


10 posts in 850 days

#14 posted 10-04-2017 08:07 PM

The harbor freight 44” is where they really stepped up their game. It’s difficult for find anything of better quality for any price. Unless you step up to the tool truck toolboxes, and they are literally 10 times the price.

If you go into a store and pull out the drawers on the various models you’ll see what i’m talking about.

View knotscott's profile


8351 posts in 3977 days

#15 posted 10-04-2017 08:17 PM

Building one makes it a lot more fun to to show off and put your name on.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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