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What is your tool box preference?

Tool box style

46623 Views 40 Replies 36 Participants Last post by  Dead Roman
I've seen journeymen use three different style of toolboxes, and as I'm still relatively new to the trade, I'm trying to work out which style would be best for me over the next 30 years. I've come up with a list of advantages and disadvantages of each style, and would appreciate your input.

Steel box:

This is the "Traditional" electrician's tool box that was on my tool list, and therefore is the type I'm currently using. These come in two styles; the flat top, and the hip roof top. I contend that the hip roof top style offers greater overall strength, and am not aware of any advantages of the flat top. I prefer these with a steel handle, plastic handles tend to break.

-Reasonably waterproof when used in wet locations
-Tend to last a long time
-Great surface for adhering stickers
-Tools stay secured during transport

-Tools lay horizontally, have to "Dig" for tools
-Difficult to keep tools and parts organized

Plastic box:

I've seen more sparkies bring their "Rubbermaid" boxes to the job site. In spite of the disparaging "Rubbermaid" remarks, they swear by them. Here are the pros and cons as I've observed:

-Okay surface for adhering stickers
-Tools stay secure during transport
-Bins and clever design keeps tools and materials better organized

-Hinges don't last very long
-Doesn't last as long as other tool boxes
-Not as secure as a steel box
-Tools are horizontal, still have to "Dig" for tools

Nylon open tote tool bag:

I'm surprised by the increasing popularity of the nylon tote. When I first saw one, I figured the journeyman was eccentric; but I've been seeing them increase in popularity. They are starting to grow on me.

-Some come with shoulder strap to facilitate carrying
-Tools stored vertically, easier to access without digging, saves time
-Immediate access to tools, saves time
-Small storage pockets facilitate organizing tools and materials
-Greater flexibility in holding awkward or bulky tools
-Can last a very long time

-Cannot lock to secure tools
-Greater care must be taken that tools don't fall out during transport
-Won't keep tools dry when used in wet locations
-Not good for stickers

I've been using the steel box for nearly two years, but am considering going for a nylon tote. Having tools stand vertically and not needing to dig for things seems like a great advantage, and the lack of security doesn't seem to bother the journeymen who use them. What do you think?
1 - 20 of 41 Posts

· Registered
1,577 Posts
Back when I worked on big jobs the traditional metal box was what I used, its reasonably secure, holds up to abuse, doesn't get smashed in a gang box full of people's tools, and its great for displaying your collection of union stickers.

Working by myself I use a 5 gallon bucket to tote my tools and miscellaneous parts around

· Member IBEW LU #164
2,962 Posts
All of the above.

On powerhouse jobs I use a set of craftsman plastic tool boxes - I can sit them on the wet oily ground and my schtuff stays dry. Inside jobs usually get a metal box - drawers when appropriate but usually just a plain metal box. Some jobs a little nylon tote is most appropriate - so I have those.

I tried the bucket with the bucket boss for a while - found it got full of junk pretty quick. However I do carry a linesman's bucket for when I work on high schtuff.

· Registered
520 Posts
I went from an open tool tote when roughing in to a lockable metal tool box. I go most days without needing to open it so I just leave it in the bob box. My foreman had a tendency to "borrow" my tools from the open tool tote and leave them on the job box shelf or on his lunch table so I bought a lockable tool box.

If you're doing service work or are always moving around to do something, tool totes (or Veto's) would be ideal. If your tools generally stay unused when you're working (slab work for instance) then your best bet is a metal tool ox. Plastic breaks too easily and metal will last.

· Registered
1,622 Posts
This is one of those questions with no perfect answer as everyone's needs and preferences are different. Personally, I use a metal tool box, actually two metal toolboxes, one that I put on my cart and one in the truck with the tools that I only need occasionally. I also have a 5 gallon bucket that holds my every day tools and my tool pouch.

If you do similar work most every day, then get a small tote, bucket or pouch to carry the tools that you always need and store the rest in a lockable tool box. Some folks really like pouches. Some hate them. I prefer not to tear the pockets off of my clothes with tools in my pockets.

Of your three original choices, my least favorite would be the plastic box for the reasons that you listed.

Tools are your means of making a living. Take care of them.

· PPE Saves Fingers
291 Posts
I've got a couple that I use for work (and more for home, where ones that didn't do for work end up)

I've got a zipper closing Dewalt Nylon bag, my less used tools end up there. Wrench rolls, extra long screwdrivers, 4lbs hammer hacksaw etc.

A maintenance style nylon tool tote for all my common hand tools and my pouch where I normally keep anything that I'm using for a project.

Separate socket kit that kicks around along side.

It's a system that works for me, but it really depends what location I'm working at, how well it actually works.

· NO high voltage here
2,438 Posts
I have a different box, for different jobs.

If its a safe job, and i know i will be there awhile... Have a nice 3 drawer metal one.

I also have an open one like you posted for service calls where i dont have to worry about snatch and grabs.

and my most used, is my back pack from klein. secure, easy to carry, and i love it

· Registered
10 Posts
View attachment 20823

This is the bag i like, i have to park a block away from the job and it works real well for luging all my crap around. :)
I use these and love them both. Small one for my telecom stuff and the one on wheels for my drills, bits and other tools....



· Mile High
94 Posts
I just started working as a first year apprentice the day after Christmas and I'm currently using a plastic box I had from my flooring days, but I plan on ordering a nylon bag(CLC 1537 to be specific) once I get my check on Tuesday or Wednesday.
1 - 20 of 41 Posts
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