Farmgirl Toolbox Tip #2201: Start with a Toolbox
Farmgirl Toolbox Tip #2201: Start with a Toolbox

Farmgirl Toolbox Tip #2201: Start with a Toolbox

The best income tax return money I ever spent was on my toolbox.

That probably sounds silly, but hear me out:

I can’t live without it.

Every time I go somewhere, I need my toolbox. Which means I have to have ALL the things inside it, and I have to load it before leaving, then unload it at my destination, then load it again to go home, then unload it when I return home. It gets handled a LOT.

Life was more difficult before I met my toolbox.

Before I got my rolling toolbox, I carried a lot of wooden fruit crates around. One crate had the ‘pricing kit’ in it. One crate had the big tools in it. One crate had the small tools and the hardware in it. And invariably, there’d be another crate with extra things like backdrop material or shelving support hardware. In order to get all the crates into my rig, they would have to be carried out or stacked on a dolly and rolled, then unstacked and restacked as they were loaded. The dolly is easy, but I still had to carry and stack more than any reasonable person should. I shopped around for a storage and transportation solution, and I went with the most heavy-duty toolbox I could find, which I got at my local hardware store just down the alley from my studio, literally just rolling it right back and filling it with my setup gear.

Bonus 1: Street Cred.

If there’s any one way to garner respect from a man, it’s to carry a nice toolbox. When I unloaded at Silver Dollar City last fall, I looked up at one point to see a maintenance/construction crew of 4 guys, about 30 yards away, scoping out my toolbox as I unstacked it and pulled a cordless nail gun out of the bottom compartment. Arms crossed and hands on hips, in contemplative stances, heads leaned inward as they chatted, one idly pointing a finger as I unhooked the upper boxes as if to say “See, each box unsnaps from the next.” If I had been a supermodel, I wouldn’t have had more admiring glances. These were guys in the know, and they knew they wanted to look inside my toolbox. We had a curtain across the opening to the tiny workshop area inside our shack, and at one point during the festival, a customer peeked in there and saw my toolbox, and whispered something to his wife. I said “Don’t mind our mess” and asked how they were doing. The wife looked at me and said “He always tells me Milwaukee is the Mercedes of the tool world, so he’s really impressed with your toolbox.” He turned red, but smiled and told me I had good taste. We had a laugh and talked about how handy my toolbox is and how it just makes life a lot easier while standing up to my use.

The struggle was real…

I tried a few different options before I landed on Milwaukee. I used a Thirty-One bag with a strong handle and lots of pockets for a Pricing Kit for quite some time. {My Pricing Kit is pretty extensive. It needs lots of pockets and sleeves and room for all the little things you need for pricing. I’ll talk more about it in my next Farmgirl Toolbox Tip!} I wore out about one a year…the pockets would get holes in them and I’d start dropping key items, or the seams would give and start coming unraveled, creating little holes where stuff would start falling out. I went through 3 of those bags before I got my Milwaukee toolbox. I carried all the hardware stuff in coffee cans or wooden boxes inside wooden orchard crates. The orchard crates are slatted, so if I spilled a coffee can of screws, the mess was not limited to the crate but the entire surrounding area. Even pliers fell through the cracks, so I had a coffee can with all manner of pliers to keep them sequestered together. The gaps were also big enough that containing extension cords was even difficult. The crates took a beating, and we were all the time repairing them. So, I tried using a rolling stacking/unfolding Stanley toolbox that had a telescoping handle. It was nice, but not big enough, and the unfolding part was frustrating because it had a set of arms on each side that snapped into place, but they didn’t stay snapped when it really mattered, and I’d look back to see the toolbox trying to unfold while it was supposed to be rolling along behind me folded up. It also wasn’t heavy duty enough…If I wasn’t careful, I’d pull the telescoping handle right out of its nest.

What’s out there? What do I need?

There are several brands of heavy-duty toolboxes on wheels. What works best for you depends on the nature of your business, what you’re going to be hauling around, and what conditions your toolbox needs to be able to endure. I’m hard on stuff. I wanted a toolbox that was going to endure a beating around all the work we do with barn wood, crow bars, hammers, etc. I wanted a toolbox that would hold ALL the things. I carry everything from a circular saw to a cordless nail gun inside mine. When I go to Kansas City, I don’t want to have to go all the way down to the first floor and hunt in someone else’s tool cart for 10 minutes only to find they don’t have the exact tool I need. I like to think ahead and have everything I could possibly need to complete any task that might come up. I’ve got it down to a science as to how I assemble a booth space and what the best tools and hardware are for the job. It’s pretty sweet to know exactly where the tool is that I need, and I can access it within a minute’s time. In a toolbox, I needed plenty of roomy space with a little bit of detailed organization space like little compartments, with a large open compartmented carrier for a pricing kit. Read on for more on the toolbox I built for myself, and visit my affiliate links to look at exactly what I got. {I use affiliate links to cover the costs of maintaining my website; if you purchase a product I recommend, I earn a tiny percentage of the sale.}

I went with the Benz.

The Milwaukee Packout system was my choice. There are numerous options for setting up your own customized Packout System. I went with a roomy (but not the biggest) setup, that I can modify even further for specific situations when needed. The top of each piece has grooves in it where the next piece snaps into place, and there’s a large fingerhole latch on the front of each piece for unsnapping it from the one underneath. Sometimes I just need a place to sit, so there’s a whole other reason to love it.

The Base Piece

My base piece is the Packout Rolling Toolbox. It isn’t the largest base piece Milwaukee has to offer, but it’s quite sufficient for my needs. It has a telescoping handle that withstands some serious force. We don’t have a ramp at the building in KC, just a loading dock with a 36″ drop. I’ve had upwards of 100 lbs of cargo in my Packout, and had no problem pulling it up onto the dock by the telescoping handle; it stands up to that much force. My rolling base has a heavy duty lid that hinges open and stays open even with the telescoping handle extended behind it. There are two removable trays under the lid. I keep pliers, a small hammer, screws, zip ties and other small stuff in the trays. I can remove one tray to nest on top of the other one to access the space below for my cordless impact, or the trays both set aside to gain access to the entire compartment, making it easy to get the larger tools out. For me, this compartment always carries my bread and butter: DeWalt cordless impact, cordless drill, extra battery and charger; a small cutoff saw for trimming wood to length; Milwaukee cordless nail gun, extra batter and charger; a set of gear wrenches; a 1/4″ socket set; a staple gun; and, a full-size hammer.

 

Large extra storage when necessary

My next layer is the Large Toolbox. It has that same heavy duty hinged lid, and even if I don’t have the lid latched, I flip it shut and simply lift the handle to lock the lid closed when moving it short distances. The contents of my large toolbox are always changing depending on what I’m doing. Sometimes I pack small product inside it. Sometimes it carries parts and pieces of my setup, or extra tools. It’s just a large open compartment; and, the removable trays from the Rolling Toolbox also hang in the top of this compartment when I want to carry more large tools in the base piece.

Because sometimes more is more

It never fails: I almost always have an extra crate of crap. Which makes this Extra Packout Crate super handy. It snaps on and off like the others, so if I don’t need it, I don’t have to take it. This one is in the pics above with the large toolbox. The two flipflop spots a lot and if one isn’t needed, it’s left behind.

My Jewelry Kit

On top of the Large Toolbox, I carry the Shallow Toolbox with organizer trays. I keep my Jewelry Supplies in this one. It has two removable snap-lid boxes inside for holding my tweezers, pliers and other small hand tools, and underneath each of those are 3 small deep containers that hold beads, buttons, closure hardware and whatnot. The center section is open, which is perfect for carrying rolls of beads, my bracelet loom and other large items like my bead tray. I can even fit a small cookie sheet in there, which I use as a tray for my projects. My soldering gear fits in here as well when I need it to travel out of the home workshop. I don’t always travel with this one, so it’s not always on the stack, but the Packout rolling base has no trouble handling it all when I do have all the pieces together.

 

 

 

 

The Pricing Kit

  

With the crate on, my Packout system is stacked to the top of the telescoping handle, but I still add one piece on, no matter how high I have it stacked: my Pricing Kit, the Packout Storage Tote. It holds allllll the things I need in order to add my branding tag and a price tag to any kind of product. It has pockets inside, pockets on the ends and enough open storage space to hold boxes of business cards and rolls of twine. The stitching is super heavy duty, so I can pack a lot of stuff in it and sling it around wherever without ripping the seams or losing the stuff inside. I’ll talk more about the pricing kit and all the stuff I carry in it next week.

 

MOM’S TOOLBOX

Mom has her own rolling toolbox, but she chose to go with a bit smaller, less heavy-duty Craftsman Versastack. She keeps her cordless impact and drill, her cordless nail gun, chargers, staple gun and a set of wrenches in the bottom piece.

On top of that, she has a Locking Toolbox,a 10-compartment Organizer and a Versastack Tote. Hers is basically the same setup as mine, but a smaller, lighter weight version, including her own pricing kit!

It’s ok to start small.

You don’t have to have a giant toolbox to be able to work effectively, so start with a small one and work your way up as you expand your tool collection and the scope of your business when it’s on the road. If you set up at vendor markets, you’ll benefit from a well-stocked and organized toolbox. If you travel with your art or products at all, you’ll benefit from a quality toolbox!

Shop Small and Local

Local hardware stores stock locking toolboxes, so go have a look at what each brand and style of toolbox have to offer. Don’t hurry about it if you aren’t sure what you need; I shopped toolboxes seriously for a few weeks before I pulled the trigger.

Make good decisions for your business or hobby and stand by them.

Sometimes other vendors give me a hard time about my toolbox. ‘It’s so big.’ Why yes, thanks for noticing. ‘I don’t think Angie forgot to bring anything today.’ At least I won’t be wandering around looking for what I need. ‘You got the kitchen sink in that thing?’ Not today, but there’s hand sanitizer in the base piece if you’re needing to wash out your mouth. 

My big fancy toolbox has improved my quality of life by a thousand percent in the two years since I bought it. I really hear so much about it that my sincerity about sincere compliments about it are on point, and my head tilt and narrow eyes really deliver the perfect sentiment to its detractors and lets them know I’m serious about my adoration for it, how much easier it makes my life, and that no one is going to make me feel bad for my toolbox taking up room on the elevator.

Anything, and I mean anything, anything that makes your life as a creative easier is an investment in your own self care and sanity. We can be the most disorganized people on the planet, and when everything is where it’s supposed to be, exactly when we need it, THAT makes a show setup, a buildout, a booth reconstruction or a stocking trip SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL. An organized toolbox will bring you more outright JOY than any single tool that it carries.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *