Friday, November 21, 2014

Project: Custom Foam Systainer Tool Holder

Organizing tools is almost a never ending job for most of us. Even if you have a large workspace with the best organization systems available, unless you're seriously devoted to putting everything back immediately after use - you're bound to have a few tools laying around now and then.

Over the years I have collected a number of tools, and am starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by them. The plan as it stands is to donate some of my unused or duplicate tools to a local non-profit maker space for kids, and whittle down my assortment of tools to a more manageable size, keeping mostly things I need with a few things that I don't really need.

After doing a lot of research about toolboxes, storage systems, and the like - I ended up gravitating towards the German-designed-and-made Tanos Systainers. They are durable, robust, work very well together as a system, modular, and very flexible.

The folks over at Festool have been using them exclusively to house their power tools, and while Festool goods are very much outside of my budget - the idea of well packed tools in Systainers stuck with me.

So I popped down to Lee Valley and snagged a few Systainers, and some "Kaizen-style" foam. (Kaizen foam is an exclusive brand to Fast Cap, the stuff Lee Valley carries in limited stock is similar)

The project started by laying out the tools in such a way where they made the most out of the space, and made the most out of the least foam. The foam was inexpensive, but I prefer to not waste what I don't have to.

Thankfully Lee Valley had templates specifically for Systainers, so I cut those out, and traced the pattern onto the foam.

The Systainers have some odd shaping inside, so there were two patterns, one for the bottom of the box, and one for middle layers. I cut out the pattern into the foam, and checked the fit as I went, making adjustments along the way (and adjusting the pattern, which I found out wasn't perfect.)

After the foam was cut, it was time to draw the cut lines into the foam. This is where the Fast Cap 'needle nose' marker pen came in handy. I placed the tools in the layout I liked, and traced around them with the marker, which resulted in a pretty close outline to the layout of the tools.

After spending a good amount of time cutting out the foam (of which I didn't photograph, I was too focused on cutting everything correctly) - I did a test fit of the tools in the foam. They seem to fit nicely, which was good news.

Now came the part where planning ahead would have been a good idea. The foam sheets are stacked, the bottom sheet and the middle sheets needed to be adhered together to make the cut-outs more stable. But what glue should I use? Hot glue is out. Wood glue? Nah. I had two options (with the adhesives I had at home) - CA glue, or 'construction adhesive' - I opted for the latter.

In the end, I also used the CA glue as well because it held better, and tightened up the edges nicely.

Once everything was glued together, I wanted to make use of some of the excess space in the foam, and since I had some bits that never really had a home in my toolbox, and I didn't want to lose - I made provisions for storing those with my drills.

The charger cord also needed more room, so I made a cutout in the base layer foam for it (as you can see in the picture above). Things are starting to shape up nicely. The construction adhesive takes forever to dry, so I had to wait a while until I could get everything put nicely into the Systainer.

(Above: Almost ready to go)

(Above: I made a custom label for the Systainer)

(Above: In the box and ready to go!)

For about an hour worth of work, I'm very happy with the end result. This will keep my tools organized, safe, easy to transport, and I'll always know where they are. Now I just have to do the same thing with the other Systainers and my miscellaneous power tools.

Thanks for reading!