The DECKED 2021/2022 Tool Box Buying Guide
So, you want to find the best tool box? Well, you’ve come to the right place. The DECKED Tool Box isn’t a one-size-fits-all wonder. We have a fantastic product, but you should think carefully about what kind of tool box you need before you buy, and this guide will help you choose the best tool box option.
What is a tool box, really?
In the broadest sense, a tool box can be any box that happens to hold tools. But a definition like that isn’t helpful at all. We’re referring to purpose-built tool boxes you can buy online or in a shop.
In that sense, a tool box is a container used to protect, transport and organize your tools. It could be a specialized trade tool box – a carpenter’s tool box will look a great deal different from a mechanic’s tool box, for instance – or it could be a basic all-rounder for home and DIY use. It could even be a smaller, very specialized piece designed for a narrow range of purposes – like a car tool box or a wheel well tool box.
The DECKED Tool Box is in a class by itself, however. It combines the benefits of a truck-bed spanning tool box with durability and tool organization features that you won’t find anywhere else.
Generally speaking, all three purposes—protection, transportation and organization—are equally important, no matter who uses a tool box or what they keep in it.
Do I need a big, husky tool box, or something smaller and lighter?
That all depends on how the tool box will be used and who will be using it to a lesser extent. One user might need a rolling tool box (essentially just a tool box on wheels), while a different user might need a large truck bed tool box like the DECKED Tool Box, a trailer tool box, or a smaller hand tool box that can possibly be part of a tool box set.
We’ll explore the different types of tool boxes in detail here, the different purposes tool boxes can be built for, and the different materials they can be made out of. Advantages and disadvantages of all these tool box options will make it possible for you to choose the tool box you need.
What types of tool boxes are available?
You can buy just about anything online these days, and that includes a staggering range of tool box options. It can help to divide them into categories. The main types of tool boxes used today are:
Hand-portable tool boxes
These are small and light compared to the other types. They are generally metal or plastic, though leather, wood, and canvas tool boxes are also available in this category. They don’t hold very many tools, but they are very portable and easy to use. Hand tool boxes are also the least expensive, which is a good reason not to buy more than you think you’ll need.
These are wheeled carts designed to be rolled along a hard floor to where they are needed. These are generally larger than the hand-sized variety but are not as portable. Because most have small wheels, they aren’t as useful outdoors, except for paved surfaces. These are a good choice if you have a moderate collection of tools or plan to buy more soon. Tool carts come in a range of sizes, and might be metal, plastic, or a combination of the two.
Combination tool chests and tool cabinets
These are seen as a standard for mechanics and professionals operating in workshops of all kinds. They have a large capacity and typically offer many different drawers, helping to keep a very large collection of small and large tools organized. Many can be moved about on wheels and bridge the gap between a tool cart and a tool locker. These can generally hold 50+ kilograms of tools, are securely lockable (with either built-in locks or lugs for padlocks), and are made of sturdy steel.
Tool lockers and tool cabinets
These aren’t really “tool boxes” at all because they can’t normally be used to transport tools. Tool lockers and cabinets are generally large and good to store heavy tools and consumables securely. These will almost always be made of steel and feature strong locks.
Truck bed tool boxes
A truck bed tool box fits into the bed of a standard pick-up truck. Some are designed to sit far to the front of the bed, attaching to the sides to span the center whole, leaving most of the bed accessible. In comparison, the DECKED Tool Box system covers the bottom of the entire bed and offers two bed-length pull-out drawers as well as two “ammo box” storage wells. This system leaves the whole bed accessible above the protective DECKED deck.
Cantilever tool boxes
A cantilever tool box offers a number of smaller trays that open up off a deeper bottom tray on a set of cantilevered arms. This tends to allow more and smaller compartments, making them ideal for collections of many small tools and tool accessories. Some come with sized trays or tray inserts perfect for particular uses, such as socket sets, drill bits, and more.
Cantilever tool boxes are very popular with woodworkers, joiners, construction professionals, and remodelers. They are typically hand-portable, though many cantilever tool carts are also available.
Waterproof tool boxes
Generally speaking, all types of tool boxes can be made waterproof, though you should never assume a tool box is waterproof unless it is listed as a feature. A waterproof tool box features water sealing at all of its joints and provides dry storage for delicate tools in the field. Waterproof tool boxes are very popular for medical, paramedical, and forensic science professionals. Many fishermen also use them as tackle boxes. Again, these are generally hand-portable tool boxes, but waterproof tool carts and tool chests are available.
Tool box terms and jargon
If you’ve never seriously shopped for a tool box before, you’re bound to come across many unfamiliar terms. Here, we’ll attempt to explain the most important words and phrases you’ll encounter.
A roller cabinet or "bottom box" is a wheeled tool cabinet. It typically has many drawers, but its top does not open. This is to allow a "top box" to be placed upon it and used. The wheels are usually of the omni-directional caster variety and work best on smooth, hard flooring.
A top box is a type of tool chest. It is typically built as a cabinet with a hinged lid and several drawers. It is called a "top box" because it can be used on top of a roller cabinet (see above), but it can also be used independently. Top boxes do not have wheels and are intended to be used at workbench height.
A combination box, also known as "combo unit" or "combo box," is a top box and bottom box combined. Many manufacturers sell combination boxes as a matched set, and they may actually attach to each other for safety and convenience. If you buy the pieces separately, take care to ensure that they will work well together.
An intermediate box, also called a "middle cabinet," fits between the "top box" and "bottom box" of a set. When purchasing an intermediate box, make sure its width matches your top and bottom boxes closely! These are a popular way to add tool capacity without replacing a combination box set you are already happy with.
A side cabinet mounts on the side of an existing roller cabinet set-up. Most cannot be used on their own. Again, when buying add-ons to a roller cabinet, make sure the dimensions and hardware match closely.
A pit box is similar to a roller cabinet but is more portable. A pit tool box is intended to be moved more frequently and more quickly than a roller cabinet tool box. As such, it has larger and more rugged wheels. A pit box’s handle is generally longer as well.
Materials: Does it matter what my tool box is made out of?
It might. It all depends on how you intend to use the tool box. Most tool boxes today are metal, plastic, or both. Many wooden tool boxes still exist, and they can be bought at a premium. The more you’ll be using the box and the heavier the tools you’ll be storing in it, the more you’ll need a better-built tool box and the less you’ll want to rely on un-reinforced plastic.
Still, each material has its strengths and weaknesses. For example:
Plastic Tool Boxes
High-impact plastic can be a wonderful material. Light, strong and shatter-resistant, it makes a great structural material for small to medium-sized tool boxes. It is also inexpensive. Plastic tool boxes are very popular for a wide range of applications.
The DECKED Tool Box is made primarily from this kind of high-impact recycled plastic, with steel and aluminum reinforcements for extra strength.
Aluminum Tool Boxes
Aluminum is a popular choice of tool box material because it is strong and light. It also has a certain cache that plastic lacks. It is, of course, a bit more expensive than plastic. An aluminum tool box will generally last a long time and will resist both impact and corrosion very well. Many professionals in the chemical, transportation, aviation industry, or anywhere else prefer aluminum tool boxes that demand light and durable tool storage.
Steel Tool Boxes
Steel tool boxes are the strongest generally available. Steel provides excellent durability, resists being bent or damaged, and can withstand abuse from inside and out, especially important if you are storing heavy, sharp or dangerous tools. Steel tool boxes tend to be more expensive than aluminum or plastic tool boxes, so they are used to store the most expensive tools and equipment. Steel tool boxes can also be made quite large. Both of these features make them popular among professional mechanics and in many different industries.
Tool Box Accessories
If you are buying a tool box as a gift, consider whether the recipient might need tool box accessories. These might include:
Tool box foam
This is available pre-cut and "blank." Either option forms a secure cradle for small or delicate tools and fittings, allowing them to be placed in larger compartments without sliding around inside and becoming dulled or damaged.
Tool box liner
Tool box liners come in many different materials. Most are designed to protect the inside of the tool box from "tool box killers" like sharp implements or leaking chemicals. Others simply provide an extra layer of padding.
Tool box cart / tool box hutch
If your recipient already has several tool boxes they use for particular tasks, consider getting them a tool box cart or a tool box hutch to contain and organize the individual boxes.
A few questions to ask yourself before buying a tool box
How much tool storage space do you need now, and how much are you likely to need in the next handful of years?
You don’t want to severely overbuy. You won’t need a 2 meter tall steel tool cabinet if you only have a hammer and a few screwdrivers. That being said, a tool box with a bit more capacity than you currently need will give your tool collection room to grow.
Where will you keep this tool box?
A tool box that will "live" in the basement or the trunk of your car will need to be smallish and hand-portable. A tool chest for the garage or the workshop can be larger and might benefit from having caster-style wheels. However, if you need a strong, durable tool box system that goes wherever you and your truck go – all while protecting the bed of your truck from wear and damage – then you should seriously consider the DECKED Tool Box.