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Do You Really Need A Diamond Plate Tool Box?

Do You Really Need A Diamond Plate Tool Box?

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. A diamond plate truck tool box looks good. You can’t even say it’s impractical. An aluminum diamond plate tool box, or better yet a steel one, is probably going to be as rugged as you could possibly need. Tool boxes have a tough job. They should look tough… right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot more things to consider than looks, or even the “rugged cache” of a diamond plate tool box. Here, we’ll take a deep look at diamond plate as a structural material. We’ll look at what it does well, as well as where it falls flat. We’ll also explore the mystique of the diamond plate tool box and exactly why DECKED doesn’t make one.

Diamond plate style metal deck plating

What Is Diamond Plate, And Why Is The Diamond Plate Tool Box So Common?

Essentially, diamond plate was developed as a way to make a solid metal surface safer to walk on. Steel and aluminum have a lot going for them as structural materials. They are strong but ductile, meaning they can be stamped, cast, molded, or otherwise bent into complex shapes. However, most industrial processes used to produce sheet metal leave a smooth surface. A smooth metal surface is slick at the best of times, and absolutely treacherous footing when wet or oily.

Diamond plate is also called floor plate or deck plate because it was designed to be walked upon. The raised pattern on the top surface gives texture for shoes and boots to grip even in bad conditions. That’s why it is commonly seen on metal stairs and scaffolding. It’s a non-skid surface.

Diamond plate comes in several different materials. Aluminum, steel, galvanized steel (steel with a zinc coating) and stainless steel are probably the most common. The pattern of diamond plate was developed because steel is hard. That’s usually a good thing, but when it comes to imparting a texture on several hundred square feet of steel plating, the amount of effort involved quickly becomes relevant. It turns out that you can get a great deal of grip from small ridges, and that a repeating pattern in the ridges still gives omni-directional skid protection if the direction of the ridges alternates. It turns out that giving the steel a complex shape, anything other than a flat sheet, actually gives it better resistance to bending and warping as well.

Are there better ways to make a non-slip surface? Yes. Are there more effective patterns than diamond plating? Definitely.

DECKED Shelf System, view emphasizing non-slip surface

 

However, using them with steel is much more challenging from a manufacturing perspective, and therefore much more expensive. Diamond plate is really the only mostly-good, mostly-cheap way to do it with steel unless you pierce the surface. That last part is important if you want the steel surface to be watertight.

You’ll also see the pattern imitated on aluminum, plastic, and rubber surfaces, but there is no engineering necessity behind this. Other better patterns exist which can make aluminum, plastic and other more ductile surfaces stronger and more skid resistant. People just make it that way because we understand diamond plate to be a non-slip surface when we see it. The pattern has come to represent something to the human mind. Strength, toughness, and a kind of “industrial feel.”

Man seated on DECKED Shelf System, another man handling tool box

Now, diamond plate tool boxes began to appear when people needed large steel tool boxes that would be mounted externally to trucks and working vehicles. It quickly became apparent that these became convenient places to stand and move around the vehicle. The surface really should be non-slip. If you’re going to have a large steel tool box that becomes a walkable surface, a diamond plate tool box will be safer than a smooth or polished one.

The Good Reasons To Buy A Diamond Plate Tool Box

As we mentioned above, if you are committed to the idea of a steel tool box for your truck or truck bed, you’ll need a non-slip surface. A diamond plate tool box here will serve you well.

  •  A diamond plate tool box for trailer use

In the same way, a steel tool box that will be mounted on a trailer will sooner or later become a walking or climbing surface. Therefore, a diamond plate tool box is safer than a slick steel tool box.

  •  A diamond plate truck bed tool box

Your truck bed was literally made to be walked on when loading, securing, and unloading cargo. If you’re going to put a large steel surface over some or all of your truck bed, it had better be non-slip. This isn’t a very efficient place to be using steel, but if you do then a diamond plate tool box for truck bed use isn’t a bad idea.

Van using the DECKED Shelf System, emphasizing the non-slip bed

A diamond plate side tool box

Again, a diamond plate side tool box is a practical option. You will be stepping on the thing. There are more efficient options than steel, but if you are using steel you should protect against slipping.

A diamond plate tool box for trailer tongue

Same again. If it is there, you will stand on it.

A portable diamond plate tool box

There are good reasons to make and own even a small diamond plate tool box. We often use tool boxes in less-than-ideal conditions. Our hands might be wet, oily, or covered in thick gloves.

three men using tool box in the snow

Diamond plate doesn’t just stop you from slipping on it, it makes it easier to grip the box. 

A small diamond plate tool box

This is an edge case. There are a few narrow purposes where you would want a small, portable tool box to be made of steel. In those cases, a non-slip surface is better. So, diamond plate pickup tool box can be a good idea.

Why DECKED Doesn’t Sell A Diamond Plate Tool Box

Honestly, we could have gone with diamond plate. It wouldn’t have looked inappropriate. It would have worked. A few people might even have preferred it to the design choices we did make. A DECKED diamond plate tool box would have sold. It probably would sell if we made one tomorrow.

DECKED Tool Box, emphasizing its non-slip resin top

But we don’t. The only particularly good reason to use diamond plate is on a steel surface. It’s not a particularly bad choice for an aluminum surface, either. But we don’t make tool boxes with steel or aluminum top surfaces.

Why We Don’t Use Steel Surfaces

Steel is a great material, really. It is strong and durable. However, it is heavy and expensive, and its carbon footprint is staggering. It also rusts when you leave it outside. A working tool box or a truck bed, like the DECKED Tool Box or the DECKED Drawer System, is going to spend more than a few nights out in the rain over its life. That means we’d have to use either galvanized steel or stainless steel.

Galvanized steel is great, but only for things that won’t get scratched or thumped around. Any kind of rough treatment risks chipping off the waterproof zinc coating and exposing the rust-prone steel. That isn’t practical for how many of our customers actually use our products.

Stainless steel is simply way too expensive.

In the end, we don’t use steel surfaces because they aren’t the right engineering choice. Making our tool boxes heavier without dramatically improving their strength doesn’t make sense. It would just make your truck heavier and less efficient. The true carbon footprint of a vehicle mounted tool box includes all the fuel burned to haul it around in use, after all. The fact that using the wrong material would also make our products more expensive just makes the choice more obvious.

DECKED Tool Box open to emphasize metal reinforcement

 

We do use steel to reinforce your tool boxes and other products where appropriate. They don’t lack strength. But the top surface is simply not where the steel will do the most good. That’s why we don’t make steel diamond plate tool boxes.

Why We Don’t Use Aluminum Surfaces

Aluminum has a lot going for it, and there is no shortage of aluminum tool boxes out there. Aluminum is largely weatherproof, light, and easy to work with. It is quite shiny and attractive too. However, it isn’t really all that strong. Unless you start using some really expensive alloys developed for aircraft, a relatively thin aluminum surface will flex and even dent when you step on it. If you drop a heavy tool or piece of equipment on an aluminum surface, you can damage that surface.

It is possible to use great big chunks of aluminum to mitigate these problems, but then it is no longer light and begins to get expensive anyway.

Again, we do use aluminum, but as a reinforcing material. A small amount of aluminum can add a great deal of strength if used carefully. And as it is protected by our high-impact plastic resin, it doesn’t get bent, dented, scratched, or warped by you using your vehicle or our tool boxes normally.

 

DECKED Drawer System non-slip resin top underside emphasizing metal reinforcement

 

 

In short, you don’t want to have to treat your truck bed or your tool box carefully. You need something more rugged than aluminum, and that’s why we don’t make aluminum diamond plate tool boxes.

Why We Don’t Diamond Plate Our Plastic Surfaces

DECKED Tool Box non-slip resin top emphasizing grip

Why would we? We’ve got an amazing material here, and it has been engineered to perfection. We won’t put a diamond plate pattern on it because we’re not pretending to be a steel surface. We are proud to use a durable, strong, light and ecologically friendly high-impact resin surface.

DECKED Drawer System non-slip resin top emphasizing grip

Now, a good-looking tool box is important. No matter how physically tough your tool box is, you want it to look good. But on a resin tool box, diamond plate just isn’t a good look. Instead, we chose a non-slip surface option which is most effective and which adds the most to the performance of the final piece. The alternating geometry of your non-skid surfaces are best seen on the DECKED Tool Box and the raised bed of the DECKED drawer System.

DECKED Drawer System non-slip resin top

So, Should You Buy A Diamond Plate Tool Box?

Unless you are in a situation where you are absolutely married to the idea of a steel tool box, a diamond plate tool box probably isn’t the best choice. If you’re buying for looks rather than utility, don’t buy steel. Steel is too expensive, and is not the prettiest option. If you must buy for looks, buy aluminum. Just don’t step on it. And if you’re not going to step on the tool box anyway, why buy a diamond plate tool box at all? Get something with a mirror finish.

Now, if you are buying primarily for utility, but want your tool box to look nice too, you have options.

  • The DECKED Tool Box is a great alternative to a steel diamond plate tool box. It is as strong as anyone could need, it is designed to fit perfectly in a wide range of vehicles, it is waterproof, practically thief-proof, and frankly it looks amazing. It’s just a better choice than a diamond plate tool box.
  • The DECKED Drawer System is amazing, too. Strong enough to hold up as much weight as most pick-ups would dare, roomy enough to hold all of your gear and equipment, and rugged enough to outlive your truck. Literally. It can easily be installed in your next one as well. 

And all without a square inch of diamond plate.

DECKED Drawer System non-slip resin top