Sometimes I hear the term tool chest and toolbox used for the same item, but tool chests are definitely different from toolboxes. So what are these differences?
First, lets look at the history of these two items. Specialized toolboxes or chests have been around for a couple of centuries, originally made of wood and specially designed for certain craftsmen; such as machinists, piano makers, upholsterer's, a farrier, cabinet maker or needle worker. Their size, design and function were different for them all. Some of these evolved into the modern toolbox, and others into modern tool chests.
To discuss the differences between the two items, lets next look at the modern toolbox. Today most toolboxes are metal or plastic, and anybody with a few tools should have one of some form. They typically have a hinged lid that latches closed with a handle on top for carrying your tools around to wherever they are needed. When opened, the lid will often reveal an inside removable tray that rests on an inside flange. This tray is great for storing your most used items. Underneath is a bigger space for larger or less used tools.
Some toolboxes will open from the middle with 2 hinges, just like a tackle box. When you open the lid, hinged smaller trays are attached to the lid and open up to reveal the compartment below. This design is most often seen on a metal toolbox, and these smaller trays usually allow you to store a lot of smaller items.
On plastic toolboxes, they will sometimes have small compartments built right into the lid, each with their own little door, perfect for a small selection of nails, screw, bolts etc.
Tools chests, though also for tools of various trades, are most often found with machinists and mechanics. Though they may have a hinged, latching lid with a top handle, they do not have the larger compartment underneath. Instead, a chest has multiple slide out drawers that are often only a couple of inches deep. This allows specific placement of your tools in a manner that is easily accessed. When you pull out a drawer, you can see exactly what is there. This is better than digging around the bottom of a toolbox for your wrench!
There are two main types of tool chests. One is as described above, and though they vary in size, they are designed so that they can be carried. The other type of tool chest is a rolling chest. Just like described above, but larger and on wheels. Often on these chests, the bottom drawers will be deeper to accommodate larger tools. Though on wheels so that they can more easily be moved, especially around a shop, they can be quite big and heavy so are not really considered portable.
Though they can be purchased separately, the smaller tool chest and the larger bottom tool chest can be purchased as a set, with the smaller chest designed to fit perfectly on top of the bottom chest. That way you can keep your most popular tools in the top chest where you have more portability.
The other main difference between tool boxes and tool chests, is that almost all tool chests are made of metal, and for some reason, they are often red. Though you can also find them in blue and black or steel gray. I have never seen one in plastic, but I have heard of them in wood, though these are difficult to find and probably custom made.
So, though tool boxes have their place, if you have a lot of tools, top and bottom tool chests may be best for you. I know that my husband could use one, he has three toolboxes and it is hard for anyone (except him) to find certain tools!
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