Today we’re looking at the A BETTER WAY TO… organize your gadgets!
Let’s be honest, before you could log on and read this article you had to dig your laptop out from under an avalanche of clutter on your desk. A cell phone charger from your old flip phone, A Microsoft Zune that you won in a contest and currently use as a paperweight, and a grocery bag full of cheap earbuds that come with just about everything. It’s hard to throw away these bits and pieces because you don’t know what might come in handy down the line. The worst part of this scenario is that the one thing you’ll need at any given time just won’t be found under the clutter when you really do need it. Our gadget obsessed minds crave order and shoeboxes and sock drawers just aren’t doing the trick. What follows is the my idea of the ULTIMATE end all storage system for today’s 21st century digital boy or girl. You’ve collected a lot of odds and ends over the years, let’s build a great way to show it all off while still being able to store it out of sight.
This setup starts with the very traditional and even iconic Craftsman Standing Tool Storage Chest to store your own version of “the tools”. For better or worse, today’s homeowner doesn’t really need a garage to work on cars. We use a garage work bench sure, but we use it to turn discarded Ikea parts into custom standing computer desks. We don’t own socket wrenches and spark plugs, but we do have soldering irons and thermal grease. At least 34 different cell phone cases, 7 different charging cables and stacks of older devices that we need to keep around just in case. This charging brick and that one, extension cords a plenty, and don’t forget the international converters for you travelers. It can all live peacefully in it’s own corner of this very tool chest designed to grab anything at a moment’s notice. Even the thinnest drawer’s up top are very spacious enough. They each extend all of the way out to let you make use of every inch of available space. The drawers glide on sturdy ball bearing slides that each hold up to 75lbs If needed. Even after organizing just about everything I needed to store away, I found room leftover for most of my everyday carry essentials as well. The Craftsman Tool Chest has become a bit of a personal valet with enough extra space to organize and display my collections of wallets, watches, and sunglasses alongside my electronic goodies. The possibilities for an extensive jewelery collection make me jealous of the way that the fairer sex could use this idea. Half the fun was in using and adapting some of Craftsman’s own custom organization accessories made just for this tool chest. For instance, I was able to find creative ways to adapt a foam socket wrench storage system into a sturdy display for sunglasses and watches. Everyone needs a version of this storage chest. We all have collections of something and the need for a place to neatly collect and display the things that fill the leftover nooks and crannys of our junk drawers, closets, and storage bins. I start each day at my Craftsman Tool Chest now, are you starting to think of what you could store in your own?
Click here to see a video slideshow slideshow of my setup and the pieces used to get my gear in order!
Assembly couldn’t be simpler because none is required beyond turning a handful of screws. Each piece of the set will ship out completely assembled in its own box. You can choose to attach the included optional handles and casters, but only if you want that functionality. If you know how to use a screwdriver, than you’re more than equipped to put the chest together. One thing I will suggest, make sure that you’re strong enough to lift a bit of weight on your own or plan to make some friends quickly. This chest is built to last, and some of the pieces can get heavy. The first step is to find the place that you’ll want this cabinet to live and place the bottom shelf there. Place down the included skid-proof foam liner in between layers for added security and stack. The weight of each box keeps it in place, you won’t need to attach them together with any brackets or latches. At this point you’re done with the basic assembly and now the fun can start.
The first thing I’ll recommend is that you purchase and install a new uniform Lock set. Each drawer ships with a separate lock and key to start. This creates clutter and redundancy that we don’t need with an organizational project. Ideally Craftsman would give you the option of one lock when purchasing the full set, but I didn’t see that alternative offered. Like with the Tool Chest itself, installation of the locks is simple. You’ll slip out a single metal clip without using any tools and the new lock pops right in and you’ll replace the clip, that’s it. The included directions are more than enough to walk you through. As an added bonus, I was able to get a key blank for the KeyPort Slide custom key holder that I’d reviewed on the site months ago. Keyport makes a perfect match to the smaller craftsman lock key and now I can pop out my craftsman key anytime without a scavenger hunt.
The next step is a plan of attack. The problem with a project like this is the limitless possibilities, the mind tends to wander! Where and how to place everything and what goes where? I’m 6’5” tall so I started from the top. The most used items down to the least used. The top cabinet has a vertical hinged lid that opens with a hydraulic arm to show some bonus storage. The lid also drives a metal bar in the back. When the lid is closed the bar drops down to lock the sliding drawers in place, when it’s opened they slide freely. Below the lid are 5 thin pull out drawers that are great to see anything quickly at a glance. The middle chest is two slightly larger drawers and the bottom is 4 more large drawers that extend out an extra 6 inches.
From the top, I started with the everyday items. The first drawer is all wallets. I like fun and different wallets and I’ve ended up with quite a collection over time. Looking at my top drawer you’ll notice many of the wallets featured in the Alternative wallet roundup review I did a couple of months back. Since the wallets are mostly fabric and the drawer is so thin I didn’t need to place any liner down. Instead I placed everything directly in the drawer’s metal bottom to give myself the most vertical clearance. Next drawer down is split between many of the sunglasses that you saw during wood week and all of my wristwatches including some iPod nano watch cases. To properly display everything, I used Craftsman’s universal tool divider system. Its foam inserts have cutout notches that are designed to hold a set of wrenches ideally. With a little exacto knife trimming, I was able to turn two side by side rows of the dividers into custom fitted sunglasses and watch holders. Another drawer holds Craftsman’s hard molded plastic one-piece drawer tray. Eleven different sized cups hold different odds and ends. This is admittedly a catch all, but an organized one. One pocket holds USB thumb drives, another usb dongles for wireless and bluetooth accessories. Some small watch batteries, battery backups and whatever else fits. It’s important that you allow some variety in your organization in my opinion so that you aren’t afraid to actually use the storage. Next down is the best drawer in my opinion and I think I will eventually turn it into two separate drawers. Using Craftsman’s hard plastic divider system and some heavy duty scissors you can quickly create a separated grid of organized cables for EVERYTHING! I have an Apple specific compartment, a large area for all of my microUSB cables. Another holds miniUSB cables and full sized USB cables. USB extension cables and small USB splitters find their own pocket as well as an area for one of a kind cables and micro HDMI cables. I’m planning another drawer towards the bottom for larger cables like extension cords, full size HDMI cables, wall power adapters and corded power bricks with all different connectors. Using the divider system that you’ll design, everything is always exactly where it needs to be and twist ties keep the seldom used wires from spreading throughout the drawer. Finally the last drawer on the top chest holds various input devices. Remote controls, small portable keyboards, and mice of all shapes, sizes, and connectivity. I needed all of the space available so I covered the bottom of the drawer in some non-slip foam matting and carefully fit in all of the pieces. For a lot of you, the top chest alone might even be enough. You can easily place it on top of an existing dresser or large desk and find plenty of storage possibilities. I still have work to do for the ultimate setup though!
The middle unit is basically an extension to the top chest, it’s the same depth as the top but both drawers are taller to accommodate bigger items. The same thing that makes the top 5 drawer unit useful can also limit them if it’s the only piece of the system that you purchase. It has extremely shallow drawers which only allow certain items to sit well. The upside of course is that you don’t end up with layers and layers of items to navigate through, you can find everything immediately in a shallow drawer. Next drawer down is a three row smartphone case holder. Using scraps from the DIY divider set that I used for the Sunglasses/Watch drawer, I made two straight separating lines measured off of the width of my largest case (otterbox for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2) and added about a half inch on either side just in case. That ended up splitting the width of the drawer into about three perfect sections. I can now store cases cascading horizontally down each row. One row for thin snap on cases, one row for sturdy/rugged large cases and holsters and a middle row for odds and ends like flip cases for the Note 2. The second drawer in the middle chest holds music accessories. This drawer grew and grew until it ended up turning into two drawers. Bluetooth Speakers, wired headphones, wireless headphones, and earbuds of all colors. Since everything varies in shape greatly, I just put down another length of the foam mat and laid things in free form.
The bottom chest is the big boy, three large drawers on the bottom and one medium drawer on top. This base chest is extended out 6 inches forward compared to the top two pieces for a more stable base. This creates more space in the drawers themselves, but the added bonus is a small lip on top which is the perfect spot to rest your devices at night while charging. The top medium height drawer was the perfect place for me to throw in some highly organized office supplies. I wish that every drawer could start with Craftsman’s do it yourself foam drawer organizers. You start with a piece of thick foam that’s perfectly fitted to the drawer and then you can trace out anything onto the paper backing sheet. You’ll cut out the shapes with an included cutting tool and place the now customized pad in the drawer’s bottom. In the end, you’re left with a perfectly fitted opening for each and every odd shaped thing that you need stored away. I like to keep a minimal desk to keep my mind focused on writing. All of my office supplies hide away neatly in the nearby drawer in perfectly fitted foam. Each scissor, roll of tape, stapler, ruler, exacto knife, etc. easily accessible and cleanly hidden away. Take the time and channel your patient side and do this part right. The results are amazing. The next large bottom drawer became overflow for leftover larger bluetooth speakers and music accessories like usb microphones. The bottom drawers are reserved for the larger cable storage that I’d described earlier and larger gadget storage like my portable scanner and portable photo printer for instance.
The finishing touches are what really took this idea from good to great. To start, I used the included side handle to secure a power strip right onto the side of the tool chest. I removed the handle, fitted a standard sized 6 outlet power strip in the between the handle and the cabinet and then re-tightened the handle. The power strip is held in place by the pressure of the handle alone and that’s all it takes. Be sure you use a solidly built power strip and use this idea at your own risk. Obviously an all metal cabinet mixed with electrical components can be a dangerous combo if mishandled. The strip is in the perfect spot though and it allows me to connect chargers for my phone, tablet, and bluetooth headset which rest on that extended lip that I’d mentioned. You can see examples of this in the video slideshow that I’d linked to earlier in the article. With some careful routing of wires and a few zip ties I ended up with a very clean look that is highly functional. As I’d mentioned, this is a fully metal build which means magnets are a go! The entire right side of the cabinet is now a bulletin board used to remind me of projects, bills, etc. Eventually, I’ll find some magnetic dry erase sheeting to cover the side in. If you wanted to go even further, Craftsman has released a limited edition tool cabinet completely covered from tip to tail in a dry erase board finish. They’re actually having a lot of fun with different designs, they have pink tool chests, an officially licensed Harley Davidson model, The classic iconic red finish, and even a tone on tone matte black cabinet that really caught my eye. I ended up selecting the gloss black model of the cabinet with stainless steel accents for the purposes of this review. The black was the perfect contrasting background for the final touch to this modern organization system, thorough labeling inside and out.
I searched and tested until I found the most feature packed label machine that’s still consumer friendly, the rechargeable and portable Brother P-Touch PT-18R with included charging cradle was a standout.
Click here for a video walkthrough of one of Brother’s most full featured label machines, the PT-18R.
In the box you’ll find the label maker, one black text on white background starter tape, a usb cable for PC connectivity, software and drivers, user guide, the charger base with an AC adapter and the rechargeable battery for the device itself. On top of any functionality, it honestly looks good sitting on a desk. Blue and Gray plastic in a very squared off design that is soft but modern.
Brother’s PT-18R is the label maker for the serious gadgeteer. You can connect the labeler to the computer via USB and get as detailed as you’d like with your label design. You can access things like these pre-configured professionally designed labels with graphics and unique fonts. Click here for some examples. As the type of person that enjoys electronic goodies, you’re used to customizing to your heart’s content with the perfect wallpapers, ringtones, fonts, and icons. This is a labeler that allows you to get as creative as you want. You can purchase any number of cartridges from a very large array of colors and sizes to get the perfect label to fit your needs. The machine can accept four different tape sizes (6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 18mm). The color options are vast as well. Shiny or matte, different colored lettering and backgrounds, metallic, fluorescents, security tapes that show tampering, and even labels with clear backgrounds for a floating text look. The tape that’s perfect for all of the wires in our setup is Brother’s flexible ID tape. This tape uses an adhesive that’s specially formulated to wrap around angled or cylindrical surfaces (such as wiring or cables) and more importantly it is made to stick to itself. You can wrap a cable and have a semi permanent label to end fumbling over tangled generic black wires for good. You can do plenty of work on the device’s own high visibility LCD screen with the built in keyboard or move to the included software to get more specific. There are built-in templates and plenty of borders and symbols to make quick design simpler. You can even print scannable barcodes or QR codes that you can pair with a smartphone scanner app for a very professional and thorough inventory of your electronic toys. There are four built-in fonts, three sizes, and seven different text styles that can be augmented with the classic bold, italic, outline, and shadow. To fit your need even further, you can either print text vertically or horizontally.
So now that I had the right labeler for the job, I set to work. Using the clear tape with white text I printed out nice big category labels for the outside of each drawer. These can be removed and cleaned over time if your needs change, they leave no residue when removed. The look of the floating white text on the black tool chest is very powerful. If you are still afraid of adding labels directly to the cabinets finish, you can use magnetic stripping and add labels to that. Once everything was labeled outside, I set inside to go even further with my organization. First off, I decided to add “helper labels” to the bigger items. Customer service woes be gone with this three lined label that shows the product’s serial number, model number, and customer service phone number. No more fumbling and frustration, If I ever have an issue and need to contact the company, I’m ready in a flash. If you wanted to go a step further, you could use the labeler to program all of that information into one of the scannable barcodes that can be paired with a smartphone app. The only limitations are how much effort and energy you want to put into your organizing.
A few issues with Brother’s label maker that need mentioning. First, It isn’t an issue to me, but the clear background isn’t crystal clear. I get the effect that I’d wanted but some might be upset that you can see the faint outline of the clear label. Next, the forced waste is upsetting. The machine constantly cuts small wasted remnants of tape while trying to align and center the labels you’re printing. There are ways to get around this for the most part, but by default, the machine does everything it can to eat your tape a half inch at a time. It adds up quickly and it is unnecessary. The official word from brother is that the small wasted tags are necessary for the lamination process:
“Most TZe labels have a clear laminate top layer. This durable laminate helps the label withstand abrasion, fading, moisture and chemicals, providing a crisp, readable image. The process of adding this laminate layer results in a leading edge margin of blank space. You may be able to reduce the total amount of blank tape by choosing a different margin setting, or by using the chain printing function.”
The question then becomes, why does the product default to a wasteful state when something else is possible? The fact that the phrase “you MAY be able to reduce” was included in the quote is also concerning. Brother created the product, there should be no may about it. The real answer probably lies between two possible truths; Brother wants to make money from more tape cartridges sold AND a slight amount of wasted tape might be necessary in the lamination process. In any event, proper engineering, some software fixes and sensors should be able to properly handle this issue and I’m sure that Brother could fix it if they saw a benefit. Another nag is that while making labels in the machine, you aren’t given an indicator (a la twitter) of your remaining character count. You are given a field and asked to enter text. You can write what you’d want and press enter and if it’s too many characters you won’t be allowed to go on. Why not have a dynamic countdown that considers text size, font, etc. and gives you an idea of what you’re doing? There is still work to be done here. Technology has come too far for Brother to leave this many questions while designing a label. If they want to do it, they can make a better label maker and as long as that is the case they have work left to do.
Why do I need to label everything? Some device’s charging cables and power adapters have specific electronics inside, not all micro USB cables are created equal. Sure any compatible cable and charger will charge your phone, but one might charge it in one hour while the other cable that wasn’t designed for it takes something like four hours. It’s always worth your time to do things the right way. That in mind, the next thing I did was to label any specific cables and adapters that came with particular products. So many chargers and cables come without a single brand marking on them so this simplifies things easily. My labeling is complete for now and I’m very happy with the speed and ease at which I can find anything. One last flourish was to add some NFC tags to different drawers. In the watch/sunglasses drawer I added two NFC tags. Next to the sunglasses is a tag that launches my weather app to tell me if I need my shades for a day out. Next to the watches is a tag that turns on bluetooth to allow me to connect to any of my smartwatches. In my cable/power adapter drawer I have one tag to launch into an app that measures charging currents, which comes in handy if I ever need to check if a specific cable works better or worse than another. Finally, In my music drawer I have a tag that turns on bluetooth, adjusts volume, and launches Pandora.
What started as a small project has grown and grown and even though I have a great setup currently, I know it will only get better and more refined with time and use. I’ve cleaned up my act and in a completely unique way. It’s the nature of anything to adapt or be left behind. It’s a sad thing that less and less people know how to change a tire, but hopefully those people are using the time they’re saving to invent the hover car that doesn’t use tires. Rather than dismiss the Craftsman standing tool chest as a relic of the past meant for greater men than I, I’ve decided to make it my own and try to adapt it to the world around me. For just under three hundred dollars, it’s a small investment in efficiency and it might just help you clear your mind and make room for that one great idea that changes everything.
Thank you again to Craftsman and Brother for supplying their products for review.
Alternatives: UNTESTED! Husky 13 drawer by Home Depot, 16 drawer from Harbor Freight, Trinity 12 drawer
What’s in the box: Each piece comes with its own lock and key, non slip mat when needed, and assembly instructions. The components can be used individually or stacked on top of each other to be the full 11 drawer set that I’m showing here.
Craftsman 3 piece 11 drawer ball bearing combo in black – $299.17
3 piece 12 drawer heavy-duty ball bearing combo in red – $564.37
The original Pink Box 8 drawer heavy-duty 2 piece combo – $407.98
Special edition 9 drawer 2 piece Harley Davidson tool storage combo – $509.98
Limited Edition White Dry Erase 8 drawer 2 piece Heavy-Duty ball bearing combo – $431.98
Craftsman foam drawer organizers – $16.99
Craftsman Chest single plastic drawer tray – $8.49
Craftsman divider system – $6.79
Craftsman 3 piece tool chest plastic drawer organizers – $16.99
Craftsman lock set – $16.99
Craftsman universal tool divider system – $11.04
Roll of High grip non slip toolbox liner – $19.71
Brother P-touch PT-18R – $129.99
Brother label cartridges – various prices
If you haven’t already, click here to see a video slideshow of my full Craftsman setup.
and here’s the video slideshow for the brother labeler once again.
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!