Parts Storage - What do you use?

Wanted to kick off a thread to discuss parts/component storage, and share some deals I just found on Harbor Freight’s website.

For a long time, the two primary means of storing parts and components have been plastic shoe boxes (for assembled projects or larger parts) and your basic plastic multi-drawer parts bins (Akro-Mills or similar). While the shoeboxes are fairly portable, the parts bins aren’t really, and given that I do a fair number of talks on microcontroller stuff, I need to be able to grab and go.

I had a rolling toolbox with some bins, but it turned out to be fairly unwieldy for the purpose, and the art supply/tackle box I was using just didn’t have enough space for all of the modules and boards I was rapidly accumulating.

Enter Harbor Freight. They’ve got really cheap stuff, with decent enough quality. For example, I got 4 of these 20-bin carriers:

(yes, they’re 20 bins, not 19…I have no idea why they’re described as 19).

These have a variety of bin sizes, the largest of which can easily accommodate a FEZ Spider, Cerberus, Cerbuino Bee, or Hydra (the Cobra II is too big for the largest bin, alas), and the medium bins are exactly half the size of the large, and the smallest are half the size of the mediums, meaning you can move them around, mix and match, to suit your needs.

They’ve also got a 15-bin version:

and an 8-bin version:

I got a couple of the 15-bin cases, but wasn’t able to get any of the 8-bin as they were out at my local store.

Only two gripes about the cases…some of the cases (though not all) have a fully-adhesive-backed sticker on the clear cover, and it does not come off easily, which is annoying. And there’s a mild off-gassing odor. I just opened them up and left them in an unoccupied room overnight, and they were fine.

But speaking of odor, if you have a local Harbor Freight store, and haven’t visited, it’s worth a visit, but beware…the local store in Sterling, VA, which is closest to me, must have terrible ventilation, as it smells like a chemical spill inside. I was only there for a half hour, and was getting nauseous. Great deals to be had, though. And my local store might be an outlier. My mom has been to the store near her, and didn’t have that experience at all.

So what do the rest of you use for storing your parts and components?

Being a Gadgeteer module junkie I use 3 Plano cases (note they come in different sizes, I got the biggest version of each).

Several years ago I bought a big case of Plano 3449 tackle boxes off eBay for about $1 each or less. They are great for organizing smaller electronics parts. I eventually had so many parts that I needed larger plastic shoebox size boxes to put the tackle boxes in. Then I needed larger roll around totes to carry all the shoebox boxes in… Now when I go to a hackathon or user group meeting I have three of the pull-around totes that go with me. And I’ve still got loose boxes of stuff at home that I’m trying to find time to get somewhat organized and cataloged. I’ve forgotten half of what I have…

I really like the size and uniform size of the Plano 3449 boxes and will probably continue to use them for small parts. However, I’ve been thinking of making some racks that I can hang on my French cleats in the garage/shop for easier access when working at home. I also have an ever growing collection of SMD reels and wire that I need to come up with a plan for. So, I too am continuously looking for answers to this problem.

Here’s some more info on how I organize some of the smaller parts that I have small quantities of. As I run out of small quantity parts, I typically replace them with 100s for the discount and then they get an entire section to themself.

I use a combination of these.

@ devhammer - thanks for the hint. I might get a couple, I need to check out my local HF.
@ VersaModule - Akro-Mils boxes work great for my workshop as well.

I use this case. I like the portability.

@ Duke Nukem - The tackle box I have is a Plano, with the green/purple color scheme of your middle pic, which Pete Brown loved to tease me about when we presented together.

Trouble is that that box didn’t have removable organizers, just the couple of trays that hinge back, so not a lot of capacity, nor particularly secure if the tackle box was jostled or upended.

I may still end up using that for my tools, but I may need to find something more convenient. I’m torn between usability at my workbench vs. portability.

@ Mike, that Stanley case looks like a slightly larger version of what I got from HF, although I’m guessing the Stanley case probably has a little higher quality overall. Good price, too, given the extra 5 bins. Interesting that the 10 compartment version costs almost twice as much (deeper compartments, but really?).

Keep 'em coming…always good to have more ideas for staying organized (and portable).

Making Progress…I actually have some clear flat spaces on my workbench again…will have to see how long THAT lasts. :slight_smile:

@ devhammer - Nice! You’ve got your FEZs right up there with your Ka-bar. I just dare someone to try and take your FEZ! :smiley: I have that same box around here somewhere.

@ ianlee74 - I was wondering if anyone would notice. :wink:

It was a gift from my brother, who was in the Corps.

I got mine from my best friend when he joined after high school. I went to see his graduation at Parris Island. That’s something I’ll never forget.