Portable shop. On large trim jobs, the author rolls out tool cases that double as a miter saw stand—a shorter case (center) for the saw and taller cases that function as material supports. The cases organize tools by category: pneumatic tools like air guns and a compressor (at left); cordless tools and chargers (at right).

In the past decade, tool companies including DeWalt, Festool, Makita, Milwaukee, Ridgid, and others have introduced stackable tool-storage systems that are now found on many a jobsite. I own a number of these, but I’ve become wary of their limitations. Commercially made systems work well for moving tools and fasteners on and off the jobsite, and they can be convenient storage solutions in a truck or shop. But on the job, they need to be spread out for what’s inside each one to be accessible, and I end up stooping or kneeling much more than I want to in order to get to the contents of the boxes.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to these commercially made systems is that it’s in the manufacturer’s best interest to sell you as many of them as possible, and they often include blow-molded plastic inserts that waste an enormous amount of space in each box. I love most of my Festool tools, but I don’t want to carry an entire Systainer just for one screw gun and then a separate Systainer for an impact driver. These are not fragile tools, and it often makes more sense to ditch the inserts and pack several similar tools and their accessories in the same box.

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