A Bolt Bin For Your Shop
By Stephen Kassis
If you are restoring an old car or truck, you will need bolts, nuts and other fasteners to help with the restoration. Nothing is more frustrating than having to search all over your shop for that special fastener when you should be able to walk right to it. Having a bolt bin is a great way to keep used (or new) fasteners sorted so they will be easy to find. Pre-made plastic bin systems are available, but can be a little expensive. Making your own is a cost effective and simple project. The time spent on organizing your fasteners will be paid back in the time saved searching in the future.
The first step is to find a suitable cabinet. Remember, it needs to be functional, not pretty. Depending on how many fasteners you have to sort, the cabinet may need to be quite large. Second hand stores, swap meets, garage sales, even Craig’s List are all possible places to find a good cabinet. The best cabinet will be one with lots of drawers. These drawers can be made into smaller compartments by use of small boxes or dividers. The ideal cabinet has drawers that are not too tall – 3-4 inches in height is ideal. Back in the days of computer punch cards, the cabinets used to hold the punch cards are perfect. If you can find one today, it would be cheap since the size of the drawer is not well suited to other kinds of storage. Metal cabinets with ball bearing rollers are preferred but wood cabinets with good slide mechanisms will also work. Don’t go with a light weight cabinet as it will need to hold a lot of weight.
Once a cabinet has been located, the next step is to plan the layout for your cabinet on paper. Make a grid that corresponds to the number of drawers in the cabinet. One method is to start with cap screws, countersunk screws, slotted screws, Phillips screws, oval head screws, flat head screws, etc. Don’t forget that you will also need to break down fine thread, coarse thread & metric or standard. Choose a method that will best suit your needs.
Nuts should be sorted for fine thread, coarse thread, hex nuts, square nuts & metric. Washers will also need to be sorted – Flat washers, fender washers, lock washers, specialty washers. Find small boxes that will fit the individual fastener items. Leave a little room in each drawer for new items.
In addition to the above breakdown, you may want to keep a separate area for original bolts or specialty bolts that are no longer made. Keeping a good stash of original bolts is helpful when doing a totally original restoration. Some fasteners can be very hard to find, so keeping them sorted makes them easy to access.
With all of the sorting done, lay out each drawer so it will be easy for you to find. As you finish each drawer, take an example of each type of fastener in the drawer. Glue one or two onto the front of the drawer with a gob of clear silicone sealer. This is easier to do with the drawer standing upright so the face of the drawer is flat. Once the silicone has dried, the drawer can be loaded. In addition, you can add a label for a complete description of the contents of the drawer. Now you will be able to easily find the nuts, bolts and washers you will need to help with your restoration projects.
You will never regret organizing your fasteners into a cabinet. Once you see how easy it makes finding that special nut, bolt or washer, you will wonder why didn’t do this sooner!