Technology Workshop
Cardboard bins!

I <3 cardboard parts bins.

OK, that may not be the most exciting headline I’ve ever written, and I’m not sure the exclamation point really helps all that much.

But I am, personally, nonetheless very excited about cardboard bins right now, because thanks to them, for the first time in almost five years, I am no longer burdened by a giant unsorted junk parts bucket.

I have played around with a lot of part storage systems and I’ve finally decided that bins are where it’s at. Unfortunately, “professional” plastic parts bin systems are prohibitively expensive for the number I need to satisfy my organizational compulsion. But these fold-up corrugated bins I bought off Amazon only cost 69 cents apiece, including shipping.

I took an old bookcase and added an extra “halfway” shelf to each level; 6″ per shelf leaves plenty of room to toss parts into the bins without wasting space. The finished unit holds ninety 4 x 4.5 x 12″ bins, which are labeled with a thermal-tape printer and arranged alphabetically. You can see the whole enchilada in my Flickr set.

Got a favorite parts storage hack? Let me know, below!

44 thoughts on “Cardboard bins!

  1. I moved recently, so I have a bunch of U-Haul boxes sitting around that are barely too damaged to be used again. Tonight, I will try to make my own corrugated bins for Thing a Day!

  2. I moved recently, so I have a bunch of U-Haul boxes sitting around that are barely too damaged to be used again. Tonight, I will try to make my own corrugated bins for Thing a Day!

  3. cardboard bins are awesome. I worked at a bike shop in high school and college, when we had down time, we’d take apart old deraileurs, brakes, etc and toss all the still unsable bits into a wallful of cheap cardboard bins. It was amazing how often we’d be able to save someone the replacement of a major part by a couple minutes of digging through years worth of parts bins.

  4. cardboard bins are awesome. I worked at a bike shop in high school and college, when we had down time, we’d take apart old deraileurs, brakes, etc and toss all the still unsable bits into a wallful of cheap cardboard bins. It was amazing how often we’d be able to save someone the replacement of a major part by a couple minutes of digging through years worth of parts bins.

  5. cardboard bins are awesome. I worked at a bike shop in high school and college, when we had down time, we’d take apart old deraileurs, brakes, etc and toss all the still unsable bits into a wallful of cheap cardboard bins. It was amazing how often we’d be able to save someone the replacement of a major part by a couple minutes of digging through years worth of parts bins.

  6. At work they would normally toss some white boxes about 5 x 3 x 9, so I started collecting them. I write on one end with a sharpie and put my junk in the boxes. I put them on cheap Ikea shelving and, in my electronics room, on an old shoe rack that doesn’t get used any more. These boxes are shipped in a larger box, and the desired part is in a smaller box still. I don’t understand corporate waste, I just utilize it for my advantage.

  7. At work they would normally toss some white boxes about 5 x 3 x 9, so I started collecting them. I write on one end with a sharpie and put my junk in the boxes. I put them on cheap Ikea shelving and, in my electronics room, on an old shoe rack that doesn’t get used any more. These boxes are shipped in a larger box, and the desired part is in a smaller box still. I don’t understand corporate waste, I just utilize it for my advantage.

  8. I recently went through a fit of organizing my electronics/RC model building area. For me, the solution was done using cheap wire shelving (Ikea), clear plastic shoe boxes with lids (Container Store), and a labeler. The system ended up being a miniature version of the “wall of labelled bins” seen in Jamie Hyneman’s shop on the show Mythbusters. It works great; items can be categorized/organized into as course or fine a level as you wish. A bin can start out as a type-specific junk box, and slowly be refined over time. Bins can be stacked on top of each other and rearranged very easily. Combine this with a large-ish stationary tool box, and the space begins to look like its occupant knows what he’s doing. Almost. :-)

  9. I used to have a 20 yard dumpster in the back that was great for storing parts.. Only problem is, every now and then, someone empties the dumpster and takes all my parts..

    After some time I gave this up as it seemed someone wanted my parts more than me. So in the end, almost any empty container is fair game. from glass and plastic bottles, boxes and bins, to metal cans and boxes, and of course cardboard..

  10. Hmmm… those boxes are nice, but seem too big for the components? For example, all the space above the front face of the “Grommets” box is wasted, because the small components will just overflow.

    I (re)use plastic take-away containers that every Australian food place uses. They have a standard footprint, so are stackable, but come in three different heights. They are clear, so I can visually identify what is in them, and have tightly fitting lids. All this for free too – someone invariably has left-overs at work at least once a week. They aren’t great for big components, but you are never going to have a single system that is perfect for everything from SMD components through to power tools.

  11. Aside from minimizing natural resource consumption, the Harbor Freight parts bins approach the price of your cardboard units. The might be better for parts that would get stuck in the crevices of the cardboard bins, and they’re liquid-tight, for whatever that’s worth. When HF has a sale, stuff gets really affordable. Here is one of several examples, which includes a steel rack:
    http://www.harborfreight.com/parts-rack-with-removable-bins-95496.html?utm_term=95496&utm_medium=cse&utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=cse&utm_source=googlebase&hft_adv=15010&mr:trackingCode=F3760F9E-782A-E011-B31E-001B2163195C&mr:referralID=NA

  12. I use plastic craft organizers, the kind with all the individual compartments and a lid that closes relatively securely. They work really well for storing small parts, as long as your inventory of those parts doesn’t grow too much.

  13. The plumbing and electrical parts shelves at your local Big Box hardware store are stocked with these bins, they are delivered as easy – to- rip- the- top- off- boxes, that get thrown away upon restock . Make friends with the store clerk and they will save big bags full of these. I have to tape the corners when I use them in my Workshop On Wheels, heavy parts will beat them apart while traveling. They will require re-labeling but are “free” and reduce the waste stream.

  14. The plumbing and electrical parts shelves at your local Big Box hardware store are stocked with these bins, they are delivered as easy – to- rip- the- top- off- boxes, that get thrown away upon restock . Make friends with the store clerk and they will save big bags full of these. I have to tape the corners when I use them in my Workshop On Wheels, heavy parts will beat them apart while traveling. They will require re-labeling but are “free” and reduce the waste stream.

  15. Plumbing and electric work of the home must be of high quality or the frost and excessive heat can cause damage to it easily. Proper plumbing and electric plans should be made before the construction begins.

  16. Plumbing and electric work of the home must be of high quality or the frost and excessive heat can cause damage to it easily. Proper plumbing and electric plans should be made before the construction begins.

  17. Plumbing and electric work of the home must be of high quality or the frost and excessive heat can cause damage to it easily. Proper plumbing and electric plans should be made before the construction begins.

  18. Plumbing and electric work of the home must be of high quality or the frost and excessive heat can cause damage to it easily. Proper plumbing and electric plans should be made before the construction begins.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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