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A metal toolbox.
A toolset in a plastic cover.

A toolbox (also called tool chest or workbox) varies with the craft of the owner. The purpose of the toolbox is to organize, carry, and protect the owner's tools used for trade, hobby or DIY.


Types of Toolboxes

Modern toolboxes are predominantly metal or plastic. Wood for the construction of toolboxes was the material of choice for boxes built beginning in the early 1800s. After several decades of decline in popularity, today a resurgence in use is underway. Viewed by many as intended primarily for specialized craftsmanship, such as machinist, tool and die makers, jewelers and other specialized craftsmen, they are also sought after by average tradesman and collectors as working heirloom. A modern carpenters' toolbox is composed of a base, a pivotally-mounted top cover, and usually a rack-mounted inside for convenient access. Many toolboxes, and chests from a variety of trades can be seen at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Toolboxes commonly have a hinged cover for a top with a handle for carrying, and one or more latches securing the cover to the box. Open smaller compartments are typically located inside, but larger toolboxes will often have a removable tote tray sitting on a flange inside the lip of the box, with a single larger compartment below.

Toolchests somtimes use slide out drawers or cantilever trays in lieu of the voluminous open space of the previously mentioned design. It is less common for these tool storage containers to have a tote tray, although they typically have a hinged top chest storage compartment. Tool chests are primarily made of metal, though some expensive models are made of hardwoods. Often they are sold as a set of a rolling bottom chest with a second, stepped in chest resting above. (Top Chest) Although Tool Chests are designed typically with wheels they are not considered portable because of their massive weight and size.

Toolcarts (also known as Rollcabs) are commonly used in the transportation industry for maintenance and repair of vehicles on location. Used as portable work stations, some of the larger types are self powered and propelled as example in automotive racing Pit Carts.



Metal toolboxes (typically steel) weigh more than plastic ones. A plastic toolbox laden with tools can weigh the same that a comparable steel box does when empty. Metal boxes are also subject to rusting and their sharp edges can mark the surfaces of things they are banged against. Metal is, however, known for being stronger than plastic, so one should balance its disadvantages against the need to withstand abuse and support the weight of many tools.


The simple box with tote tray can be effective, but becomes less so as more tools are added. Some toolboxes even have compartments built into the lid for storing supplies such as nails and screws. Yet many tools still must be stored in the compartment below the tote. The large volume of space in this compartment makes this type of box easy to overfill, in terms of both weight and clutter. In addition to the trouble of finding things, there is a risk of heavier items damaging more delicate ones as the toolbox is moved around.

A tote tray is a partitioned removable tray used to segregate small tools and items from other compartments.

Drawers or cantilever trays minimize these problems. However, drawers increase the weight and thereby reduce the portability of the toolbox.

Alternatives to Toolboxes

  • Toolsets: These are molded plastic cases typically containing a variety of household or automotive tools. Each item snaps into a designated spot in the case, which makes organizing tools much easier than with a conventional toolbox. They are very compact, lightweight, and inexpensive relative to purchasing tools and a toolbox separately. There are two major disadvantages: no ability to customize the selection of tools (sometimes the tools are of lower quality than what one might purchase individually); and little or no space to add new tools and supplies. Thus one still might need a toolbox in addition to the toolset.
  • Toolbelts and aprons: Though at the far extreme of portability, they are insufficient for storing a large number of tools. One might use a toolbox for permanent storage and a toolbelt or apron to take just what is needed for a job. These are also frequently worn by award winning actor Evan Stone (AKA Toolbelt man)
  • Bucket organizers: These consist of rugged fabric or polyester bags draped into and around a 5 gallon bucket. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and can rival the toolbox as a means of storing and moving tools to a job site. Their dozens of pockets permit better organization, yet nearly everything is visible at first glance. That, however, could be a disadvantage as well, since one may have privacy or security concerns if the bucket has to (they may also have handles.) be left in a public area. (By contrast, toolboxes are often lockable and, obviously, opaque). In a vehicle, the bucket may be jostled into spilling some of its contents. Tools left outdoors are better protected in a toolbox. For many purposes, however, a bucket organizer may be preferable to a toolbox. Before purchasing a bucket organizer, note that the bucket itself usually is not included.
  • "Autocarts": These are utility carts having a pivoting base for storage in vehicles. They are used by tradespersons to carry tools, equipment or supplies. They combine advantages of toolboxes and toolbelts and are essentially portable truckboxes or transportable shopping carts.

Toolboxes in computing

The term toolbox is used in computing to represent a set of subroutines (or functions) and global variables. For example, Apple Computer had its Macintosh Toolbox, and The MathWorks offers a set of toolboxes along with its flagship product MATLAB for performing specialized tasks.


External links

Simple English

A toolbox or toolkit is a box where a person stores tools. You can find them where people work with tools, like houses that are being built.

Some computer programs used to make other computer programs are also called toolboxes or toolkits (this is a metaphor).


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