by David McCarthy
Last Updated January 11, 2019
The materials a toolbox is made out of have a bit of a give and take relationship. Ultimately, you have to decide what is most important: portability or durability. The lighter materials, like plastic, are not nearly as durable as heavier materials. On the other hand, the most durable material commonly used in toolboxes, steel, is also the heaviest, making it the least portable. Sadly, there is no perfect material, and you will be forced to choose what you favor.
For those unfamiliar with the demands of various construction and mechanical related industries, it may seem like the only important quality of a toolbox is how many tools it can hold. While carrying large tools, whether hand tools or power tools, in undoubtedly important, the various other smaller components these professionals use are also vital. However, these parts need to be kept isolated so that they can be easily retrieved when needed. That is where compartments come in. Still, different types of compartments are designed for different purposes, and each will generally be more important depending on the field in which the toolbox is used. The different types of compartments are drawers, organizers, and trays.
Ultimately, the best portable toolbox will be heavily dependent on what you need it to accomplish. Many of the toolboxes we reviewed are probably best left to professionals, as homeowners are unlikely to require that kind of storage space that is also portable.
That said, the Stanley 028001L is still an excellent choice for a DIYer. While large enough for a few power tools or the most commonly used hand tools, it is not enormous. It also doesn’t take a large bite out your wallet.
If you are a professional, you will likely want to look at one of the tool chests or a workstation. The Stanley FatMax 4-in-1 is a solid workstation but needs to be treated gently. For tool chests, the Keter Masterloader is incredibly convenient.
DeWalt is a brand that was once known for its professional grade power tools, but whose reputation took a hit once they started to outsource their manufacturing to China.
In recent years, the brand has begun the slow ascent to reclaim its good name and once again be known as a manufacturer that professionals can trust to provide high quality construction equipment.
That journey has been a bit hit-or-miss with its selection of power tools. When it comes to construction accessories, DeWalt’s record is even rockier.
With regards to the DWST17806, DeWalt has produced a tool chest that is somewhat underwhelming in most respects but shows potential in others.
Primarily, this tool chest is meant to serve as the base of a three or four part modular tool storage system.
In that light, some of the faults of the DWST17806 should be understood within the context that it is not necessarily meant to be a standalone tool chest but work in conjunction with other tool storage components. On its own, it is easily one of the least expensive tool chests we ran across.
However, it also has some serious limitations. For one, regarding both space and weight, this is a somewhat small tool chest. The 44 lb. weight capacity was the lowest we reviewed, while its 2430 cu. in. storage was also the smallest.
Keep in mind you can purchase the entire kit for about the same price as the other tool chests on our list, but on its own, it is merely adequate.
WORKPRO may not be one of the most well-known brands on our list and it is also not that old, but it is quietly becoming known for excellent mid-market hand tools.
Moreover, WORKPRO has positioned itself to provide tools for construction, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing fields. As such, it should not be surprising that the WORKPRO is our best mechanic’s portable toolbox.
For one, this is the only toolbox on our list that comes with a complete starter set of all your basic mechanic’s tools.
While they may not be as robust as a professional set, they are more than enough to either get you started or for the various mechanical jobs you may encounter around the house. That being said, these tools are only of average quality, but they are not cheap junk.
For the toolbox itself, it is arguably the best part of the entire package. With a sturdy steel design that features various points of aluminum reinforcement, this is likely the most durable toolbox we reviewed.
However, you will need to consider that the tool set but the toolbox is also far heavier than toolboxes more than twice its size.
Of course, being a toolbox designed for mechanics, this product is not at all intended for, nor truly capable of, housing power tools unless they are extremely small, and then only in the top compartment.
Unfortunately, WORKPRO does not sell the toolbox separately, and the entire kit is a bit pricey–especially considering you may prefer better quality tools.
Keter is the only brand on our list that does not specialize in tools of any sort. In fact, the company was actually founded to manufacture high grade plastic and then simply cut out the middleman and decided to manufacture their own products instead.
While this can lead to some decent prices, it also means that the brand may not always understand what different markets need.
That is why it is so surprising that the Keter tool chest is as well designed as it is. When compared to some of the other tool chests we reviewed, it seemed as though Keter might understand its potential consumers far better than some of the brands which have been manufacturing tool storage products for all markets for decades.
For one, the main storage area of this tool chest is surprisingly spacious at 2860 cu. in. To back that up, this tool chest features more additional compartments than any other tool box we reviewed–regardless of what type of tool box. The organizers can also be taken out and arranged as you see fit, while the hand tool organizer features a removable divider for even more customized organization.
The only bad quality about the Keter is that their plastic is likely not designed to deal with the rigors of construction work. For instance, while the total storage area is comparable to any of the other chests, the maximum weight capacity is significantly lower at only 66 lbs.
On top of that, the hinges and lock are not that durable–which is actually a far greater issue for the lock which could allow the top to simply open in transit if it fails.
Outside of DeWalt, Stanley is the other manufacturer on our list that has a solid reputation in the construction industry. Unlike DeWalt, Stanley has not suffered a decline in its reputation that it must now regain.
In fairness, that is likely in part due to the fact that Stanley focuses primarily on hand tools and only occasionally dips its toe in the power tool market.
Of course, hand tools still need to be stored and transported as well, and Stanley seeks to provide for that need with its FatMax 4-in-1 Mobile Workstation.
In terms of storage space, the workstation’s 3930 cu. in. is only matched by a single chest, making it the second largest toolbox we reviewed. Still, beyond sheer storage capacity, this workstation also offers a wide range of organization.
This toolbox is actually three toolboxes in one. The top portion is designed like a standard tool box and is intended to house all of your hand tools. Much like a standard toolbox, the top portion also features a tray. The middle portion is where the organizing compartment sits and it offers deep 4 ½” slots to house whatever components or ancillary tools you may need. Finally, the bottom portion provides deep 18” bucket style storage for larger power tools.
Sadly, Stanley’s innovative design and excellent storage and organizational developments did not translate to the actual engineering.
Specifically, the structural foam Stanley uses for their tool storage suffers more with this larger toolbox designed to carry up 88 lbs., which is good but not great. The hinges, handle sleeve, latches, and wheels are all liable to suffer failure, which makes this option a bit riskier than you would prefer.
While other DeWalt tool chests may seek to appeal to the budget-minded consumer, this one is definitely aimed more at the professional.
In this way, DeWalt does seem to be making strides to return to their former glory as a reputable manufacturer of professional grade products. Still, this tool chest is not without its issues, many of which directly undermine its ultimate intent.
In terms of the professional quality it provides, this is another tool storage unit that is ultimately designed in a modular fashion. However, this lineup may arguably be geared more towards that direction than other DeWalt tool chests.
For instance, this lineup includes various storage units of varying sizes as well as a carrier which is both reasonably durable and easy to transport.
In this way, while the Tough System Case may not provide wheels for transportation, it does provide that option–albeit at an extremely high cost.
Still, the Tough System Case does provide a number of features which place it squarely in the professional realm. For instance, this is one of the few toolboxes we looked at which is water resistant.
Even better, that water resistance is rated on the international IP scale as providing protection from harmful deposits of dust and high pressure jets of water. This does not mean you can leave it unprotected for weeks on end, but it could easily ride in the back of a truck to the jobsite without a tarp on it.
One of the best qualities of this tool chest is its structural integrity, however you need to understand this as having some limitations as well. For instance, this tool chest offers the largest weight capacity of 110 lbs. Combined with 3040 cu. in. of storage, and you can carry pretty much anything.
Unfortunately, the side handles, latches, and hinges all feature plastic which has been known to break or fail.
It might seem a bit odd to see a Cat product on a list of toolboxes considering that the parent company, Caterpillar, is far more well-known for making industrial equipment like bulldozers and cranes.
However, Caterpillar also makes numerous products geared towards professionals working in new construction, especially electricians and HVAC technicians. Keeping that in mind, it should come as no surprise that they make our list with the best electrician’s toolbox.
While Caterpillar may be known for producing industrial equipment capable of withstanding the abuse of decades of tough environments and heavy duty workloads, this Cat toolbox most definitely cannot.
The polypropylene resin material is not very durable and will actually bow if heavily laden. However, electricians generally do not require as many heavy tools as many other professions in the construction field.
Electricians need a toolbox that is far more portable than many of the others we have reviewed for this list. The Keter arguably provides just as much organizational space as this toolbox, but it is far too large for an electrician to carry out into the field.
As such, the dual organization compartments located in the top of this toolbox offer the perfect mix of portability and storage for the various fasteners an electrician is likely to need.
When you add the full sized tray that sits flush with the toolbox to prevent spillage, this is nearly an ideal toolbox -nearly.
The Stanley 037025H is a bit of an odd tool chest on our list. It most certainly is useful, but it lacks something notable that can narrow its overall utility. Specifically, this is one of the largest toolboxes that features the least amount of compartmental storage.
In all fairness, though, that feeling may have a bit to do with the fact that the Stanley 037025H features the largest amount of storage we saw.
In fact, even hand toolboxes generally offer more in the way of small compartment storage than this tool chest. Its single tray does at least fit nicely and will not spill over in transit, but it is still lacking.
The 11,400 cu. in. of total storage space easily blows every other toolbox we reviewed out of the water. Even better, the 100 lb. weight capacity is the second highest on our list and equally impressive.
When you consider the immense storage and weight capacities this toolbox provides, it may be better to consider this a gang box style chest rather than a standard tool chest.
Still, the Stanley structural foam presents the same problems with this tool chest that it does with all of its other tool storage options.
This is arguably a bigger concern with this particular model due to the fact that you will likely place even larger and heavier tools in this chest than you would others.
Finally, this chest does feature wheels, but their size makes pulling this beast over anything but smooth surfaces like plowing a field.
If all you need is a simple, no-frills hand toolbox, then the Stanley 028001L is likely the product for you. While it can conceivably be used for professional applications, it is likely more at home with DIYers.
That being said, there are still a few features that might make professionals give this toolbox a second look.
For one, this toolbox is one of the less expensive we reviewed.
While it comes with an internal tray, the tray is not full size and does not sit flush against the top.
This means that the tray may spill over during transport. Still, transport is a bit easier with this hand toolbox than others of its type due to the fact that you can carry it with the handle or with the two indents underneath.
Of course, this is where professionals may check out on this toolbox. While it does not feature a great amount of storage space compared to tool chests and workstations, it still does offer a decent amount for a hand toolbox.
However, if a professional fills this toolbox up with heavy hand and power tools, the structural foam which Stanley uses for most of its tool storage products will bow significantly.
Frequently asked questions
It’s important that you read the manufacturer’s weight limits. This number will determine what the box, hinges, locks, and handles are capable of handling.
Start by taking an inventory of the tools you want to transport. Lay them out and group them together. This will give you an idea of the size you need plus what types of compartments will work best for you. Be sure you purchase an option that also gives you a little room to grow in case you need to take additional tools with you.