Introduction: First Order Retrievability Toolbag

Picture of First Order Retrievability Toolbag

You're doing a job. It'll only take five minutes, all i need is that tool, hmm, where is it, i've only just seen it, it was in my toolbox right here for goodness sake!

...and by the time you've emptied out your toolbox to find the right screwdriver, it's taken four times longer than the actual job.

Sound familiar? Happens to me all the time.

Step 1:

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A few years ago I was looking at Adam Savage's website, and was intrigued by his concept of "first order retrieveability": you can get to any object without having to move anything else. Here's a picture of one of his fantastically ridiculous toolboxes. Notice how almost all the tools are standing vertically so you can find them and take them out instantly.

Step 2:

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I thought the idea was superb, and decided to give it a go myself. Using some small plastic shelf boxes rescued from a skip, and plastic hose cable tied to the outside wall of the box I modified my oil can toolbox. It worked very well. I could reach my pliers, craft knife, screwdriver, whatever, right away. Instantly and frustration free!

Step 3:

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I've recently got a new toolbag for work and after a few months of chucking random junk in it, I was starting to feel a bit frustrated with it. Here's how I added first order retrievability to it!

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40mm plastic drainpipe is the right diameter to take most of the shafts or handles of my tools. a 2m length is cheap too. After measuring the shortest tools in my kit (a stanley knife and permanent marker) I cut the drainpipe into 13cm lengths. This is long enough so tools are properly held upright, but not so long you can't get the short tools out.

The toolbag, being a bag and all, is too floppy to hold the tubes neatly upright, so i cut a baseboard out of 6mm ply to hold them on. As I also have other tools such as a spanner roll and cans of WD-40 and degreaser to keep in the bag I used more 6mm ply to make partitions. One long one for the spanner roll and long tools and a smaller one to store cans, bottles and tape.

The corners are chamfered so the baseboard fits into the bottom of the bag easily and to avoid damage to the bag (or me) from the sharp corners.

This photo shows the baseboard and partitions. The partitions are held in place with triangles of 40x40 wood, screwed into through the ply. The tubes are epoxied into place with copious amounts of araldite on the base of the tubes and along the lines of contact between other tubes and the wood. They're pretty sturdy, but may need reinforcing over time.

Here's the bag with the board in it. You can see the partitions and tubes in place.

Step 5:

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The bag loaded up. All the tools are neat and easily accessible. Five minute jobs will now take five minutes, and my life will be smooth and frustration free again! 

Further mods I might try: using different size pipes for different tubes i.e. big square 67mm drain pipe, or thin electrical conduit for different size tools, and more partitions.

If you this this is a good idea, I can't recommend trying it out enough. Even cutting up some pipe into equal lengths, duct taping it together and dropping it into a toolbox makes a quick and easy toolbox organiser. 

If this has inspired you, go for it, take some photos, and post them on here, i'd love to see what you come up with.

Thanks for reading!


kchapman8 (author)2013-01-04

Bag 1 of 3. Thanks for the idea

Cool! that looks really good! especially like the drill holster section. fast access! Have you considered mounting some multigang sockets into the bag so you can plug in your chargers in and just have one cable coming out so you can plug in easily when you get home or on site and charge your stuff?

kchapman8 (author)kchapman82013-01-04

Oops. Meant bag 1 of 4

Ecuericb made it! (author)2016-10-13

Here is my attempt at a 1st order tool box. I'm an AV technician and this is my hand tools box. I did have it in an open top tool bag but stuff kept falling out. So I bought the rigid set and this is what I did to the mid sized box.

TheCommander (author)2014-12-24

I was just designing my own organization for my bag but thought I wpuld check here first and im glad I did yours is superior in desigm to what I had thanks for posting.

kchapman8 (author)2013-01-13

Theirs number 2.I think that's gonna be it for now. I need a couple empty bags for miscellaneous stuff

DiGiTALMADDOG (author)kchapman82014-10-13

awesome tool layout !! i have those same harbor freight screw/phillips drivers -- they feel great !! im deff gonna do this thanks for the ideas on this one -- what bag is this you show

That's lovely! nicely organised and segregated! I may have to do another to catch up...

shazni (author)2013-04-11

My handbag is the scariest place anyone can put there hand in...this is great! must see if I can add bag gets tossed about :-)

B00mrang (author)2013-03-11

I really like the result. And Adam Savage is the the gold standard in this case. Below is how it look on my new FOR Toolbag !

RangerJ (author)2013-02-19

I gotta have one of these!

domesticdiva (author)2013-01-19

You are a genius. First order retrievablility- now THERE'S a concept made for us ADHD/scattered/project and tool obsessed people! AWESOME! Thanks a TON for posting this!!!

Cheers, but the idea is Adam Savage's, from Mythbusters. I wish i could organise my thoughts and ideas like this too! it would be quite useful.

kchapman8 (author)2013-01-12

I pretty much did; I put a multi tap in the bag.

Also, I'm halfway done with bag #2
2 left. Although, you never can have enough tools. I'm sure I'll need to buy more

Not sure why the pics are crooked. Sorry

Broom (author)2013-01-08


smithj702 (author)2013-01-02


AlexLPD (author)2012-12-18

Yes in deed the vertical spaces are more eficient to put tools like screwdrivers, pliers or cutters, I have use this already in a very messy box, currently used for keep the tools from a graco foam machine on hand. Works great. We got solvents, scratchers, screwdrivers, cover plastics, and its quite handy.
Thanks for the tutorial.


3366carlos (author)2012-12-18

great idea.

kchapman8 (author)2012-12-17

Looks like this will be the next instructable that I build. Great idea, pics to follow after the new year. Course, that's if we are alive after the 21st:-P

enfieldbullet (author)2012-12-14

great ible man! i had some contact with adam's thoughts too and i have to say i was interested in the concept too, and was planning on giving it a go but wanted a good toolbag first.

great nickname also :)

The name is a very obscure Kim Stanley Robinson quote.

The concept works in any toolbox or bag! Screw a nice toolbag, done is better than perfect!

sensoryhouse (author)2012-12-14

I run my whole shop like this.

Just had a look at your workshop. That is so cool! I'm so jealous i think i'm going to be sick!

Seriously though, my dad had an amazing workshop when i was young, but it was (and still is) an absolute bombsite. you had to tidy for at least half an hour before you could get enough space to make the thing you wanted, and by that point motivation had gone... A tidy workshop is a productive workshop, and workshops that aren't really irritate me.

MrOddjob (author)2012-12-12

Brilliant! I should have thought about this but never had the time, due to an untidy toolbox. Thanks for sharing.

It's pretty easy to do to any toolbox, just get some drainpipe (or electrical conduit, or even some old jamjars), cut it up and duct tape it together as the most basic version, then just stick it in your toolbox. I just love the concept, it's so simple and works really well. Yet another reason Adam Savage is awesome!

About This Instructable




Bio: Proud member of Newcastle Makerspace!
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