Introduction: DIY Toolbag Organizer

About: I build, I write, I film... Mostly a woodworker.

I love spending time in my home workshop building things or fixing things, or just puttering around at my bench. I have tool organizers and cabinets and so on. But none of these things are particularly portable.

I can't begin to recall the number of times that I've been fixing or installing something up in a bedroom or elsewhere, and had to run back down to my shop because I was missing the right screwdriver or wrench or something.

When I would go to a friends house (or elsewhere) to work on something, I would grab an old milkcrate or this toolbag. They're big and strong, but there is no organization to them.

This is fine for big items like a jigsaw or drill, but smaller items would end up jumbled together, and lost in the bottom of the bag.

I thought about making myself a fancy wooden toolbox... but only briefly. Rather, I decided to work with this canvas tool tote that I already owned. It's strong, it's a good size, and I already own it. (And yes, it was a freebie from when I once bought some green tools...)

I would build a (wooden) organizer that would fit inside my tool bag and turn it into a much better organized tool tote.

Some time ago, I inherited a small collection of hand tools. Since, I already had a pretty complete selection of these basic tools in my shop, I decided that some of them (pictured here) would form the core of my "jobsite" tools. Now, I'm not a contractor, but I still occasionally have a reason to bring tools to a friend's house, or somewhere else, and gathering up a the right set of tools from my shop was always a chore. As well, too often I would somehow forget something that I would later need.

Step 1: Video Tour

If you would prefer, you can watch a video about this project. Otherwise, read on!

Step 2: Cardboard Mockup

Here is one situation when a mock up in cardboard is a very good idea. I grabbed a handy box that I had and set to work.

The tool tray could not be too tall, as it needs to fit inside the mouth of the tote.I started with a shallow tray to fit in the bottom of the tote. I have a lot of screwdrivers, so I next mocked up a cardboard insert down the middle, where I would drill holes to hold all those various screwdrivers as well as a few other tools. This would also serve as a divider, so I could keep the hammer and a few other large tools on the one side, and have the other side open for various other uses.

Here it is, inside the tote... It seemed to fit fairly well, and I liked how the centre divider was looking, so I moved on to working in wood from my scrap pile.

Step 3: Box and Divider

I considered using plywood for the sides, but I had some pine available which I discovered was actually lighter than plywood. Lightness is important! So I planed that down to 1/2" thickness, ripped it to 3-1/2" wide, and then milled box joints in the ends to make up a box.

The bottom of the organizer is just a thin piece of 1/8" plywood. I found the thinnest stuff that I had in my stash. The tote bag is providing the strength, so I don't need anything stronger.

Next, I turned my attention to the divider. I picked out a piece of 2x4 and ripped it to just 2" wide, which from the cardboard mockup seemed sufficient width to allow a double row of screwdrivers. I then marked out the locations for the screwdrivers and other things (such as the nailset shown in the photo) to be placed in the divider.

Step 4: Divider Details

I decided to not extend the 2x4 divider right to the floor of the tray. Instead I would use some more of that 1/8" plywood to make a thin divider.

I did want the two sides to be divided, but I was also trying to be frugal with my space and weight. I ripped a thin rabbet along the side of the divider, just thick enough for the plywood divider.

On the other side I ripped a stopped rabbet, since I want to box in just the one end of the divider.

The third photo shows it clamped and glued, and also upside down. So it is probably looking very confusing if you don't quite get what I'm aiming for here...

In the final photo it is being glued into place. You can now see the hole I cut in the left side of the divider, which is why that end of the divider is boxed in.

Step 5: It Fits!

As mentioned above, the main thing to keep in mind is that the organizer box needs to be just a bit smaller than the tool bag, as it needs to be able to fit through the mouth of the tool bag, and then be fitted into the bottom of the bag.

Step 6: A Final Look

Here is the organizer with all the tools that I was planning to permanently install in this "grab and go" toolbag.

As you can see, the divider is situated a bit off center. I did this on purpose. On the narrow side, I have enough room to fit in a roll of wrenches, an adjustable wrench, and a hammer. They fit nicely and that side is mostly full.

The other side of the box is still wide open. This is available for whatever extra tool or supplies you might want on this particular job. So on that side of the toolbag I'll drop in one of my drills or drivers, or maybe a box of screws.

As you can see, it nicely fits inside the fabric tote, and holds all my "jobsite" tools nicely organized and ready to go.

Hopefully now, the days are gone when I would be working somewhere only to discover I don't have the right kind of screwdriver with me...

Before and After Contest 2017

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017