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Storing & Documenting Your Tooling?

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Dr_GMJN03/06/2020 09:43:27
257 forum posts

Hello all,

I've accumulated a small collection of end mills and slot drills of various sizes and types, and some other off bits of tooling like reamers, taps, dies etc. I suppose there about 30 items in total.

I've also got a couple of Presto and Dormer drill sets, and a metric tap and die set, which are in boxes, so everything there is easily identified.

With the individual items, what to you guys do to store them, such that they are easily identified? Most of this stuff is in the manufacturer's opaque plastic containers, so I'm always having to pick the boxes up and struggle to read the text on the side.

Also, I've made a paper list of the tooling I've got, but it's easy to forget to update it.

I've had a workshop re-shuffle, and have plenty of drawer space in my tool chest, so I was wondering if people could give some ideas on how to safely store and document random tooling so that it's easily identifiable.


Andrew Johnston03/06/2020 10:06:41
5561 forum posts
650 photos

In short I don't sweat it. There are draws in the workshop for tooling, but tools are also stored on shelves in the workshop and a significant number of taps & dies, cutters and reamers are in the dining room. I know where the most commonly used tools are. If I need an odd one I'll have a ferret round and see what I can find. If nothing surfaces I'll either buy something or change the design to use a tool I do have.


JasonB03/06/2020 10:06:58
18332 forum posts
2024 photos
1 articles

For boxed cutters just use a sharpie to write the diameter so it's easy to see and store in size order

IanT03/06/2020 10:34:05
1551 forum posts
144 photos

I've got Excel spreadsheets that list some of my tooling - like end/slot mill sizes, reamers and my (non-metric) screw-cutting tackle (BA, BSW,BSF,UNC,BSP, Custom etc).

For each item I also like to note it's condition and any other useful facts such as the die-size, Clarkson threaded (or not), taper-size, manual or machine reamer etc

I keep these as PDFs on my laptop for quick reference and also a printed copy in their storage boxes. The regularly used ones are kept in wooden cases mostly - and the rest wrapped in VCI paper and poly-bags marked with a Sharpie. The boxes are then marked by their general contents - saves a lot of space.



Edited By IanT on 03/06/2020 10:35:00

Martin Kyte03/06/2020 10:34:44
1903 forum posts
34 photos

If you are into lists then just a text file on a computer will remind you if you actually have that item. Doesn't need to be in any format you can just use a find on page to check. The only list I have is clock wheel cutters. Just saves going through the drawer the check what I have. At £70 a pop I don't want doubles.

The other things that really are worth storing sensibly are drills and taps. You do a lot of fetch execute cycles for drills and taps so savings in time mount up quickly, providing you put them back. I just use normal drill stands and wooden blocks for the taps.

As Andrew says dn't sweat it you will be amazed at how well you remember stuff in that little linked list in your head, it's next to the so and so, on the wossname'

If you do actually end up losing something the best way to find it is order another and then put it away somewhere sensible. You will find the original just next to it. All tools are quantum objects and every time you use them it refreshes their specific existance. Use something rarely and it kind of eveporates back into it's wave function. Buying another collapses the wave function and you get the original tool back. This is known as Schrodinger's Boring Head* or sometimes as Heisenbergs 'Oh B*gg*r it" test.

regards Martin

* I've actually done this.

Edited By Martin Kyte on 03/06/2020 10:35:17

Edited By Martin Kyte on 03/06/2020 10:36:47

Edited By Martin Kyte on 03/06/2020 10:37:09

Clive Foster03/06/2020 10:40:36
2254 forum posts
76 photos

Only 30 cutters. You haven't got a problem!

For boxed cutters I'd just cut some grooves in slide out plate shelves just wide enough to hold the boxes. Mark size on the shelves. Have somewhere to always put the box when working. Rule is cutter in machine or in box on the shelf.

Spreadsheet list is a good idea to help keep track of what you have. Especially when E-Bay surfing. New, unused cutters have there own storage box.

if you have lots (and lots) of unboxed duplicates as I have you need a system to ensure that you only use one cutter in each size / type. Best answer there is probably dip coating on all except the ones in use. My system sort of happened and isn't good but more or less works. Another one on the fix it when I can take a month to organise the shop list. AKNA the never happen list!

A trickier issue is keeping track of how much machining time you have on carbide inserts and which edges have been used. On home shop duties you can get weeks or months out of an insert edge so its easy to loose track. Especially on the ones you don't use much. I have a couple, rarely used but when I need them I need them, which haven't been changed for years.


Nick Clarke 303/06/2020 10:43:27
815 forum posts
28 photos

Keeping a list of tools is unnecessary and for the hobbyist bureaucratic for no reason - or so I thought until the grand sort out of the garage/workshop during lockdown when I found several duplicates that I have bought because I had forgotten I already had one and it was not immediately obvious in the pre tidy chaos.

I have no doubt a second set of metric hand reamers and 2 sizes of indexable boring bars matching 2 others in a different drawer may come in handy, but a list would have saved me the money!

Derek Lane03/06/2020 10:43:35
334 forum posts
75 photos

For the little plastic boxes that drills and the like come in, I use a Brother label printer it also gets used for storage jars in the kitchen to identify flours of different types easy to read sticks well on a clean surface and even left in the sun does not fade as that was the original use for it when I brought it. The tapes come with clear background as well as other colours and you can choose the size of the font

20200603_103322 (1024x768).jpg

20200603_103250 (1024x768).jpg

Adrian R203/06/2020 10:58:18
27 forum posts
5 photos

On a work project we had the asset register spreadsheet linked to a similar printer, so on receipt of an item at goods-in you updated the spreadsheet for each item and then it generated the matching labels which were then affixed to each item before it went into use.

Barcoding was also an option which allowed the inventory to be checked at intervals. Nowadays you'd have the labels RFID enabled to make it all contactless and doorway scanners to allow you to monitor when an item leaves/enters an area...rather OTT for the home workshop but worthwhile in industrial applications.

Mick Henshall03/06/2020 11:05:14
534 forum posts
34 photos

I just look in the relevant drawer and get the one I want, just my drills stowed in indexes😁

Mick 🇫🇴

Michael Edwards 103/06/2020 11:15:57
56 forum posts
46 photos

I have started documenting my Insert tool with Ever Note (Free Download)

Just so I know what the inserts are when I come to purchase more. But I also store and capture other information when I can

Martin Kyte03/06/2020 11:20:23
1903 forum posts
34 photos

Incidentally our electronics store at work does actually have an index and contains something north of a few thousand items and it is never used. Everything is stored logically in Raaco drawer cabinets which are labled and have a card inside with the order code of the items. We navigate by a kind of address sytem, you find the bank of resistor racks, you identify the local type and then scan along to the value you require. Over the top for home use but the secret is it what you put things next to.

regards Martin

mechman4803/06/2020 11:30:59
2693 forum posts
421 photos

I have an inventory on Excel that I made up some years ago itemizing all of my tooling & where it is located e.g. blue wall cabinet - #1 cupboard, milling cutters in their respective plastic containers in plastic separation box's ( fisherman tackle box )- red tool chest, etc etc.It stood me in good stead 5 years ago when some low life managed to break into my garage/man cave & helped themselves to some items including my first engine build.

Fortunately we managed to disturb them & they managed to make a rapid exit as the police arrived within 1/2 hr ?. the itemised listing certainly helped insurance co. resolve my claim swiftly, anything new gets added to the inventory as & when.


Michael Edwards 103/06/2020 11:33:39
56 forum posts
46 photos
Posted by mechman48 on 03/06/2020 11:30:59:

the itemised listing certainly helped insurance co. resolve my claim swiftly, anything new gets added to the inventory as & when.

Blinking good idea

ega03/06/2020 11:58:04
1753 forum posts
152 photos

I use and recommend rdex, a freeware database from It's very simple to use and is available for PC and Android.

Dr_GMJN03/06/2020 11:59:55
257 forum posts

Thanks for all the comments guys.

I think I'll just divide the drawer into sections for the different types of tooling, and mark them up as suggested with a sharpie.

I'll stick to my paper list with a pen next to it left in the same drawer. It's not very sexy, but for the individual tools I've got, it's probably the most effective way of crossing off or adding bits and pieces and making notes without resorting to messing about switching a computer on. Obviously any list system - whether paper or electronic - is only as good as the updates I make.

IanT03/06/2020 13:03:41
1551 forum posts
144 photos
Posted by Derek Lane on 03/06/2020 10:43:35:

For the little plastic boxes that drills and the like come in, I use a Brother label printer it also gets used for storage jars in the kitchen to identify flours of different types easy to read sticks well on a clean surface and even left in the sun does not fade as that was the original use for it when I brought it. The tapes come with clear background as well as other colours and you can choose the size of the font

20200603_103322 (1024x768).jpg

I've got a Brother label printer Derek - are the labels "reasonably" waterproof?



Brian G03/06/2020 13:24:05
705 forum posts
28 photos

+1 On using a Brother label printer - in my experience they survive UV and water, and don't even discolour or peel when washed multiple times in a dishwasher (my wife puts them on storage jars). Be careful when buying non-Brother labels to check that they have the extra spool for the laminate, many don't.

I keep a few inventories (taps & dies, reamers, milling cutters, books, model railway rolling stock and Britool spanners) as Excel spreadsheets. Unlike a paper list it is easy to insert items to keep them in order and to search for particular sizes, titles, running numbers as appropriate). Because they are backed up to onedrive I can access the spreadsheets on my phone as well. Whilst this is handy in the workshop it comes into its own at shows when I can quickly check "have I got one already" before grabbing a bargain, avoiding wasting money on duplicates.

Brian G

Bazyle03/06/2020 13:48:07
5297 forum posts
201 photos

Just make sure your shiny tools are not in contact with wood or paper, especially ones in the back of the drawer and seldom used. I put aside the stronger plastic food trays as liners and subdividers. Worth remembering that they can be reshaped a bit with a hot air gun.

IanT03/06/2020 15:20:01
1551 forum posts
144 photos

Re; the labels Brian - that's good to know, they sound a lot tougher then I thought. Thanks

With regards my Excel lists - I scribble any notes/updates required on the paper copies as required/noticed and when it gets messy enough, update the spreadsheet itself and reprint them. Seems to work quite well.

In fact yesterday I found some boxes of steel bar I'd put out of the way ( "for safe keeping" ) and completely forgotten about. Which was a pity as I'd just purchased a shorter lump at some cost from eBay a week or so ago... So I really should try to organise (rationalise?) my scrap-bins and inventory/detail the bigger/better lumps with a similar Excel system.



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