middle tool chest

15 Insanely Important Considerations When Buying a Middle Tool Chest

Key Takeaways

1. Middle tool chests can be stacked on top of existing tool chests or between two others.
2. Tool storage solutions include handheld toolboxes, portable tool carts, rolling tool cabinets, pegboards, and the middle tool chest.
3. Consider the size and storage capacity of the middle tool chest in relation to the lower chest for optimal use of space.
4. Accurate measurements are crucial to ensure a proper fit and functionality of the middle tool chest.
5. Casters and handles can enhance mobility and ease of movement for the tool chest.
6. Check the product details for any necessary tools or additional storage options.
7. During installation, ensure a secure fit, stability, and smooth operation of the drawers, even when loaded with tools.
8. Understand the return policy of the retailer before making a purchase for a potential safety net.

You have so many tools that you’re running out of places to store them. Your buddy recommends investing in a middle tool chest he found online. You get so excited you are ready to order one as soon as you get home. But wait. Not so fast there. You have some things to think about first.

Shopping online probably means more tool chest choices than you can possibly deal with. If you don’t go into it without at least a basic understanding of what you need, the chances of you buying something you cannot use are pretty high. So let’s start with the recommendation to buy a middle tool chest.

What is a Middle Tool Chest?

A middle tool chest is one that sits on top of an existing tool chest or between two others.

Perhaps you’ve seen one at your mechanic’s garage. A mechanic has a large tool chest on wheels that makes up the bulk of his/her storage. On top of that he or she has two smaller chests stacked up. Both of those smaller chests would be considered middle tool chests.

We recommend the middle chest simply because there is no need to completely replace the one you have as long as it is still in good condition. Of course, a middle tool box is not going to do any good if you don’t have a larger chest to stack it on. So maybe you need both. Anyhow, before getting into things, let’s take a brief look at the various tool storage solutions as a means of introduction.

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Introduction to Tool Storage Solutions

When it comes to organizing your tools, there are a myriad of storage options available, each with its unique benefits and drawbacks. At a high level, tool storage solutions can be broken down into several categories: handheld toolboxes, portable tool carts, rolling tool cabinets, tool belts, pegboards, and of course, the middle tool chest.

Handheld Toolboxes

Handheld toolboxes are compact and mobile, making them great for light-duty tasks around the house or on-the-go repairs. They are typically lightweight and have a handle for easy transport, but their storage capacity is limited. Tool belts are another portable solution but are even more limited in storage space, ideal for a specific set of tools used in tasks like carpentry or electrical work.

Rolling Tool Cabinets and Tool Carts

On the other end of the spectrum, you have rolling tool cabinets and tool carts. These large units provide vast storage capacity, organization, and the ability to move heavy tools around a workshop with ease. Their size, however, makes them a less feasible choice for those with smaller workspaces or for those who don’t own a considerable volume of tools.


Pegboards are wall-mounted systems that provide a clear visual and quick access to tools, making them ideal for workshops. But pegboards are stationary and don’t offer the same kind of protection from dust or damage as enclosed storage solutions.

Middle Tool Chests

Then comes the middle tool chest. These are versatile, offering a balance between portability and storage capacity. They provide additional tool storage without taking up more floor space by stacking on top of a lower tool chest. This allows for an increase in storage without the need for a larger footprint, which is particularly valuable in tighter workspaces.

Understanding these different tool storage solutions can help you assess whether a middle tool chest is indeed the right fit for your needs. This could be based on factors like the volume of tools you have, the types of tools you use most frequently, your workspace size, and your budget. The ideal storage solution maximizes utility, accessibility, and organization without compromising on your specific requirements.

At any rate, do not buy a middle tool chest without taking a good look at what you need. Before you commit to buying a particular type, consider the following 15 things:

1. Size of the Lower Chest

Determining the size of the lower chest accurately is a critical step before purchasing a middle tool chest. These chests come in a variety of sizes and are designed to stack on top of an existing tool chest or to be sandwiched between two others. To ensure you choose a middle chest that will fit perfectly, you need to consider both its width and depth.

To begin with, measure the width of your lower chest. This is the distance from one side to the other when you’re standing in front of it. Make sure to measure the widest part, which includes any handles or other extensions on the sides. The middle tool chest you choose should ideally be of the same width or slightly less.

Next, measure the depth, which is the front-to-back dimension of the lower chest. Do not forget to account for any protrusions at the back or front such as the handle or any locks that stick out. Just like the width, the depth of the middle tool chest should either match the lower chest or be a bit smaller.

Consider the Available Vertical Space

You also need to consider the available vertical space above the lower chest. You wouldn’t want your new middle tool chest to prevent the garage door from opening or interfering with overhead storage. So, measure the height from the top of the lower chest to any overhead obstruction.

Choosing a chest that is larger than your measurements may result in an overhang. This imbalance could pose difficulties in terms of movement or stability, especially if the chest is on wheels. An overhang can make the tool chest top-heavy and increase the risk of tipping over when moving around the shop, garage, basement, shed, or other spaces you might use it in.

It’s also crucial to remember that while smaller chests may fit on a larger lower chest, they may not use the available space most effectively, which could lead to wasted storage potential. If the middle chest is too small, you might not be utilizing the full width and depth of the lower chest, leaving unused flat space.

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Take your time during this measuring process. The accuracy of these measurements will directly impact the functionality and safety of your middle tool chest setup. Consider taking measurements at least twice to ensure correctness. It’s always better to measure twice and order once than to end up with a tool chest that doesn’t fit your workspace.

2. The Tools You Plan to Store

Carefully consider the tools you plan to store in your new chest. Why does this matter? Because chest drawers come in different sizes. You may need deeper drawers for larger tools. On the other hand, you may prefer to put your larger tools down below and move your small hand tools up to the new chest. In such a case you can get away with shallower drawers – and perhaps a larger number of drawers as a result.

Hand-in-hand with the size of the tools is their combined weight. A middle tool chest will have a maximum weight capacity that you are going to have to keep in mind. If you have to put your tools on a scale to get an accurate weight, that’s fine. Weighing your tools is better than overloading and breaking a new tool chest.

3. Workshop Environment

What kind of environment do you normally experience in your space? We ask because the environment plays a role in the material your new middle tool box is made of. We recommend not going with anything less than steel for obvious reasons. But maybe a steel tool chest isn’t in your budget.

You might be able to get away with aluminum or plastic if your workshop environment is on the tame side. If you do any heavy-duty work though, spend the extra and go with steel. You’ll be glad you did when something happens that would otherwise destroy an aluminum or plastic tool chest.

4. Interior Storage Capacity

Next is interior storage capacity as it relates to compartments other than drawers. This may not be a consideration if you are planning to purchase a middle tool chest with drawers only. But if you want something more, you can find models with additional storage cabinets and even smaller receptacles built in to the drawers. The small receptacles are good for things like nuts and bolts, wire clips, etc.

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5. Drawer Design

While you are looking at drawers, carefully consider how these are constructed. Some tool chests feature drawers that open and close on lightweight cabinetry rails. Others utilize ball bearing rails for smoother opening and closing. This comes into play based on the kinds of tools you will be storing. Heavier tools require more robust drawers with stronger rail mechanisms. If a rail mechanism looks cheap, it probably is.

Also pay attention to how far out the drawers extend. Full extension drawers are built with added support designed to carry the weight while fully extended. Drawers that do not extend fully don’t require as much support, but they are also not as easy to access.

6. Tool Security

An essential feature of many of the best tool chests is lockable drawers. These are not just for show, as they play a significant role in tool security and safety. Depending on the model, each drawer may lock separately for individualized security, or there may be a single mechanism utilizing a piston to lock all drawers simultaneously. Neither system is inherently superior to the other; the choice simply depends on your individual needs and preferences.

In professional settings, tool security can be a major concern. Workshops, garages, and other areas where these chests are typically used often have a high number of individuals passing through. Tools can be expensive investments, and some tools may be rare or difficult to replace. Having the ability to lock up your tool chest can offer an additional layer of protection against theft or unauthorized usage. It’s also a method of ensuring that tools remain in their designated spots, maintaining organization and preventing misplacement.

For households with children, lockable drawers are not just a matter of tool security, but of safety. Tools can be dangerous when misused or when they fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t understand their proper usage, especially children. Sharp tools, power tools, or tools with heavy components could lead to injuries if handled improperly. By keeping these tools securely locked away, you significantly lower the risk of accidental injuries.

Moreover, locking drawers can also be beneficial in environments where you work with potentially hazardous materials. If your tools are used in conjunction with chemicals or other substances that could be harmful if misused, locked drawers ensure that such items stay out of the wrong hands.

Lastly, lockable drawers can also serve to protect your tools from environmental elements. If you’re in a workshop environment prone to dust, moisture, or other potentially damaging elements, keeping your tools in a locked drawer can help safeguard them from premature wear and tear or corrosion.

7. Work Surface Material

Your average heavy-duty grade tool chest has a built-in work surface on the top. You might already have a surface you like on your primary tool chest. If so, do you want the same kind of work surface on your new chest? Some work surfaces are rubber, others are wood, still others are plastic or even bare metal. Choose your work surface wisely, as it is likely to impact your overall enjoyment of the tool chest.

8. Lid Design

You may eventually choose a middle tool chest without a work surface on top. Instead, it has a lid that opens to additional storage space underneath. Be very careful about lid design. Ideally, it is best to choose a lid with a single rear hinge and support arms on either side to keep it open while you’re working. The last thing you need is for the lid to slam on your fingers while you are reaching for a tool.

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9. Handles and Casters

The largest of heavy-duty tool chests tend to have casters on the bottom. Casters make for easy moving around the space. Middle tool chests do not necessarily have casters due to the fact that they are stacked on top of larger chests. Still, you might want casters anyway. It is something to think about if you frequently separate your chests to move them around.

Along with casters, think about handles. Do you need a middle tool box that can be picked up and moved from time to time? If so, you are going to need one with heavy-duty handles. Otherwise you will be emptying the chest every time you want to move it.

Assembly and Installation

When you’re purchasing a middle tool chest, one crucial aspect to consider is whether the product arrives fully assembled or if some assembly is required. This is not a minor detail, it can significantly impact your initial experience with the product and even your future use of it.

Fully Assembled or Not?

Most heavy-duty tool chests, including middle tool chests, are typically delivered fully assembled or with minimal assembly required. However, this is not a universal rule. Some brands or specific models might require more extensive assembly, particularly if they come with extra features or customized elements. Thus, it is important to check the product details carefully before making a purchase. If assembly is required, the product should come with a clear and detailed instruction manual. For online purchases, it might be worth checking if there is an assembly guide video available.

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Necessary Tools for Assembly

As for the tools needed for assembly, it usually depends on the complexity of the tool chest. Basic tool chests often only require common household tools such as a screwdriver and a wrench. However, more complex units might require specialized tools. It’s not uncommon to need a socket set or an Allen wrench for some models. When you check the product details, also look for a list of necessary tools. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have these tools on hand before your new tool chest arrives. If you don’t, you might have to make an extra trip to the hardware store or order them online.

Installation Tips

Finally, when installing your middle tool chest onto your existing lower chest, ensure it fits securely and doesn’t wobble. Check that the drawers can be easily opened and closed even when the tool chest is loaded with tools. If your tool chest has casters, confirm that it rolls smoothly and the brakes function properly.

Taking the time to fully understand the assembly and installation process can save you unnecessary stress and ensure you get the most out of your new middle tool chest. Remember, a tool chest is a long-term investment, and proper assembly and installation are key to maximizing its usefulness and longevity.

10. Finish

As immaterial as this might sound to you, the finish on your new tool chest does matter. It matters from two different perspectives: the work environment in your space and the tool chest’s aesthetic appeal.

In terms of work environment, you again have to consider how much punishment this tool chest could potentially be up against. If you live near the coast, stainless steel might be your best bet due to the amount of salt it is going to be exposed to. Stainless steel will be more resistant to corrosion than painted, forged steel.

Perhaps salt isn’t a problem where you live. You lean more toward a steel tool chest with a painted finish. That’s great. Do yourself a favor and choose a finish that is either identical or similar to the chest that will support it. Choosing a box with of drastically different color could be visually fatiguing.

Environmentally Friendly Choices

In the realm of tool storage solutions, the environment is becoming an increasingly important consideration. Consumers are not just looking for practicality and durability, but also making choices that have minimal impact on our planet. For this reason, ‘green’ tool chests are gaining popularity – these are tool chests made from recycled materials or produced by companies that uphold environmentally friendly practices.

Recycled Materials

A tool chest made from recycled materials is a fantastic way to help reduce waste. The primary material used in tool chests, metal, is highly recyclable, and many manufacturers are now utilizing recycled steel or aluminum in their products. Plastic tool chests, while not as durable, are also available in recycled varieties. Even wood tool chests can be crafted from reclaimed lumber, offering an aesthetic and eco-friendly storage solution.

Eco-Conscious Manufacturers

Another essential factor to consider is the manufacturing process itself. Many companies are adopting environmentally friendly practices to reduce their carbon footprint. This includes using renewable energy sources in their factories, minimizing waste during production, and implementing responsible sourcing of raw materials. Look for companies that openly discuss their commitment to sustainability. While their products may come at a slightly higher cost, the knowledge that you’re supporting a business that values the environment can be well worth it.

Reclaimed or Second-Hand Tool Chests

Finally, one often overlooked way to make an environmentally friendly choice is to consider buying a used or reclaimed tool chest. Many high-quality tool chests are built to last, and with a bit of love and care, a second-hand tool chest can be as good as new. This approach not only saves the product from ending up in a landfill but also reduces the demand for new materials.

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11. Brand Name

It doesn’t always follow that brand reputation equals quality. In other words, there are some particularly good middle tool chests out there whose brands you have probably never heard of. Yet you still have to pay attention to brand. If all else fails and you are unsure, it is best to stick with a brand that has a reputation for quality. Ask around among your friends. They will have definite opinions about their favorite brands.

12. Safety Issues

Any tool chests that appeal to you should be checked for safety issues. You can run a search on make and model number to see if there have been any product recalls for that particular product. Safety issues are rare for tool chests, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible. It’s better to know up front than to find out later that you bought an unsafe product.

13. Manufacturer Warranty

The best toolmakers in the business have no problem offering solid warranties on their products. This is definitely something you should look for if you are in the market for a middle tool chest. You might get lucky and find a product with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. Maybe the best you can find is a limited 10-year warranty.

The take-away here is to do your best to find a solid warranty. That way, you will have some recourse in the event that something goes wrong down the road.

Maintenance and Longevity

Maintaining your middle tool chest is crucial, not only to keep it looking good but also to ensure it stays functional and lasts for many years. It all starts with regular cleaning. Keeping the tool chest clean is a relatively straightforward task, yet it can significantly impact the longevity of the tool chest. A quick wipe down with a damp cloth or a mild cleaning solution can remove any dust or grime build-up that might impede drawer function or potentially lead to rust.

Periodically inspect the wheels and drawers, checking for any signs of wear or damage. Wheels should roll smoothly, and if they start to wobble or stick, it may be time to consider replacement. Likewise, drawers should open and close without difficulty. Make use of any lubrication ports your tool chest might have. Just a drop or two of a quality lubricant can ensure your tool chest’s mobility remains optimal.

Dealing with Rust

Rust is a common concern, especially if your tool chest is stored in a damp or humid environment. If you notice the beginnings of rust, don’t panic! Early-stage rust can be handled with a little bit of elbow grease and some common household items. Vinegar, for instance, is an excellent rust remover. Apply a cloth soaked in white vinegar to the rusted area and leave it for a few hours, then scrub off with a brush.

For more established rust, you may need to resort to a rust converter, a special type of primer that chemically converts rust into a paintable surface. This can be an excellent long-term solution, especially when followed up with a fresh coat of rust-inhibitive paint. Remember, the best way to handle rust is to prevent it. Using a dehumidifier in damp environments or periodically applying a light coat of oil can keep your tool chest rust-free for years.

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In all aspects of maintaining your tool chest, the old adage of “a stitch in time saves nine” rings true. Regular check-ups and prompt attention to any potential issues can save you from larger headaches down the line, ensuring your tool chest remains a reliable storage solution for your tools for many years to come.

14. Return Policy

Ordering a middle tool chest, particularly online, might sometimes lead to the product not meeting your expectations or needs. In such scenarios, a robust return policy can be your safety net. However, return policies can vary widely, with some retailers offering more flexibility than others. So, it’s essential to read and understand the return policy carefully before making a purchase. Here are some tips to guide you through this process:

  1. Look for the Return Policy: Most online retailers provide a link to their return policy on the product page itself, usually at the bottom. If you can’t find it there, check the footer of the website or the customer service section. In physical stores, the return policy is often printed on the back of the receipt or posted at the cash register or customer service desk.
  2. Understand the Time Frame: One of the key aspects of a return policy is the time frame. This is the window of time you have to return the item. It can vary from a few days to months, depending on the retailer. Ensure that the time frame is reasonable and fits your needs.
  3. Identify Any Exceptions: Some return policies have exceptions or restrictions based on the type of product. For instance, some items might be classified as ‘final sale,’ meaning they cannot be returned. Ensure that the middle tool chest you’re purchasing doesn’t fall under any such exceptions.
  4. Check the Condition Requirements: Understand what condition the product must be in for it to be returned. Some retailers may require the product to be in its original packaging, while others may accept returns even if the product has been used.
  5. Receipts and Proof of Purchase: Make sure you know what proof of purchase you’ll need to provide when returning an item. This could be the receipt, a gift receipt, or a packing slip for online orders.
  6. Understand the Refund Process: Check how the refund will be issued. Will it go back to your original payment method, or will you be issued store credit? Understanding this can prevent any surprises down the line.
  7. Restocking Fee: Some retailers may charge a restocking fee for returned items, which would be deducted from your refund. Look for any mention of such fees in the fine print of the policy.
  8. Return Shipping: For online purchases, clarify who’s responsible for return shipping costs. Some retailers offer free returns, while others will expect you to cover these costs.

Remember, if a retailer or manufacturer doesn’t accept returns, you’ll bear the risks of ending up with a product you cannot use. However, by carefully scrutinizing the return policy, you can ensure that you’re making a smart and informed purchase decision.

15. Purchase Price

Finally, purchase price is always a consideration. The goal is not necessarily to go as cheaply as possible. Rather, it is to get the most for your money. So establish a budget and then get as much as you can for that amount of money. If you are shopping on Amazon for example, pay attention to customer reviews. This is often where you find whether or not a product is worth the amount of money others spent on it.

Middle Tool Chest – Conclusion

A middle tool chest serves as a versatile and space-saving solution for tool storage. By carefully considering factors such as size compatibility with your lower chest, interior storage capacity, and environmentally friendly options, you can make an informed choice when purchasing a middle tool chest. Additionally, understanding return policies and knowing the refund process can provide peace of mind. Ultimately, investing in a well-suited middle tool chest ensures optimal organization, accessibility, and durability, enhancing your overall efficiency and productivity in any workspace.


Q: What is a middle tool chest? A: A middle tool chest is a type of toolbox that sits on top of a larger chest or between two other chests. It offers additional storage for tools without having to completely replace your existing chest.
Q: Why should I consider buying a middle tool chest? A: If you’re running out of storage space in your current tool chest but it’s still in good condition, a middle tool chest can offer the additional space you need. It can help you better organize your tools and potentially increase your work efficiency.
Q: How do I choose the right size for a middle tool chest? A: The size of your middle tool chest should ideally be the same width and depth as the lower chest, or slightly smaller. You should avoid purchasing a larger chest that may cause overhang and create mobility issues.
Q: What materials are middle tool chests made of? A: Middle tool chests are often made from materials such as steel, aluminum, or plastic. The choice depends on your budget and the conditions of your workshop. Steel is often recommended for more strenuous environments.
Q: What should I consider when choosing the drawer design? A: Consider the weight and size of the tools you plan to store. Some chests feature lightweight cabinetry rails while others use ball-bearing rails for heavier tools. Also, consider whether full-extension drawers might be beneficial for ease of access.
Q: Do all middle tool chests come with a lock? A: Not all middle tool chests come with locks. High-end models often feature lockable drawers for added security. Some may have a single lock for all drawers while others may have individual locks for each drawer.
Q: What is the importance of the work surface material on a tool chest? A: The work surface on top of your tool chest can impact your work efficiency and enjoyment. It could be made of various materials such as rubber, wood, plastic, or metal. Choose a material that fits your working habits and preferences.
Q: How important is the finish of the middle tool chest? A: The finish of your tool chest affects both its durability in your workspace and its aesthetic appeal. Depending on your work environment, you might need a tool chest that can withstand certain conditions, such as corrosion from salt in coastal areas.
Q: Do I need to consider safety issues when buying a middle tool chest? A: Yes, you should check if there have been any product recalls for the specific model you are interested in. Although safety issues are rare for tool chests, it’s better to ensure your chosen product is safe.
Q: Does the manufacturer warranty matter when buying a middle tool chest? A: A solid manufacturer warranty can give you peace of mind and protection against manufacturing defects. The best toolmakers often offer extensive warranties on their products.
Q: What is the importance of the return policy when buying a middle tool chest? A: A good return policy can protect you if the product doesn’t meet your expectations or needs. Always check the return policy before purchasing, paying special attention to the timeframe for returns, condition requirements, and refund process.
Q: How does the purchase price factor into choosing a middle tool chest? A: The goal is to get the best quality for your budget. It’s not always about finding the cheapest option, but about finding the best value for your money. Customer reviews can be helpful in gauging if a product is worth its price.
Q: Can I use a middle tool chest without a lower tool chest? A: Yes, while traditionally middle tool chests are designed to stack on a larger chest, you can use them independently. However, you may want to consider if the chest will be stable and secure enough for your work environment.
Q: Can middle tool chests be moved around? A: Most middle tool chests are designed to be stationary atop a larger chest. However, some may come with handles for easy lifting or even casters for moving around. Consider how often you’ll need to move the chest when choosing the right model for you.
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