Socket Storage Project

Socket storage project 17

I’ve been storing my sockets on cheap metal socket rails for, well, forever. Since I bought a roller cabinet and moved the sockets out of their original carry case.

The stack of socket rails was really starting to annoy me. I had about ten of them holding various sockets, deep sockets, impact socket, and hex and torx bits. While they are handy (and cheap) to grab to take over to the job, the rails don’t stand up on their own so I’m always rearranging them in my toolbox to keep them neat. On top of that, my 3/4″ drive (yes, the really big ones) were in a separate tool case as there was no room in the current socket storage area.

I’ve been searching for a way to best store all my sockets (and use the space as best I can). But nothing really jumped out at me.

I was at my local auto parts supplier and they had these plastic storage rails on sale, so I picked up a bunch. They were cheap enough that I’d bin them if this idea really didn’t work. They are similar to these.

It was a good start. In the top of my box, I put two of these 3/8″ drive sockets (one for metric and one for imperial), and one tray for all my small 1/4″ drive sockets:

Socket storage project 1

I bought a couple of larger ones for my 1/2″ drive sockets and put these in a lower drawer (I needed more depth and a larger space to fit them in. I also managed to fit all my 3/4″ drive stuff in this drawer. I might have to make a storage rail for those big sockets in the future.

Socket storage project 2

So these worked great, but I have a ton of specialty sockets on rails where these storage trays are no good. Hex and torx bits (and all the socket accessories like wobble joints, adaptors and extensions) don’t have a hole in the centre where they can fit over the peg in the storage trays:

Socket storage project 3

After a bit of head scratching, I saw I had a space in the top of my roller cabinet with the 1/4″ and 3/8″ sockets. I figured I’d just use the existing socket rails and fix them to a “stand”. Of course, I could have just screwed the rails to a piece of plywood, but that would look crap, wouldn’t it? So I figured I’d better make something that looked cooler than that.

First thing I did was find a piece of aluminium offcut that would fit in the top of my roller cabinet and bend up some legs. The reason for this will be apparent shortly:

Socket storage project 4

On the bench in the correct orientation:

Socket storage project 5

Knowing I was planning to fix the rails to the plate, it was a lot easier to add a brushed finish to the plate BEFORE I fitted all the rails:

Socket storage project 6

After the 180 grit sandpaper, I used some coarse steel wool to smooth out the sanding marks a bit:

Socket storage project 7

The general idea was to fix the socket rails in a row on this plate, with enough space between them to access all the sockets:

Socket storage project 8

All the rails conveniently had a drilled hole at one end, so I simply marked off a line parallel to the top edge, and roughly measured the largest sockets to determine the rails should be on 40mm centres.

Socket storage project 9

Punch all the hole centres:

Socket storage project 10

And drill them out:

Socket storage project 11

I was going to use some small bolts to fix the rails to the plate, but that would have been a waste of expensive stainless steel fasteners, so the quick, cheap and effective way was to use rivets:

Socket storage project 12

Turns out there was an intermediate hole in the rails so I used that to rivet the other end of the rail down:

Socket storage project 13

Voila!

Socket storage project 14

Socket storage project 15

And in my roller cabinet:
Socket storage project 16

Socket storage project 17

Spacing of the rails is a bit wide for smaller sockets. I could have tightened up the rails for the smaller sockets and possibly fit one more rail on the plate. If you’re going to make something similar, you could space them closer when the sockets on the rails are smaller.

There is probably one unintended benefit of the metal socket rails that I realised once I had finished. The rails are all common, and you just have to clip on the size pegs you want (for 1/4″, 3/8″ or 1/2″ drive sockets and accessories). This means it is very easy to rearrange the sockets even if the rails are fixed in place. In hindsight, it would have been feasible to deck out the entire top of my tool box with this set up (rather than the red plastic trays). The upside of the red trays is the ease of taking the set of sockets closer to the job – often I’ll have the set of sockets on the bike lift right under the bike. So you need to pick a solution that fits in with your workflow.

The plastic trays I bought are not the best for storage, I think there is a lot of wasted space, but they are very tidy, and they were cheap. This is an improvement to my tool storage, and remember, the tool you don’t use is better than the tool you don’t have!

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About the Author

I teach people how to build custom motorcycles by helping them build skills and confidence with my coaching, articles and training videos. I provide better technical information for custom motorcycle builders. And I shorten the learning curve getting you there.


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