No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/2/22 10:13 a.m.

Some of you may have seen my post last month about graduation gifts. We settled on a Milwaukee M12 tool kit with a ratchet, small impact driver, drill, and hackzall. He was excited about it and had the batteries on the charger as soon as he got home with it (we gave it to him at dinner after the graduation ceremony). Once he lands a job I plan to get him an M18 1/2 drive impact as a gift, but that is only part of what he'll need.

So next step will be getting him set up for the workforce. He has some temporary employment starting mid-June with the HS doing maintenance on their vehicles for about 3-4 weeks (in addition to lifeguard on the weekends), so he'll have some income and won't need his own tools until he lands something in a local shop/dealer.  What he needs will depend on where he lands a job, but I figure there are some basics he'll need and a place to store them. 

He currently has a Craftsman plastic box with the usual 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 wrenches and sockets in SAE and Metric (shallow and deep sockets) and a HF set of 1/2 deep SAE impact sockets. I also figure he can take many of the HF kits I have bought over the years to work with him to outfit his box if needed ( ball joint press, wheel bearings, brakes, balancer puller/installer, torque wrenches, etc) until he gets established and gets his own (or as long as he remembers to bring them home when I need to use them).

So lets start with someplace to store the tools since the plastic craftsman box isn't going to make a great first impression. I have a 25% off coupon for HF that expires today, so I'm thinking we should use it for a toolbox. Since he doesn't have a job yet I'm not sure how much space he'll have, but I was looking at the following:

Double Bank US General

Single Bank US General

Yukon 9 drawer

I figure we'll get a big ticket item today, and then once he has some cash flow we can start filling the box with the necessities. 

I know we have some active and former professional techs on here, so let's here some feedback on storage as well as what basics he'll need to get started on the right foot.

Thank you!


birdmayne Reader
6/2/22 10:40 a.m.

I have the Husky brand version of that Yukon box and if I ever go back to being a real technician, that's the one I'll be dragging with me. That and a roll around cart, like this:

30 in. 4 Drawer Tech Cart, Green ( Pick your flavor. 

Sockets, hand tools, electrical kit and high use items live in the cart. Large tools, specialty tools and stuff I just don't want to drag around all day live in the big box. 


John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
6/2/22 12:16 p.m.

I agree to start off with a portable box.  While looking into those I came across this guy who recommends a $1500 apprentice kit.  He has a good point that early days will likely be a lot of tires/wheels, brakes and oil changes.  The early days are not likely to be filled with trans rebuilds.  

There's probably tons of similar videos out there.  


No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/2/22 12:46 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Thanks for posting the video, that was informative. 

ShawnG MegaDork
6/2/22 1:31 p.m.

I use Snap-On at work.

I've never been able to justify a Snap-On box, they're way too much money. I was ready to drop serious cash on a 100th anniversary box from them if it looked cool but it was just a plan toolbox with some stickers.

I work out of a NAPA version of a Husky box at work and my home stuff is a mix of Beach and US General.

The US General is really hard to beat, I'd buy another one in a heartbeat if I needed more storage.

I really like the HF version of the Hansen socket trays because they rack the sockets with the hex end facing up whereas the Hansen trays put the square drive end up. I find it easier to eyeball what I need by the hex end.

The big, black drawer organiser wrench racks they sell which fit perfectly in a standard drawer are great too.

Last, if he's buying deep sockets, look at how deep the hex is broached in the socket. Cheap ones are broached really deep and if you need to drop a nut into the socket to start it on a stud, the shallow broach on the better sockets can be a lifesaver.

slefain PowerDork
6/2/22 1:38 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

I've never worked in a shop, but I grew up in one. That video is great advice for starting out. Heck, that is a great setup for anyone getting into working on cars.

DrBoost MegaDork
6/2/22 2:11 p.m.

Years as an automotive tech. I would be VERY hesitant to buy a HF box. The stuff I've bought from them, with the exception of impact sockets just don't hold up. The 'box will live a hard life. Tools are heavy, but we all know that. The drawers will be opened a hundred times a day. Will the HF handle that for 10 years? I don't know. Often the cleaning folks that clean the floors will spray chemicals that will coat the bottom 1/3 of the box, causing nasty corrosion. Are the HF boxes painted completely, and with high-quality paint? I don't know the answer to that. 

What would I do? This won't be as easy to do, but get with him on the snap on truck and look at what he has in the way of used tool boxes. There are serious deals to be had on used boxes. I think my top and bottom are about $7,500 new and MAYBE I paid a grand for them? Maybe. 
For the at-home wrencher, maybe the HF boxes are ok, but for a professional in a serious environment, I think a used snap on, mac, or matco box is a much, much better choice. 

No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/2/22 10:10 p.m.

In reply to DrBoost :

I was expecting a box from the tool truck to be 2x-3x that amount, even for a used one. 

I was thinking he needs something that can last him a few years, figure out if he likes the work and learn what he wants in a box and then he can buy one that will last for 10+ years. 

dculberson MegaDork
6/2/22 10:29 p.m.

With the caveat that I am not an auto tech, I looked long and hard at tool boxes and could find nothing in the $1000 range even used that compared to the harbor freight boxes. I found one Snap-On Blue-point box for $1000 that was beat to hell and even looked to me like when new it wouldn't have beat the US General boxes for quality. Is the bottom painted? I have no idea, but that's easily checked. I do know that the $1000 Snap-On box that I found had rust, wonky drawers, and crusty slides that I would expect from a well used Harbor Freight quality box.

I really wanted to find something better than HF, but ended up with the HF box. It's been great. The only box that I have found since that impressed me was the Menard's house brand ones, they have really nice handles and latches. Everything else is either worse or no better than the HF boxes - or costs 10-15x the price. Husky and Craftsman and Kobalt are all noticably lower quality.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/2/22 10:40 p.m.

Watch CL for Williams, SK and Proto tools and boxes.  Get good quality stuff that isn't at Snap On prices.  Williams Taiwan made tools are a huge step in quality about box store stuff.  Their US made stuff is better.  

Under no circumstances do you get into a weekly pay agreement with the Snap On truck.  

birdmayne Reader
6/2/22 11:42 p.m.

I feel that I should clarify. My Husky box would be my first choice to get parked in a stall again simply because it's been reliable enough to last as long as it has (10 ish years) and I don't care if it gets destroyed. My ancient SnapOn box would stay home where it can be safer and better preserved. 

IMO that US General cart is a happy medium between build quality and affordability. 

And, if you haven't already look at the ICON brand boxes at HF. I don't know much about them beyond the initial appearance of a damn nice box. If more reviews say they hold up to wear and tear, I'll likely get myself one 


untchabl HalfDork
6/3/22 5:45 a.m.

The US General boxes cannot be beat for the $$. I had a 56" series 1 top and bottom combo for years that gave me no issues. I sold it to my brother because I'm upgrading to the Icon 73" top and bottom combo with end locker. Already have the bottom box, been holding out for a coupon to order the top box and end locker.

If I was just starting out, I'd go with the US General 34" full bank service cart in whichever color he prefers. It's $600 but he will be able to work out of it for awhile before he fills it up and needs to upgrade. It's big enough to have decent storage but small enough to move it around in the shop if he has to. 

The Pittsburgh sockets are ok for starting out. Biggest thing to me is quality ratchets, nothing worse than a cheap ratchet when trying to get work done. I've got SK, Snap On and even a couple Tekton ratchets in my box.

No Time
No Time SuperDork
6/4/22 10:00 a.m.

Thanks everyone for the feedback and suggestions. Based on the feedback and talking with the shop teacher I held off on the box, and hopefully HF will send me another 25% coupon in the future. 

Instead, I will wait until he gets a job and then based in where he lands he can find out what he'll need to have in day one and we'll go shopping. 

But other than a box and cart, does anyone have any suggestions for things he should check the local used market for? 


chandler UltimaDork
6/4/22 10:46 a.m.

This is what I work out of

I don't work in the field anymore but the roll around matco cart is the best for bringing to whatever you are working on and using as a work bench and a tool holder all in one. I think that other box came from northern tool actually. It is sold under a lot of different names.

No Time
No Time SuperDork
7/4/22 8:57 p.m.

He starts work Thursday at the local blue oval dealer. He'll be doing oil changes, tire rotations, and eventually brakes and other work. 

We went shopping today and spent about $2200 between HF and HD. It was more than I had planned, but it will set him up for a while. We also got 25% off the bottom box, and 10% of the total order ($1750 before discount).

The big items were the roller cabinet, shop cart, and the M18 1/2" impact. He based his choice on what he saw when he got a tour of the shop, so he should fit in with the rest of shop and not look out of place, while not being too far in debt to me.

The rest of it was things like cart bumpers, power strip, air hammer (and tips), some files, trim tools, dead blow and engineers hammer, screwdrivers, torx bits, hex keys, pliers, impact sockets (sae and metric), extensions, pry bars, ratcheting wrenches, breaker bar, picks, scrapers, tool organizers, oil filter wrench/cups, funnels, and other stuff that should keep him equipped for a while. 

He'll take my craftsman 1/2" and 3/8" torque wrench,  and any of the kits I have that he wants/needs like the brake tool kit, ball joint tool, wheel bearing tool, slide hammer, etc. 

Here's the box and cart:

No Time
No Time SuperDork
7/5/22 7:26 p.m.

Here's a question for the pros:

Do you label/mark your tools? What did you use to mark them?

Since he's got mostly Craftsman, Husky, or HF so it isn't a big risk that anything would walk. I'd like to think his coworkers are honest, and he'll remember to put his stuff away. Eventually he'll be adding more tools and more expensive stuff,  and I'm sure there will be times that his ADHD may kick in and he'll leave something around the shop and it would be good if he could easily tell if something is his or not. 

The only things right now that are higher end are the Milwaukee M18 impact and M12 ratchet, drill, and compact impact driver. 

trumant Reader
7/5/22 8:20 p.m.

The Milwaukee stuff I believe has a Bluetooth tracking system you can register for. Paperwork should be in the boxes.

You can also try their Tick product line that can be attached to larger tools.

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