37 Replies Latest reply on Jan 21, 2021 1:15 PM by raspberrypitechguy

    Lets Talk Storage

    dougw

      I am interested in how you store all your electronics stuff, and looking for more ideas.

      Are you a chronic pack rat or a ruthless minimalist?

      What is your most creative storage solution?

      Have you figured out how to keep track of what you have and where everything is?

      I am especially interested in how you store your cables, wire and adapters.

      I am also interested in how you store your storage containers - I have so many boxes of stuff, it is hard to get at some of them and hard to remember exactly where something is stored.

      Tool storage is another issue I am interested in - how to organize tools so they are handy when needed.

      Are you satisfied with your solution? Does it work well?

      With New Years resolutions looming, I am thinking about getting my stuff more organized.

      (Just thinking so far .... this discussion is probably just another way of procrastinating)

        • Re: Lets Talk Storage
          14rhb

          Hi Doug,

           

          A good question and I am also interested to read what others do.

           

          For me there is a funding balance between actually doing projects or improving my storage - the project often gets the money and the storage is an after-though. Starting off with a Tuperware box of IC's (actually 4000 series CMOS!) as I amassed components I would seize on any container being thrown out - ice cream tubs with lids, metal biscuit tins. Generally anything with a lid. It actually has a benefit in that when I wanted a diode I knew to look for the white cardboard shoe box, and in that were the original packets carefully opened so I could flick through and select one. Leaded resistors ended up in a old biscuit tin and I still hunt around for the correct colours when breadboarding a circuit. The downside was that with this mixture of containers shelf storage was untidy.

           

          A good few years back I changed tack and indulged myself in a set of four RAACO storage trays like these at Farnell. They are really great but I soon outgrew them with bags of IC's and connectors and sadly at the time couldn't justify buying anymore; so still in use with all the other mix of containers.

          But it didn't stop there as I moved onto SMT parts. I did invest there and buy a couple of starter kits of resistors, inductors and capacitors. The resistors are mounted as cardboard strips in a file - which makes selection easy. The inductors and capacitors are in small plastic phials. As the common values depleted I bought some top-up reels but I admit the excess is just stored together in a large shoebox - luckily I don't have to hunt through that so often. I've so many IC's though (bough bought, scavenged and samples) that I created a spreadsheet to know what I have, what the function is and key parameters....that is great but then I still have to hunt them down in yet another box . I've also a few quite precious adapters for PLCC to DIP etc and these are also in a biscuit tin but pushed into foam to prevent lead damage.

           

          New cable - is just in a big crate, the ones I use more often are often out on a wooden pole across the shed so I can run some off.

           

          My satisfaction with my solution is about 2/10 but it works I guess 100%

          2 of 2 people found this helpful
          • Re: Lets Talk Storage
            andrewj

            Hi Doug,

             

            I'm always interested in how others utilise storage.  I've found these boxes useful:

            Boxall48 and Boxall144.  No idea why they've gone 'Not currently available' as they were both available at the beginning of December.  There are a variety of configurations available and the black one is great for SMD components: each compartment is small but can hold hundreds of 0805 components; a number of ICs of SOIC and TSSOP size; one SMD electrolytic. The grey one has different size compartments and you can see the sort of thing I've put in them.  I notice that the Raaco units, mentioned by 14RHB, are also available on Amazon, and I wouldn't normally mention it given Farnell sell them, but they are half the price.

             

            I also have a couple of these for through hole parts - I can't find these anymore so can't link to them:

            It's ok for through hole but you couldn't use them for small parts as the lids of the boxes don't close perfectly tight.  Good enough to stop axial/radial parts from falling out though, compact and capable of holding hundreds of parts.

             

            I've also acquired a couple of these boxes which I keep a variety of things in.

            The compartments are configurable with movable dividers and the boxes are double-sided.  They're not too bad for organising bigger parts but you can see I've used containers in there as well otherwise bits would fly around as you turned the thing upside down or carried it around.

             

            Tools, manuals, odds-and-sods I keep in drawers under my bench:

            Nothing fancy, a variety of sizes.  It looks a bit tight under there but I can get my legs in fine.  Other things just sit on shelves in a variety of tins and boxes above my bench:

            I seem to have acquired quite a number of parts over a few years.  My cables either live in one of those Quality Street tins or on the top shelf next to the books - nothing fancy, and the most useful ones tend to be on my bench plugged in to something and tucked out of the way.

             

            To keep track of all this I use an Access database so I can make sure I don't buy anything I already have, keep links to datasheets and so on.  I sort of ran out of scalability in an Excel spreadsheet and as I'm retired and have time on my hands I designed and created a database!  Now I write that it seems a bit anal, but it works really well.

            6 of 6 people found this helpful
            • Re: Lets Talk Storage
              fmilburn

              Up until this year I was reasonably well organized.  I had a dedicated work space which was small but everything was in reach with shelves, cabinets and my computer.  I have probably 20 or so shoe box sized plastic tubs that I dedicate to new projects.  They hold the parts while I am building and then store the project when finished if I don’t keep it out. Miscellaneous parts are kept in various food containers, boxes, tins, and plastic compartmentalized units that I label haphazardly.  I don’t have that many tools and keep them loose in drawers.  Provided I remembered  to put things back in their drawer or labeled box I could find them.

               

              And then I moved.  The movers made a mess of packing and I still haven’t recovered due to a lack of shelving and cabinets.  The shelving and cabinets I want to use come from Ikea and they have been out of stock for some time due to everyone building home offices thanks to COVID-19.  My project boxes are full and loose packets with components are lying around.  At the moment I am working on a folding table in the main living area and pulling things out of stacked cardboard boxes in a bedroom which will eventually be my work area.  I can’t blame it all on the move and COVID-19 though and really need to dedicate time to storage and organization in 2021. 

              2 of 2 people found this helpful
              • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                genebren

                Doug,

                 

                I have constantly struggled with finding the perfect storage solutions for my electronic parts and misc stuff.  I have decided that there is no one perfect container.  My storage solution involves multiple methods/containers.

                 

                Work bench area

                Starting with my desk area, I use a large storage container (stacked above the right monitor and also under the desk - although not shown in this picture).  These units art listed as 15 quarts or 14 liters of storage (16 1/4" x 11 1/4" x 6 3/4" or 413 cm x 28.6 cm x17.1 cm).  I currently have 13 of these in use, containing material/supplies, project or client parts and my new part inventories (stored below the desk).  I really like the latching lids as they have on several occasions helped me avoid spillage if one of my towers gets tipped over.  They are also super handy as you can release one latch and flip the lid up when removing or replacing bags.  I use index cards to separate sections (value/size ranges, or component categories). Here is the new parts containers:

                new parts storage.

                Resistors on top, capacitors/inductors/connectors/misc in the center and ICs and other active discretes on the bottom.

                 

                I used a medium sized, similar container to contain smaller collections of parts and/or cables. For these parts I use a 6 quart/ 5.7 Liter container (13 5/8" x 8 1/4" x 4 7/8" or 34.6 cm x 21 cm x 12.4 cm).  I have about 40 of these in use which contain a lot of my development tools, part collections, cables and other misc parts.  I have a few of these in the closet of my office with the majority of these out in the garage.

                medium size storage

                 

                Next up is storage of unbagged parts or small prototyping.  For these I use two different storage containers which are targeted towards craft/hobby users.  One is an embroidery thread or bead organizer.  The units that I use have 17 compartments (10.25" x 6.75" x 1.625" or 26 cm x 17.1 cm x 4.1 cm).  I use these for loose parts for prototyping (crimps, connectors, protoboard adapters, loose components).  The other is a bead storage container that hold 6 stacks of 5 containers.  The lids and contains screw together.  I use these to hold collections of prototyping components (resistors, capacitors, diodes, etc)

                 

                embroidery boxesbead storage

                Best wishes on the efforts to organize electronic parts and supplies!

                5 of 5 people found this helpful
                • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                  DAB

                  I have found that every time I clean things out, I need the stuff I just threw away.

                   

                  So I am in the packrat camp.

                   

                  DAB

                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                  • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                    jw0752

                    Hi Doug,

                     

                    I have had an evolving shop for the last 60 years and for nearly all of that time I have been blessed with adequate space to work in and to expand into. More than electronics, making, repairing or any other area of interest perhaps organization is where I have had the most enjoyment. The parts, components, and tools in my shop are as much a collection as they are a resource to building or repairing. I have taken some pictures to show you how I have handled the organization in the areas you mentioned.

                     

                    Wire and Cable.

                     

                    The wire is kept in boxes that are labeled to suit different categories that I work with. When the quantity of wire gets too large for a box I will either put it in a larger box or break down the classification of the wire into a more specific category and rebox it in several new boxes. If you zoom in on the picture you will see some of the classifications that I use. These are break downs that may make sense to only me but they provide a way for me to go directly to a box that has the highest probability of having what I am looking for.

                     

                    Transistors and Transformers

                     

                     

                    Over the years I adopted the ECG TCG now NTE cross referencing and classification system for transistors. The bins at the top have the NTE numbers for Transistors, Diodes, SCRs, Triacs, Thermal cut offs, and Audio ICs. Into these bins go the various OEM part numbers that I salvage. If I need an OEM number I look it up in the NTE cross reference and then go and look for it in the corresponding drawer. Many of my bins are labeled, indexed and saved on an Xcel File where I can search for part numbers and then go to the proper bin. Many of the part numbers are also linked to Data sheets that I have on the hard drive so that they are available even if the internet is down. On the lower shelves I store the transformers and they are sorted by the output voltage of the secondary windings or by their special design like Variac or Flybck.

                     

                    Resistors and Capacitors

                     

                     

                     

                    Over time the organization of the resistors and capacitors has evolved. Here is how I store the general resistors and capacitors. When I first started many years ago the resistors were sorted by the color of their third band. Now I have bins that break them down into wattage and individual values.

                     

                    Prototyping Bins

                     

                     

                    I call these prototyping bins as they sit alongside my bench and I can reach them with just a swivel of my chair. They contain most of the parts needed for prototyping a circuit and many parts that have extension leads installed to make them more compatible with the bread board. The parts in these bins are nearly all in the Xcel data file and have data sheets stored on the computer for easy use. The parts are roughly organized into broad categories in the bins but the Xcel lets me search for any part and then go directly to the box and bin where the part should be. This saves a lots of time determining if I have a part and actually finding it. Right now I have about 1500 parts in the Xcel data base. If I get new parts that extend a full box I will add a new box and while the first box may be labeled Q the new box may be labeled QA or Q1. The interior of the boxes are all assumed to be numbered left to right starting at row nearest the hinge  1 - 6 and then the second row is 7-12 and so on to the last bin #24. A specific part in therefore index to be for example in Bin P-14 as is the L297 in the picture above.

                     

                    General Parts Storage

                     

                     

                    You can see that I use a lot of dollar store bins. I try to size the storage box to the quantity of parts and then I will up size a storage bin as needed by the arrival of more parts.

                     

                    Hardware

                     

                    These bins have screws, nuts, washers, springs, and other bits and pieces that would come from a hardware store. I began this collection when I was a kid. The vertical rack on the right is new addition where I am using the same style tackle boxes that I used for the prototyping parts. I also collect glass jars from Jelly and other foods that i can use to store some of the larger items. In my opinion hardware is more difficult to organize that electronic parts due to the seemingly endless variety of sizes and purposes and the poor support from the supply industry. There is no NTE cross reference to make it easier. I have only expanded the organization of a few of the categories such as the 3mm, 6-32 and 8-32 screw hardware due to the prevalence of these sizes in the electronics.

                     

                    Tools

                     

                     

                    I like my hand tools laid out and easily reachable from the work bench. In both the electronics and mechanical shops the tools are a chair swivel away from the work bench so that I can easily get what I need. Once I have established an arrangement for the tools I photograph the shelves and put the pictures where I can reference them. Occasionally i will forget where a tool goes and a quick glance at the picture will refresh my memory. As tools are added or removed it is necessary to update the pictures from time to time. When the grandkids come and work in the shop they all know how to put the tools away using the pictures.

                     

                    Resource Material

                     

                     

                    Resource materials are things like wood, paper, metals, and etc. These are always difficult to categorize and organize. It is best to keep the categories quite general and the storage boxes quite large. The area under the stairs proved very compatible with the wood and longer pieces of PVC and metal.

                     

                    I hope that you can pull a couple useful ideas from the above.

                     

                    John

                    12 of 12 people found this helpful
                      • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                        genebren

                        Wow!  That is so well organized and extensive.  There is so much that I could learn from you and your amazing organizational skills.

                        • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                          dougw

                          I don't think I have ever seen a lab with that much stuff in it, or so well organized.

                          It looks like about 9 complete walls!

                          Awesome job!

                          • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                            kmikemoo

                            jw0752  WOW!  That's flat out AMAZING! 

                            • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                              fmilburn

                              This is why I didn’t post a picture of my work space and why I was hoping John would    It gives me encouragement to get started on straightening my things up.

                               

                              PS:  I like the box of wire labeled spaghetti

                                • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                  jw0752

                                  Hi Frank

                                   

                                  Yes the spaghetti was quite popular years ago when chassis electronics was air wired point to point. I still use it when I wire a perf board where I have to pass over pads to get to my destination pad. Since it has to do with wire the spaghetti ends up on the wire shelf.

                                   

                                  John

                                • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                  phoenixcomm

                                  jw0752 MG John how big is that thing. can agree on several things

                                  1. I use my ACRO blue bin boxes for TTL  (on my desk plus 4 -5 more containing a variety of small parts. hardware is an other story. for small stuff I use screwtop tubes.

                                  2. projects are stored in plastic type shoe boxes;

                                  3. Cables are in larger plastic boxes, 1 power supply cables (not ac), 2 Audio cables, 3. video cables,

                                  4. my video adapters are keept int a plasic hinged pencle case.

                                  5. some stuff is down stair in the garage like overflow and my gray sort bins (metal)

                                  how do I find all this crap. ? non very hard. all of the parts are in a master mySQL db.

                                  in reality there are 3 dbs: the main one which has almost evrey thing in it., hardware (nuts, bolts, etc) and one for NexGen

                                  my NexGen DB is kind of different as not only does it have standard pn, etc, also nothional stock number (NSN), and a Category ID. each Catergory has its own table so CatID = 39 switches has CatID, InfoI, Sequcnce, D(from Info). So you Dont get lost there is a table of category numbers and names.

                                  ______

                                  If any body is  would like a copy of the DB just let me know. on or I just might write a blog.. LOL

                                  BTW All of my books use the catalog system of the US Congressional Libray refernce system. which is far better than any other for this purpuse.

                                  ~~Cris

                                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                    14rhb

                                    John,

                                     

                                    Nice one. Your home setup is better than my work's workshop !

                                  • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                    kmikemoo

                                    dougw  How do you follow up after John's lab?

                                    This is the most organized I've ever been.

                                    Storage

                                    Full disclosure...  below is way more normal.  I don't recommend it.

                                    Normal

                                    Specifically, you mentioned cords.  Most cords fit into one of the categories that get stored in what my son calls The Chest of Despair.

                                    Chest of Despair

                                    I use lots of ziplocs - zipper style freezer bags when possible.  Clear bins and lots of clear shoe boxes, stacked - not stirred.

                                    3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                    • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                      lui_gough

                                      I can see from some of the responses with all the compartment trays and hanging bins on shelving that some people seem to have their storage all sorted out.

                                       

                                      Sadly, I'm not one of them. I work out of my bedroom, so things are tight and putting things into walls is a bit of a no-no. As a result, my storage situation is a little unusual and is a mix of:

                                      • Tupperware containers from Ikea (the cheap sort where the lid doesn't always seal) where I throw in mixed components, often "reclaimed" from old junk boards and screws.
                                      • Plastic slide-out drawers like these - with each drawer labelled with permanent marker on a piece of pink electrical tape
                                      • Plastic compartment boxes, specifically the Duratool ones when they go on sale in the element14 Connect Magazine - I like the fact I can swap the yellow inserts around between bins to group like components together. I tend to mark the inside of the bins with permanent marker to know (at a glance) what range of values are in any given bin. This then gets stacked (messily) on the floor, requiring quite a bit of shuffling if I am to find a specific component -

                                        These boxes work fine for components but I also like keeping my RF adapters in there too. The size is decent.
                                      • Finally, my desk also serves as storage ... spools of wire, cut-off component legs, desoldering braid, solder, tools, soldering sponge water bottle, etc all live "resident" on my second student-desk which serves as a soldering/hardware bench. Luckily, I don't have anyone judging my desk but it's messy enough that I won't entertain putting a photo of it online.

                                       

                                      I did have a foray into organising things but I quickly backed off. I spent a whole evening sorting through resistors, reading colour bands, before I finally said "ah screw this", got out the meter and still ended up spending another evening before I managed to write every value onto the bandolier tape and group them into resistance ranges. I said to myself, next time, I'll spend the time looking for a value when I need it . It's hard to get organised when you're already off on the "wrong foot". Right now, tracking something down is a hybrid of looking at permanent marker scrawls, guessing as to what category something is and doing a brute force search.

                                       

                                      As for cables - I've settled on mounting some self-adhesive hooks to the wall so I can "drape" the cables over a pair of hooks (to avoid the minimum bend radius issue). The hooks (luckily) are smooth edged so they don't damage the insulation, but ultimately, hanging seems to be the best option. Folding them up (like some cords when shipped) just seems a bit nasty and stressful to the cable, so if I can't hang them, I tend to coil them with generous radius.

                                       

                                      So far, the storage solution hasn't killed me yet ... so I'd say it's a success.

                                       

                                      - Gough

                                      3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                      • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                        BigG

                                        My excuse for ordering plenty of take away foods and ready made meals.

                                         

                                         

                                        The dark plastic containers are from our local supermarket (Tesco). These are used for many of their ready made meals. I tend to use these for ongoing projects.

                                         

                                        The clear plastic containers are used by our local Chinese and Indian restaurants when you order take aways. I tend to use these for storage.

                                        1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                        • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                          raspberrypitechguy

                                          Before I'm judged I don't store my items well at all mostly because I don't really need to.

                                           

                                          If I do move to a larger house with a place for an actual workstation, certainly there will be tools and stuff, but right now it's just a small area of my desk. Iron, flux, solder, components, safety goggles and mask, thats it.

                                           

                                          Parts? I'm starting to organize my dev boards but other than that they go into a ton of random boxes around the house

                                           

                                          Now I am due for a part replenishment...

                                          • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                            michaelkellett

                                            Now that a few others have put their toes in the water I'm bold enough to add my contribution

                                             

                                            I have 9 of these giant cupboards (2m tall and very solidly built) which I bought in an auction 18 years ago.

                                            I use them as combination storage and room dividers.

                                            Next to this one is a very cheap wooden bookshelf with sets of "Really Useful" (it's a brand) sets of 16 small boxes in

                                            little shelf units. The boxes are like their big brothers and have catches on the lids.

                                            These are numbered and mainly contain pcb or small mechanical parts from specific jobs. I keep an Excel index of the parts.

                                             

                                            Contents of a typical big cupboard. Bigger "Really Useful" boxes (9 and 18 litre), mostly associated with

                                            a particular job but this cupboard has some general purpose boxes too.

                                             

                                            I have one carousel with about 700 drawers (a couple of the sections on the other side have some larger drawers).

                                            Small components, not all electronic, which are not specific to a job or are of very general use, live in here.

                                             

                                            This is a very recent thing. The idea is to get all the small tools in one place. It can wheel about but in

                                            practice it's a bit big to have next to you.

                                            It has freed a lot of bench space because the stuff in it used to live in a multi drawer wooden toolbox

                                            and several little IKEA drawer units which sat on the bench.

                                             

                                            These came from IKEA and I got them v. cheap second hand a long time ago. I have 4 of them and they

                                            are used for filing, more RU boxes and LP records.

                                             

                                            I've managed to get most storage away from the bench but I have to admit that the Shuttle PC, the turntable and

                                            the Hameg scope should really be somewhere else.

                                            The cables are a mess - there isn't much on the bench other than the thing I'm working on but it still looks

                                            like a spaghetti fight. I have hooks on the uprights of the wooden racking which help when cables are resting,

                                            but not when in use.

                                            The HP supplies under the bench are remote controlled so can do their work without taking up space.

                                            Anything precious under the bench must be above floor level, for flood protection - I've had two so far but

                                            luckily lost no more than some floor coverings.

                                             

                                            MK

                                            4 of 4 people found this helpful
                                            • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                              phoenixcomm

                                              jw0752  Not only is my toe in here but my whole foot. Remember I said I have a DB and I would do a Blog? Well, here it is. I hope you can use it good luck.  And to MK, Excel will make you go blind after a page of parts, I give you my blessings to use the DB!

                                              I do not have a shell for this DB I use the MySQL command line so if you are updating something use begin and commit, It will save you grief.  as you can use the rollback command.

                                              lets say, you entered update Info set Part = "12345"; all rows are affected. ouch. if you had used begin; then the command update and when It finished It said 105 rows! you can enter rollback; its like having a do-over. then you would say begin; update Info set Part ='12345' where InfoID = 54 and CatID = 33; by using two qualifiers you have a better chance of getting what you want to be done.  so it reports 0 rows you check and you ff the CatID should have been 39; saved..

                                               

                                              ~~Cris

                                               

                                              BTW I would like to have some sort of shell for this monster. Maybe Perl but I keep on hearing phyton? maybe I will whip one together.

                                              • Re: Lets Talk Storage
                                                raspberrypitechguy

                                                As some of you might know I have a corgi shaped arduino I'm selling, for production I put all the parts in a pill box, and labelled each section with the part number.