Best bench top tool chests

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By Gary Stretton

01 January 2019

bench_top_tool_chests_2018 : credit: © Gary Stretton

Gary Stretton goes in search of efficient storage, comparing five benchtop solutions that can also sit on their own storage cupboards or trolleys

Efficient storage is the difference between finding the tool you want, when you need it, or compromising and using second best. These five top chests are suitable as stand-alone storage on a workbench or for mobile use if necessary (and if they can be safely lifted when full of tools). All five have accompanying storage cupboards or trolleys in their ranges, allowing for gradual modular expansion to suit your budget and requirements. Four of our five on test are of the top-lid design, meaning they need room above when their lids are opened, and this is essential because their integral locking mechanisms are deactivated when the lids are open.

Cheaper chests tend to not feature ball bearing drawer mechanisms, meaning much frustration as the weight of full drawers creates unwanted friction in the runners. Ball bearing runners should be periodically oiled and dirt and dust wiped away to ensure they remain smooth. One tip worth remembering with any of the chests tested is to treat the drawers like trays if necessary and take multiple tools to where you are working, rather than move the chest or keep going back and forth for additional tools. Plus, being removable, it’s no bother to retrieve tools that may have got stuck between drawers or fallen out in the chest casing.

Due to their reduced friction, ball bearing runners can allow the drawers to roll open under the weight of the tools inside, especially when the chest is tilted. Push-lock drawers require a firm push just before they fully close to prevent accidental opening, which could de-stabilise the chest if too much weight is transferred to the open drawers.

Anti-slip liners are simple but effective, so expect to find them when buying, as they protect from abrasion and eventual corrosion of bare metal. Before you buy, measure both your tools and the available space for the chest to ensure you have enough drawers, depth and height. Lastly, keep the spare lock key in a safe place, clearly labelled.

What to look for

• Ball bearings on the runners ensure smooth sliding and longevity

• Push-lock safety features prevents drawers sliding open accidentally

• Release tabs allow drawers to be removed quickly and easily

• Integral security bars lock automatically when lid is closed

Clarke HD+ 9 drawer

Price: £144

Clarke’s hefty chest features nine drawers to suit most tool collections. The push-lock system functions well, preventing fully laden drawers sliding open. The top lid locks all the drawers in its closed position. The drawer handles’ design means they are comfortable to pull open, even with gloves on and the ball bearing runners operate smoothly. The reinforced lid means other items can be placed on top of the chest if necessary without fear of damage or distortion.

Key features
• Multi ball bearing drawer runners with smooth
sliding action
• Drawers push-lock to prevent opening accidentally if the chest is tilted
• Full width aluminium pull handles
• Protective anti slip drawer liners
• All drawers lock when top lid is closed – secured by single tumbler style lock
• All drawers fully removable
• Full width piano hinge welded and riveted onto top lid
• Reinforced lid construction
• Overall dimensions: W710 x D315 x H420mm
• Three drawers: W575 x D265 x H45mm
• Six drawers: W170 x D265 x H45mm 
• Lift out tote tray included

Search: Item 070118025; machinemart.co.uk

Draper 10 drawer chest

Price: £222 

This well-conceived design offers the most drawers on test and that deep central drawer for large tools or storage containers (or your coffee mug). The smooth ball bearing runners and easy lift-out drawers are good quality with liners, though the top lid area is not lined. Integral security bars complete the package nicely.

Key features
• Anti-slip drawer liners 
• Ball bearing runners for smoother operation and longer life
• Integral locking system on bottom drawer 
• Six drawers: W171 x D400 x H50 mm
• Two full width drawer: W570 x D400 x H50 mm
• One third width drawer: W171 x D400 x H155 mm
• One full width drawer: W570 x D400 x H75 mm

Search: Item 80234; drapertools.com

Hilka Pro add-on chest

Price: £149.88

Hilka’s three drawer chest is unique in this test due to its lack of an opening lid, but that’s also a strength if space is tight, below a shelf for example, or if you’d prefer to use the top for storing something else permanently. The drawers slide well and are held shut by the positive lock system. Drawer removal is quick and easy and the key lock function is good.

Key features
• Heavy-duty all-steel construction
• Ball bearing slides with positive stop
• All drawers removable
• Reinforced base with protective drawer liners
• Removable non-slip top cover mat
• Keyed locking mechanism
• Full width aluminium drawer pulls and chrome side handles 
• Dimensions: W672 x D310 x H249 mm. 
• Large drawer: W575 x D265 x H66 mm, 2 medium drawers: W575 x D265 x H51 mm.

Search: Item PTC109; hilka.co.uk

Sealey top chest 5 drawer

Price: £131.94
This stylish chest offers plenty of useful storage with features such as the flush-fit drawers and integral security bars. The ball bearing mechanisms are smooth in use and the deep drawers unhook quickly from the runners if required. The lack of anti-slip liners is due to the drawers being suited to Siegen tool tray use. The price is a limited offer for 2018.

Key features 
• Drop down carry handles
• Smooth ball bearing drawer slides
• Cylinder key lock and steel bars lock into place and keep drawers shut for additional security
• Built-in storage for locking bars when toolbox is in use
• All drawers accommodate Siegen range tool trays
• Dimensions: W625 x D305 x H470mm
• Drawers: W510 x D210 x H65mm

Search: Item AP3505TB; sealey.co.uk

Halfords 5 drawer top chest

Price: £125
This special offer price chest has five large, no-nonsense drawers with 100 kg of load capacity in total. The high-gloss finish is matched by flush-fit drawers and side handles, ensuring the chest is as compact as possible. Build quality is good with smooth rollers and two integral locking bars activated by the closed lid.

Key features
• Ball bearing drawer sliders for smooth operation
• Protective anti-slip drawer liners and top mat
• Modular tray compatible
• Key lock
• Flush fitting side handles and drawer fronts
• Three drawers: W564 x H51 x D395.5mm
• One drawer: W564 x H74 x D395.5mm
• One drawer: W564 x H107 x D395.5mm
• Chest dimensions: W661 x H482 x D435mm
• Chest max weight limit: 100kg
• Load rating per drawer: 20kg

Search: Item 575255; halfords.com

 

Verdict

All five chests feature smoothly-operating ball bearing drawers and good quality construction. Being part of modular systems, they can be arranged in varying combinations, but open lid designs mean chests typically being placed on top of a bench or wheeled cabinet. Hilka’s Add-On Chest is the odd man out with its lack of opening lid, but don’t let that put you off. It offers three versatile, spacious drawers suitable for confined spaces or as an addition to existing storage. Anti-slip linings and usable chest top ensure you’ll always find a place for it. 

Sealey’s chest offers excellent value at the limited promotional price. For your money, it’s stylish, strong and equipped with smooth rollers and well proportioned drawers. Although it’s suited to Siegen tool trays, I think anti-slip mats should still be included at the price.

The Halfords chest has generous proportions and can swallow vast amounts of tools readily. It too, is currently on special offer, making for great value; just check it fits on your work bench first.

The Pro Choice goes to the Draper 10 Drawer for a winning combination of drawer sizes, good quality construction and that so-useful deep centre drawer. The integral security bars function without fuss and, while the lid compartment doesn’t have an anti-slip mat, the undoubted versatility of ten drawers wins out. 

But better again is Clarke’s excellent all-rounder. Keenly priced, it’s packed with quality touches from the ball bearing runners to the push-lock drawers and the welcome drawer handle design to the integral security bars. There’s even a reinforced lid keeping everything safely in place. Nine drawers offer efficient storage for tools and, thanks to its dimensions, finding a home for it on your bench shouldn’t be difficult either. It’s an impressive Overall Winner.