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Lesson Learned From a Tool Chest Mishap

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Today I'll provide you with a bit of entertainment based on my recent experience. Everyone has at least one (usually multiple) tool chests/cabinets where you store your precious and beloved tools. I have a row of pro-level tool cabinets with multiple drawers (I’ll omit the brand.) The drawers are huge — 43 inches wide and 24 inches front to rear. I love my cabinets — strong, durable, reliable havens for my hand tools, precision measuring tools, piston ring compressors, scan tools, etc. One feature (I assume this is a safety feature) is that if one drawer is open, other drawers in the same cabinet won’t open. This is to prevent all drawers from being open at once and to avoid potential tip-over of the cabinet. However, when one drawer becomes accidentally jammed due to an object falling behind the drawer, this safety feature can prevent any drawers from opening. Well, that’s what happened to me.

One particular drawer was (embarrassingly) over-loaded with loose objects. This is the drawer that ended up assigned to miscellaneous bags and boxes of fasteners and various odds and ends. A bag of 8x32 stainless socket head cap screws fell behind the drawer and effectively jammed the locking bar and prevented any drawers from opening. I know, shame on me for stuffing the drawer too full.

Among my four in-row cabinets, this particular cabinet houses six drawers, containing (from top to bottom) screwdrivers, pliers, snips and inspection lights; pushrod length checkers, light checking valve springs and degree wheels; -AN aluminum wrenches; scan tools; and an array of flaw detection tools, and the drawer with miscellaneous odds and ends. In the midst of a job, I tried to open the second drawer only to discover that I was locked out. None of the drawers would open. Obviously, not a good thing. Since the cabinet is part of a four-cabinet system with a full-length workbench maple top, there was no practical way to pull this one cabinet out. We ended up using a slat of aluminum (1-inch wide x 1/8-inch thick x 36 inches long) as a “slim jim” to sneak between two drawers. We first removed a drawer from another cabinet to study how the locking system worked. We then fished the slim jim between the fifth and sixth drawers trying to engage the locking bar. It took about 30 minutes, but we finally succeeded in opening that drawer.

The offending drawer has since been emptied and re-organized, but I learned a hard lesson. Although I love my tools and treat them with respect, tossing miscellaneous bits and pieces into one drawer was a big mistake that I’ll never repeat.   Imagine this happening in the midst of a job while the customer begins to fume due to the delay. Learn from my dumb mistake. Don’t treat your tool chest like a dumpster. One little mistake can bite you hard.    

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