Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tool Storage - my newest solution

Art supplies in a tackle box
When I was in college I took several art classes.  Art classes require supplies.  I purchased a simple tackle box - the single cantilever tray type.  This worked fine.  However when I switched to making miniatures I found this box to no longer fit my needs.  It was mostly the tacky glue bottle.  Most bottles did not fit into the box.  Secondly if the bottle did then it had to lay on its side.  This might be ok if the bottle was really full as the glue would still come out but if not, then the glue would take too long to come out. (Tacky glue, unlike plain white glue, is not thin and doesn't run to the end; instead it settles making it harder to push out when it is not at the tip.) This meant that if I used that  box I was pretty much left with carrying the glue bottle separately.

Oh No! Glue Disaster
My replacement for the tackle box was a simple plastic box - similar to a shoebox.  Only problem with this was everything was jumbled together. 
Then one day, I didn't have the glue bottle in the box - it was a new bottle and I laid it on top of a project I was working on.  I left it in a car and the heat from the day caused the glue to expand and the lid to come off - out poured glue all over the project.  That was the last time I ever considered placing a glue bottle on a project - even unfinished.

Traveling Solution - wicker baskets
For many years, I would travel (by car) to mini club and so I needed to take my tools and other supplies with me.  So a traveling tool solution was what I wanted.
For many years - 20 +, I would say, I used a wicker basket for my tool storage.  Here is some photos:
In the front of this basket I had glued together two clear cosmetic organizers.  The kind that have various sections. 

Most of my tools fit in this section, including, scissors, tweezers, knives, small rulers, extra blades, toothpicks, pencils, sanding sticks and whatever tool I used regularly.  In the back area I stored glues, boxes with clamps, a small cutting matt, and a small plastic gluing jig.
The back was also a catch-all area for a bottle of paint or whatever if I was traveling to miniature meetings.  I usually kept a small glass bottle that the glue bottle could sit in with the tip down.  If the bottle leaked then it would leak into the glass, not my basket.

When I traveled to mini meeting and needed extra space such as for a project or additional tools or items to work on this project, I would use an additional larger wicker basket that I kept for that purpose.  I still use this basket as needed.

Downsizing meant I needed smaller tools
A few years ago I downsized my miniatures, I decided I would focus on smaller scale miniatures.  I downsized by selling or gifting anything in larger scales that I didn't have definite plans for.  I also did the same for supplies that were excessive amounts - who needs yards of fabric in a larger scale when focusing on smaller ones?
This downsizing also included my tools.  For my tools this meant I was no longer trying to carry larger tools.  I didn't sell or gift any tools unless they were duplicates, I just found a place to store them until needed for a specifically. 
I limited what I put in my tool basket to only small sized tools.  So instead of a 12 inch and a 6 inch ruler, I only kept the 6 inch ruler.  The 12 inch ruler was left behind in my studio unless I knew I was going to use it specifically. 

smaller is not necessarily better
On a side note - smaller is not necessarily better.  I purchased a small handled plier set.  I couldn't use them as they were too small.  I did sell or give those away as I knew they were of no use to me.

Overflow tool storage
All of my overflow tools remain in my studio area and are stored in a drawer cabinet. 
I have them sorted by type of tool.  So there is a drawer for punches, fancy scissors, spare paint brushes, pliers, sharp tools and other misc, tools.

Time for a change
Recently I decided that I was ready for a change.  My basket was starting to be too full.  This was due to both adding things I don't necessarily need in my tool box and also a change in what I wanted to store there. 
I decided I would search for something different.  My search turned up many options.  I was actually surprised by what I found.  This surprise was both good and bad.
First the good...
I was leaning towards an enclosed box - most likely in a tackle box style.  I have a stacking caddy with the latches on the end that has a lid. These snap together and has three layers and the lid. I do have one of these I use for a particular set of tools that I carry with me to somewhere. 
There are two things I do not like about this style of box.  One is the latches.  Seems like a good idea at first being able to add levels to the lid, but they are a pain.  Maybe it is this particular brand which is a knock-off.  The second thing I don't like is that the sections are too open.  It is fine for the use I have it for which is teaching crafts to kids, but not for my mini tools.

Next I looked at tackle boxes.  Tackle boxes today come in two basic styles.  One is a box with trays that cantilever when the lid is opened.  I had one of those.  My problem with this style was two fold, the  issue of wanting my glue to stand up.  I could never find a box that allowed my glue bottle to stand up as the area it might sit was never deep enough unless I went to a very big box, which I didn't want to do. 
The other type of tackle boxes I see is the ones with plastic divided boxes in a shelf like set up.

How I solved my glue bottle problem...
First I have discovered that I really prefer a small glue bottle.  One solution was the tip bottle in the glass holder.  Only problem with it is that it was often dried up and I had to clean it out.  Doable but not fun every time I mini.  My problem is that I too often would think I was going to come back and mini a day or two and then real life kept me from it.
My favorite solution is a glue pen, but even it has issues. The type I use has a lid with a pin that fits into the tip.  This pin has a tendency to get broken. Secondly, the glue dries up.  Of course this is true for many glue bottles.  I have found that it is fine if I leave it on its side as I am working. 
Another answer I have found is to buy the smallest bottle I can find.  I figure if I throw away half a bottle because it is dried up, then there is no savings in a bigger bottle.  Smaller bottles also fit into my tool box much easier.

Hard sided tackle box with divided box
Searching for a hard sided tackle box that has the divided boxes, I found several choices in size.  I was leaning towards the smaller one, but was open to a medium size one for the difference in the style of divided box that was offered in the bottom section. 
My first choice became a Plano 1354 4-By Rack System 3500 Size Tackle Box.  I went with a cranberry colored one, but I did find this same style in different colors.  One in particular that is marketed to the craft industry is called Creative Options Creative Options Grab 'n Go Rack Storage System.  This one is same just a different color and different price.  I am more a red person and I didn't see paying more just because it was called something different.
My second choice was a Plano 1364 4-By Rack System 3650 Size Tackle Box.  This one was slightly larger than the 1354 and provided two different style divided boxes.  This one can also be found in the Creative Options colors and is called a Creative Options 13-Inch by 10-Inch by 14-Inch Grab and Go 3-by Rack System.  These two variations were similar in price. 

I ordered the Plano 1354 first because I liked the price and also it matched with my overall size desires.  I figured if I decided it wouldn't work, I could send it back.  Although when it got to the house both hubby and daughter said they would take it if I didn't want it.

Before I share pics of the Plano 1354 and my set up, here's the bad stuff I feel about the craft organizers I found.
First tackle boxes are designed for fishing lures.  The shapes of compartments are not made for craft tools or supplies even when they are marketed to craft industry.  The manufacturers have simply made them in different colors and relabeled them.  I found this to be true of the boxes marketed to the art industry as well.  This isn't a deal breaker but it is still sad.  Maybe I shouldn't complain and be happy that we can now find boxes that are in different colors.  No, I am still sad.  But I will still buy them.  LOL
So here is my new toolbox

Let me be clear - this is small.  I had to make some choices in what I could put in this box.  I also made some modifications.
I started putting different tools into the boxes.  I grouped them together by type.  I discarded tools that wouldn't fit or were redundant - really I don't need 6 emery boards, 4 different knives and 2 of each kind, etc.  I had to make some hard decisions on things I felt before were essential, but maybe I can work around that.

Once I decided what I wanted in each box I labeled the boxes.

I decided that I wanted to have my small cutting matt in my tool box.  This was something I could have bought another one that was smaller, but it nearly fit and I determined that I did not have to have the full size that it was.  I only needed to cut off a small section about one inch on one side.  I debated having it in the top section.  In order to do that I had to configure a way to hold it so it would not get warped.  I may still do what I was considering, but for now I did not.   I cut the cutting board so it would fit between the divided boxes.

I also added funny labels to the top of each box.

This last one also shows the cutting matt and how it was trimmed to fit. 

I did make some modifications to the boxes once I decided what needed to go into them.
I used my multi-purpose tool to cut away the two center walls so that the scissors would fit.  Then I used the dividers provided to close off the top section.
In another box, I also modified cutting away a wall to allow bigger items to be in the box.  Without the modifications, only narrow (1 inch) tools would fit.

In this one the same modification - removed a portion of two walls - was done but the divider is inserted in the center section to keep those items housed.

Oh and that pesky glue bottle - I now have two in my toolbox.

My most recent purchase of small glue bottles was a cross between a small bottle and the glue pen.  There were two bottles or tubes of glue in the package.  The smaller one is shown in the left side of the above picture.
The other bottle I have in my toolbox is in the top section (shown below).  At least until I know I can count on the small pen anyway.

The top section is a catchall area and I am using it to contain certain larger items and also as a open space to add to as needed.  That is one advantage to working in smaller scales. Some kits will fit easily in this section. 
This a section where I may yet modify. I am considering drilling holes in the ribs; then adding a thin sheet of flexible plastic cut to fit that can hang via thread or elastic bands from the lid.  Being flexible would allow items below it to bend it if needed, but contain some items that can fit up inside the lid.  This divider would help make this area more organized as well and not just a jumble.   

What I really like about this toolbox
I really like the flip down front - it can be flipped up and the lever like latches don't have to be latched in order for the divided boxes to stay.  Although for travel of any kind, I would latch them.
I like that the boxes are divided which allows flexibility for the various items I might wish to store there.
I like that is small and compact.  There really is no wasted space. 

What I don't like about this toolbox but none are deal breakers for me
I don't like how hard the latches on the divided boxes are to close.  Fortunately they don't have to latch for what I am storing and also the outside flip front latches just fine if the boxes themselves are not latched.
The divided boxes are all the same - would have been nice to have same size but different configurations of the divided sections.  I did search to see if could find a same size box that would fit the slot but haven't yet.

I am still considering adding either of the next size, but don't really need it as all my secondary tools are safely stored in the drawer cabinet.  Course if I get it from one of the hobby chain stores and use a coupon....

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inaugural post of The Organized Miniaturist

For my inaugural blog post I want to clarify that my title of organized is a goal not an achievement.  I think that in some areas/ways I am more organized, but in others I know I am not.  I noticed recently that a major theme on my mini-smallpackages blog has been about storing and organizing.  I decided I wanted to separate that theme, so I have started this blog: The Organized Miniaturist.

I am a perfectionist and I love to rearrange and reorganize my life.  This is true for both my minis and everything else in my life.  I think I have a rearranging/reorganizing gene as I can’t leave well enough alone.  This started early in my life.

Growing up in a small space
Growing up it was common for my mom to have tell me to clean my room.  More often than not, when I did this it involved rearranging and reorganizing.  These two go hand in hand in my mind, as when you rearrange furniture and the like, it is often I find a new way to organize as well.  In my teenage years this rearranging included not just the furniture, but the posters as well.  Maybe not every time were the posters rearranged, but certainly if I got a new one, I had to find a place for it.  I recall quite vividly once rearranging all the posters on every wall.  This particular time I removed them all.  We had very dark paneling on the walls and it was quite amazing to see the difference that those posters had made to my room.  They lightened the atmosphere very well.  There was no doubt that those posters would all find a new place to be hung (by thumb tacks or staples) as the room was just too dark without them and my mom agreed.

My mom was always amazed with the new ways that I was able to come up with to rearrange my room.  She is a arrange-it-once-type person.  I had a very small room growing up, but it was my own.  I am very thankful, I didn’t have to share. Being small didn't stop me from rearranging and I feel it helped mold me into a more organized person.  If you collect things like I do - the more organized they are the more that will fit reasonably into a smaller space.  Although fitting into smaller spaces does not automatically make it more organized. 

Married life with me includes my rearranging things
My husband was initially amazed by my rearranging the furniture.  He has learned over the 20 + years of marriage that it is just something I like to do and might as well go with the flow as it will make me happy and he might just like the new arrangement better.  Over the years some arrangements got used again as they did indeed work better.
When we moved to this new house, I was so excited not just because it was a new house but my kitchen presented me with all sorts of opportunities to arrange the kitchen stuff.  I am very thankful for all the cabinet and drawer space.  Even that is not immune to my rearranging gene kicking in.  Although in the kitchen’s case it wasn’t the entire kitchen just a few cabinets that I decided would be better suited to have certain things in a different location which afforded those items more space.  On the other hand the bathrooms have been the bigger challenge for organizing. 

My family understands my need to be organized and they certainly try to stick with the program, but they sometimes don't understand how my mind works (unless I have explained a particular location) so they do put things away in the wrong place occasionally.  I have considered taking a picture of my cabinets and drawers as I have them organized and then putting the pic on the inside of the cabinet.  Cabinet pics would be great, but not sure about the drawers.  But I have not done that, YET! I haven't taken the time nor I have decided if that is more organizing OCD than I really am.

When things get put away incorrectly I do try to be patient about it.  After all the reason they were put away wrong was because someone besides me was doing the dishes and that is something to be thankful for.  I also realize that not everyone has as good placement memory as I do. 

Christmas is the most likely occasion for me to want to rearrange.  Bringing a Christmas tree to the living space may require rearranging or at least require small changes.  My husband was actually shocked that when we moved to this new house five years ago that I didn’t rearrange the living area as often as before, but I think I am back into the swing of this as the past two years have brought the rearranging gene back in full force.   

Why I like organizing and rearranging
I just get tired of the same old thing.   I want variety in every aspect of my life.

One distinct advantage to rearranging is that pieces of furniture or collectibles can be shown in a new light.  It makes things seem fresh.  Even when I wasn’t rearranging the living area furniture I was rearranging my miniature collection.  I talked about that on my other blog.    I do that, not because I want to get rid of everything or maybe even anything, I just enjoy change.  For example, I prefer the warmer months, but I really like the changing seasons.  Change can be a good thing.
Another reason I rearrange is I don't like the way something is working.  I get a new something that I want to use.  I might have gotten the new thing at a thrift store and in that case, I had a spark of this might be useful or it comes to me later how I want to use.  Or I could have decided my current solution is not working for me anymore and I buy a new solution.  One reason a solution may stop working is the items needing stored has grown or for traveling.

I want to be very organized as I realize how helpful it is to me to be able to find exactly what I need without searching.  I have found that searching for things can be a big time waster.   My philosophy on organizing is to use the smallest container that works for the items storing.  This means I am far more likely to only pull out that one container.  I tend to use smaller containers within larger ones.  However the smaller in larger attitude must be workable.  I don't want to dig in those containers to find the smaller.

One advantage to rearranging things is that it forces me to examine why I still have something.  I am given a choice to find a new location or decide to get rid of it.    I don't make the choices lightly, I will often think about it for a considerable time.   I am more than willing to make these choices as I have found it to be very freeing. 
Until my next organizing post, feel free to check out my previous posts on organizing minis.  They are all listed on my Organizing Index page.