Metalworking Hacks Add Functionality to Snap-On Tool Chest

Problem: you’re a student mechanic and you’ve already poured a ton of money into a Snap-On roller cabinet loaded with the tools of the trade, but you still need sensible storage for your cordless tools. Solution: a DIY version of Snap-On’s PowerCab cordless tool station at a fraction of the cost.

rnqvgsoMechanics seem to have a love-hate relationship with Snap-On tools. Some love the brand, others hate it, but the majority seem to hate that they love the tools. It sounds like [GenTQ] reached her limit on brand loyalty when even her 50% student discount wasn’t enough to entice her to add Snap-On’s admittedly very cool KRL1099 cabinet for cordless drivers and chargers. So it was off to Harbor Freight for their seven-drawer side cabinet for less than $200. The cabinet was gutted of drawers, a frame for the new slide-out was welded up, and sheet steel was fabricated into organizer shelves and a new drawer front. A power strip and drag-chain were added to feed the chargers, and the new drawer went off to the powder coater for a matching paint job.

It may not have the Snap-On badge, and purists may cringe at the mixed-marriage with Horror Fright, but we like the results just fine. And she saved something like $1200 in the process. We think Harbor Freight gets a bad rap, deservedly so for some tools, but there are hidden gems amid the dross just ripe for the hacking, as [GenTQ] ably shows.

[via r/DIY]

24 thoughts on “Metalworking Hacks Add Functionality to Snap-On Tool Chest

  1. Come back in 30 years and show me it still working as it does now and at that time I will believe that money was saved.

    I recently broke a 3/8 Par-X breaker bar that I bought in the 1970s. Stopped a Snap-On truck and gave it him, no questions and he gave me a brand new Snap-On one as Par-X are no longer available.

    That is exactly what you pay for with Snap-On and worth every penny.

    1. It’s only worth the pennies if you have them. If this HF hack lasts even 2 years, then perhaps in that time the hacker will have saved enough money (they are still a student mechanic, but may be employeed by then) to buy the original Snap-On accessory when the time comes to replace the hack. But they likely don’t have $1400+ to burn on it now, so the options are not having anything, or having something that may not last forever.

      1. In addition, in 30 years probably the cordless tools are gone anyway and if that kind of tools have a similar enough form factor and requirements than is quite questionable. So you’ll need to buy a new cabinet in 30 years anyway, I think.
        In my opinion the trick is to know where high quality and price makes sense for you and where not…

          1. i own a garage (or shop for our good friends across the pond) all my basic hand tools (spanners and sockets) are halfords pro , basically upper-end but still cheap store bought tools. I consider this sort of stuff consumable as if its not getting lost, its getting beaten with hammers, linked with other spanners etc.

            I buy snap-on power tools, ratchets, torque wrenches, basically anything where quality matters, i know im paying a premium but im also not having to wade thro crap tools to find the gooduns, if I have a problem i call the snapon van and he comes right here and fixes it or gives me a replacement or loaner within the hour. Thats what you pay for, a days downtime due to a tool failure is unacceptable

            I also buy snap on for things like hex and torque bits as they really are tough and far less likely to round a bit..

            my last snap-on impact gun lasted 7 years daily use, traded in for a new one only cause the batterys were getting weak and it looked like shit.

            My main toolbox is snapon, but unlikely I will buy another for extra storage due to the price lol

          2. +1 one for snap-on hex drivers (allen keys) and other tools like circlip (snap ring?) pliers. When you have quality tools for those fiddly jobs, those annoying fasteners you hate become practical and easy. These are the only snap-on tools I own, everything else is a wild mix.

    2. Though I do agree that Snap-On is quality, and worth every penny, as a student, I feel that money is MUCH better spent being invested in the tools themselves which are used to accomplish a job, rather than on a box which serves the sole purpose of protecting your tools.

      What it comes down to is do I spent $3600 on a Snap-On KRL1099PBO cabinet, or do I spend $500, have a cool project, and still have $3100 to spend on tools?

      Like biosehnsucht said, its only worth the pennies if you have them. If this lasts me through school and the first couple of years as an A&P, it will have more than paid for itself.

      1. Many years ago I was busy being a home warrior when I realized I was spending over half of my time looking for that socket set or screwdriver or whatever and very little time spent doing the actual work. That is when I discovered the importance of boxes.
        I spent a few years putting things in boxes and I haven’t looked back on that decision.

      2. This. A box is a box (assuming you can copy/improve the design, you use quality sliders and powdercoat etc). That they would dare charge anything like $1400 for a darn box is insane. That anyone would pay that for a box is worse.

        1. A box is not just a box. The sturdiness of the slides, weight capability, and thickness if the sheet metal are all important. I have Snap On stuff, Matco, SK, Cornwell, Mac, starrett, mitutoyo, Craftsman, Stanley, Northern And Harbor Freight tools and boxes. Each have different qualities and abilities. I like these project. It would be nice if I could afford all the expensive stuff, but reality is I purchase the tool I need to do the job, and many times I end up building or modifying tools for my application. If she plans on opening that drawer 100 themes a day while fully loaded, then it will wear out in a few years. On the other hand she didn’t have to spend a lot of money right now and it serves her purpose. It is hard getting started as a mechanic as it does not pay well (especially in the beginning) tools are expensive, and you have to have the tools that you really can’t afford to do the job so you can get paid. Anyone who knocks a person for owning and purchasing tools off of a tool truck obviously has never had to make a living off of their tools, same as anyone who sais they would never own harbor freight tools. A good mechanic will own what ever tools they need to do the job, and they will either purchase what is in their budget or they will build it!

    3. Except when you have the nice Snappy molded screwdrivers with the nice serrated grip tip and it eventually wears out they don’t give you a new screwdriver. They clamp it in a vice, rip out the steel tool bit and press a new one (without the nice serrated grips) back into your worn-out handle. And then you need to wait for the guy to come around. I’ve got a bunch of Snappy stuff but I’m over it. Craftsman wins every time. tool REPLACEMENT when I need it. Snappy guy came Monday and your broke your wrench on Tuesday? Too bad. I jsut drive 10 mins to Sears and get a new one.

  2. Excellent mod. However the whole box should be something other than snapon. In Canada you can go to Canadian Tire and buy tools guaranteed for life for a fraction of what snapon wants. Break a tool 20 years after purchase, and get a new one, no questions asked. The whole drive a truck around network marketing thing is driving prices. Snapon is for posers! Yeah I said it. Put your money toward your mortgage instead of paying someone else’s. And if anybody says money is not an issue, than they aren’t really a mechanic…..

    1. The tool box IS something other than Snap-On… its a rebadge. With that said, it gets the job done, looks kind of cool, has that “Snap-On” look and I’m into it for less than $1600 vs. the $16k that a true Snap-On would set me back. Money is much better invested in tools than the toolbox.

  3. I dispise snap-on tools simply for their polished chrome finish. It’s unneeded bling, looks like shit (imho) and most of all provides zero grip when you are hanging upside down squeezed into a hard to reach area trying to undo that one stubborn nut with your hands covered in grease and/or oil. I prefer something like Gedore if I need high quality tools.

    1. And then I completely forgot to comment on the actual article…

      Very nice build. Looks the part. I doubt it’ll be any less functional than the equivelant snap-on unit. Maybe it’ll need new runners in a few years, but those are easy to replace. The rest should be just fine.

      This sort of problem is also exactly what keeps surprising me about the US custom of making someone buy their own tools. To even get started in any trade you need a massive up-front investment right when you actually DON’T have it. And you get to break your own property to make money for your boss…

  4. Shocks me more than anything, is the fact she has a snap on box to begin with.
    I’ve been at the airport 14 years now, have not once had a snap on truck here.
    When toy find one and ask them to come out, they ate reluctant because aircraft mechanics don’t buy enough stuff is what I get from them

  5. I keep my many cordless tools on a shelf on top of my bench so I can grab them fast. I keep a couple of them on the bench, with batteries in them, and the spare batteries on chargers. I don’t see the box as being useful unless you are concerned about someone swiping your stuff.

    I have heard nothing but good things about the HF tool boxes BTW. And as far as snap on goes, a lot of your satisfaction seems to depend on your local guy. They don’t cover that they consider to be “abuse”. A friend of mine has two pieces of what was a very nice socket handle that they won’t warranty because the truck guy said it had to have been abused to have broken like that. Snap on don’t sell much stuff to him anymore.

    Snap ON IMHO is about 99% snob appeal.

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