Component Storage Roundup

It’s been suggested that the first self-replicating computer virus was a single IC that eventually expanded into multiple plastic component storage boxes. Organizing components by their values is a huge PITA as well. Here’s some solutions we’ve found:

Photo Boxes

[Mathew] sent in his organization scheme that uses 4×6 photo boxes. Better get those boxes while they’re hot – we can’t remember the last time we used film.

Use a binder

This instructables uses binders for storage. Good for passives, but unless someone can find anti-static bags for a binder, we’ll keep our ICs separate.

The only way to organize resistors

[Johannes] stores his resistors on a sheet of styrofoam. The grid has the first color band on the left side and the second color band on the top. Extremely, extremely clever. We’re wondering why we Radio Shack didn’t come up with this in the 70s. The grid could be laid out on a log scale, though.

If Susan is lazy, why does she do all the work?

[D.C. Boyce] hacked up a couple of lazy susans, built frames out of 2x4s and mounted plastic component drawers on them. The result is probably more space than we’ll ever need. To keep things simple, he wrote a database program to keep track of everything.

53 thoughts on “Component Storage Roundup

  1. I wonder if one of those heat-bar type plastic bag sealers would work on anti static bags?

    For example, the larger kind like orders from Mouser / Digikey sometimes arrive in, seal some pockets into them, and then three hole punch.

  2. No one writes a database program to “keep things simple”. He might write a database program because he wants it organized, but simple? no.

    His summary of the youtube video says he wrote a “simple database interface” to find the parts he already has. Now, that makes sense.

  3. Easy, use a tackle box. Lots of small compartments and the whole thing folds up into a carrying case for field work. Works really well for me, if you don’t need fully-enclosed compartments.

  4. One more note regarding the photo box idea. I like this approach, and it is nice to have a uniform set of organization, but I looked at the link to those bins and they are not cheap. $27 a piece and he used 9 of them to organize all his components, but still needs another one to get everything to fit.
    I guess this wouldn’t be too bad if you bought them over time and got a new one every few months.
    It is peculiar timing for this post here though, since I have been cleaning out the garage and keep finding bags and jars, and boxes with random components in them. Time for me to find a good solution for them. Fortunately, I don’t have near the problem these guys do (much less stuff to organize).

  5. Considering I just came into a windfall of components, ics, pots, switches, caps, etc from a retired EE from UCLA, I find this info helpful. He was nice enough though to give me his Resistor Racks, 2 sets of full labeled and organized drawers with 1/2w, 1w, and 2w varieties of each resistor.

  6. i was recently looking for component storage

    i looked at a lot of stuff in hardware stores but then i tried looking in a craft store (michael’s) they had a bunch of containers for beads…most more expensive than at the hardware store BUT i did find some cheap ones with 17 compartments for $2 each

  7. I use a series of these:

    You can put dividers into the draws, and to save them from lifting and allowing your parts to co-mingle, I just glue the divider in!

    If you use them with cupboards like this:
    you can put a couple of the tool boxes into the back of the cupboard in the shelf then hand more boxes in the door so that when you close the cupboards the two sets of draws almost touch, and open out to give you twice as much storage.
    (clearly you need to leave a gap for the shelf in the boxes that you’re hanging on the door.)

    I also have these draws arranged inside metal A4 sized office draws, (the filing cabinets for laying paper flat where the draws are about 1.5″ tall) you can fit about ten inside a draw and it lets you divide up screws etc quite happily.

  8. The first scheme a cool design… but agree with others, it’s kinda expensive.

    I use tackle trays (24~36 wells, with removable dividers, and lid) to store my parts.
    Each box is about $5, and can fit a lot of stuff. I have one for through-hole resistors (divided by first color band… not a great system as I really have no idea what I have), caps/misc passives, actives, IC’s (on anti-static mat cut to fit in the well, located by grid on a spreadsheet).

    I’m in the process of shifting over to SMD, and space required for resistors alone is incredible… I have probably 3-4x as many SMD resistors as through-hole, in 1/5th the space (each resistor value is stored in tiny zip-lock bags, avail. at hobby stores).

  9. Plano tackle box, and a plastic handled filing boxes. Extremely versatile.

    The tackle box holds my tools, the small stuff like the strippers and beater soldering iron, magnifiers, universal regulated power supply, etc. The core of the plano is a bay which holds 3 trays of adjustable divider trays.

    The filing boxes hold larger tools like my new soldering iron, Pana-vise, ATX power supply, unfinished projects, loose battery holders and other bulk.

    Additional filing boxes are cheap, and can carry additional “tackle trays” like what Plano sells, or craft stores sell.

    Avoid buying too many of those $4 bead/craft trays which have non-adjustable dividers. They’re fine for holding screws and LEDs and momentary switches, etc. But after a while, you don’t want to sort your components by SIZE you want to sort by their intended purpose, and adjustable is good for that.

  10. @meulfire: at work we use business card binder sheets for non-static sensitive discretes. Slice cut tape strips into appropriate lengths, put those in tiny zip-locs, then slide the zip-locs into the sheets. You can even slap labels on top of or use paint pen on the sheets to mark values. Reduces a pile of tackle boxes to a single 1″ binder.

  11. I’ve come to the conclusion that spending time (10%) making the build process easier makes for more builds.

    Having all the same storage solution makes for easier storage and easier planning – if you choose 6 types of storage of various size and always use those sizes (from tackle box up to tote), it makes the shelving neat and wastes less space.

    …so, take the trouble to find storage that you like, and then take the trouble to always get that type of storage.

    I took the labels from the ones I liked and put them in a notebook. Now if I need another tote, I know to get the Sterlite 12 gallon, and it will fit alongside all the others.

    The best storage solution allows you to see lots of components at once. A flat tackle box fits the bill – glance through the lid to locate the thing you want out of several dozen.

    Get a pad of stick-on labels (the little 1″ white circles from Staples) to write the values on the inside of the compartment.

    For example, I’ve got 48 different types of electrolytic capacitor in one box. It’s obvious from the top or sides what the box contains, and tilting it at an angle allows me to see the stick-on labels of all the values and ratings at once. I can stack the tackle boxes and still see from the side which one holds the component I want.

    WalMart has flat “bead” boxes (in the crafts section) with 32 compartments for thin money – I think that’s the best of the lot if the components will fit. The bottoms are rounded, so you can still pull up a surface mount component if you have fat fingers.

    Storage bins, drawers, and anything else that hide the component or require you to pull a drawer out to check 3 compartments is less efficient and causes frustration.

  12. For something REALLY cheap and ecologically sound (but may not be the best) I use blue plastic containers from mushrooms packs. I already have them in my house so reusing them is nice. Juste need some more shelves to put them on now!

  13. Resistors come in standard sizes, the ‘chart’ has blank spaces that never will be filed and a cramped left side. I use the small (free) bins with no dividers. There are 12 NEMA sizes, 2 per drawer six per decade.
    10-12 15-18 22-27 33-39 47-56 68-82 It’s log.
    Any wattage same bin, those big ones are easy to grab for a quick clip-lead test.

  14. Re: Resistor color coding

    Why isn’t this used? Well, ya ever heard of someone being concerned about ESD? This is an ESD nightmare, not to mention the fact that storage drawers/bins are worlds better. I’m sorry, but unless you just learned how to read resistors yesterday, you don’t need to index them like this.

    OH, and I almost forgot – Through-hole parts are obsolete………………..

  15. All of these methods beat my large coffee can filled to the top with loose resistors method. Its easier to buy new resistors for each project than hunt them down in my big can of randomness.

  16. dollarstore pill organizer:
    i found one that includes seven plastic boxes with four compartments each. each compartment is about 1/2″ x 1″.

    28 compartments for $1 -not bad, unless you really hate your components being labeled “breakfast, lunch, supper, bedtime” ..

  17. I use the styrofoam principle for my resistors too. But it is smarter to organize them according to the E series, i.e. 10, 15, 22, 33, 47, 68. Then you don’t have to ask yourself why the 70 column is empty and why the 10 column is so crowded…

  18. @GCL
    Having being decorating due to starting University in october on an electronics course, I needed some storage to put all of the electronic components I’ve amassed (mainly parts off of old products and from educational sets).

    I’ve now got a 9L Really Usefull Box with 4 Really Useful Hobby Trays inside. They hardly move at all in there so I don’t need to worry about the components moving from ne compartment to the next.

  19. I stick my IC’s in a piece of aluminum foil then throw them in a bag in a binder or put the IC in a antistatic bag before throwing them into the binder
    haven’t fried any parts yet.

  20. I have different storage systems depending on what type of part I’m organizing:

    Storage drawer bins for nuts/bolts, resistors, caps, and fuses

    Divided cases :
    for switches, pots, and connectors

    A plano box for LEDs

    4qt, 12qt, and bushell plastic storage bins for many things: heat shrink, tape, motors, knobs, solar, batteries, etc.

    a 3.5 floppy organizer and small envelopes for Diodes and Transistors (I’ll post this method one day)

  21. I use draw cabinets. Easy to organise and fast, as well as cheap. For tools I use pegboards. I tried using binders but they don’t work very well… Stuff falls out of them too easily. Not much protection for component legs either.

  22. For people that keep their parts in their original digikey/mouser bags, I use one of those hanging file cabinet plastic bins. Label each hanging folder with a category and throw your bags in.

    @grenadier “I’ve never ben able to kill an IC with static”
    Depends on the manufacturer. Some don’t bother with internal ESD protection circuitry so the silver bags are not just for show. I burned out a FLASH chip before just by not wearing an ESD wrist strap. It didn’t completely stop working, just didn’t access memory properly which resulted in many hours of me trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

  23. Those little interlocking “configurable storage containers”, as linked by yzf600’s link and Bakamoichigei’s suggestion for SMT gear storage from ebayers are nice, but I can only seem to see them in the 1×1 and 3×1 configurations, none of the 3×2 configuration like what I’ve got a couple of –
    I’ll keep that dealextreme link handy for the future, and my local supplier has the 1×1 boxen as well, but if anybody here has ideas for more 3×2 boxes, I, and a few others I’m sure, would love to hear/

  24. Wow, lots of comments.

    I have found the best stuff at the dollar store. I bought 10 flat boxes with flip-up lids and partly-configurable sections. Any really loose sections can be filleted with hot glue. Component selection aids are glued to the lid.

    The boxes keep parts separate even when stored vertically. I am going to put them into a bigger box to make the whole kit portable.

    Tackle box is great for tools, but I also happened to find a great tool bag at Princess Auto (this place is the best!!) for just under $30. It’s kind of like a traditional doctor’s bag. Inside, it holds oscilliscope probes in a pencil box, cutters and strippers, tweezers, jeweler’s loupe, other essentials.

    Strangely, or perhaps it’s not strange at all, I feel great after getting this stuff organized. There is a strange sensation of pleasure when I get my tool kit out and there is a place for everything, and everything in its place. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

  25. @JamieWho:

    How is writing a database program not simple? The most difficult part would be cataloging all of your parts, but that is not very different from labeling them.

    I’ve avoided the $1 divider bins because of the dividers slipping around. It never occurred to me to glue them in place.

    Right now I’ve just got antistatic bags inside other bags inside my desk drawers. I will need to upgrade soon.

  26. Just like hardware…whatever not used on a project or forgotten about on a bench never gets back to the original spot.

    At work, we throw away hardware as it costs $120 an hour (3x avg salary) to put back a 10-cent nut.

  27. Well I use plastic take away containers for small things .you can buy 25 for $10 on Ebay if you don’t want all those takeaways – not the way I did it ;-)

    And them I buy A4 plastic boxs for bigger stuff. (ie each project)

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