Ask Hackaday: What’s In Your Fastener Bin?

A Saturday afternoon. The work week was done, the household chores were wrapped up, and with almost a week left until Christmas, there was just enough wiggle room to deny that there was still a ton of work left to prepare for that event. It seemed like the perfect time to escape into the shop and knock out a quick project, one that has been on the back burner since at least March. I’m nothing if not skilled in the ways of procrastination.

This was to be a simple project — adding an aluminum plate to a plastic enclosure that would serve as an antenna entry point into my shack. Easy as pie — cut out an rectangle of aluminum, cut and drill a few holes, call it a day. Almost all of my projects start out that way, and almost every time I forget that pretty much every one of those builds goes off the rails at exactly the same point: when I realize that I don’t have the fasteners needed. That’s what happened with this build, which had been going swimmingly up to that point — no major screw-ups, no blood drawn. And so it was off to the hardware store I trundled, looking for the right fasteners to finish the job.

Finding hardware has long been where my productivity goes to die. Even though I live a stone’s throw from at least half a dozen stores, each with a vast selection of hardware and most open weekends and nights, the loss of momentum that results from changing from build-mode to procure-mode has historically been deadly to my projects. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has run into this issue, so the question is: what can a hacker do to prevent having to run out for just the right fasteners?

The Problem

It’s pretty easy to spot the root cause of this problem with a stroll into pretty much any hardware store. Somewhere in the store will be an aisle lined with bins and drawers holding every conceivable kind of fastener. There’ll be everything from lag screws and carriage bolts for fastening together wooden structures to tiny packets of M3 screws that would be at home on a 3D-printer. Add to that the different thread pitches and styles, the range of diameters and lengths, the variety of materials and finishes, the wide range of drive types, and the confounding effect of different nuts, washers, lock washers, and other adornments, and you’ve got a nearly infinite number of combinations.

I’ll take one of each, please.

The other problem is that there’s really not that much leeway in making substitutions with fasteners. Each kind of fastener has a pretty specific engineering purpose, and in some cases, making a change to something that’s already on hand can be risky. I’ve learned this the hard way, and that fact alone is why I ended up wasting a bunch of time on a recent project to fit a cargo van with solar array. The van is going to carry six solar panels on mounts that fold down for travel; using the wrong fastener could result in a wind storm tearing the panels off, or worse yet, cause something to break off the trailer while it’s being towed down the highway. Avoiding such a fate was well worth a few extra trips to the store to get the fasteners right.

There’s one more factor that probably affects some more than others, and that’s aesthetics. Sometimes the fastener that you have on hand just doesn’t look very good. I recall looking for cap screws in Lowe’s, with my wife helping out in the search. When she announced that she’d found them, all I could say was, “I need socket head cap screws, but those are round head. Are you insane?” Sometimes it just has to look a certain way.

The Solution

All this is to say that the universe of fastener choices far exceeds the means of the average hacker to reasonably keep on hand,although that hasn’t kept me from trying this brute-force approach to fixing the problem. Years ago I was offered a chance to buy outright the entire fastener display from a hardware store that was going out of business. The whole thing — the bins, the drawers, even the rolls of plastic bags for parts and the ballpoint pens on the little sproingy things that never manage to write the stock numbers on the bag — could have been mine for a price. It was a tempting offer, but as I had neither the means nor the space to store such a thing, I declined.

Had I actually picked it up, would it have solved the problem? Probably for a while, but I suspect I would have ended up with a lot of stuff I had little call for, and not enough of the good stuff. And what’s worse, my needs have shifted significantly. I was working a lot with wood back then, and only did the occasional metalworking project. There’s not a lot of crossover in the fastener needs of the two media, so switching away from a lot of woodworking would likely have stranded a lot of fasteners from that original allotment.

I think the closest I’ve ever come to seeing a solution to this was at the model shop in the place I worked for 23 years. It was a full machine shop to support scientific research, and the fellow who built it from the ground up really hated getting caught without hardware. He had two Lista cabinets each with a dozen or so drawers, and each drawer had a bunch of little plastic bins holding screws, nuts, and bolts. In the metric cabinet the fasteners ranged from M1 to probably M12 and running up to perhaps 50 mm in length. He limited materials to stainless and black oxide, and head style to either socket head or round head. The other cabinet contained the equivalent inch fasteners, and each cabinet contained nuts and washers. It was limited, but it was also comprehensive, and got him through perhaps 80% of his daily work without having to run out or place an order.

Your Turn

While most of us can’t afford such a solution, I think shooting for the Pareto distribution like my machinist pal is probably a good goal in addressing the problem. If I can keep on hand the fasteners needed to complete 80% of my projects without having to resupply, I’d be thrilled.

The question then becomes, what’s the mix of fasteners that best accomplishes that? And once I decide on a mix, what’s the best way to source them? MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) suppliers like McMaster-Carr, Fastenal, and Grainger are widely available, but priced more for corporate customers than individuals. Still, is there a place for them in this solution? And how would one go about storing and organizing a fastener collection like this, and making sure it stays stocked as parts are used? We’d love to hear from anyone who has dealt with this problem, either in an industrial settings and in the home shop. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

143 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What’s In Your Fastener Bin?

      1. … so you push the 1/4-20 head down into the molehill, then gloop it with resin or beaucoup de crazy glue so the dirt sets hard around it.. then you screw your camera to it, et voila.

    1. Last time I searched for 1/4-20 machine screws they were listed as “hard to find” on Amazon??? Oh, and Amazoningly expensive.
      In reference to the image above of the bazillion fasteners now found in most U.S. hardware stores, I find that finding what I want, which used to be easy, is now challenging. Now I do most searches online with Home Depot or similar and arrange for store pickup. Faster, easier, and currently – safer.

          1. I like them a lot. I try to buy bags of 100 on the theory of if I needed it once, I’m more likely to need it again. Having challenges with a good storage solution that doesnt cost a ton of money and is easy to organize. I work on a lot of older construction machinery and in the past they were better about using a small common set of fasteners. More modern equipment has every fastener you can think of. As far as the socket headed cap screws discussed above, I found that for any given size and grade the SHCS has a higher capacity than the same hex bolt. I found that interesting.

      1. I would never buy anything hardware related on Amazon. Most of Amazons products are designed for a standard homeowner. I did find an assortment set – but the thread pitch is not in the product label or description – which tells me the person rebranding it – doesn’t know about their product.

        Example 1/4 20 hardware:

        1. In general I found Amazon hardware to be too expensive and of questionable quality. I have taken to buying mostly stainless hardware since its good indoor or outdoor and in general is not the cheapest junk available. I guess they figure if you are popping for stainless, price is less of a concern. I quit buying from Amazon when I got some “grade 8” bolts that seemed to be made of taffy. Dangerous and obviously not up to spec. I’ve has good luck from Best if you buy in quantity from them to get free shipping and best unit prices. Just a satisfied customer.

          1. If I want fasteners from amazon, I usually search for A4 stainless or marine. These are always properly formed and only a few listing are for overpriced products.

      2. Have you checked ebay? In the uk, there are multiple local hardware suppliers selling their products in quantities between 10 and 1000, and all sizes direct from ebay at reasonable prices. Usually with fast and free delivery

    2. I found these useful and bougth a few to have around:

      Product STC 18-Gauge Roof Truss Clip Store SKU #1000075189 Internet #205326041 $0.85 30 $25.50

      Product TP 1-13/16 in. x 5 in. 20-Gauge Galvanized Tie Plate Store SKU #464236 Internet #100375260 $0.65 20 $13.00

      Easy to tack weld also.

      1. Uh?

        Access Denied
        You don’t have permission to access “” on this server.

        Is this because i am not in the US, because i don’t send a referer or because they fastened uhh screwed up their server?

      2. I find tie plates useful for brackets and strapping etc. If you have good shears you can just cut them to shape easy. Round file with nice taper to it and you can ream the holes any size in a hurry too.

        Welding however, everyone knows to be careful of metal fume fever from the zinc right?

  1. All you need is a selection of threaded rods, and nuts to match, and some loctite to make one of the nuts immovable.
    Then you have every setscrew in every length imaginable.
    Get some domed nuts if you want a snazzy look.

      1. I bought one of those tools, it was 100% useless. There is no cutting relief, so it just rubs.
        I am prepared to believe that I got a badly designed one, perhaps some of them work.

      1. Glad I’m not the only one. I haven’t the patience for a hacksaw though. I like to run a couple of nuts up to the head before cutting to length with a dremel.
        Gives me something to hold onto with pliers, and you can run them back over to clean up the threads.

        1. For M3 I think that a hacksaw is probably faster than a Dremel. Especially if you need to change the Dremel over to cutting disc.

          It is a general observation of mine that YouTube makers hardly ever use a hacksaw, always preferring the noisy, messy, angel grindr.

          Though there are exceptions. Allen Millyard cuts up entire motorcycle engine blocks with a hacksaw, see for example his video of making a 2.3 litre V12 from two 1.1 litre straight 6 engines.

          Maybe you all have poor-quality or blunt hacksaws?

          1. People tend to use hacksaws wrong and end up ruining the blade, then taking forever to cut anything and tiring themselves out. The next time they’ll pick up the angle grinder.

            When you’re putting too much pressure and trying to hack through very quickly, you overheat the blade and it loses its edge rapidly, then you’re just left with rounded out nubs for teeth.

      2. If you are regularly shortening screws then it is worth making one of these tools:
        I found one in my grandfather’s effects years ago, and made my own in Metric.
        It’s for holding screws in the vice for cutting and dressing the ends. It grips on the thread without damaging it.

  2. I have many divided compartment “parts boxes” full of SAE, metric, some Whtworth (I was into old Land Rovers for a while), pop rivets, bronze boat-building fasteners, lag bolts, etc. My policy is to always buy more than I need when I buy fasteners. If I need it today, I’ll need it again”. Hardware stores are spendy!

    If you want to stock up BOLT DEPOT is an affordable online retailer.

    1. I did the same thing, organizer trays for all my smaller stuff at least.

      The bigger stuff tends to be divided by general size, and I do my best to keep fractional and metric fasteners separated, just to prevent any of that confusion when I reach for one…

  3. I’ll put in a shout-out to one of my favorite maker websites of all time: Bolt Depot. As a former web developer, I can tell their website and product has been very well-thought-out with their intended audience in mind… which is certainly me, and may be you.

    All they do is fasteners. You can buy 1. You can buy 1000. Everything has dimensions available, and I’ve gone there on more than one occasion to help plan out a project. Metric, US units, variety of materials… And the best part for those of us who haven’t been doing this for decades: They supply information about WHEN you would likely use a given material or fastener style. Buying screws? Easy links to go to the recommended washers/nuts to go with them.

    Packages come labeled, so my parts bin is full of bolt depot zip top bags with the part measurements on them. I just got a small parts bin to help organize, but instead of pouring the screws into the parts bin, I just left them in the baggies, since they were already so clearly labeled (they’re not labeled for marketing like the ones at your store, they’re labeled to be easily identified/shipped by warehouse staff). Prices are competitive, and site works far better than trying to buy fasteners on a site like Amazon.

    So, yeah, sounds like a plug… but these folks really got it right.

    1. Same – I started getting serious about my fasteners during COVID. I actually tried really, really hard to move away from SAE to metric, but there are instances where I don’t actually WANT such a fine thread on machine screws. An example is when trying to just “tap” threads in 3d prints with the fastener itself (or using a proper tap) and using the plastic itself to hold the fastener. This is super convenient on light-duty or non-load bearing fixturing, etc. So the smaller stuff (6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 10-24) made more sense in the smaller sizes. M6, M8 are both good for metric, but I found M4 and M5 kind of awkward. That’s probably just me, though.

      Eventually, I ended up stocking out limited lengths of M4/M5 with just countersink (flat) heads and pan heads. I searched around a LONG time trying to find a site to just use, and I found the same thing you did. Even though the site isn’t beautiful, boltdepot made it easy to end up buying the thing I wanted. I do wish that it was easier to identify across all material types which was the cheapest if you don’t care about the material properties (e.g. stainless, black oxide, zinc, galvanized, etc. etc.).

      I’ve been meaning to check them out for wood screws (better head types, trying to move away from Phillips if it’s REMOTELY economical). Still haven’t run the calculations yet, but buying certain fastener lengths by the pound at HD/Lowe’s is getting to be a PITA, especially when the fastener quality varies across the same product range. Lowe’s comes to mind in the construction screw category…

      If anyone has leads on best bang/buck for construction/wood screws (including Kreg pocket screws or equivalent), please save me the research!

      1. Why would you find M4/M5 “awkward”?

        M5 x 0.8 is almost exactly the same as 10-32 to the point where most of the time they’ll thread together, especially in plastic.
        M4 x 0.7 is quite close to 8-36 if only about 0.2 mm thinner.

        They’re about the same size and pitch, so why would one work and the other not?

      2. If you use the filters on the boltdepot site, you can select the dimensions you’re searching for, click on “List” then sort by price. Then you can find the fastener you need at the lowest price.

      1. Right? I have never encountered such a well designed online market place as MCM. I would love to find out more about the effort behind the intuitive and powerful organization system. In-house expertise? Design firm? Solitary Mastermind? It’s podcast worthy.

  4. Pick a standard. I suggest Whitworth.

    Then just always buy a lot more than you need. I never buy fewer than 50 of an article.
    On no more than a few decades you will have an almost-adequate collection.

    It’s easier to shorten them than to lengthen them. Tedious, and I try to avoid it, but it is easier.

    I haven’t gone all the way with compartments and drawers. I have a louvre panel on the wall with bins. M3-socket head / M3 other / M4 socket head…. (I wasn’t serious about the Whitworth, those are in a drawer for use on my 100-year-old motorcycle as and when required). The drawers just contain plastic bags of each type of that size. It’s not as convenient as it could be, but I simply don’t have the space to separate out any further, and there isn’t much point for the amount of work I do.

    M2.5 to M8 are on the wall. I have other sizes put away less conveniently, down to M1.6 and up to M20.

    What I am saying is that a half-way solution like mine is probably good enough for a hobbyist.

          1. Sometimes not a whole lot of time, had stuff turn to shreds in only a couple of years. Also got a bolt bucket full of shreds because a mouse got in the garage and nested in it…. Mmmmm hantavirus.

        1. Just did a sanity check to see if the US site has gotten better. I searched for 4m screw, and the very first search result was “#8 x 1-3/4″ Phillips Flat Head…” so… not great. Thankfully, they’ve added new filters which actually seem to work, so that’s an improvement.

      1. I used to do a lot of business with Small Parts, back in the day. Amazon bought them about 2005 and rolled them into the general stock a little after. They say: “continues to sell more than 10,000 items branded as SmallParts that maintain the same high quality standards”, but the prior white-light-like spectrum of parts is now a few narrow lines, and even those hard to find and many items of marginal quality when compared to the prior supply.

        ‘Tis a shame, but they were never cheap and couldn’t compete, so got bought. Many things they carried very difficult to find off-the-shelf these days.

        As t fasteners in particular, Amazon has been a disappointment to me, rarelyo better than, and more often worse, than the box stores, in quality, when I can find the part at all.

  5. The hardware store I frequent sells fasteners by the bag. A standard price is set per the size of bag and you can fill it with as much nuts and bolts as possible, as long as the bag can close. So each time I need something I don’t have, I get that and fill up with a bunch of other fasteners I might (or might not) need in the future.

  6. Mostly I seem to be able to find anything 1/4″ or 6mm and larger in the local stores fairly rapidly. What I lack most is decent smaller sized options. Ergo things get put together with ridiculously oversized fasteners where weight isn’t important. I have several “scratch through” boxes of assorted stuff I grabbed at yard sales, one rack of random hardware acquired the same. Then several tubs full of reclaimed fasteners from things I personally disassembled. These all get a good working over when I need something, and are approximately sized so it doesn’t take long. I am also prone to buying random packs of screws and nuts at the dollar stores mainly because handy smaller diameters are often apparent. (And if you need it to hold 20lb, you’re thinking too small anyway)

    If I need something special, I might need to mount an expedition to Princess Auto, or I might be able to order through the local Brafasco. Then I know places like McMaster-Carr exist, but there hasn’t been anything worth paying shipping fees for yet.

    What I miss actually are those little packs of nuts and bolts Radio Shack used to have.

    1. Ah yes, it’s mildly amusing I guess that I am being subjected to some mental torture vis a vis fasteners at the moment. A surplus store of a type, (Mostly household stuff) bought out a ton of hardware store inventory a while back, and are selling it off cheapish… and it’s a 5 minute walk… but I have been the last couple of years on “medical leave” from the heavier duty projects that most of the stock would relate to, so I can only watch it dwindle. I’ve kinda tried to visit with an eye to stocking up on some basics, but brain quickly switches to “BUY EVERYTHING!!!11” and becomes greedy in the face of riches. They’re not so cheap it doesn’t matter yet, it’s more like half price. So buying 10 packs of stuff for say $50 to save yourself $10 on the hardware store price of the two things you actually use in 5 years time doesn’t seem to make sense. Keep checking for the 10c on the dollar markdown though, that’s when it starts to make sense to just grab anything that looks mildly useful.

    2. I am pretty much in agreement with Andy P and you… if you’re DIYer and own a house and a boat and other stuff for more than a decade, you can’t help but build up stock. I also like taking stuff apart and have quite a bit of small metric hardware from doing that.

      For someone starting from scratch, Princess Auto sells hardware assortments in sectioned boxes. As you use stuff, then you can start getting bigger quantities of the types you use the most.

      It IS truly great to get an idea, start the project, and have enough on hand to complete it without a trip to the store. Especially during a lock down. :-)

      1. Yes, when I’m rich next year and setting up my 1000 sqft heated shop, I’ll go get every single one of those Princess Auto part assortments. I nearly bought the O-ring one once, when I was having difficulty getting a seal… then I was tempted by the spring one, when I was thinking of boosting line pressure on a transaxle (Stiffer spring in the regulator).

  7. So… nobody is going to admit that dusty ugly jar of assorted fasteners, bolts, nuts, nails, clips, rivets and pretty much all types of things (usually in odd quantities) that are salvaged from almost anything – or overbought – for “future usage”?

    1. Nah, I’ll gladly claim that collection tactic.

      My shop fastener bins are almost exclusively of this sort, though generally split to keep the metric and fractional stuff apart.

      My only truly organized selection is with my 3d printing and CNC supplies, as those are the only ones that I purchase new in enough quantity and variety.

    2. I have bins for sorted stuff, and two bins for unsorted screws and nails. Unsorted bins are really great if you need something uncommon. I can almost always find useful “odd” length or shape screw or nail there. Along with dead centipede or two.

  8. So… nobody is going to admit that dusty ugly jar of assorted fasteners, bolts, nuts, nails, clips, rivets and pretty much all types of things (usually in odd quantities) that are salvaged from almost anything – or overbought – for “future use”?

    1. mine’s not dusty! i’ve got a variety of different organized sets with surplus and used ones (like others here, i always over-buy for each project to improve the collection), but then i also have a jar full of every sort of misfit screw from take-aparts of trashed products. given the enormous weight of the jar, it’s kind of disappointing it doesn’t have more diversity…but still, if i go on a hunt for a specific fastener, i can usually find it. sometimes i can even find a matched pair. :)

      really, it probably just says i’m not very picky but i love to be able to move on to the next stage without going to the hardware store. (i also love to go to the hardware store)

    2. I have at least 4 different containers of salvaged fasteners. One of them holds about 2 pounds of fasteners (mostly nails and M6x100 bolts with nuts) extracted from an old couch. It used to hold a pound of herring in sour cream sauce…

    3. I’ve got 40 years’ worth. I’ve disassembled two complete cars for the hardware. I take apart floppy disks for the metal hubs, which make great fender washers.

      But mostly what I use is an assortment of drywall screws, and glue.

      1. Heh, for some reason it took me 5 years to realise it wasn’t a good plan to keep throwing bent and stripped ones back into “stock” and started throwing them into a can of rejects… then it got heavy enough to be useful to hold things down, so I guess I’m kinda there too now LOL

  9. I couldn’t agree more! I find as soon as I try to use their “parameterized” search, everything falls apart. I don’t know who designed or wrote the algorithm, but it appears they have never acually built anything or shopped for sized parts. I have better luck doing a Google search for what I specifically need, and almost magically, it’s found on Amazon, but is not similarly “findable” within Amazon. Weird.

    1. Searches are getting less and less useful, no matter if you use quotes or other operators it seems they all get interpreted as “find any of these words and synonyms regardless of context” then barf… whole pile of scrambled search vomit. “We done good, we got 10,000 results! *self head pats* “

  10. I have an entire standard-sized upright metal cabinet dedicated (and full) to house everything from #4 machine screws up to 1/2″-13 nuts/bolts/washers, 60d hot-dipped galvanized pole barn nails, drywall screws, rivets, boxes of coiled nails, jars of random fasteners from things I’ve collected over the years, and everything in between. If I’m being honest with myself, I probably need two cabinets.

    I rarely throw anything away. I’ve been known to scrounge through the dumpster at work when they’re purging overstocked/unused fasteners. Before I go to the local farm supply store, I’ll see what fasteners (usually nuts and bolts) I’m low on and pick up a bulk-buy bag with a few handfuls of each size. Aside from buying bulk, I try to only buy fasteners when they’re on clearance. This helps to significantly cut down on the cost of a hobbyist keeping a vast supply of fasteners readily available.

    The nuts and bolts I use most often make their way into a separate organizer bin for quick access when I need them.

    1. “I’ve been known to scrounge through the dumpster at work when they’re purging overstocked/unused fasteners”

      I’ve done that.
      Once I found a nice bag of nuts and took those home.
      Only to find out when I tried to use them, they were the thread stripping “crush” nuts.

  11. I personally use a stack of 12 compartment bins that lock together for my hardware organization. The particular ones I use are Milwaukee brand, but it doesn’t much matter what brand as long as they are sturdy and have large bins. The particular ones I use have removable 8x 4″x4″x4″ and 2x 8″x4″x4″ containers inside that can be removed and rearranged. I have found that having larger containers allows me to keep both small numbers of larger items like 6″ carriage bolts and large numbers of small fasteners like 2″ 8-32 machine screws on hand in the same easily portable containers. I initially filled about half the compartments with items I was absolutely certain I would use and have populated the rest over time as I examined what I was purchasing frequently. I found that buying mixed bolt/screw/washer/nut packs in both metric and SAE and seeing which compartments ended up empty quickly was a cheap and efficient way to inform my decisions about what to purchase in bulk. Not everyone requires that their storage system be portable, but I have to say being able to bring the fasteners right to where you are working is a huge time saver even in a shop environment.

  12. On the job, we get fast service from several local suppliers for most fasteners (16mm, 300mm long, A193-GrB7 studs at the door in 30 minutes to a couple hours, for example), which is a benefit of a good relationship with, and reasonable proximity to, in an urban-industrial area, a number of them. What we can’t get, we can usually make, though less now than 20 years ago, as we have a smaller facility and keep less stock on hand.

    Myself, for my purposes, I tend to use a lot of smaller hardware, so I keep a selection from 1mm to 12mm and #000 to 3/4″ on hand in socket head and hex head, as well as a few others in small sizes. The ones I use less I keep longer lengths and cut as needed, usually full thread if I can. Screw cutters being one of the more used tools I have. It costs less to cut them down than get the “right” ones in many cases. General fasteners tend to be Gr5 imperial and 8.8 metric, stainless (304), and nylon, with a small selection of brass/bronze.

    I also keep thread rod around, medium strength types in steel and stainless (austenitic, 316 by preference) in general.

    This doesn’t take a lot of space- a bunch of Akro-mils type cabinets, several partitioned trays, and a cabinet for less used, boxed fasteners. Once in a while, I need to actually make a fastener myself, but I always try to design around catalog items if as all possible.

    The ones that I could not do without are a few sizes of hanger screws (Teco or Simpson- designed for attaching steel joist hangers and similar in wood construction), star-drive deck screws, and the like, as they are probably the biggest project killer for me when I don’t have them on hand.

    1. “usually full thread if I can”

      There was some weirdness around here a decade and a half back where it seemed no store kept anything longer than 30mm or about 1.25″ with a full thread, all longer bolts just threaded on the ends. I needed 50mm M8s with a full thread and I went to 8 friggin’ stores. Finally had to use socket head with washers under them because the heads weren’t fat enough (Original screw had a bit of a flanged head on it) as it was all I could find. Then few years later, looking for short M8s for something else and everywhere I looked, 50mm full thread M8s with decent size hex heads on, was weird. It wasn’t just on those M8s either it’s was like the whole range everywhere forgot fully threaded was an option for 5 years.

      1. For small bolts, pair of beefy linesman’s pliers or a fencing tool with cutters…. just put a nut on below where the cut will be, cut, then hold nut and back the screw out of it to restore threads. Or wait until you filed off the sharp bits. Big bolts, real bolt cutters, same method.

      2. For small sizes, electrician crimp tools have them. Both Imperial and metric are available. No finish work needed.

        In the absense of such, as RW ver 0.0.1 says, and a bar shear for larger sizes, followed by a touch with a chamfer tool (I made my own- O1 and takes a carbide insert- as the commercial offers all are horrid.)

  13. I once worked on a project that had cap head, phillips, metric, and SAE all mixed together. I threatened the designer with death by soldering iron.

    For my own uses I can pretty much get away with #4-40 and #6-32 for anything I am building from scratch. So I have an assortment of lengths, washers, nuts, standoffs, ground lugs, etc.

    For everything else small I have a tackle box filled with dozens of medicine cups full of every kind of screw imaginable and kinda-sorted. Coarse thread screws for plastic toy keyboards? Yup. Self-tapping sheet metal screws? Uh-huh. Screws so small that you swear at them for even existing? Plenty. If the box ever gets dropped, i am going to throw it away and start over.

    1. Now try working on a 1980s Rover V8 engine. UNC, UNF, Whitworth, uk Imperial, metric. Socket head, cap head, hex head, studs. Cross head, flat head. You name it, it’s got it. And the sizes changed over time too, so a thread gauge is essential. Loads of fun!

      1. It seemed a few car manufacturers in that era and into the 90s forgot they had imperial engine tooling when they proudly announced their cars were now “all metric” ending up with a hodepodge in the engine bay.

        1. As it happens, yes! Just one. In the front of the left-hand bank head. No idea why it’s there – I’d hope it’s not original, and I’ve never had to do anything with it…

    2. “For my own uses I can pretty much get away with #4-40 and #6-32 for anything I am building from scratch. So I have an assortment of lengths, washers, nuts, standoffs, ground lugs, etc.”

      Same, but more. :)

      And when I decide I need a #10 for something, I don’t just get the #10 1″ long that I need, but an assortment shorter and longer to cover my bases.

  14. Back in the 90’s a nation chain went bankrupt. They dumped all of their hardware bins into a big pile and started selling it by the pound. Newly single after a divorce, I spent several weekends there sorting through it for grade 8 and stainless nuts and bolts. It rebuilt a Jaguar XJ6, an MG midget, and a Volvo Amazon. I still have quite a bit of that hardware left.

    1. +1 for this

      Others in the US I’ve frequented for bulk fasteners include:
      – Tractor Supply Company
      – Rural King
      – Family, Farm, and Home

      Last I remember, Rural King had the best selection and best prices for bulk buying.

  15. I spent several hours recently trying to find good fastener sources. I’ve long wanted to buy an enormous assortment of screws, but everybody’s so expensive. The best option I’ve heard of is that Tractor Supply and some other hardware stores sell fasteners by the pound. So once the pandemic is over I plan to go in there, maybe with a bunch of cabinets, and buy like a hundred pounds of fasteners.

    If I could find good prices on large orders I’d make a project of it, go in with my friends and buy maybe a thousand pounds of fasteners and we’d get together and make assortments for each of us.

  16. For small size metric bolts (up to M5) I would suggest getting pair of bolt cutting shears like this: and buy bolts/screws in a single length longer than what you usually need. If you only need one or two bolts, you can cut them to length easily. If you need 40 a shopping run might be needed, but you can often get away with just making the length you need. These cutters work really well for this purpose (Not for any other of the functions they’re supposed to have though).

  17. I found a pretty good solution to this. I have bins of #4 through through #10 screws, plus some metric, but only 1 length of each, usually 1.5-2in. When I need a shorter fastener, I cut one down using a screw cutter (those holes on a wire stripper). It’s wasteful if you need 10 of one fastener, but usually I only need 1 or 2. If I need more than that I buy the exact size from mcmaster, their shipping is lightening fast and they have basically anything you could want so it’s fairly convenient.

    For standoffs, and sometimes washers, I just print them on demand with my 3d printer. I have nuts and washers for each screw size up to #10, but I don’t use them very often. I just tap my holes or for 3d prints drive the screw in without tapping.

  18. I have gotten spoiled over the years – – I live maybe 10 minutes from an industrial supply house that specializes in fasteners (Tacoma Screw for those of you in the Seattle & Pacific NW area) and they have almost anything I have ever needed – they are local owned also – and they have a local warehouse if it is something their local store does not normally stock – generally overnight to the store for pickup the next day.

    There is also another locally owned regular hardware store that has a very nice stock of parts

  19. Fastenal is probably one of the cheapest options for bulk ordering, but you need a customer account with them. I think it’s possible to set one up as long as you have some official business number. I’m sure anyone would be able to set up a sole proprietorship business (John Doe Prototyping) and set up the account through that. Maybe a bit excessive, but certainly worth it, especially if you’re already making some stuff on a commission/request basis.

    1. Even though Fastenal claims to only sell to customers with an account.
      A couple times I’ve walked in and was able to buy what I needed.
      But, if they are busy with other customers, don’t try it.

  20. For inch fasteners, locally Menards sells them in medium sized bags for a very reasonable price. For metric cap screws I ordered them direct from China for 70% or more less than local prices.

    For specialty fasteners I’ll go to McMaster Carr or equivalent, where the products tend to be higher quality and priced accordingly.

    1. I bought many bags of small nuts/bolts when the local Menards was moving to a new location. Twenty-five cents each.

      I’ve also bought a couple of bags of their odds and ends when they’ve offered them, but I haven’t seen those lately.

      1. I scored like that a couple of times. One of the Canadian Tire stores, if it took returns of loose hardware, thought I guess that it wasn’t worth the time to sort out and restock, so they’d just bag it on the discount rack for a few dozen cents. I don’t know if I haven’t been lucky in a while or they stopped doing it.

  21. I build my fastener inventory the same way I build my inventory of electronics components:

    First pass: choose values close to a 1-2-5 series and buy a small number (10-12) of each.. 1/2″, 1″, 2-1/2″, 5″ lengths for bolts & screws in imperial, 10mm, 20mm, 50mm in metric.

    Between the small supply and the small number of values, you can buy anything that seems interesting without feeling guilty or wasting storage space.

    Second pass: for anything you actually use, buy a small supply of values close to a 1.5-3.5-7 series when convenient.. 3/4″, 1-3/4″, 3.5″ or 15mm, 35mm, 70mm.

    Any time you need specific parts for a project, buy about a dozen more of anything you don’t already have.

    After that, it’s all based on replacement. When you run out of a value, buy a larger supply of that value. Also buy a small number of parts in sizes above and below that one if you don’t already have them.

    Over time you acquire a good supply of the parts you use most, plus a handful of convenience sizes. The total value of the collection racks up over time, but you don’t pay enough to hurt at any one time.

  22. J&M Fasteners in Covington Ga. We ship anywhere and we are a local nut and bolt distributor with only 4 employees and do over a million dollars in business a year with the cheapest prices around.

  23. The easy solution: do everything with M series machine screws and nuts. All you need to buy is a few different lengths in a few different widths. Everything you design for yourself you try to keep at a standard size, going to larger or smaller ones where absolutely needed, maybe M3 for most of your work, but keeping some M5, M6 and bigger around for really heavy duty and some M1 for fiddly stuff. And just go with pan-head cross-head, they do strip if you’re unlucky but so do comparable sized allen-key-hex-heads at similar torque levels. Then the only time you need a weirder screw is if you’re connecting to a pre-made item which you didn’t design (like when you find your limit switch takes an M2 screw while you did everything else in M3, or if you’re unlucky you encounter something non-metric). Overall though, the only non-metric fastners you’ll ever need are those for various items you are buying to incorporate in to projects, disassemble, or generally use. If you pick up a few spares of the right weird fasteners whenever you buy/find something that uses a weird fastener then its not like there would ever be a situation where you needed to use a weird fastener but didn’t have one on hand, you aren’t going to CHOOSE to use a non-metric screw when you actually have a choice are you?

  24. So I will share my lockdown project….

    It started off with plans for somewhere between 5 and 67 projects… My decades-plus collection of hardware in every imperial, metric, custom, and make-believe sized containers (“containers” being loosely termed) was beautifully sorted with one of each type of fastener in each container (+/- 73), with those containers consolidated in any of 13 locations and random boxes on 2 properties, or possibly dumped on the floor. Some of this hardware had been bought, some salvaged, some scavenged, some found, some gifted…

    So I happened to come across a used upright metal parts storage, 72 bin, that I figured would solve all my problems. I ran around everywhere collecting every container that I could find… Surely 72 bins was enough… 8 across, 9 down. So I picked my most-used sizes for the columns….. And I quickly discovered I would need 2 storage units. Then I started organizing by hex, socket, P2, P3, torx… Now I need 4 units. Fine thread, course thread, very fine thread… Now I’m up to needing 17 units and a new workshop. Lag, full thread, set screws, integrated washers….

    Should I sort them by length? And, oh wait, this is all just bolts, not even touching screws yet….

    Ok, so I filled up all the bins after many hours of work, and I still have tons of hardware left in containers….

    At this point I may just dump everything back into a big pile on the floor. Screw it.

    1. I dunno if I can talk about what works, not being near as organised, but faced with a finite rack of bins, or array of other containers, I think I’d do this…. Mix sizes that are easily eyeballed apart, 3 to a bin. e.g. M3, 1/4″-20 and M8 together. I kinda do this with my capacitors, just dump ’em in by value, I can see if it’s ceramic, polyester, tantalum or electrolytic easily enough. My resistors I only have enough drawers in my cabinet to sort by first two bands, so 100, 1K, 10M they’re all in the same drawer and I pick brown, red or violet as req.

      I am part way through first pass organisation of my TTL logic and I don’t think the current system is going to hold up, of 74 numbers by 10s, lots of clustering, some holes in the container full, some with nothing in. Might just break it out by AND, OR, NOT, NAND, NOR, FF, Buffer etc.

      Anyway, you do you, I’m eyeballing my saved small jars and wondering if I’ve got enough to do a “rotisserie” yet…

      1. An idea I had (but never implemented) for DIP ICs is to cut pieces of foam to match the width and height of my electronics parts trays, stick the ICs in the foam by whatever sorting method, glue a lable on the edge of the foam, and put them in the trays lable-up. Makes it like a card catalog.

  25. For machine screws I’ve got 3 of those adjustable tacklebox organizers. I keep stock of various M3(x10,15,20,25,30,40,50,70), M6(x15,20,30,40,60,80,100), and M8(x20,40,60,100) lengths (all socket head cap screws, black oxide for M3 and stainless for M6/M8) each with it’s own box along with standard+wide washers, nylocs, and regular nuts (all stainless). In the M3 box there is also one standard length of M4x20mm and some small 623zz bearings. In the M6 box goes some of those threaded inserts for furniture for CNC fixturing. In the M8 box goes 608ZZs and LM8UUs. I’ve been able to source all of those sizes and lengths for reasonable prices between Amazon and Ebay as long as I always bought in qty. 100.

    For wood screws, I exclusively stock Spax #8 in 1-1/2″, 2″, and 3″ and those stay in there boxes. If I need a washer, M6 it is. They’re fairly proudly priced, but the convenience of being more-or-less impossible to strip and/or split the wood make them more than worth it to a home gamer like myself. Those get picked up from any big box hardware store I’ve seen in the southeast US.

    I’ve found that this set covers 99% of my use case for sure. Anything else gets ordered on a per-project basis.

    M3/M8 was largely chosen for having been the bread and butter of the early RepRap movement, and M6 for it’s similar relation to CNC fixturing.

    Another convenience is that M8 and 5/16 are for all intents and purposes interchangeable aside from thread pitch, and M6 to 1/4-20 almost so (same with M3 and 1/8″ as well), so I can often get away with substituting Metric parts for those SAE holes.

  26. For machine screws I’ve got 3 of those adjustable tacklebox organizers. I keep stock of various M3(x10,15,20,25,30,40,50,70), M6(x15,20,30,40,60,80,100), and M8(x20,40,60,100) lengths (all socket head cap screws, black oxide for M3 and stainless for M6/M8) each with it’s own box along with standard+wide washers, nylocs, and regular nuts (all stainless). In the M3 box there is also one standard length of M4x20mm and some small 623zz bearings. In the M6 box goes some of those threaded inserts for furniture for CNC fixturing. In the M8 box goes 608ZZs and LM8UUs. I’ve been able to source all of those sizes and lengths for reasonable prices between Amazon and Ebay as long as I always bought in qty. 100.

    For wood screws, I exclusively stock Spax #8 in 1-1/2″, 2″, and 3″ and those stay in there boxes. If I need a washer, M6 it is. They’re fairly proudly priced, but the convenience of being more-or-less impossible to strip and/or split the wood make them more than worth it to a home gamer like myself. Those get picked up from any big box hardware store I’ve seen in the southeast US.

    I’ve found that this set covers 99% of my use case for sure. Anything else gets ordered in a per-project basis.
    Another convenience is that M8 and 5/16 are for all intents and purposes interchangeable aside from thread pitch, and M6 to 1/4-20 almost so (same with M3 and 1/8″ as well), so I can often get away with substituting Metric parts for those SAE holes.

    1. Convenience? Heh isn’t it M8 and 5/16 fine that are near enough that you gotta make sure you measure more than half inch of thread, and if you pick up a nut for one and put it on the other you’ll get 4 or 5 turns out of it before it jams up…. some shallower ones you’ll get it all the way down to where you’re tightening it and then strip it or the thread.

      1. >Heh isn’t it M8 and 5/16 fine that are near enough that you gotta make sure you measure more than half inch of thread, and if you pick up a nut for one and put it on the other you’ll get 4 or 5 turns out of it before it jams up….

        Well I don’t keep screws of both, thats for sure, but yes you are correct. Only had to make thst mistake a handful of times before I finally learned my lesson. ;-)

    2. +1 on Spax (don’t call it Torx lol) T Drive screws. Like you said, they are proud on price, but USA made, and the frustration they save is worth every penny. I literally tossed all my Philips drive screws after I found Spax. My only regret is that I couldn’t open a portal straight to hell to throw them in, to save any future generations from coming upon them in the landfill and trying to use them.

  27. I’m lucky to live near Skycraft Surplus. They have all types of fasteners and a lot of the small stuff the homeless depot doesn’t carry. Plus almost everything has a stainless option there as well and usually what I grab since its only a couple cents more than plain old steel. Havent checked their website for their fasteners but if you need something I’m sure you could call and order, they don’t have everything listed on their site. Stripping old appliances, computers etc. Is how alot of my weird fastener sizes/type jars got filled. Glad I stripped our old microwave, new one ended up burning 2 micro switches for the door and old ones popped right in, strange how it lasted like 2 years then killed a switch then like 8 months later again and another 8 months said ok time for new one! Microwave magnets are great for working on cars, can stick it where youre working and stick bolts and nuts to it, use it to hold car cover on etc.

  28. Judging by the lack of responses containing what people actually do for sorting, I’m guessing everyone actually does the BBB (Big Bolt Bucket) method? I’ve spent my adult life searching for the best organizational method for my workshop and my garage. I’ve gone through countless iterations, but where I’m currently at is one of these in the shop, with a bin dedicated to the thread pitch, then different sizes and types in bags. Then I use the other bins for other bits and bobs, and if something has a dedicated tool, like staples and a stapler, they go in the same bin. (note, this is criminally overpirced and you can get nearly the same thing in a big box store for about half)

    I used to have a ton of random tackle containers with screws and other items, but they didn’t stack or store nice, so I ended up with 6 of these things from an auction
    I hate them. The drawers are too small to whole a decent quantity of small things, and too big to hold many other things. If you have to move, the drawers are barely supported and do not cover up, so have fun with that. Best method I’ve found is to saran wrap them, and hope for the best. And it is way too easy to chuck something in them, and then completely forget it is there.

    So, I’m applying the idea of bags-in-a-bin from the garage to the workshop too, but with totes. Very similar things go in a bag, bags sometimes go in bags, then all hardware goes in a tote, all electronics in a tote, etc etc. This seems to be the most space effective way to do it, and the time penalty doesn’t seem too great on retrieval. Note, as others have pointed out, bag choice matters. The real clear ones from the craft store seem to just split on their own eventually, so that is no good. Normal ZipLocks stink too. ZipLock storage type is good, but don’t do well with mechanical stresses, so avoid folding and moving with them too much. Some of the best bags I’ve found is ones from DigiKey parts, so I hoard those. This method is also one of the easiest to label. I don’t find myself getting lazy as much and saying “oh, I’ll label that later” only to lose the parts in the abyss.

    Adam Savage uses Sortimo, which look great, but at least $50 a drawer…:
    Similar 3D Printed (woodworking required too) storage solution from Alexandre Chappel:

    1. Then that times 5 if you have the misfortune to deal with equipment that was designed to use the grade system as calibrated failure points, shear pins if you like. Nope, can’t put a grade 8 in there, it needs a grade 5, because it’s the freaking fuse.

      Came across that once, can’t recall at this moment what it was on.

  29. What, NONE of you people have a tap and die set? I buy my stuff long and whack off what I dont need or all thread it myself. Then there is pump rod nuts for joining threadrod.

  30. Big box stores for me are a hit and miss proposition – mostly miss. If you get into anything out of the ordinary (I basically consider anything in the sliding bins and not in a bubble back as “out of the ordinary” – for them – not for us), you end up with really thin stock (“3 screws?”) or a complete horror show of stuff scattered semi-randomly in the drawers (“OK, I’ll do a spiral search of adjoining dividers in the hope of find 2 more of these that were misplaced..”).

    McMaster-Carr is my goto with outfits like Fastenall as a backup. McMaster has one of the best drill-down websites I’ve ever seen and living near the main warehouse and office, ground delivery is pretty much always the next day for almost everything.

    The web blew things wide open for them. In the pre-web era, McMaster catalogs were literally worth money, people sold their old catalogs when new catalogs came out. The wife of one of my good friends in high school worked there for years in the 80’s and 90’s and in spite of all my begging, she couldn’t bust a catalog free for me back in those days.

    Being able to find specific hardware really quickly combined with deep stock solves hardware access issues for me. I’m a mentor on a FIRST Robotics team and getting access to decent hardware quickly makes a huge difference in building decent stuff.

  31. I use strictly metric hex screws for R/C related projects. I lose screws all time on the garage floor so I bought a wide range of M3 button head screws in different lengths from Aliexpress to keep on hand. I can usually get a pack of 50 for under a buck with free shipping to the US.

  32. I support maintenance organizations for a living, since about 1994. Large organizations, employing hundreds of wrench turners. This is how we decide what to stock.

    Write down the parts you used in a central location. Then look at criticality of the material, and decide how much you need on-hand. This is basic storeroom management. I’m reading a lot of “just in time” solutions and the merits of what to use — all irrelevant and distracting. If you find yourself using a particular solution over the past 12-months, STOCK IT. Clearly you are comfortable using it, have identified proper applications, etc. Talking about onesies and twosies in stockrooms is a waste of time, but only if you have the data to back it up.

    Measure your materials usage for a year. You’ll be surprised (and probably delighted) to see the results and finally get a handle on your problem.

  33. Each time you come up short on a fastener, buy two or three extra. You will drop and lose at least one anyway. Over time, you will build a respectable collection. BTW I suggest plastic jars from peanut butter (NOT glass) for your growing collection.

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