Building the perfect tool cabinet

March 25, 2004
By: Steve Benson

Have you ever wondered about the best way to store your press brake tooling? An expensive part of your press brake operation, tooling is damaged enough just by daily wear and tear and accidents. You don't want to damage it further by storing it improperly.

Figure 1

Deciding What Works Best

All too often tooling is thrown on a shelf, pallet, or table – one tool piled on top of another (Figure 1). Operators dig through the pile, looking for a specific tool and damaging other tools in the process.

Depending on the amount of tooling to be stored and how far it needs to be moved for use, one of two cabinet designs may be right for you.

A Mobile Rack

The rack shown in Figure 2 is designed to move tooling for a specific machine or product line from one machine or cell to another. For example, if you produce the same parts in multiple cells in your facility, this rack might be your best storage option.

The rack has five shelves— two on the bottom for holding bolsters, product line accessories, and large V dies; and three slotted shelves that store punches upright, making them easy to find, store, and sort.

Figure 2

The rack in Figure 2 was made from 0.125-in. hot-rolled steel and slotted to facilitate punch tang toolholding. A problem arose when we attempted to use the rack to hold European precision-ground tooling. We found that the 0.125-in. shelves were not thick enough to support these tools, a problem we didn't even consider during the initial design and manufacturing process.

To enable the rack shown in Figure 2 to accommodate European precision-ground tooling, we added a layer of ¼-in. corrugated plastic to each shelf, both slotted and full. Protecting the tooling from the shelf itself, the corrugated plastic added another ¼ in. and stabilized the stored punches.

A Stationary Cabinet

While small tooling racks are a great design for their purpose, you may find that you do not need that kind of mobility. Enter the big cabinet. The cabinet in Figure 3 was set up on a frame made of 2-in. by 6-in. box tubing, with shelves made from the same 0.125-in.-thick steel and covered with plastic, like the mobile rack in Figure 2. Expanded steel mesh is around the sides and back and on the front doors of the cabinet, which allows light into the cabinet, while protecting the tooling from unauthorized use. The cabinet top is solid for storage but also could be made from expanded steel mesh.


Design Safety

Whether you're designing and manufacturing a mobile or stationary rack, keep safety in mind. Pay special attention to slotted shelves, which will be weak and must be bracketed (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Another safety consideration is the height of the mobile cabinet. The one shown in Figure 1 is 60 in. tall, 18 in. deep, and 48 in. long. A much larger or taller cabinet could be top heavy and fall over.

Last but not least, smooth all sharp edges on the cabinet. The operator will be handling heavy pieces of tooling that, thanks to inertia, will tend to keep moving once moved. If you have ever caught a finger between a 3-foot chunk of press brake tooling and a solid object, you know that stitches will become the order of the day, even more stitches if that solid object is sharp. Make sure that you take the time to make the cabinet safe.

Don't continue to ruin your press brake tooling by improper storage. The inexpensive, easy-to-build cabinets discussed in this article are merely examples of cabinets that can help you extend tool life.

So, what are you waiting for? You have a shop; you have materials. Build yourself the tool storage system that best suits your need. You won't be sorry!

Steve Benson

Steve Benson

2952 Doaks Ferry Road N.W.
Salem, OR 97301-4468
Phone: 503-399-7514
Fax: 503-399-7514
Steve Benson is a member and former chair of the Precision Sheet Metal Technology Council of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International®. He is the president of ASMA LLC, 2952 Doaks Ferry Road NW, Salem, OR 97301, Benson also conducts FMA’s Precision Press Brake Certificate Program, which is held at locations across the country. For more information, visit, or call 888-394-4362. For more information on bending, check out Benson’s new book, The Art of Press Brake: the Digital Handbook for Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication, © 2014, available at