Review: HF ’40 Bin Organizer’

Today I’m cleaning up the lair/lab/workshop/world-domination-command-center so I’m on a bit of a storage and organization kick.  In keeping with that, I figured if I’m going to add any content to the blog today, a couple reviews may be in order.  So here’s my review of the ‘40 Bin Organizer With Full Length Drawer‘ (SKU 94375) from Harbor Freight.

I’m always in desperate need of storage for all the small components, fasteners, random widgets, and the varied miscellany of bits and bobs one must have for doing things like building a robot army with which to take over the world. For years, I’ve been eyeing Akro-Mils’ products which—while great—cost more than I’m willing to spend.  And then one day I saw these on the Harbor Freight website.  At almost a third of the price, it was tempting.  But I was put off by all the reviews calling them flimsy…

Some time later, I saw a demonstration of Danh Trinh’s ‘StorageBot’; an array of SIX of these units, with an actuator behind it on a two-axis linear motion rig which, upon voice command, locates the drawer for the part you want, and pushes it forward.

He explicitly said they were the storage units from Harbor Freight.  I decided if these things are good enough for that, then they should be wholly-adequate for my needs! So I bought four of them the next chance I got. (Shoulda been EIGHT!)

What I like…

They’re VERY economical.  While they’re not going to win any awards (Or even kind words) for their build quality, at just under $15 they’re still a better deal than similar offerings from Akro-Mils which range from $25 to $40. (The difference in build quality isn’t enough to justify the price difference.)

The space below the handle is large enough for 3/4″ tall labels, while  still being able to put a barcode,  QR code, or AR glyph on the handle. (If you use a tape-based label printer like I do, your human-readable labels can be fairly descriptive!)

Reasonably sturdy for the price.  Like I said, their build quality isn’t quite up to the standards of the Akro-Mils units, but it doesn’t feel particularly flimsy. The drawers are made of a soft and durable high-impact plastic, and the (I’m assuming ABS) plastic rack unit doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart…though it doesn’t feel ‘rock solid’, either.  (I figure even if it breaks, the drawers themselves would be worth re-purposing.)

What I don’t like…

The other major complaint reviewers seem to have is the fact that it doesn’t come with dividers.  It’s easy enough to make dividers from any plastic stock lying around, so that doesn’t bother me…but the fact that there’s only ONE division per drawer isn’t so hot.  (The full-width drawer has multiple, running front-to-back)

Along with the divider issue, there’s the fact that they only come in one configuration, whereas the Akro-Mils ones have several, some even with nice big deep drawers that’d be good for random medium-to-large motors and such. (Or maybe even random power supplies.) This isn’t really that big of an issue though, given the wide range of storage needs these cheap alternatives cover.

Sloppy tolerances. The drawers can move around way too much, and sometimes in ways they really shouldn’t. (i.e. they can stray far out of parallel.) Some reviewers claim that they can get stuck at an angle in the rack, and while I don’t doubt it, it has yet to happen to me.

MY nemesis is the tab on the rear lip of the drawer that keeps it from falling completely out of the rack by accident.  For every two times it saves my ass, there’s one time I forget about it, try to remove a drawer, fumble it when it catches, and scatter its contents when I knock the drawer completely out of the unit. (However, that’s obviously more a problem with ME than the product.)

Bottom Line:

All things considered, I’d rather get two or three of these than just ONE similar unit from Akro-Mils.

Additional thoughts:

Because of the limited drawer divisions, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to use these to store fasteners below a certain size, because even if you put two different lengths of the same screw in the drawer, it still wouldn’t be the best use of space.  Probably any fasteners under 1/4″ (Or 6mm) diameter should be stored in a divided snap-case of some sort instead.

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