My Tool Storage Ideas and Custom Trailer Cabinets
Tool storage is always a hot topic among construction professionals and everyone is always sharing their latest and greatest tool storage ideas. I recently added tool storage and new cabinets to my trailer, and now that I’ve had an opportunity to experience my finished trailer in all its glory I want to share how I came up with my tool storage ideas.
Brainstorming Tool Storage Ideas
I originally bought the trailer to transport and store my RZR and four wheeler. After using it a few times, I found that it did the job, but I also realized it had potential for so much more. The lighting was inadequate and when I brought extra equipment there was minimal storage. When my four wheeler broke down and I started working on it in the trailer, I found that the trailer desperately needed a better way to store tools. I had various tool storage ideas, but my first thought was a simple workbench where I could store some tools and other supplies below. I continued to do more research for tool storage ideas and stumbled upon Race Trailers. As always seems to happen, one thing led to another and my small workbench turned into upper and lower cabinets, 120 volts with a breaker box, 12 volts with a converter, batteries, extra lighting and a stereo. Just for emergencies, I also added an air mattress and portable propane heater.
I’m always looking for a new project, so I decided with a little work this trailer could function as a workshop and overnight camper. I printed out some pictures to draw inspiration from and taped them all over my walls. I then created my own plans to make changes based on my needs and went to work.
Trailer Cabinets for Tool Storage
I used 1/8″ polished aluminum diamond plate for the frame and 5/8″ plywood covered with a red laminate. I originally went with brushed aluminum for the frame because it was readily available in pre-made angles, but I didn’t like the finish; I preferred the shine of the polished aluminum. The polished aluminum diamond plate only came in large sheets so I had a machine shop cut and bend the material into custom angles. I spent many agonizing hours using a vise, block of wood and a hammer getting the aluminum to a straight-and-true 90 degrees. Even though the cost was much higher with the polished aluminum and I had to spend more time to create the angles, the final look was exactly what I wanted.
The trailer frame is built with 1″ x 1-1/4″ square metal tubing 16″ OC. For the top cabinet I started with the top header – 2″ x 3″ angle screwed to the ceiling into a rib using self-drilling metal screws. The rest of the cabinet frame is all a 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ angle. After screwing the top header, I attached the vertical side pieces to the walls just like the header and bolted them to the top header using #10 bolts and nuts. The bottom cross member was then bolted to the side pieces and to the other four vertical pieces to hold everything in place. By this time the frame was very strong.
I then cut the plywood for the stationary panels to mount the speakers, stereo and lights and covered the plywood with red laminate. The laminate is bolted in with #10s and T-nuts. Then I cut and covered the floor for the top cabinet and installed it by resting the rear edge on the lip of the angle, which is supported at the front wall with a 1″ angle. This was also bolted with #10′s and T-nuts.
Now that I had the frame, plywood and laminate built, I needed to add some doors. The doors were a little tricky because I used piano hinges that attached to the edge of the plywood. I didn’t use wood screws because I didn’t think they would hold very well, especially the bottom cabinet doors that are bigger and heavier. I drilled holes into the edge 1-1/2″ deep and cut a slot into the face of the plywood for a nut, as the picture shows. These are #6 bolts 1-1/2″ long. I found this method to work very well.
I wanted to use flush style door latches, but I had a hard time finding what I needed. The ones I ended up using only had a 1/16″ flange so I had to get surgical with a jigsaw when cutting the holes, but they are perfect for this application. I used a 3/4″ brushed aluminum angle for the jam and bolted it to the frame. The latch catches from the back side and sandwiches the jam, thus creating a very tight positive lock.
I built the bottom cabinet the same way as the top, with the exception of using U-shaped channel for the vertical frame uprights and starting from the floor up. Since the bottom cabinets only have doors without any stationary panels, I needed a surface to mount to on both sides, plus the added support of the U-shaped channel. I also made the bottom cabinets 6″ deeper for a total depth of 24″.
Next I installed the center door and two side aluminum trim pieces on the wall between the two cabinets. The final step for the cabinets was fabricating the top cap on the center trim to house two 12V power supplies.
Installing Electrical in the Trailer
In addition to cabinets, I knew that I would need power for the trailer. I wanted both 120V and 12V service like a camper, so I started with a 30 amp RV-style input receptacle on the front outside wall and ran 8-gauge wire to the breaker box installed on the front inside wall for the 120V service. Then I ran Armor Guard 12-gauge wire inside both the front and side walls and installed a total of 8 receptacles.
To power the 12V, I added a battery box on the tongue of the trailer with two 6V golf cart batteries and re-wired the factory trailer harness so the tow vehicle would charge the batteries while traveling and also power the emergency break-away trailer braking system. I ran 6-gauge wires from the batteries inside the front wall to feed the converter that I mounted next to the breaker box. I used 12V lighting so the batteries can power the lights when I’m not plugged-in to shore power, and when I’m plugged-in the converter will still power the lighting and charge the batteries at the same time.
Do you have any extra features or modifications you think I should add to the trailer? I’m always looking for even better tool storage ideas and ways to make of the most of my trailer. You can also check out my forum post on this project. And if you have any more questions, be sure to check out the tool, jobsite and workshop organization and storage BTP sub-forum where other Guest Pros and I actively post and answer questions.