Tool Storage Ideas and Trailer Cabinets

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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

Tool Storage Ideas - Outside Trailer

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Trailer Before

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Cabinet Frame   Tool Storage Ideas - Bottom Frame

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Counter Laminate   Tool Storage Ideas - Bottom Laminate

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Speaker Cabinets   Tool Storage Ideas - Stereo Cabinet

Cabinet Doors

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Door Screws

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Finished Door

Tool Storage Ideas - Close-Up Finished Door   Tool Storage Ideas - Close-up Finished Side

Tool Storage Ideas - Close-up Back Door   Tool Storage Ideas - Back Door

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″.

Tool Storage Ideas - Bottom Cabinets   Tool Storage Ideas - Bottom Side Cabinets

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Bottom Cabinets   Tool Storage Ideas - Bottom Cabinets with Laminate

Tool Storage Ideas - Top Cap   Tool Storage Ideas - Finished Cabinets

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Electrical Box

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - Electrical   Tool Storage Ideas - Battery

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.

Tool Storage Ideas - RZR Trailer   Tool Storage Ideas - RZR Trailer

Other Tool Storage Ideas


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Profile photo of Boyd

Boyd Eckert is a retired rail road worker with 33 years of experience. He started his career in Nebraska at the young age of 19, and spent the next 12 years in Nebraska before moving to Idaho...Read more

41 comments on “Tool Storage Ideas and Trailer Cabinets

  1. Profile photo of Charles

    Great write up Boyd ! You covered your entire project step by step and all the pictures made it easy to follow your progress. Looks like the finished project perfectly fits your needs !! Good job !!

  2. Steve Lawson

    Wow nice job Boyd. That looks like it will serve its purpose very well. Now I wish I would have bought a bigger trailer so I would have room for you to do some work for me. Oh well I guess I can always trade up.

    1. John

      Boyd! You are the man! I’m heading to GA now to pick up my BBQ porch trailer. I had them wire it, insulate and finish the interior with white AL like yours, and the checkered floor too. I’ve been trying to figure out how to build the cabinets. Thanks to you, I now know how. For the doors, I’m considering expanded PVC ilo plywood. Please disclose the source of the latches. Finally, I’m looking for pre-formed ATP angles and channels. I found some at shapirosupply.com but 0.045″ is too thin. Thanks again!

  3. Profile photo of Eric

    Nice project. Not to be a downer, but I would add some sort of security system so that at least it will wake you up in the event some jerk decides to break in and help themselves to all of the toys you have in there. Maybe even include a hidden hunting motion activated camera so you get pictures of them if they manage to get away from the scene of the crime. Add a keg cooler and you would be my hero!

    1. Profile photo of Boyd
      Boyd Post author

      Thanks Eric, Good idea on the security camera. I thought about installing a keg cooler in the lower cabinet with a built-in tap on the counter top just cuz it would look cool. But, Since I prefer ice cold bottled beer I decided against it :)..Next I’m going to build a 6′ portable folding bar out of the same aluminum frame with red laminate materials to match the cabinets.

  4. Profile photo of Jim

    Amazing toy hauler. Very impressed with your work. The laminating is such a great touch. If you ever bring the hauler to Wisconsin, let me know, would love to have a couple of cold ones in it. I’ll bring the beer

    1. Profile photo of Boyd
      Boyd Post author

      It’s a deal Jim, Thanks. I can’t post a pic here but in the thread on this subject I posted one from a few weeks ago of the night I converted it into an overnight camper. Pulled it into a camp spot and plugged it in to charge the batteries and run a space heater.

  5. Hillbilly Greg

    Regarding Alarm/Security, I have 3 Trailer Dog Systems in my Contractor Tool Trailers, 2 w/ auto dialer to my cell, also with geofencing, entry and motion activation notification, flashing running lights, all powered by hidden tamper proof battery system …..The “hidden suprise”, is that if a thief manages to hook up and try to drive away, I added my own 30 second delay to the brake circuit, through a headlight Wig-Wag Flasher (like the cops have on their headlights) so that the brakes will suddenly pulse on and off, left then right creating a very exciting sway effect that creates a sudden underwear soiling. Twice now the cops have found would be thieves in the ditch desperately trying to unhook from my trailers…..Still have them,a nd the tools though!!!!!

  6. Profile photo of Dirty

    Wow now that’s a custom trailer! I love the use and look of the diamond plate stuff and the all the built in speakers. If you’re gonna have the toys I might as well haul em in style!

    1. Profile photo of Boyd
      Boyd Post author

      Thanks Dirty, A buddy just bought a trailer and is starting to bug me about finishing off the inside of his LOL. I told him he may call me anytime with questions.. I’ll probably end up doing it for him. But without cabinets

  7. Profile photo of Shawn

    Awesome build. I was thinking about doin the same thing and seeing your thread may have been the push I needed. A couple questions if you don’t mind. Is 1-1/2″x1-1/2″ angle and 2″x3″ angle the only size of angles you used? Did you frame up the bottom cabinets with 2″x4″s then cover it with the angle and u-channel? Is that u-channel on the end post or just the two in the middle? Where did you find the laminate? What converter you go with? Sorry about all the questions. Thanks for your post.

    1. Profile photo of Boyd
      Boyd Post author

      Hello Shawn and Thanks. Those are the only angle sizes I used for the main frames but I also used 1″x1″ along the walls to support the bottom of the top cabinet and the top of the bottom cabinet. You can use any size you want as this material only comes in sheets and I had a machine shop cut and bend the angles and channels. It also comes in different thicknesses and I went with 1/8″.

      I didn’t use any 2″x4″ at all, The aluminum is plenty tough enough on the bottom cabinet when bent into a ‘U’ and yes all four uprights are ‘U’ for 2 reasons. For the added strength of course plus I needed the side edges on all 4 of them to mount the doors and to the walls on the outer ones.

      The laminate I found online but I don’t remember the name of the company other than it was in Washington and it was made and shipped from Canada. You can look it up and they will send you a few samples before you buy.

      I went with a 45amp converter charger/maintainer and I found it cheapest on Ebay, Search this and you’ll find them;

      If I had to do it over again I know now that I could have eliminated the 120v breaker box as this converter is capable of doing both. I thought I was just going to put a simple little converter in but this one was cheaper so that’s why I bought it.

      Don’t worry about all the questions, I’m happy to help. Feel free to ask again if you need to.

  8. Profile photo of Shawn

    Thanks a lot, I ordered a sheet of 1/8″ diamond plate and the latches today. Hopefully be getting started on it soon and I’ll be using yours as a guideline.

    1. Profile photo of Boyd
      Boyd Post author

      Super cool, I’m honored and happy for ya. Did you go with the same latches? What kind of trailer are you doing this to? And are you going to install the 120v service? I have a few helpful hints on what outlets to use if you are. Good luck and post some before, during and after pics in my thread. Gee, I guess I’m the one full of questions now..Enjoy

  9. Profile photo of Shawn

    Yes same latches. I have a new 24′ enclosed I purchased a few months ago just for the rzr and camping a few nites here and there. I ordered it with 120v, insulated walls and ceiling, and an extra 6″ of height in ceiling. I am goin to add a few more recepticals up front tho. not sure about installing the 12v at this time. Which outlets would you recommend? Do you remember the thickness of your laminate? I found some on eBay but not sure it’s the right thickness.

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