I am a general handyman in Baltimore and I don’t always know what tasks a client will have for me when I show up. Even when I get a list ahead of time, there are always those”while you’re here” items. So I like to bring everything I think I’ll need to a job.
That’s fine for all of you guys with E-series vans, or big pick ups, but I’m working out of a minivan. It started as a necessity, because that’s what I owned, but I’ve come to realize that it’s as close to ideal as I can get for my many different, sometimes competing, needs. It’s the right size for most of what I do, it fits my gear (now that I’ve added a few things) and I still have room for the morning grade-school carpool. If I need extra space I can pull out the bench seat in a snap. As a bonus, I think the minivan flies under the radar of those with prying eyes because it looks like a thousand other family minivans.
My original setup had most of my tools in buckets with those nylon pocketed sleeves and a tool bag with the items I most commonly used. That got old after a while because the buckets were hard to reach and some tools got buried. I also saw the space above the buckets as wasted because it’s hard to stack things on top of overflowing buckets.
I looked in the forums here and on other sites to see what other storage options folks have come up with. There were some for vans, and some for pickups, but I didn’t see anything for minivans other than on factory sites.
So over winter break this past year I finally broke down and built the drawers and boxes shown here. Everything is 1/2-inch birch ply. I figured 3/4 was overkill and I wanted to save a little weight. No fancy joinery; just glue and 16-gauge brads. The drawer boxes are waxed on all sides for easy sliding, even with about 45 pounds of gear in each. I added simple D-ring pulls and drilled the back of the case for air vents to make opening and closing easier. The sliding trays rest on strips of 1/2 inch ply tacked to the inside of the drawers.
The “cargo boxes” are the same construction with cutout handles on four sides. They have drop-in shelves that rest on 3/4-by-3/4 blocks. The boxes hold larger and loose tools like my circ saw, recip saw, drain auger and some 12-inch clamps. Tools with multiple accessories, like a corded drill with hole saws and wire wheels, stay in their factory cases and slot in on the side. I also keep all of my chargers and spare batteries in the case that my cordless drill came in. (I used a Dremel to remove all of the interior gussets and dividers to get more space.)
I left all of the plywood unfinished as sort of an experiment to see what kind of “patina” would develop, though I added a scrap of very nice carpet to the top deck of the drawers to keep things from sliding around.
Over this spring break I organized the loose items I carry with me into clear plastic bins, and I finally got the bright idea to hang my step ladder from the small built-in clothes hooks with bungees.
It all takes about 30 minutes to empty out and everything totaled up weighs about 425 pounds. I get about 14 mpg loaded, vs 20 on a recent tool-less family trip.
I’d love to know what you guys think about this setup. Any suggestions? Anything you would have done differently?