Producing The Perfect Toolkit
We sat down with our Product Designer, Alex, to talk all things Toolkits—from design inspiration, to materials and prototyping, to manufacturing a finished product. Read on to learn more about what goes into creating an American-made toolbox from start to finish (and make sure to order one for yourself before they're gone).
Stemming from our belief that "Beautiful tools Inspire beautiful work", we are constantly brainstorming and developing new product ideas to achieve this goal. It is only natural that after spending 5+ years expanding our desktop line, we look towards designing a tool to organize these products.
Conceptually and functionally, a vintage-style toolbox makes a lot of sense as a means of organization. Particularly in our current hybrid work environments, keeping the essentials close at hand and easily transported is a newfound necessity. However, the size and appearance of most toolboxes on the market are more of a distraction than a compliment to the workspace–and so we sought out to bridge that gap.
Knowing we wanted our toolboxes to feel appropriate on the desktop, not hulking or out of place next a to a laptop or notebook, we started off with a much slimmer and shorter design. While it was aesthetically pleasant and looked right at home on the desk, we found it had some functional deficiencies at this size. So, we slowly teased out the dimensions, careful not to venture too far from the original vision, until we landed at the best function to size ratio.
Take a closer look at these toolboxes, and you'll see a few hard-won design details. For example, a matte finish is not common in toolboxes and similar equipment found in production and workshop environments, and so we took our time finding the right powder coat colors, ensuring a modernized and elegant finish. We were also set on a monochromatic end product, so decided to powder coat the Appointed nameplate as well. This practice is non-conventional for toolboxes, so finding the right material and process to get us the appropriate lettering height took some trial and error.
When exploring our toolkits, you'll see one phrase repeated often—"cold-rolled steel." This differentiation refers to how sheet metal is processed and treated at the mill, and results in a stronger, smoother, higher-quality product.
How it's made:
- Steel is hot-rolled at +1,700°F to get it above recrystallization temperature. The process can stop here, but in situations where dimensional tolerances and surface finish are important– the steel goes through a secondary process of cold-rolling.
- Cold-rolling takes the mostly formed sheet metal and, at about room temperature, compresses and shapes it further into its final dimensions. Since steel shrinks slightly as it cools, forming it when already cooled gives more control and consistency over its final thickness.
All of this results in a more expensive raw material, but is necessary when producing our toolkits as it yields a surface finish appropriate for powder coating, and dimensional tolerance that is critical for ensuring all the folded pieces align consistently.
Once a product is conceptualized, it goes through a "Design For Manufacturing" stage, where a 2 dimensional layout of each individual component is made, alongside all the necessary manufacturing information down to the very last detail (think dimensions, angles, bends, and other important info).
Next, actual manufacturing can begin. Here's how it works:
- Raw material (20 and 22 gauge cold rolled steel sheet metal in our case) is fed through various heavy duty machinery that trims and punches the individual panels.
- Individual components are fed through another set of machines that bends flat pieces into shape—forming the lid, tray, ledges that hold the tray in place, and the toolkit's outer profile.
- These now 3-D components are welded together, along with the full-length piano hinge and draw latch, followed by riveting the nameplate to give us our mostly assembled box.
- Finished toolboxes are cleaned and sent off for powder coating along with the handles and handle brackets (these are powder coated separately so the handles are fully coated, otherwise there would be bare spots near the bracketed area).
- After they have been coated and baked to fuse and solidify the powder, they are then ready for final assembly, where the handles are riveted to the lid.
We hope that this comprehensive exploration of our design and manufacturing process inspires a new appreciation for the tools you use. Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes content, and brand new organizational and desktop tools in 2022—there's so much more to come.