Last updated on October 9, 2021
Why are sockets so hard to organize?
If you’ve ever carelessly stored your sockets in a drawer or a large container, you’d know how hard things can get the more sockets you have.
Sockets are small, and can easily roll around, and quickly get disorganized or misplaced within a pile. This can lead to lost time finding the socket you need, or worse ‒ the loss of that socket.
This is why you should consider ways to organize them for fast selection.
What are the benefits of organized socket sets?
1. Easier access
No more sorting through a pile of sockets just to find the one you actually need, if you’re in the middle of fastening or attaching wood and concrete. If your sockets are organized properly you’d simply have to only pull it out of its spot and return it later after use.
2. Less downtime
Because of easier access, you can work more efficiently with no frustrations and time wasted. This allows you to devote more time and focus on the job and finish faster.
3. No more guessing if they are imperial or metric sockets
Since sockets come in both SAE and metric sizes, it can quickly get confusing when you’re looking for exactly the right socket for your needs.
While some sizes can be used interchangeably, having an organized set that separates these two systems can help you get a snugger fit.
4. Ability to keep track of inventory
Without proper organization, the loss of a socket is highly likely. In addition, the last thing you’d want is to realize that a socket is missing right when you need it.
By having an organized inventory, you can easily identify missing sockets just by looking at their organizers.
What are the components of an impact socket set?
SAE and metric socket sets
It uses inches while metric is used worldwide and uses millimeters for sizing (It’s much more simple!).
3/8 inch sockets
This sizing refers to the size of the drive socket, which is the square hole on the back of a socket that attaches to the drive square of the ratchet. Here’s a good list of 3/8 inch socket kits.
Unlike socket sizing, imperial measurements are the international standard for drive size.
1/2 inch sockets
Slightly larger than ⅜ inch drive sockets, ½ inch sockets only fit on ratchets with ½ inch drives.
This provides the advantage of being able to turn larger-sized nuts and bolts, as well as provide a greater turning force than smaller sockets.
More impact socket set options for your 1/2-inch impact wrench here.
Used for awkward and confined spaces, extension bars extend the length of the drive for you to reach the nuts and bolts within these difficult areas.
Just like extension bars, they extend the drive. However, these adapters have universal joints, allowing you to use and turn the sockets at an angle.
The hand ratchet is a wrench-like device that uses sockets to drive nuts and bolts.
It’s basically a long shaft with a mechanism on one end that is connected to the drive square. This mechanism only engages and turns the socket when moved in a certain direction by hand.
Find out a better way to drive bolts and nuts.
Components you should not mix in one drawer
1. Different sized sockets
Having a pile of different-sized sockets with a mix of SAE and metric can give you a difficult time. This is especially true if you’re in a rush and would have to test each socket’s fit on both the drive and fastener.
3. Other tools and bits
Mixing in your other tools and bits into a pile is always a bad idea.
Not only will you have a hard time getting the tool you’d need, but you might also easily misplace them.
There’s nothing more aggressively annoying than having a tool that’s there when you don’t need it and suddenly disappears when you do.
4. Bolts and nuts
Mixing nuts and bolts within a single container is also another bad idea.
Having to root through the whole pile of these small parts is not only time-consuming but can also be a painful experience.
How to organize sockets by metric standard?
If you’re not that familiar with metric size sockets, you might be confused about how to organize them. Metric sockets are organized similarly to standard sockets, being arranged by size.
Some socket organizers are even color-coded to specify which kind of sockets they’re made to hold (red for SAE and blue for metric). Many organizers are also labeled to indicate which sockets should go where.
You can also spray paint your sockets different colors to match, depending on if they are imperial or metric.
How to organize sockets by depth?
Sockets can be categorized into two types: deep and shallow sockets. Deep sockets are used when driving longer bolts and reaching recessed fasteners.
When organizing impact sockets, these two types should be grouped separately from each other. This means that sockets should be ordered first by standard or metric, then by depth, and lastly by size.
Most organizers do this by having slots for shallow sockets at the front row and slots for deep sockets at the back.
What storage types can you use?
1. The socket box that came with them
So, how to organize sockets in the toolbox?
There’s no shame in using the box that came with your socket sets. In fact, they might be the best-fitting and most compact option since they’re meant to secure the sockets during shipping while taking up the least space possible.
They can be flimsy at times though and less durable as they’re usually made out of low-grade plastic. However, they’re a great way to store sockets when you’re low on cash and cabinet space.
A good 3/8 and 1/2 inch combo kit has its own carrying case.
2 Magnetic socket holder
Organizing sockets in a toolbox can be easier using a magnetic socket holder.
These portable magnetic trays can take up a lot of space but can be bought for cheap. Their magnets are strong and can even help clean the sockets by collecting metal shavings.
All you have to do is put your sockets on their respective slots and the magnets will secure them.
A large handle on one side allows you to easily carry your sockets around from job to job without fear of sockets falling off and getting misplaced.
Check this one from Ares.
3. Foam trays
Foam trays or drawer inserts are cheap and can offer the best fit and cleanest look. These can be made on the spot for your specific kit or bought with arranged pre-cut slots for the sockets.
Keep in mind that these trays are sized specifically to fit a container or drawer. Since they are usually pre-cut, they also come labeled so you know where each socket should go.
While cheap, foam trays have the disadvantage of not really being reconfigurable if you ever decide to rearrange your sockets or move them to a new cabinet consider this.
4. Socket rails
Rail storage is popular amongst a lot of mechanics and DIYers because of its flexibility and high storage capacity. They also look great and can motivate you to keep your sockets organized.
It can make a great gift for mechanics unless you want to consider something else.
Each rail has mounting points which are sized to accommodate a specific socket drive size, with ⅜” and ½” being the most common.
These rails would have to be installed to a firm base and should be organized such that each rail would only hold a specific type and drive size for better organization.
5. Socket tray containers
Using tray containers is another preferred storage method and one of the easiest to utilize. They require no installation, are cheap, and are readily available.
Unlike socket rails, tray containers have a fixed number of slots with long pins. These pins are typically organized with the front row designated for shallow sockets, and the back for deep sockets.
Since they don’t have a tight grip, you can get and return sockets quickly and with ease.
6. Tool case and pouch
While not ideal for workshop storage, tool cases and pouches do have their place especially when it comes to portability. Just like magnetic holders, these can hold your sockets securely as you move.
If you’re always on the go from job to job, pouches can make it easy to carry your sockets around.
Label your compartment or color code for metric and imperial sockets
Labeling is the key on how to organize sockets by size.
The best way to keep track of your sockets is to designate each compartment for only a specific group or set and label them. This will allow you to work more efficiently and avoid making a mess.
While most organizer kits are already color-coded for metric and imperial, some organizers such as rails and inserts may not be so it might be a good idea to paint these or put on colored markings from spray paint, or tape.
How to build a DIY socket organizer?
In the previous sections, we’ve mentioned that you can cut your own foam trays for your sockets but in this one, we’ll explore more solid and robust DIY socket organizers made out of wood. There are a lot of unique options to choose from, but most of these have sockets standing upright.
Here are some ideas for organizing sockets sets to consider.
Method 1: Drill holes into plywood.
The first option is to cut plywood into a small board and drilling appropriately sized holes to ensure a snug fit.
To do this, you first have to arrange your sockets on the board and space them out by eye.
You would then have to measure the diameters of your sockets with calipers and mark out holes for drilling.
Since the holes are meant to hold the socket by its outer diameter, it may not fit anymore once you get a new set so keep this in mind.
Method 2: Utilize wooden dowels.
A more universal alternative is to have wooden dowels stick out from the board appropriately sized to the sockets’ drive slots. This also provides a snug fit plus it can hold sockets from a variety of sets provided they all have the same drive size.
To do this, you would have to measure and space out your sockets evenly on the board, mark out each of the centers, then drill a ⅜” or ½” wide hole.
The holes should only go halfway through the board. You would then need to measure both the depths of your hole and the drive socket and add it up to get the length of dowel you’d need.
Once cut to size, apply some wood glue into the holes and insert the dowels. You can also get a tighter fit with square dowels.
Organizing sockets can be a lot of work but it will be well worth it in the end. With a lot of options to choose from, an organized socket inventory will help you be more efficient, reduce downtime, and prevent unnecessary frustrations along the way. Staying organized is one of the traits any good DIYer should have and we hope this guide has helped you in this regard.
And remember if you’re a woman, you can judge a man by how tidy his socket collection is.
Hi, my name is David, and thanks for reading one of my articles.
As a construction cost estimator, and a car restoration enthusiast I share some of my skills here at Bangingtoolbox.
If you have any questions about your car restoration projects or if you have any queries about pricing a construction job, you can find out more about me here.