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I've got one of these cabinets, which I intend to use for storing electronic components:

enter image description here

It has 24 drawers (each 175 x 69 x 37mm).

Every drawer can be subdivided into up to six compartments by installing dividers.

Can you suggest a good system for organizing resistors, capacitors and suchlike into the limited number of drawers that's available?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I misunderstood the question. I deleted my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Grillo Feb 21 '11 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1: This is an excellent question... I'm looking forward to reading the answers. I'd love to know how people store their resistors in an organised way. Having to search through I pile of them looking for specific coloured bands is a pain! \$\endgroup\$ – BG100 Feb 21 '11 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ One cabinet? First off, you need a dedicated room... :) \$\endgroup\$ – mctylr Feb 22 '11 at 0:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mctylr Well, one's got to start somewhere :) \$\endgroup\$ – NPE Feb 22 '11 at 9:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of What's the best way to store and categorise resistors/capacitors/ICs/etc? \$\endgroup\$ – Axeman Feb 22 '11 at 11:14
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For one thing, I'd organize them by significant figures and group all different decades together, like 4.7 ohm, 47 ohm, 4.7k, all in the same box. Then they only differ by the multiplier band, which is pretty easy to spot. Not sure what to do if you have lots of different 5% or 1% values, though.

E6 (20%): 10 15 22 33 47 68

E12 (10%): 10 12 15 18 22 27 33 39 47 56 68 82

E24 ( 5%): 10 11 12 13 15 16 18 20 22 24 27 30 33 36 39 43 47 51 56 62 68 75 82 91

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like your thinking with the sigfigs. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Feb 21 '11 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ While you're at it with the resistors I can help you out with the color-coded labels I made for a similar cabinet. It's meant to be used with Avery 6150 address labels (pretty standard) and cut into thirds for use on the dividers and front of each drawer: spreadsheets.google.com/… \$\endgroup\$ – AngryEE Feb 21 '11 at 21:02
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I've gone thru quite a evolution of storing parts. The problem is that when you only have a few, the system can be pretty primitive and still appear to work. However, primitive systems are not scalable, so you end up reshuffling everything several times until you finally learn to do it right. Even then, keeping a parts inventory useful and up to date is a never ending task.

Long long ago when small parts cabinets with just small drawers were rare and expensive (you had to physically walk into a hardware store and then most didn't have anything suitable), I divided up drawers and put resistors in decades. One cabinet covered all the resistors and capacitors I had. That was so much better than a few small bags in big bags in a couple of boxes. I had to go thru the whole bag of resistor and sort them by decade, but the result was worth it and life was great.

That lasted for a little while, but digging thru a whole decade to find what I wanted became a hassle, so I got more drawers and made a drawer for the range covered by each common 5% value. More sorting, but it was worth it and life was great.

That lasted for a little while, but I still had to dig around to find what I wanted, especially for common values like 10 kΩ of which there were 1/4W, 1/2W, 1W, some strange precision ones I can't remember where they came from, etc. It also made it hard to see what I actually had. I needed to get some 1% resistor occasionally. Since drawers had abutting value ranges, everything had a place. But it still bugged me that 1% resistors ended up in the same drawer with others, and it wasn't always so easy to dig thru or know what values there really were.

Eventually I made a rule that every drawer will only hold one part type. More sorting, but life got better.

This is largely the system I use today, although it has expanded. Not everything fits in little drawers, and sometimes you buy a large lot of something that doesn't all fit in a drawer. What I usually do now is make a drawer for everything that can fit in a drawer. If I have a large quantity like a reel of a 0805 resistor or a tray of 100 DB-9 connectors, I put a few representative units in the drawer with a little note like "More in cabinet". This allows for looking at the drawers to see what it available, even if there are whole reels elsewhere.

The biggest problem now is not the sorting system. Nowadays small parts cabinets are cheap and available from the other end of the internet. Akro Mils model 10164 is the best I've found so far. The price varies considerably. It's a brand name item so you can buy by price on the internet, just check the merchant reviews to make sure you're not buying from a dirtbag that will try to rip you off.

The problem now is just keeping up with all the new parts. No matter how diverse you think your stock is, each project will require a few parts you don't already have in your system. Labeling new drawers and filing away parts is a never ending process. Often we dump parts on the bench in front of the cabinets until it bugs me enough, then I come in on a weekend end make drawers for them all. Then life is good for a while until the piles build up again. It never ends.

Here is a picture of the small parts cabinets part of our lab stock maybe a couple of years ago. It has grown since then, of course, but the concept is still the same.

The left two columns (6 cabinets) are all resistors. These are a older discontinued model of Akro Mils small parts cabinet. The next column is all capacitors, and are three of the newer model 10164 cabinets. Underneath the bench you can see some reels and boxes with larger quantities of bulk parts. These are all labeled too, but each part type has a drawer up top with a note in it that more are down below or in the cabinet (not shown in this picture). As always, some drawers were in the middle of being re-arranged. This can be seen from the empty slots in some cabinets. If you look closely you can see a pile of empty drawers awaiting new labels on a desk in the bottom left corner of the picture. Keeping up is a never ending task, but not keeping up is worse.

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Just came across this folding workbench, and thought it was pretty awesome.

Folding Workbench Example

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I organize my small parts by value ranges. Unlike @endolith (which offers a good suggestion) I use the multiplier band to sort resistors. So for example my first resistor drawer is 0-999 ohm. This makes it easy to find substitutions more readily in case I don't have the 150 ohm resistor needed, but an acceptable 100 ohm is handy.

Thus the labels on my resistor drawers are 0-999 Ω;, 1k-9.9k Ω, 10k-99k Ω etc.

I do the same for ceramic and electrolytic capacitors. The exceptions to the above are very large electrolytic and power resistors which I put in larger drawers that I have available in the center of my parts storage cabinet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the suggestion. I think there's a lot to be said for this system. What is unclear to me is how easy is it to find exactly the right part in a drawer of colour-coded resistors. What's your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – NPE Feb 23 '11 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aix To be honest it's still a hassle sometimes, especially if you have a full drawer of many different values. To mitigate this I've taken to putting very common values in another drawer, with less often used values in the original drawer. (So I have a drawer with 1k, 10k, and 100k resistors which I use a lot.) That said, I still like having a range of values together because finding substitutions is easier. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Feb 23 '11 at 16:26
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I've written up a post on my blog regarding how I organize my (comparatively small) collection of components and bits: http://www.mostthingsweb.com/2012/09/storing-and-protecting-your-hobbyist-electronics-collection/

Specifically, my favorites are:

enter image description here

The resistor set has 860 pieces of 1/4 watt resistors. It contains values from 0 to 10M ohms.

enter image description here

The capacitor set is similar, with 640 pieces. Capacitance ranges from 4.7pF to 470uF, and it includes ceramics and some electrolytics.

enter image description here

Common to both kits is the organization scheme: Each value has its own labeled bag. It's a great way for me to keep my resistors and capacitors ordered.

enter image description here

I (unfortunately) don't have nearly enough parts to warrant those awesome huge vertical parts organizers that people have pictured above. But I do have three of those parts organizers (the drawers are reconfigurable), and they work fine for my needs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The links for "My resistor and capacitor sets" are not enough. If Amazon stops selling them that line becomes useless. I think you should add the pictures of the sets, and a few words of what they contain. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 26 '12 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ you should also add your awesome picture (the best): cdn.instructables.com/F1C/3NDL/F9T403YG/… (and update the links on your blog: they're all deads) \$\endgroup\$ – JinSnow Dec 2 '18 at 12:34
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and coin envelopes http://www.opencircuits.com/Component_and_Parts_Storage

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  • \$\begingroup\$ These are great - if you only have a few components/values/whatever they don't take up much space, but there's no problem with growing as you add more. I started out with just a few values and I put holes in the envelopes and had them on a ring. Now I'm up to keeping them in a shoebox, and it still works great. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Kohne Feb 22 '11 at 16:58
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I think I like this suggestion. It uses grip seal bags (ebay) to actually store the parts and zip punch pockets(ebay) to organize the parts and a 3 ring binder.Cheap. just my humble opinion. Edit: actually, those zip punch pockets can get pretty pricey. if you go with this method search for this SPR01607. Its the product number of 10"x8" zip pockets for the cheapest brand I found (sparco). There may be cheaper. I bought from office quarters. total w/ shipping for box of 24 was $31.67

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I actually opted to not use the drawer dividers, mainly because it just reminds me of BASIC programming. You number your lines by 10s (10, 20, 30), only to then add more and more lines in between, and then you wish you had gone by 100s instead.

The analogy here is that you'll undoubtedly want to label your drawers. For example, if you label one with 100, 200, and 300 ohm resistors, but then add a 120 ohm resistor, you'll need to relabel a bunch of your drawers. For some, this is probably fine, but I much prefer to just add a drawer and then shift the rest down as necessary. So in other words, I just have one resistor type per drawer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This brings out the OCD in all of us! \$\endgroup\$ – tyblu Feb 21 '11 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ if you have just one decade per drawer then you just have to sort out the right one. \$\endgroup\$ – russ_hensel Feb 22 '11 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ You don't have to re-label drawers, only move some around. We usually leave one unused row in each cabinet after a major re-shuffle. That means little changes don't propagate past one cabinet and are therefore no big deal. When you have to do a big re-shuffle, you add back in the slack so that little changes are easy again for a while. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jul 26 '12 at 19:18
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I use those cabinets, too. I need to keep them at an optimum volume. I spread the same-kind parts into many cabinets according to their values, as if the cabinets were empty. Than do same thing for different kind, superposing to the previous placing. Meanwhile optimizing their places for easier distinguishing. Despite sometimes I need to pour the parts into table :-) generally it works nice.

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