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Custom drawer inserts - how long do they take? - Shadow Foam

Custom drawer inserts - how long do they take?

It’s a question we get asked every day. How long does it take to cut Shadow Foam? So what we’re going to do in order to answer this is time exactly how long it takes to cut foam drawer inserts for your tool drawer.

In our new reception waiting area we have a Sealey roll cab. This doubles as a signing in desk and a demonstration unit for anyone who pops along to our production unit. In here we want to set it up with pretty much a full standard tool kit. That includes screwdrivers, Allen keys, spanners pliers, ratchets etc. We’ve also got a few random items like a calculator. We’re going to do all the drawers today, one after the other, and time how long it takes.

Sealey 6 drawer roll cal unit, decked drawers in black and red for tools
Our Sealey roll cab is getting a makeover with some foam drawer inserts so it can double as a signing in desk and demo unit

How to organise your drawers using foam drawer inserts

First we spent about half an hour just figuring out the layout for all six drawers. From here, we reckon it’s going to take maybe 2.5 to 3 hours to do all 6 drawers. So, lets start the clock!

laying out all the tool drawer inserts so the plan can be made for which tools to put where.  The foam is black on top and red beneath.
Planning your layout on top of the foam drawer inserts is one of the most important steps. Don’t rush it!

Getting started with foam drawer inserts

We’ve a full set of spanners from 6mm to 32mm so had to split that across two drawers. Because these are quite long spanners, we’ve laid them out in the diagonal to try and maximize the space. For cutting, always hold the scalpel at 90 degrees to the item and use it just like a pencil. Some people draw around the items first, and that’s fine, but there’s really no need. Just create a trace line with the blade instead, it’s much more forgiving to do it that way.

With Easy Peel foam, we like to factor in finger pulls to make it easier to get the tools out. Usually, we’ll do that after we’ve cut all the tools in. Then, for completeness, we go back around and make sure we can get each tool out of the layout. Even when you’re working quickly, this is something that’s worth spending time extra time on. And also, try and make sure you’re using up every little bit of space. When you do that though, make sure you maintain the orderly categories you want, so you can find everything easily.

the spanner drawer is complete with finger holes to allow them to be removed easily from the foam
A good demonstration of incorporating finger pulls into the design to make it easy to get tools out of the drawer

Once everything is cut in, start peeling back the foam. To peel, we find the edge of the cut that we made and push our fingers down the end. Then simply work the foam back using your fingers, just following the peel all the way along. This way, we’re not tearing it and we can maintain the depth evenly all the way along. You do need to apply a little force to this… we can’t have it so it peels away too easily as it would just fall apart over time

Tricks for cutting in more awkward tool shapes

Next, screwdrivers and nut spinners. Because in this case, the blade of the nut spinner is a lot thinner than the handle, we use a slightly different technique. First, we cut around the handle, following the outline of the silhouette. Then, we take the nut spinner away and that gives us the outline of the of the handle.

From there, what we recommend you cut the foam from the handle first and remove that piece. The reason being, that the handle will sit flatter down in the foam so when you cut around the blade of the spinner you can get it nice and square. It just eliminates what referred to as a parallax error. This is when you’re cutting isn’t perpendicular to the foam which would be hard to do if the spinner blade was floating some distance above the foam. Essentially, the error causes the scalpel to drift off course.

Finishing up the foam tool drawer organisers

Getting down to the last couple of items on the drawer, and we seem to be doing OK for time. We’ve made sure that we’ve got finger pulls on every insert and been sure to not leave any spaces in the drawer. Probably worth mentioning that we did this whole roll cab with just 12 cutting blades. So even though we were cutting around metal, which can have a blunting effect on the blades over time, we’ve still only used an average two blades per drawer.

It was a tight fit getting some of the inserts in because the drawers have a lip on the front. We needed to do a bit of squeezing to get them in. However, once in, they’re a good fit with no gap down the sides or the front.

demonstrating the depth of the foam and the ease in which both thin and bulkier items can be housed in it
Make sure that you create a snug fit for the foam to prevent movement when it goes into the drawers.

So, how did we do?

Stop the clock.  Under 2 and a half hours to custom organise 6 drawers
2 hours, 28 minutes… not bad for organising 6 drawers. We will easily make that time back by being able to find everything nice and quickly!

We’ve managed to pack a lot into this unit, over a wide mix of brands…. Sealey’s Premier mechanical screwdriver set and hex key set, Swiss stubby screwdrivers, Bahco ratchet, our bargain Aldi set of spanners and Draper Expert ratchet spanners. We wanted to recreate a good representation of a standard tool kit like you might be doing at home. So you pretty much everything you might need in here. All in, it took us a little over 2 hours 28 minutes to do, so just inside our estimate. So if you’re planning your own project at home, that works out at roughly 25 minutes per drawer.

black foam with red underneath sets off the Allen keys and other tools to great effect.  Finger pulls are positioned in key places for ease of removing the tools
A place for everything, and everything in it’s place. Tool drawers don’t get more satisfying than this!
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