Thursday, August 22, 2019

Protective Cases Addendum

Last week I covered some basic plastic cases for protecting your valuable and somewhat fragile gear. One of our regular readers suggested another source,, and I'm still working my way through their site to see what they have to offer. The prices seem to be a bit high, but they offer a huge variety of cases from several different makers and custom-cut foam inserts.

The custom-cut foam is interesting because it gives us a way to repurpose old cases and containers, as well as a way to repair an “Oops” if you messed up while customizing a new case. Older cases and containers pop up in thrift stores and yard sales, usually without the original contents. If the case is still in good shape but the foam is cut out in a useless pattern, you can often pick them up very cheap. Having a source of new pluck and pull foam will let you put that case back to work. Amazon also sells pluck and pull foam sheets in a variety of sizes.

Another way the custom-cut foam can come in handy is in the making of camouflaged storage. You can find miniature safes disguised as common household items like a can of shaving cream, a jar of peanut butter, or a hard-cover book but you can probably find something around your home that you could convert. A hard-shell lunchbox and the ubiquitous cookie tin (aka Schrödinger's sewing box -- it's both cookies and sewing supplies until you open it) both come to mind, so look around and see what you can find. Using a chunk of custom foam will hold your valuables more securely and keep them from rattling around if moved.

Editor's Note: I added this because I thought it was funny. It wasn't originally part of Tim's article.

I'm looking into converting some of my surplus ammo cans into storage cases for a few delicate electronic tools. It's hard to beat the tried and true M2A1 .50 cal ammo cans, as they've been around for years and are still being used by the military. I've tested a few, the longest of which was leaving one filled with miscellaneous ammunition outside for over a year. It survived being buried in a few feet of snow, drenched with a total of over two feet of rain, sub-zero and above 100°F temperatures, and a few kicks and drops when it got in the way without losing its integrity. The ammunition was just as dry and clean as when I put it in the can, and it all functioned flawlessly. The standard M2A1 is 11x5.5x7 inches, so finding foam to fit inside isn't hard. I'm still looking at the options and trying to figure out the cheapest supplier.

I use a metal 40mm ammo can at work for secure storage of some nasty chemicals, as state law says I have to keep them in a locked container until I actually use them. It makes a handy transport case, and the hasp I welded on makes it secure storage. Since the flasks are a standard size, I'm trying to get the boss to pay for some foam so I can make inserts. The newer ammo cans I've seen in the surplus stores and at gun shows are trending towards hard plastic or fiberglass cases for larger ammunition. With the judicious use of a cut-off tool and a sander, these cases would make a good base for storing longer pieces of gear.

Testing of the Harbor Freight cases I bought is still under way, the larger one is currently bouncing around in the back of my pickup in a typical Iowa summer and the smaller ones are being scrutinized for compatibility with a few things. The smallest is almost too small for anything useful, and the medium may get turned into an emergency tool kit. Hand tools aren't fragile, but having what I need for common repairs all in one place and safe from the weather has been a challenge my entire life.

One of the things I didn't mention last week that I should have: since these cases are waterproof, moisture can't get out. If you put something away that is damp or wet, the moisture will stay on or around it and can cause rust or corrosion. Dry your gear before storing it or make room for dessicant inside the case.

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