US 20020130598 A1
A mobile industrial tool chest having modular shelving is provided. A frame having a top, a base and a rear wall therebetween defines an interior of a first embodiment of the tool chest. A pair of generally L-shaped doors are pivotally coupled to the frame on opposite sides and adjacent to the rear wall. The doors are movable between open positions where access to an interior of the tool chest is permitted and closed positions where access to the interior of the tool chest is prohibited. The shelving brackets are preferably arranged in a plurality of vertical columns. A plurality of variously shaped shelves are provided for removable coupling with the shelf brackets. A second embodiment of the tool chest defines an interior of the tool chest by a back wall and first and second side walls. The interior of the second embodiment similarly includes columns of shelving brackets accessible through an opening in the front of the tool chest. A retractable roll-up door is provided to control access to the interior of the second embodiment.
1. An industrial tool chest comprising:
a frame having a base and a top, the frame defining an interior of the tool chest;
a plurality of shelf brackets supported on the frame intermediate the base and the top and in the interior of the chest for supporting modular shelving; and
at least one door movable between an open position whereby access to the interior of the tool chest is permitted and a closed position whereby access to the interior of the tool chest is prevented.
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17. A mobile industrial tool chest comprising:
a frame having a base, a top and a back wall, wherein the top is spaced apart from the base by the back wall and wherein the base, top and back wall define an interior of the tool chest;
a plurality of castors mounted on the base for mobility;
a door mounted on the frame for movement between open and closed positions, wherein the door permits access to the interior of the tool chest when in the open position and wherein the door prevents access to the interior of the tool chest when in the closed position ; and
a plurality of shelf brackets supported on the frame in the interior of the chest for supporting modular shelving, wherein a plurality of the shelf brackets include an upper crossbar and a lower crossbar spaced apart from each other in a generally parallel orientation.
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 The present invention relates to a device for storing tools. More particularly, this invention relates to a mobile industrial tool chest having modular shelving.
 Tool chests, of various shapes and sizes, are well known in the art. Standard large industrial tool chests generally resemble a chest of drawers. The chest generally has a plurality of heavy duty drawers which may be pulled out to permit tools to be stored therein. The chest are usually on wheels to provide mobility and generally come with locks to prevent unwanted opening of the tool chest. In order to increase the variety of tools which can be stored in a chest, the chests are usually manufactured with a number of different sized drawers. Generally, however, while a user can buy different chests of drawers, users cannot change the configuration of drawers in the tool chest to permit customization of the chest depending on the items the user wishes to store.
 Therefore, there is a need for a tool chest which permits a user to readily modify the storage therein to allow the user to customize the tool chest to their own needs.
 In order to overcome the above-stated problems and limitations, and to achieve the noted objects, there is provided a mobile industrial tool chest with modular shelving.
 In general, a first embodiment of the tool chest includes a frame having a top, abase and a back wall. The frame defines an interior of the tool chest. The tool chest preferably also includes first and second opposing doors and a plurality of shelf brackets supported therein. A second embodiment of the tool chest includes a frame having a top, a bottom, a back wall, and first and second side walls. The frame of the second embodiment similarly defines an interior of the tool chest. The tool chest further includes a plurality of shelf brackets supported therein and a retractable door. Modular shelves of a number of different configurations are readily received and supported on the shelf brackets of both embodiments.
 Preferably, the shelf brackets include upper and lower generally horizontal and parallel crossbars. A plurality of the shelf brackets are arranged one on top of another whereby all of the crossbars are contained in a single plane to provide a vertical column of shelf brackets. The shelves, while being of numerous different shapes and configurations, are all preferably removably supported on the shelf brackets in a similar fashion. In that respect, the shelves all include a rear wall with a rearwardly depending attachment flange extending therefrom adjacent a top edge. The rear wall and the attachment flange cooperate to define a generally upside down J-channel which is sized to receive the upper crossbar of a shelf bracket. The rear wall is designed to have a bottom edge which abuts the lower crossbar of the bracket when the upper crossbar is received in the channel. By providing a wide variety of shelves having a similar attachment feature, the tool chest can be readily customized by the user.
 Further objects, features, and advantages of the present invention over the prior art will become apparent from the detailed description of the drawings which follows, when considered with the attached figures.
 The objects and features of the invention noted above are explained in more detail with reference to the drawing, in which like reference numerals denote like elements, and in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a tool chest of the present invention with doors in closed positions;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the tool chest of the present invention with the doors in open positions;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a rear of the tool chest illustrating a rear door in a closed position;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the tool chest illustrating the rear door in an open position;
FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the tool chest of the present invention with the doors in the open position;
FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a door of the present invention taken generally along the line 6-6 of FIG. 5;
FIG. 7 is an enlarged view of a door cylinder of the present invention taken generally around the area 7 of FIG. 5;
FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the tool chest of the present invention taken generally along the line 8-8 of FIG. 5 with the second door removed for clarity;
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a modification of the first embodiment of a tool chest of the present invention with doors in closed positions;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the modification of the first embodiment of a tool chest of the present invention with doors in open positions;
FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a tool chest of the present invention with a retractable door in a closed position;
FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the tool chest of FIG. 11 with the detachable door in the open position; and
FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view of the tool chest of the second embodiment taken generally along the line 13-13 of FIG. 12 and illustrating alternate shelf constructions.
 Referring now to the drawing in detail, and initially to FIG. 2, numeral 10 generally designates first embodiment of a tool chest of the present invention. The tool chest has a frame 12, a plurality of shelf brackets 14, a first door 16, a second door 18 and modular shelves 20.
 The frame 12 includes a top 22, a base 24, a back wall 26 and a front post 28. The top 22 preferably presents a generally flat and horizontal upper surface 30. The top 22 may be fabricated from a solid metal plate or, preferably, consists of square metal tubing welded together to define a periphery with a piece of sheet metal welded on an upper surface thereof.
 The base 24 is preferably constructed of four sections of large square metal tubing which have been welded together to form a square. Casters 32 are preferably mounted to an underneath side of the base to permit the tool chest to be rolled to various locations during use. Preferably, the casters 32 are the type which, when locked, not only prevent the wheel of the caster from rolling but also prevent the casters from rotating about a vertical axis.
 The base 24 preferably also includes a storage bin 34 to permit storage of additional items in the tool chest. The storage bin 34 is defined by four side walls 36 and a bottom 38. The side walls 36 can be sheets of metal welded to interior surfaces of the four square tubing sections which define the base. The bottom, in turn, preferably consists of a sheet of metal welded around its periphery to lower ends of the side walls. As illustrated, the side walls preferably have a height dimension greater than a height dimension of the square tubing which defines the base 24 to thereby permit the bottom 38 to be lower than the underneath side of the base upon which the casters are mounted to thereby provide for greater storage in the storage bin 34.
 The top 22 is spaced apart from the base 24 and is preferably maintained in the spaced apart relationship by way of the back wall 26 and the front post 28. The top 22, base 24 and back wall 26 cooperate to define an interior 40 of the tool chest.
 The back wall 26 preferably includes first and second support columns 42, 44. The support columns are preferably constructed of the same large square tubing as the base 24. A plate 46 is preferably welded between and to the support columns to define the back wall 26. The plate 46 is preferably welded to the support columns 42, 44 towards a front 48 of the tool chest. As can be seen in FIG. 4, by attaching the plate 46 between the support columns 42, 44 towards the front 48 of the tool chest, a storage compartment 50 is provided in the back wall 26 that is accessible from a backside 52 of the tool chest 10 via a rear door 54.
 The plurality of shelf brackets 14 are all preferably contained within the interior 40 of the tool chest 10 when the doors 16 and 18 are in the closed positions illustrated in FIG. 1. In a preferred embodiment, each shelf bracket 14 includes an upper crossbar 56 and a lower crossbar 58. Preferably the crossbars are formed of square bar or tubing stock. The upper and lower crossbars 56 and 58 are spaced apart from each other and are generally parallel to each other and in a horizontal orientation. It should be noted that while the shelf brackets 14 have been illustrated and described as preferably including a pair of crossbars, it is within the scope of the present invention to replace the pair of crossbars with a metal plate having a height dimension sufficient to support a shelf thereon.
 Multiple shelf brackets 14 are preferably aligned one above another to form a generally vertical column 60. In this arrangement, all of the crossbars 56, 58 in the column 60 are preferably generally contained within a single vertical plane. By providing the shelf brackets 14 in this column type arrangement, the tool chest 10 can accommodate numerous shelves at varying heights. Each column 60 includes first and second generally vertical support bars 62, 64 for supporting ends 66 of the crossbars 56, 58. In addition to supporting the crossbars of the shelf brackets 14, the support bars 62, 64 also space the crossbars away from the items located behind each column 60 to permit the upper crossbar 56 of the shelf brackets 14 to receive the modular shelf 20 in the manner described in greater detail below.
 In a preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the tool chest 10 includes four columns 60 of shelf brackets 14. One column 60 is supported on an interior surface 68 of the first door, two columns are supported intermediate the top 22 and base 24 in the interior 40 of the tool chest and one column 60 is supported on an interior surface 70 of the second door 18. Each column 60 preferably has a front side 72 which receives the modular shelves 20 and from which the modular shelves 20 extend outwardly therefrom and a backside 74 opposite the front side 72.
 The two columns 60 of shelf brackets 14 which are positioned in the interior 40 of the tool chest are preferably arranged in a back to back orientation. In this arrangement, the two columns cooperate to define an interior wall or divider 76. Also in this back to back arrangement, the two columns preferably share first and second support bars 62, 64 with the first support bar 62 being the front post 28 and the second support bar 64 being secured to a front side of the plate 46 in the back wall 26. Preferably, the divider 76 is in a vertical orientation, is perpendicular to the back wall 26 and is equidistant from the sides of the tool chest 10.
 The first and second doors 16, 18 are preferably identical in construction. Each door is preferably generally L-shaped when the tool chest is illustrated in a plan view. The doors 16, 18 have a skeleton 78 which is preferably constructed of square tubing welded together. The skeleton 78 is then covered on its exterior surface by a panel 80 preferably made of sheet metal. Each door has a bracket wall 82 and an end wall 84. The bracket walls 82 each support a column 60 of shelf brackets 14 thereon. Each bracket wall 82 has a proximal edge 86 and a distal edge 88. The doors 16, 18 are pivotally mounted to the frame 12 of the tool chest 10 adjacent the back wall 26 adjacent their proximal edges 86. The end walls 84 are preferably perpendicular to the bracket walls 82 and are connected to the bracket walls adjacent their distal edges 88.
 The doors 16 and 18 also each preferably include a handle 90 to permit a user to pull the tool chest around and a locking mechanism 92 to permit the user to lock the doors in their closed positions and thereby secure the tool chest. The handles 90 are preferably mounted to an exterior surface of the panels 80 on the end walls 84 which, when the doors 16 and 18 are in their closed positions, is the front 48 of the tool chest 10. As can be readily ascertained, the handles 90 need to be of heavy duty construction to permit the user to pull around the tool chest, especially when the tool chest is filled with tools and other items.
 The locking mechanism 92 preferably includes a lever arm 94, a body 96 and locking rods 98. The lever arms 94 are located exterior of the tool chest 10 on the outer surface of the end walls 84 and are coupled with the body 96. Proximal ends 100 of the locking rods 98 are also coupled with the body 96 of the locking mechanism. Distal ends 102 of the locking rods are slidably received in bores 104 in the skeleton 78 of the doors 16, 18. Cavities 106 in the top 22 and base 24 align with the bores 104 in the doors 16, 18 when the doors are in their closed positions such that rotation of the lever arms 94 causes the locking rods 98 to extend outwardly from the doors 16, 18 through the bores 104 and into mating cooperation with the frame 12 to lock the doors in the closed position.
 The modular shelves, as best illustrated in FIG. 6, can take many shapes and perform a variety of tasks. However, all of the shelves preferably share a few similar features. Preferably each shelf includes a rear wall 108 and an attachment flange 110. The real wall has a top edge 112 and a bottom edge 114. The attachment flange 110 is connected to a rear side 116 of the rear wall 108 adjacent the top edge 112 and depends rearwardly therefrom. The attachment flange 110 can be a length of angle iron or, alternatively, the rear wall 108 and attachment flange 110 combination can be constructed from a single piece of sheet metal bent to form the attachment flange. The rear wall 108 and attachment flange 110 combination define a generally upside down J-shaped channel 118. The channel 118 is sized to receive the upper crossbar 56 of a shelf bracket therein. Accordingly, each shelf 20 is supported on a shelf bracket 14 by the J-shaped channel 118 being slipped over the upper crossbar 56 of the shelf bracket 14. A lower portion 120 of the rear surface of the rear wall 108 adjacent the bottom edge 114 abuts the front side of the lower crossbar 58 when the shelf 20 is received on the shelf bracket 14. The lower crossbar 58 prevents the bottom edge 114 of the rear wall 108 from swinging back into the column 60 and thereby tilting the shelf 20 forward. As illustrated in FIG. 6, the square shaped upper crossbar 56 cooperates with the square shaped channel 118 to also prevent the shelf 20 from rotating on the upper crossbar 56.
 The attachment flange 110 also includes a downwardly depending portion 122. As the modular shelves 20 are designed to be easily removed from cooperation with the shelf brackets 14 to permit a user to customize the types of shelves contained in the tool chest, the distance between a lower crossbar 58 of one shelf bracket and the upper crossbar 56 of shelf bracket immediately below the column must be greater than the height dimension of the downwardly depending portion 122 of the shelf 20 to permit the user to easily remove a shelf from a shelf bracket.
 As stated above, the shelves 20 can be of a wide variety of shapes and perform a wide variety of functions. As illustrated in FIG. 6, the shelves can take the shape of a lidded bin shelf 20 a, a reinforced shelf 20 b, a bin shelf 20 c, a deep bin shelf 20 d, a standard shelf 20 e and a pegged shelf 20 f. By virtue of the ease at which a user can remove a shelf 20 from cooperation with a shelf bracket 14 in the present tool chest, by providing the user with a wide variety of shelves, the user can readily customize the interior of the present tool chest to better serve their particular needs. For example, the lidded bin shelf 20 a can be used when a user needs to store small items which the user desires to keep free of contamination of dust. The lid of the shelf 20 a could be formed of a transparent material, such as plexiglass, to permit the user to see the stored items yet still protect them from contamination. The reinforced shelf 20 b can be used to store heavy items which could not readily be supported on the standard shelf 20 e. The deep bin shelf 20 d would be suitable for storing instruction manuals for tools stored in the tool chest while the pegged shelf 20 f could be used to support hanging items such as combination wrenches, sockets or apparel. As will be readily understood, a plurality of holes can be placed in the bottom of the standard shelf 20 e to receive portions of hand tools. For example, the holes could be made large enough to receive the shafts of screwdrivers, but small enough to prevent the handles of the screwdrivers to go through. This would allow the user to store a large number of screwdrivers in a vertical orientation in a relatively small area. Such an arrangement would be a vast improvement over simply piling all the screwdrivers on top of each other in a horizontal orientation in a drawer. Pliers and ratchets and other elongate tools could also be hung in a similar fashion with appropriately sized holes in the shelf.
 The storage compartment 50 in the back wall 26 of the tool chest 10 also preferably includes a plurality of shelf brackets 14 for supporting shelves 20. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the storage compartment 50 containing a pegged shelf 20 f and a deep bin shelf 20 d is well suited for storing a lab coat and instruction manuals.
 The tool chest 10 can also be outfitted with safety and custom features. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the doors 16 and 18 can be provided with cross bracing 124 to help support the loads which will be put on the doors as they support the column of shelf brackets. The doors 16, 18 can also be coupled with the frame via a stroke cylinder 126. As best illustrated in FIG. 7, the stroke cylinder has a cylinder 128 which receives a piston 130 in telescoping fashion. As illustrated, the cylinder 128 is mounted to an underneath side of the top 22 of the frame and a piston 130 is pivotally coupled with an interior surface of the skeleton 78 of the doors 16, 18. The stroke cylinder preferably not only holds the doors in their open positions but assists, when desired, in moving the doors to and holding them in their closed positions.
 Other features of the tool chest may include an outlet strip 132 mounted on an underneath side of the front 48 of the base 24. A power cord (not shown) mates in from the rear of the tool chest and may be plugged into a power source to provide power to the outlet strip. A user of the tool chest may then plug power tools into the outlet strip 132 to power the tools therefrom. In a modification of the first embodiment, as illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10, the tool chest may also be provided with an air compressor 134 for compressing air to permit the use by pneumatic tools. In this arrangement, the support columns 42,44 and a portion of the base are preferably constructed out of large square pieces of hollow steel tubing. The pieces are preferably arranged such that the pieces define a continuous inner chamber or tank that can be used for storing the compressed air. This arrangement prevents the necessity of outfitting the tool chest 10 with an air tank specifically designed to store the compressed air. In this arrangement, a coupler or nipple 136 can be provided on the frame 12 to allow access to the compressed air stored in the frame 12 and to permit a user to attach pneumatic tools thereto. Alternatively, it is well within the scope of the present invention to enclose the storage bin 34 to have the storage bin become an air tank.
 A second embodiment of a tool chest of the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 11-13. The tool chest of the second embodiment is generally designated as 138. The tool chest 138 includes a top 140, a bottom 142, aback wall 144 and first and second sidewalls 146, 148. As with the tool chest 10 of the first embodiment, the tool chest 138 of the second embodiment is built around a frame 150. The frame 150 supports the shelf brackets 14 of the present invention. Accordingly, the tool chest 138 includes a column 60 of shelf brackets 14 supported on the first side wall 146, a column 60 of shelf brackets 14 supported on the back wall 144, and a column 60 of shelf brackets 14 supported on the interior of the second side wall 148. In an effort to decrease the amount of space taken up by the tool chest 138 during use, the tool chest 138 is provided with a retractable roll-up door 152. Unlike the doors 16 and 18 of the first embodiment which swing open during use to permit access to the interior 40 of the tool chest 10, the roll-up door 152 does not increase the footprint of the tool chest during use and yet still provides complete access to the interior 40 of the tool chest 138 while providing a means for locking the tool chest in a closed position.
 From the foregoing it will be seen that this invention is one well adapted to attain all ends and objects hereinabove set forth together with the other advantages which are obvious and which are inherent to the structure. It will be understood that certain features and subcombinations are of utility and may be employed without reference to other features and subcombinations. This is contemplated by and is within the scope of the invention.
 Since many possible embodiments may be made of the invention without departing from the scope thereof, it is to be understood that all matter herein set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings is to be interpreted as illustrative of applications of the principles of this invention, and not in a limiting sense.