4 Drawer Resistor Storage

Storing resistors can be a little bit of a pain. If you just drop them all in the same bin, you won’t be able to find the correct value when you need it. Many electronics benches dedicate a lot of space to storing each resistor value in its own drawer. This can be a challenge if you only have a few of a particular value, or if you need to add to the system after the drawers have been ordered.

I’ve been using a simple drawer system for storing resistors, and this has worked for me over at least a decade of experimenting in several different spaces. You don’t even need to know what the color codes mean to use this system, provided you label the drawers and have a multimeter handy, nice for people with less experience with electricity experimenting. I keep a color code chart nearby for reference. There are also some good online resistor color code calculators that can be pulled up on a nearby computer, tablet or phone.

Here’s how simply store a bunch of resistors:
Set up the drawers in a regular parts bin rack, sorted by the third band, the multiplier. Use one drawer, or a half drawer for each color: Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, White, Gray. This will use 10 drawers, but chances are very good that you won’t need to store any White or Gray third band resistors. Almost all of the resistors I use come from the brown and red drawers, and a few each from the black and orange drawers. When I see what the value of the resistor the circuit calls for, I head for the 100’s drawer, or 1,000’s drawer. I almost never need anything from the high value drawers.

Over the years, I’ve seen and inherited parts bins with every drawer labeled for a single value resistor. This can take up dozens of drawers in a rack. It also makes returning the resistors a pain, because you have to figure out the value of every single resistor you want to put away. I guess that makes it a good exercise in learning to read the codes, but it is certainly not a very quick process for people who don’t have the resistor color chart memorized. When I get enough resistors that I’m in a mood to put them away, I just grab a handful, and sort by the third band. It goes pretty quick. I can put a fistful of resistors away in a few minutes.

Finding the resistor you need is fairly easy as well. If you know you need a 470 ohm resistor, you go to the brown bin, or x10 Next, you look inside the bin for the yellow and violet bands. There probably won’t be much else that is even close, since there is a lot of 470 out there, and not much that doesn’t combine the yellow/4 with any other number. Pretty much the only 400 range resistor (yellow first and brown third) will be the 470.

This system allows you to allocate just 8 drawers, and most likely only use half of them for most of what the average maker would build. If you find that you have a lot of a certain value resistor, it may make sense to give that collection of resistors its own drawer. It is easy to scale this storage system up and down for individual supply systems or classrooms. I believe it is especially effective in a group environment, since it is easy to store and retrieve the resistors. When you retrieve them, you will also reinforce the meaning of the color bands by looking up the specifics at that time, if you need to.

There are photos of this project system.

About Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.
This entry was posted in Electricity, Storage, SupplyResources, SystemExplanation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 4 Drawer Resistor Storage

  1. Pingback: MAKE | Four-Drawer Resistor Storage

  2. Leif says:

    I do kind of the same thing but I also keep a box for bulk resistors. My drawers contain at least a few of most available values, originally coming from a few sets of assorted resistors. I sorted them all pretty much the same as above.

    When I need a value I don’t have or when I run out of a value that I do have I look for lots of 25 or more, usually way more. Shopping at places like Ebay or Hamfests they are much cheaper that way.

    But.. one such lot would dominate one or more drawer easy. Usually I get them in tape so I just rip off a handful size piece of taped resistors to put in the sorted drawer. I also write the value repeatedly across the tape though this is becoming less necessary as I get more comfortable with the color code. The rest of the resistors go in the bulk box. The next time I run out I check the bulk box before I buy more. If I find them I just grab another chunk to restock my drawers.

    So far I have made no attempt to sort the bulk box. The tape keeps like values together but there are no divisions in the box to separate different values. As the article mentioned, only so many values are really common so I don’t run out of new values very often. Since the bulk box only contains things I at one point ran out of it’s variety stays low and it remains manageable.

  3. Kees Reuzelaar says:

    I’m not sure if this would work for me, as I stock (and use) an almost complete E24 range. Also, what about the different power ratings? Carbon deposit versus metal film resistors?

    But any system that works for the user is a good one.

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