Theo Vandenheuvel
Vandenheuvel in front of his toolbox.

A look inside Frankenstein's toolbox

Oct. 31, 2023
Theo Vandenheuvel's toolbox is an amalgamation of brands to rival Frankenstein's creation, but it never fails to bring his work to life.

Like many technicians, Theo Vandenheuvel has cobbled together his toolbox over the years, with three brands providing him the tools he needs: MatcoSnap-on, and Harbor Freight. But his toolbox is no simple affair, as Vandenheuvel's "Frankenstein box," as he calls it, measures 150” wide and 80” tall.

Before making the jump to building his own setup, Vandenheuvel had a Craftsmen that lasted him about six or nine months. In 2020, after struggling with the minimal amount of room the box afforded him, he set out to make a toolbox that would fit his needs while also remaining cost efficient.  

In the laboratory

The first purchase Vandenheuvel made for his toolbox build was a Matco Tools MB8535, a custom three-bay rollaway in black and silver, which came with a tall, black locker that fits nicely onto the side of the box. He then added a 30” Matco 5S side cabinet, which originally used to be a cart, to the main box. A Harbor Freight Icon overhead cabinet sits on top of the Matco boxes. The latest addition, and what Vandenheuvel says will be the final, was a used Snap-on Power Locker Cabinet.

Read more: Product Showcase 2024: Tools & Personal Gear

 All in all, Vandenheuvel spent around $6,600 for his entire toolbox setup.

Over the years, the journey to price conscientiousness has helped Vandenheuvel save money left and right. The biggest lesson he’s learned is to see value in old things.

“My main box that I started with, that thing is like 20 years old,” says Vandenheuvel. “... there’s nothing wrong with working with old stuff.”

The way Vandenheuvel sees it, by saving money on the storage front, he’s able to spend more where it really counts: his tools. Since he’s saved himself money, he’s been able to slowly upgrade the tools he uses.

Some of the tech’s older tools will go into his cart while others will go into his overflow storage cart.

“When my boys are older, and they start working on their own stuff, I’ll let them start [using] those tools,” says Vandenheuvel. 

Making room

Vandenheuvel’s favorite part of his toolbox is his top drawer. Coupled with the Snap-on Power Locker, it’s one of the features about his setup that he takes the most pride in.  

When it comes to organizing his tools, one way that Vandenheuvel ensures his organization grows with him is by using a peg board in his toolbox. If he were to add new tools or rearrange his existing ones, it would take him only about 10 to 15 minutes to get his stuff moved around.  

In each drawer, the tools are neatly laid out so that when Vandenheuvel goes to grab something he won’t need to dig around and waste time searching.  

Despite no plans to expand his current storage in the future, Vandenheuvel is a stickler when it comes to the color of each box in his setup. Black and silver handles are an absolute must. He advises anyone thinking about starting a new toolbox to choose one color—red or black—and stick to it. 

“When you start out and you buy a toolbox... as long as you [have] those colors, it’s really easy to find add-on pieces,” Vandenheuvel explains. “If you want to add a cabinet, for example, it’s much easier to find a used cabinet to add on to your toolbox.” 

The man behind the box

When we first reached out to Vandenheuvel to inquire about an interview with the magazine, he warned us that his answers would be different than the average person's. We were introduced to the enigmatic technician through his first-person videos of tool reviews and repair walkthroughs on his YouTube channel, @CountryMileGarage 

Through his YouTube videos, Vandenheuvel seeks to help his audience in several ways, whether that be giving them advice on the efficiency of certain tools or walking them through a particularly challenging service problem.  

“There’s a lot of people out there that want to fix their own stuff and sometimes they run into a snag,” Vandenheuvel says. “If my video can make it happen for them, I am very happy that I could help somebody to save a dollar and get their vehicle back on the road.” 

Vandenheuvel, having been raised on a farm, spent much of his young life and adulthood repairing farm equipment. The work is more physically demanding, Vandenheuvel says, which is part of the reason he made the switch to automotive repair.  

“I used to work on equipment, and I’m not getting any younger,” Vandenheuvel explains. “So, that’s why I went into vehicle repair. Everything’s just a little lighter.”  

For about 20 years now, Vandenheuvel has been his own boss, but not many people understand the responsibility such a position holds. Weekends, for the most part, don’t exist for him, and he’s the sole employee at his shop, Country Mile Garage located in Bluffton, Indiana. That means it’s his responsibility to organize the day-to-day and make sure each of the vehicles that come in for servicing is handled properly.  

To take a closer look at Vandenheuvel’s toolbox, watch his tour video here. 

This article was originally published on www.VehicleServicePros.com.

About the Author

Elli Carder | Assistant Editor | PTEN & Professional Distributor

Elli Carder is an assistant editor for Endeavor Business Media's Vehicle Repair Group. With a background in professional and creative writing, Carder helps edit for both Professional Tools and Equipment News (PTEN) and Professional Distributor magazines, as well as VehicleServicePros.com.