Quick Easy & Cheap Resistor Storage


I’ve been building stuff with electronics for years, and I’ve come to find that storage and organization of my materials can make or break a project. Here I share my method for storing resistors, which I arrived at after years of suffering through other methods. Maybe I can save you the trouble!

The Problems

resistor-compartment-boxesSpace Efficiency

My workspace is small, shared and multipurpose, which puts unexpected constraints on storage. For years I used a well-labeled set of multi-compartment boxes, but resistors are so tiny that the boxes were mostly empty space. They also had hinged lids so when I put one on the workbench I needed to clear space for the box and the lid behind it. Then if I needed a resistor from a different box I might end up with a stack of open boxes balanced on top of eachother.

resistor-drawersRemovable drawer systems would keep the workbench tidier (since several drawers could be on the bench simultaneously) but they are also mostly empty space, and I don’t have wall space to mount the drawers.

Quick Access & Cleanup

A well-labeled storage system makes it easy to find the part you need, but it took me years to learn that quick cleanup is harder to accomplish than quick access. I leave a trail of unused parts behind as I prototype, since I often breadboard many options before deciding on a final circuit. With multi-compartment boxes it takes a lot of time to return the unused resistors to their homes. Drawers are a little easier because you can leave them out, but that starts taking up a lot of space.

The Solution: Bags in a Box

resistor-box-fanI was inspired by this Resistor Storage Instructable where the lowly cardboard box is revealed to be a great organizer, and super-compact too. I made some specific enhancements:

The Right Resistors

Inexpensive carbon resistors are 5% tolerance and have 4 color bands. I also use metal film for lower noise in audio circuits. They are 1% tolerance (5 bands). I wanted to keep them in the same bags but the common values for 5% are not the same as 1%. (For example, a typical 560 Ω 1% resistor is actually 562 Ω.) Luckily, Chinese 1% metal film assortments are common on eBay and many match the E12 series values that are more typically associated with 5% resistors.

The Right Labels

Color labels are an important tool to solve the cleanup problem. If I have a pile of resistors on the bench I can match them to the color codes and get them back in their bags. The labels have color codes for both 5% and 1% resistors, as well as SMD codes in case I throw some of those in there.

I used Avery 5260 labels, folded over the edge of the bags to provide a nice edge for flipping through the index. Here are my files in case you want to print your own:

Download ODT

Download PDF

2020 update: Martin Stumpf wrote a Python script to generate Avery 5260 labels for any resistor value!

The Right Bags

The system uses on “press-to-close” (AKA Zip-Loc) bags. Some resistor assortments are even packed in these already, but the included bags are always thin (2mil) plastic so it’s really hard to get them open/closed and the resistors get jammed inside. I used 3″x4″ 6mil bags which are rigid enough to stay open and big enough to get your fingers into. I leave the open bags on the workbench so I can either return unused resistors directly, or at least have fewer possible matches when I’m cleaning up my pile of discards after a long build.


The Right Box

I happened to have a cardboard box that fit my bags perfectly, but you can probably come up with something better, like this wonderful 3D-printed modular system that Chris Ward designed.