So, I decided to think smaller. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on several different electronics projects in recent months and by far the most time consuming activity has been searching through my pile of resistors.
In truth, I started this little project over two years ago when I bought a lot of fourty Plano 3449 mini tackle boxes off eBay (for about $1 each) for this purpose. However, I took a couple years off from doing anything serious with electronics and so the boxes have just sat in a bigger box in my office. When I bought the boxes, my idea was basically to put every different value in a separate compartment. However, the more I thought about it that was a terribly ineffective use of space since a vast majority of the resistor values I have come from assortment bags and I only have 5 to 10 units of each value.
So, I started to think about how to better utilize the space within the compartments of the Plano boxes to help reduce the number of boxes required to store the complete resistor collection and to allow me to be able to quickly and easily find & store resistors when needed. To make it easy to find resistors, I knew I needed them labeled with their numeric value and sorted. To make it easy to store resistors, I knew I would need their color codes easily viewable.
Excel spreadsheet to help with the color coding. This turned out to be a much bigger challenge than I initially expected. Consider this my Christmas present to you should you decide to use it (I’ll expect a Christmas card in return! ;)
After printing out pages of all the envelope templates that I needed, it was then just a matter of sitting in front of the TV with some scissors cutting out all the squares, folding them and taping the ends. I then sorted through and identified all the resistors and placed them in their appropriate envelopes.
The rule of thumb that I've been using and which has worked very well regarding resistor inventory is to start out with a couple 1000 resistor assortments from eBay. Then as I run out of a particular value, I order 200 to replace it. 20 resistors is about all that will comfortable fit in the tiny envelopes. So, for more than that for a single value they get their own dedicated compartment within the box. I place the envelope over the divider so that it's value & color code are easily visible.
I'm now able to fit all of my resistors into three of the Plano boxes and can locate the needed one within seconds instead of minutes. It's especially nice that the boxes are clear and I'm able to view the labels through the box lid without opening it to locate the correct box. It took several nights to get it all setup and sorted but now it's very easy to maintain and I consider it well worth the effort.
A couple of issues to mention concerning the Excel spreadsheet. First, I was focused on the majority of my resistors that are 1/4W and failed to provide a way to note this on the envelope. Since I'm not willing to recreate the envelopes just to add a "1/4W" label on them, the approach I'm taking is that as I add resistors of a different Watt rating then I hand write "1/4W" below the resistor value in the empty white space and print the new envelope for the new value with the Watt value on it. If you decide to use my spreadsheet, you should add the W label on there before printing. Secondly, the data formatting abilities in Excel seems to have a limitation where it is not possible to have it hide the decimal if the format contains the ability to have decimal places. For example, if the format is "0.##" and the number is 10 then it will display the number as "10." (including the period). So, for this reason you will see a lot of extra periods on the envelopes. If you know a way to eliminate the period, please leave a comment with the solution and I'll update the spreadsheet.
I hope this post has helped someone else escape "resistor hell". Now onto capacitors...