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Date: 16 May 2016. Storing Nuts, Bolts and Screws.


Aboard Seaweed I have a system for sorting and organizing my screws, nuts and bolts. It works and is easy to maintain. This is what I do, along with a couple of suggestions on how my method could be better. Best of all, it's totally free using stuff you already own.

For the smallest screws I have used empty aspirin bottles. The labels come off leaving a sticky residue.



Low Odor Paint Thinner  made by Daler Rowney removes the glue without damaging the plastic aspirin bottle. The thinner is about $6 for a small container at Wal-Mart. It works well. Because I paint seashells I have this item in my ship's stores.

Yes, that tooth pick with a single hair is the paint brush. I have other larger brushes. For fine detail I make my own paintbrushes.

Someday I would love to get a bottle of the Daler Rowney Linseed Oil... it is however pricey.


But I digress... or as Kidlet says I run down bunny trails.  (That means I go off topic.)

Little aspirin bottles are a good size for short screws, lock washers and such. The problem with them is that you have to line up the arrows to open the doggone bottle. I do not want to hunt down my glasses to see the arrows so the first thing I do is take out my red nail polish [see Kindle versus Fire (nail polish too) article] and paint the arrows red.

If it is a set of the same thing I will glue one on top of the lid. Sometimes they come off so I fairly regularly glue a second time. Of course if I used something better (hot glue or silicone) that would not happen. It is a small enough thing to replace that I have not yet bothered to do a more permanent solution. For other screws and such I write what is inside on the top.

The tiny nails shown above on the left are brass and will not rust.
I regularly replace screws that could rust with better quality stainless ones.

First of all, know I am totally a stainless girl. I do not keep things that cannot be used aboard the boat. Having a supply of nuts, bolts and screws is for convenience not necessity. I would not buy in advance unless I came across a real bargain.

Confession time: I do have and enjoy beautiful things that simply bring me pleasure. Boating isn't all about working on the boat and having a huge spare parts inventory.

If you are like me, when I discover something I need for Seaweed I buy one plus a spare. I went from almost no spares eight years ago to a fairly substantial collection though not overnight. I've purchased as needed and that has worked well for my budget.

You do not need to have Everything at the onset. Buying as you go is Good Enough.

Here in the United States most parts can be obtained ASAP using overnight delivery. Thus, having spare parts out the kazoo is less necessary than if you were heading out to remote locations.

I already have lots of hardware. It was leftover from our previous boat supplies. Having the nuts, bolts and such stored in accessible places is for my convenience. And too, it is nice to be able to share with folks. I generally have what is required.

On our 40'er we used to have a collection of spice bottles. Those were filled with screws in various sizes. I kept them when we sold that boat. During the galley switcheroo [see
Securing a Refrigerator (fans too) article] the collection that formerly resided where the *reefer now is was moved into a milk crate in the bilge.

*Reefer: boat talk for a refrigerator.

It was a mess. I do not do chaos and disorder so this was not my favorite:

Side Note: You might notice that I have hose clamps attached to the bulkhead on the left side of the above photo. They are sorted into three collections.

  • Small (up to about an inch diameter, for small hoses and such)

  • Medium (about 1 1/2" to 3")

  • Large (above four inches)

I have them on small loops of line so that I can easily retrieve one or more. It is convenient to have spares and by sorting them in advance I can get just the right size without a hassle. There are three brass cup hook holders the hose clamp collections hang on.

For me having items accessible and stored properly is a big advantage.
Folks are always amazed when I have so much and can find it quickly.

Still, there is room for improvement. You might see the varied sizes of bottles in the collection. My favorites without a doubt are the old pill bottles. Those without the childproof safety caps are the best. Next, spice jars are wonderful. You can see through them and they store a quantity of screws.

Were I to build a hardware collection again, from the get-go I would use spice bottles. There are a myriad of spice shelves available from both retail stores and thrift shops. It would be wonderful to have a locker with a big collection of bottles all lined up on a neat rack where I could see them.

I also have one super-sized mayonnaise jar with hinges 4" and smaller stashed aside.

The matching ones are tied together. If I require a pair of hinges I can easily find them in this collection.

A local guy preparing to cruise had too many screws to fit into small bottles such as I have aboard Seaweed. For his collection empty instant coffee jars were utilized. The jars are plastic with plastic lids that will not rust. They fit a lot.

Someday he can sort them down into better organized, more size specific groups. For now this is the way they are sorted:

  1. Small bolts such as you would use in an electrical panel (short stubby ones)

  2. Screws less than one inch long

  3. Screws more than an inch long up to about 2" long

  4. Larger diameter and longer screws

  5. Washers, lock washers, finish washers and nuts

  6. Bolts that are not BIG

  7. The largest bolts, wing nuts, washers, nuts, locking nuts (those 5/16" and above)

The above groupings seem to work well as a starter point. To do it all as precisely as mine are (sorted by size, thread count) would be an overwhelming task. Sometimes Good Enough is indeed good enough. This is such a case.

This screw set was a gift from Baby. I have refilled it numerous times. It is a convenient kit to bring along when I am helping out a friend.

Yours do not have to be perfect. For now, simply remove the ones that would rust and Call it Good. There is boating to be done, and sorting screws is one of those things you can do at anchor.

With a gentle breeze and some music playing on the radio, well, sorting screws is almost fun!

Yachts at anchor including Lady Catherine. Isn't she a beauty? Photo by Island Time.

To you and yours, I wish lots of wonderful days and nights at anchor. And may all your screws be just right for the job at hand.

What sorting system do you have for screws and bolts?
Do you use those plastic boxes with the dividers or something else entirely?

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2016, 2023

Categories: Boat Talk, Boats, Characters, Organizing, Vignettes,

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Aphorism Alert:  Machinist Workshop Magazine did a test of penetrating oils. They tested the break-out torque required to loosen rusty nuts. This is what they came up with: Nothing 516 lbs; WD-40 238 lbs; PB Blaster 214 lbs; Liquid Wrench 127 lbs, Kano Kroil 106 lbs; Automatic transmission fluid (ATF)/Acetone mix (50/50) 50 lbs.

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