I need a kind of gigantic quality of small, see-through plastic boxes.
July 1, 2013 11:18 PM   Subscribe

I need ideas for ways to store small objects in small, see-through containers, preferably ones that are either flat and stackable or stand up tubes. I need some that hold about 2-3 cubic inches of material, some a little more, some a little less. I need to buy a lot of these and I need them as cheap as possible-- I'm hoping to pay around 35 cents apiece for them but am willing to go a bit higher on some if necessary. They're for storing beads of a variety of sizes, so I need to be able to mix and match a few different kinds of containers. I am willing to buy from multiple sources if necessary.

I've found most of the "bead storage" stuff is either too expensive or they're containers that have lots of compartments, which I don't want-- I want each container to be its own unit. I'm currently using plastic bags, but that isn't really a long-term solution-- it's harder to move them around and a bit harder to see a lot at once. Bonus points for ones that stack well.

Here's the stuff I've already looked at that could work if I could find a good deal on it:
*Beading storage
*Other miscellaneous craft storage
*Coin tubes
*Test tubes and petri dishes (petri dishes would work GREAT except I can't find ones that have tight lids, test tubes could work okay but I'm overwhelmed by science supply websites)
*Cosmetics containers (most of these are too small but some would work)
*Jars from jar manufacturers
*Collectable card storage
*Clamshell boxes for casette tapes
*Favor boxes

Here's the stuff I've looked at that definitely won't work
*Containers for holding sauces for takeout (too flimsy, too hard to open-- I'm likely to spill beads everywhere)
*Anything with a relatively small opening

I would really appreciate recommendations for particular sellers or manufacturers, because I've now gone so far into the small plastic container rabbit hole that I have no idea which ones I should rule out, what I might be missing and what places sell this kind of stuff at reasonable prices. So bonus points if you can tell me any places that sell any of these things as surplus or at a discount (I already know about American Science Surplus).
posted by NoraReed to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Oh and I should've mentioned that they need to have lids. It doesn't matter if they detach or are attached. Hell, corks are fine too. Just some kind of closure.
posted by NoraReed at 11:19 PM on July 1, 2013

How this?
posted by hydrophonic at 11:22 PM on July 1, 2013

Also, test tubes and corks.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:28 PM on July 1, 2013

Pill bottles. Ask at a retirement home, rehab facility - any place where there are old and/or sick people. There will be baskets full of Rx pill bottles. I have quarters (coins) in a tall one, heart-shaped sequins in another. You get the idea.
posted by Cranberry at 11:37 PM on July 1, 2013

Congratulations! The Container Store exists!
posted by amtho at 11:43 PM on July 1, 2013

Yeah, the American Science Surplus stuff is almost all too small, except maybe the centrifuge tubes. Container Store has a very limited selection of what I'm looking for and is 2-3x more expensive than specialty stuff even during their travel sale.

Cranberry, are all those pill bottles amber or have you found clear ones too? I need clear plastic for what I'm doing.
posted by NoraReed at 11:50 PM on July 1, 2013

Oops, you already know about American Science & Surplus.

These cut-to-length tubes have thin walls, but the caps seem robust. Pretty inexpensive. The square ones would possibly be stackable.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:50 PM on July 1, 2013

These look like the same sorts of tubes with a lot more variety, and photos.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:56 PM on July 1, 2013

There's insect collection tubes.
posted by jamaro at 12:09 AM on July 2, 2013

Hinged rigid clear acrylic boxes?

This may be what you need, but you may want a different supplier that's more flexible on minimum orders.

One thousand 1"x1"x1" boxes for only $162 is a really good deal, though.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:27 AM on July 2, 2013

How gigantic a quantity are we talking about here? If you are looking for thousands of pieces or more, trawling through alibaba.com might be worthwile.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:27 AM on July 2, 2013

Not that gigantic-- about 200 boxes total, maybe 300. I just need a few different sizes.
posted by NoraReed at 12:43 AM on July 2, 2013

Try watchmaker storage and seed storage as search terms (as I recall, the former was generally cheaper than the latter).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:52 AM on July 2, 2013

Baby food jars? You might be able to ask for those on Freecycle or something. I used to know somebody who stored a bunch of craft stuff in those.
posted by Sequence at 12:56 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also search Hobby Lobby, especially the weirdo home decor tchotchke section in the center. They have all kinds of bottles and boxes that are technically "decorative," and a little larger. They're routinely 30 to 70% off. I got a bunch of bottles for 50 cents each, which is high for you but they were larger than you're talking and NOT on sale. But you will have to go and physically look, maybe a few times (sales, stock turnover), and ask how many pieces they can get you from the stockroom.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:58 AM on July 2, 2013

Last suggestion, minimus.biz is very consumer friendly and if you found something at Ali baba they might be able to middleman for you. They may also be able to help you source what you're after. I found them very helpful when seeking single-serve lemon juice packets (before they carried them routinely). They do lots of small storage and may have ideas or suppliers if you email them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:03 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, if baby food containers work there are Gerber jars and Gerber "tupperware" ... I think they are probably the perfect sizes for you. We're not using baby food anymore but we have about 20 hanging around we use for kiddie sidewalk paint ... Many parents would gladly pass them on free. We had to rinse them to recycle them anyway and people were always collecting them for craft projects, so we just kept a grocery bag of rinsed ones and our crafty friends would raid it. You'd probably have to ask on Craigslist or whatever but it shouldn't be too difficult to assemble a few hundred for free or cheap.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:12 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I keep a stock of tiny brass screws in various sizes for woodworking hardware, and use some stacking pill containers given to me by my MIL. The way these work is that the bottom of each container screws onto the top of the one below it, so a column of containers only needs one conventional lid. I really like them because I can reach into a storage cabinet and pull out a selection of fasteners with one grab, without having to handle half a dozen different tiny containers, because they're all screwed together. A quick search suggests these are available in both clear and colored versions at a range of price points.
posted by jon1270 at 2:41 AM on July 2, 2013

ULINE: flexible or rigid small plastic boxes. You might also consider tiny heavy duty ziplocks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:29 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Uline sells clear plastic boxes with lids. They are more than 35 cents each though. Look at item S 6278 for example. http://m.uline.com/mt/www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-6278/Retail-Boxes/4-5-8-x-3-1-2-x-1-1-4-Plastic-Boxes?un_jtt_redirect.
posted by LiverOdor at 4:36 AM on July 2, 2013

Here's a source. Variety of sizes and pretty good pricing.
posted by uncaken at 5:11 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

50mL falcon tubes would be about the right size. They have screw tops and are air tight. There are a little over your price point (~65 cents vs 35 cents each) but you can order them from Fischer, a very reputable site. I would recommend getting the second option, which includes a Styrofoam "rack" for easier storage.
posted by fermezporte at 5:20 AM on July 2, 2013

Centrifuge tubes are available on Amazon! Only 20c each. Some plastic racks would be useful, but will up the cost (~$8 for 21).
posted by kjs4 at 6:13 AM on July 2, 2013

plastic spice jars?
posted by xo at 6:44 AM on July 2, 2013

Western Specialty has a 6oz plastic jar w/lid that is stackable. Not sure of the cost ea.

Call 909-923-6150 ext 204 for Suzan - she should be able to give you a price.

(disclaimer - I work with Suzan and other folks at that co.)
posted by jaimystery at 8:05 AM on July 2, 2013

I feel your pain. I have WAY too many miscellaneous containers for beading myself!

Amazon has:
100 of these for 33.62 wth free prime shipping. Con: all the same size, you may not need this many.

You can put some of your beads in these: 30 for 8.95 (Bonus: comes with a storage case to put all the littler jars in), and then maybe also use these.

Once you find the containers, this blogger found an ingenious way to store them that I really liked--an old printer's typeset box!

I have also seen crafty types go the (attractive but insanely expensive) magnetic spice jar storage route. Great aside from the cost, right?

BUT apparently it is possible to repurpose some cookie sheets to hold containers rigged with magnetic lids for a more affordable solution.
posted by misha at 8:53 AM on July 2, 2013

I store most of my jewelry supplies in many sizes of Amac boxes. I realize some of them are spendy, but they do exactly what I want and they speak to my inner neat freak.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2013

Find literally anyone who works as an IT admin, and they should be able to give you all the LTO tape cases you could ever want...
posted by stenseng at 9:34 AM on July 2, 2013

When I was still making soap. I used to order containers from Sunburst Bottle Company. They allow you to order just one item, or lots, with various price breaks. Some of the clear plastic containers look like they might be what you are looking for. There are price breaks for ordering larger quantities.
posted by annsunny at 3:01 PM on July 2, 2013

Not sure if you've already checked it out, but Amazon has a scientific and lab section that is pretty baller.

-Prescription safety bottles (270 for $37)

-Tiny glass vials (12 for $3.00)

-Little plastic screw top container thingies (10 for $2.50)
posted by forkisbetter at 10:32 AM on July 3, 2013

UPDATE: I ended up finding a bunch of little storage boxes from Family Dollar that were all 8 for $1.
posted by NoraReed at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2013

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