Like most tack makers, I have a large collection of small metal parts and pieces. Many come from hobby suppliers like Rio Rondo and the World of Model Horse Collecting. Others come from big chain hobby stores such as Hobby Lobby or Michaels and still others are one-off type things culled from independent bead shops or broken jewelry pieces. Keeping so many tiny pieces organized is a constant challenge. If you're not careful you end up with a mess like this.
Everything in the picture is gold toned, but that's the extent of the organization. There are buckles, beads, sequin pins, d-rings, lanyard clips and all manner of things jumbled up together. The container on the left is a weekly pill box easily found at any pharmacy. It's a nice size for storing tack pieces, but there are too many different things in there. The container on the right was bought at a bead shop. It's made of the type of clear, brittle plastic that I now avoid. Not surprisingly, this container no longer had a lid since the plastic hinges broke into pieces long ago.
I've had several recent orders with gold hardware and they've made it obvious to me that this system wasn't working. It's not efficient to continually pick though these little boxes in search of just the right jump ring or buckle. I hate wasting time like that, so this week I decided to spend a day organizing my stash. I started out by buying this box at Hobby Lobby. As you can see, it wasn't terribly expensive. However, I'm cheap and almost never pay full price. Hobby Lobby has weekly sales ads. They run on the back page of the entertainment section of the Sunday Denver Post and most weeks there's a 40% off coupon. Even when there isn't, plastic storage boxes go on sale pretty regularly. I usually buy them for a dollar a piece. I very much like this particular box. The plastic is resilient, there are enough spaces for a variety of findings and the boxes are made to stack neatly upon one another.
In the next picture, I've started sorting all my findings. Everything was such a mess that this took me a couple hours.
I won't lie. This wasn't a fun project. There are so many things I'd rather do than sort out little bits of hardware. Still, I'm pleased with my day's work and I know I'll be glad I did this the next time I tackle an order that calls for gold toned hardware!
I've put Rio Rondo hardware (buckles, d-rings and slotted halter rings) in the big box and jumps rings (which I buy at local hobby stores) in the small one. In addition to making it easier to find things, this also helps immensely when it's time to restock my supplies. Next time I write a Rio Rondo order, I know I'll want to buy 3/32" d-rings and 1/8" and 3/16" square buckles. When jump rings go on sale at Hobby Lobby, I can check just one spot to see if I'm running low on any of the sizes I use. I like organizing things by the supply source. It just makes sense to me.
All finished! There are a few findings that defy easy classification so I've bagged them up and will store them separately. I don't love that, but it's ok. There are always going to be some things that are hard to fit into a system. The important thing is to organize the essentials--those pieces that you use and buy on a regular basis. I think I've managed to do that here.