When I first started making rings, I didn’t have nearly as many sizes as I do now, but even with just a few dozen, I wanted a way to keep them in order and scan quickly for a specific size. Plastic bags were no good – I needed something rigid. The screw-together clear plastic bead containers were better, but I wanted to be able to quickly grab just one or two sizes. Tins seemed like a good idea, and several of my friends liked Altoids mints. When I discovered that Altoids tins fit beautifully into card boxes, my choice was made.
I wrote the specific ring name on the edge of the tin, and the overall category on the end of the card box. My rings were easy to find, and I could quickly grab just the sizes that I needed, no more. (This picture dates from late 2003, when I was transitioning from letter to number designations for inner diameters.)
I’ve refined my system a little bit in the intervening years, but the basic idea remains the same. Instead of actual Altoids tins, I now use unprinted tins of the same size. There’s more room for making notes on the tins, and my rings don’t smell like peppermint! I‘ve also invested in a couple custom Kennedy tool chests. All the drawers are four inches deep – perfect for row after row of tins.
One other refinement I’ve added are some little round tins that fit inside the Altoids-size tins. These tiny containers are useful for keeping my pre-closed rings and half-finished projects apart from the main heap of rings.
The bulk of my rings now live in those Kennedy tool chests, but I do still use card boxes for all sorts of non-standard items. They come in many sizes – visit your local comic book store or game store and ask to see their selection of boxes for collectible cards. Be sure to bring a few Altoids tins with you to test the fit.
That’s how I organize my rings inside my studio. When I travel someplace else, I sometimes bring tins in a project lunchbox, or in a small card box, but that’s too bulky for air travel or hiking. If I need to travel small (traveling “light” isn’t really an option for me), I’ll use a Dot Box. I note each ring size on a small square of paper that I drop in before the rings. (I tried relying on my memory a few times, but I sometimes don’t unpack for months…)
Lots of labeled containers inside other labeled containers. What bliss! (And yes, you’re allowed to tease me about my labeling compulsion – my family does all the time.)