Tool Cubbies

Basement, Blog, Home, Woodworking / Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

I am a slob. I always have been and there have been more than a handful of people who have tried to train it out of me. Some of it has helped, but my natural state is to live in a mess of organized chaos. I know where things are, even if to the average eye it looks like a pile of junk.

Growing up, it was my bedroom and it creeped elsewhere in the house. In college, I learned to respect the communal space and confined the mess to my room. In marriage, I do my best to keep the mess to my defined space. In our house, this space is my workshop. I’m not great at confining the mess here.

Wood scraps are everywhere. Flat surfaces are covered in bits of this and bits of that and just plain old bits. The floor has glue ups and abandoned tools. The middle of the shop is where I really work and everything is placed in a circle around it. But that organized chaos? It doesn’t exist in my shop. I’m always forgetting where I put something down. Half the time I spend  working on my projects is just time spent looking for a tool I just had in my hand. 

What I need in the shop is organization. I used to joke to Ellie that the reason people have workshops is so they can spend time building their workshops. Watch a bunch of YouTube videos and you’ll see a fair portion of them are about building tool storage and organizers. I used to joke about this, but now I know how true it is.

I would argue I had things relatively under control for a while. Then my in-laws moved out of their house and I received my father-in-laws tool collection and miscellaneous house maintenance stuff. There was this sudden influx of things, I suddenly didn’t know where any of it could go. That’s what kicked off this series of shop upgrades and rebuilds. 

It started with the shelves I took down because they were bowed. That allowed me to move some things around, but it didn’t solve everything. The shelves were a bit more organized and consolidated, but there was still plenty off the shelves. For example, I have a few sets of parts organizer drawers and to me it makes sense to keep these all in one place so all the parts are together. But the old kitchen island I was keeping them on also had most of my power tools on it. There wasn’t enough room for both. So I hatched a plan to consolidate the parts drawers on the island and organize the tools elsewhere.

What I wanted to build was a nine-cubby set of shelving to place on one of the shop shelves. It should give me ample storage for all my power tools. Each power tool would then have a home. What I ended up building was a six-cubby set of shelving and a few tools have to double up in it but since I keep the sanders together and the drills together, it still makes sense to me.

Basement Shelving

I had saved a few of the pieces of particle board from the upper shelves which I replaced. These were still in good shape and not bowing. I didn’t really have any plans to work off of, just something in my head, so I just started cutting them down to size. What I planned to do was cut a top, bottom, and middle piece all to the same size, two side pieces, and then four spaces to keep the top and bottom from the middle piece.

Because I didn’t measure anything, I ran into a few problems that were resolved through the process. The first was that I couldn’t have nine cubbies. I didn’t even think to measure the space I had where I planned to put the shelves. I just eyeballed it until I realized two rows of cubbies would barely fit in the space. Later, I realized I needed to trim some length off the shelves because I hadn’t measured the space between the shelf supports and just assumed I could have a set of cubbies as wide as I wanted. It was an easy change to cut the cubbies down to size, but come on Danny.

Tool cubbies assembled

After I had my pieces all cut to size, it was time to work on the assembly. Instead of just gluing all the pieces together and hoping it worked, I went a little further to make for a sturdier build. I used my router to cut dadoes and rabbets so everything lined up nicely. To do this, it wasn’t a hard process, but it was kind of tedious. Here’s what I did:

  1. Line up the top/bottom with the middle piece
  2. Mark where the dado/rabbet needed to be cut
  3. Line up the router bit with the inside edge of the dado/rabbet
  4. Clamp a straight-edge to the top/bottom and middle piece, lined up with the edge of the router (guide 1)
  5. Move the router bit to the other inside of the dado/rabbet
  6. Clamp a straight-edge to the top/bottom and middle piece, lined up with the edge of the router (guide 2)
  7. Route out in between the two guides for the length of the board at a depth of 1/8 in.
  8. Repeat for all other dadoes/rabbets

The only different between the dadoes and rabbets is that the rabbets only had one guide. 

When I was done, I had nice and clean cuts to fit the pieces together. It took an hour or so and made a hell of a mess, but it was better than if I tried to use a dado stack. 

 To assemble the unit, I clamped the pieces together using some homemade corner clamps (I might write a post about how I made these beauties). Once clamped, I drilled pilot holes with my countersink bit and held the pieces together with a few 1 5/8 in. screws. 

Tool cubbies installed

Some of my boards were warped slightly and some of the dadoes were not snug fits (first time using the technique). I let these things slide because the construction was good enough for what I needed it for, shop cubbies. If, over the years, what I built wears down then so be it. I’ll build it better with better materials and skill. For now, I’ll stick with what I have because it holds tools just like I wanted it to and my shop is a little less cluttered as a result. I still need to organize the parts drawers but I have plenty of time to get to that.

There are also a couple addons I want to make to this in the future. I want to get some PVC pipe holders for my drills. I wanted to build a proper holder for the circular saw so it isn’t resting on the blade. I got a set of screwdrivers from Sears for free, so I want to add onto the side a place to put all the screwdrivers. And finally, I want to add storage in each cubby for the attachments for each tool like blades, bits, tools, etc.

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