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Big Capacity Storage Cabinet

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Big Capacity Storage Cabinet

Restaurant storage tubs organize shop supplies for stow and go.

By Dave Olson


When I worked in a restaurant as a teenager, I hauled dirty dishes in plastic bus boxes. Using them to organize my shop is much more pleasant. Bus boxes are light in weight and strong enough to hold all kinds of shop essentials, including most of my portable power tools. This 6-ft.-long cabinet holds up to twenty 5 in. by 15 in. by 20 in. bus boxes (Fig. A, and Sources, below). I built it in a weekend, using an unusual construction method: Instead of using solid pieces of plywood for all the elements, I cut the plywood into narrow strips and glued them back together into structural frames.

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This method requires less plywood, because so little is wasted. It’s also a great way to use scrap plywood, because most of the pieces are relatively short and narrow. The plywood does not have to be perfectly flat, either, for the same reason.

This method is also versatile. For example, it’s easy to change the cabinet’s height, the number of storage compartments or the spacing of the bus boxes. Vary the size of the frames to create built-in closets and bookcases. For a bedroom, upgrade to wooden drawers and replace the runners with full-extension hardware.

This cabinet is made from two 4x8 sheets of 3/4 in. plywood (I used exterior grade fir). You’ll also need a piece of 1/4 in. plywood or hardboard for the back, an 8 ft. 1x10 to face all the plywood edges and a 12 ft. 1x12 for the bus box supports.


This storage cabinet is primarily made from plywood— even the frames that support the bus boxes. The first step is to cut the plywood into narrow strips to make stiles and rails for the frames.

Click on any image to see a larger version.


Stacked support frames, with rails sandwiched between the stiles, go on the ends of the cabinet and in the middle. They go together quickly, thanks to an assembly jig.


The two inside frames are biscuited. To keep the frames square, pull the pieces together while holding the stiles and top rail against the assembly jig’s fences.


Attach a cleat on the top of each frame. Then attach the bus box supports. Position all the top supports 2 in. from the cleat. The rest of the supports can go wherever you want, depending on the height of the items you’ll be storing.


Attach one support frame exactly centered on the top. Then use a spacer to locate and attach the remaining frames, so they’re evenly spaced and parallel. You have to remove the top bus box supports to install each frame.


Tie the frames together by installing the stretchers. They pass under the bottom rails of the support frames and over the inside frame rails. Use the spacer from the previous step to align the frames before fastening them to the stretchers.


Fasten the back after clamping it flush with the cabinet’s edges and top.


Install the end panels to create a flush surface (or use thinner plywood to mimic a recessed panel). Glue solid-wood faces on the fronts of each frame and plywood filler blocks in all the feet.


Mount the lipped doors, using a stack of playing cards to create adequate clearance between the doors and the top. Only the doors’ long edges are rabbeted, as the cabinet has solid-wood facing, rather than a traditional face frame.


Install the bus boxes. Durable and portable, they’re great for organizing all kinds of tools.




This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2008, issue #136.

July 2008, Issue #136

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