Hardware Drawers with Organizer Trays

A few years back I built two rolling cabinets to hold all of my screws and other hardware. They were a big boon, but I quickly converted one over to having only drawers. It looks like the other is about to have the same thing happen. I have lots of plastic organizers that are well labeled and sorted, but they have a few issues. The first one is that I go into them so often they pile up everywhere. I even added a pull out shelf so there was always a place to sit one. There tend to be 2 or 3 stacked up at any given time.

The other issue with them, and this is minor but super annoying, is that occasionally the dividers shift and start mixing all your hardware up like a bad drink recipe. Lastly, I find myself taking the organizer with me to the project I am working on. Sometimes you absentmindedly pull the wrong screw, and it takes up more space where you are working.

I was inspired by Alexandre Chappel’s video about printing little trays and using them to organize hardware. I printed out a few of his trays and thought the concept was fantastic, but had some issues with the wall thickness in the model and wanted more label space. I made my own instead. They have rounded corners to help speed printing, consistent wall thickness, a slight taper to the sides to make pulling them in and out easy, and a large label area. Now I can pull only the tray of screws I need and take it to where I am working.

With the tray sizes worked out I did some measurements and found I could fit a drawer 8 trays wide if I was careful in how I cut everything. I went ahead and started installing runners in the cabinet. I cut a template that would set spacing and act as a router guide to cut a dado in the cabinet sides. Once again my trim router comes to the rescue. This will help with the drawer runner alignment and expose new wood for glue. The inside was covered in boiled linseed oil when I made it.

I took thinned maple and had a small production run of drawer runners. I sand the top and bottom smooth, marked the board for screw locations, ripped out each runner, drilled clearance holes for screws and then installed them. Each runner got glue, a few brads to keep it still, and 3 screws. There will be a lot of weight on these, so I didn’t want any movement.

I planned out all the drawers to be the same, and installed runners for each. Before I went into drawer production though, I made a prototype held together with clamps. Good thing I did! The original plan was for the drawers to be 6 trays deep. Looking at the left picture below, I have the drawer pulled out as far as I dare given the weight. I can’t see the label or the contents of the last row. Dropping back to 5 rows leaves plenty of drawer still inside the cabinet for stability. Metal slides would cost more money and drawer width, but allow full extension. I could have had a few more trays had I gone that way, but I am happy with my decision.

With the drawer parameters set I went back into production mode. The cabinets originally had a number of shelves made for them. I didn’t need those anymore, so I figured out how to incorporate them into the new drawers. I am working really hard to minimize waste these days, so I don’t have to go out to the store. No fancy joinery, just a rabbet on the bottom to help keep the drawer bottom in the right position. For the fronts I attached new plywood and kept the orientation the same so the grain pattern would flow down the front.

With the drawers all assembled and dried I needed to countersink the screws that hold the drawer pull on. Once again a template makes this repeated work fast and easy. The template goes inside the drawer and guides a forsner bit big enough for the drawer pull’s screw head. Countersinking like this keeps the head from interfering with my trays and protrudes the screw far enough so that It can bite into the drawer pull.

Drawer pull template in place inside the drawer
Hole drilled and drawer pull screw installed

The finished cabinet looks gorgeous and I was even able to use the same label holders as I did on the other cabinet. There are still shelves below for organizers I thought were worth keeping. The shelf space below is at only 1/3 full at most, and the drawer space is 3/4 full. I doubt I will have to build any more drawers in the future, but the cabinet has enough space for another 5 or so. Each drawer has a magnet embedded in the front to hold onto a small steel ruler. That way you can double check what you pull out, and always put fasteners back in the right place.

Router Table

While building my baby bookcase I noticed the table top on my router was not flat. The joinery was poor enough I had to go to the table saw instead. 10+ years of Florida humidity and a heavy router finally did it in. The red arrow is pointing to all the light coming out from under the straight level.

I use my router table a lot, so I wanted something nice to replace it. A full professional router table setup can cost 1,000 bucks with all the bells and whistles. I want something of decent quality, but not for that much money. I did a ton of research and finally broke down to buying a really high quality lift, and building the rest. Say goodbye to my old friend! By the way, I took the mounting plate out and tried it on my tablesaw top. It had a very distinct rock, so it wasn’t flat either.

The Top

These days my building and blogging are badly out of sync. Some short projects get posted in a week or two, and bigger ones linger for months before getting posted. This one started right about the time we were all supposed to limit our trips out to essentials only. The hardware stores are open, but I can’t call this router table essential. A broken toilet or water heater, this is not.

I normally would have gone to pickup laminate faced plywood, but instead I looked around and decided to use this big piece of butcher block counter top. Some friends were having their kitchen redone and saved it for me.

I got to cutting off a nice hunk and my saw went a little nuts. It turns out the way they clamp everything together is with screws! Lots and lots of screws. If you look at the side, they even cut through some to make the counter top the right size, and just filled the void with putty. They must make these things in massive sheets, then cut down what they need.

I took my number 5 to it and planed off all the old finish that was feeling a little gummy. It looks a lot nicer now. This is really soft pine and not as flat or as stable as I was hoping. There was some twist I couldn’t quite get out.

With the top mostly flat, I built up a set of guides to install my router lift. This part didn’t go quite as planned either. I tried to attach each piece together with pocket hole screws, but going into the plywood sideways with a screw caused it to de-laminate and bulge. I muddled through with double sticky tape and got to routing with a template bit.

Once I had a recess routed that was the thickness of the router lift top, I went through and cut out the inside area. Those pesky screws came to bite me again, my jigsaw was not happy. When it was all cutout I marked the location of the leveling set screws and soaked the area with thin CA glue to stabilize the wood. I was worried the set screws would slowly sink into this soft pine otherwise.

The top’s twist was a little evident in the fit of the router top, and the template bit’s radius was off. It turns out the lift has a corner radius of 3/4″ of an inch, and my bit is 3/4″ in diameter which yields a 3/8″ radius. I think we are going to call this a practice table top. I will eventually get a new material and make a better one. I put down a few coats of polyurethane to seal it up and give me a solid surface to wax.

Base

With the top basically finished I was able to move on to the base. Using the plywood I had available I made a 3 chambered base. The left was going to be for open storage, the center would house the router and collect most of the dust, and the right would have a set of drawers for bit storage.

I set the top down and the twist is even more evident. The bottom is really uneven, so I guess they only ever planed the top to flat-ish.

I thinned down some maple scraps and cut them up to make runners. I used a piece of hardboard as a template for the drawer side height, and it also served as a square and guide for installing the runners. I nailed and glued those in place, then hit everything with boiled linseed oil to finish.

Fence

I had some ideas about how I wanted to make a fence, but wasn’t quite sure which way to go. I was also running low on some materials, so to conserve, I just re-purposed the fence from my old router table. I added wings to make it reach out further. To hold it in place I made it go past the edges of the table, then used a little clamp paw to squeeze it down to the edge of the table.

To attach the wings I just screwed them down from underneath

It worked reasonably well, except that any time I pushed on the fence in the center, it seemed to bow outward. The system wasn’t rigid enough. I added a support across the back to help stiffen it up. That reduced the bow. Next time I will sink some tracks into the table top to facilitate more centralized clamping.

Drawers

Things were starting to come together. With the top in place and a working fence available I was able to employ it in making drawers. Nothing fancy, just some plywood sides with half lap joints and rabbeted bottoms. I added drawer fronts with rounded edges and finished everything with boiled linseed oil.

The top drawer holds my trim router and all 1/4″ shank bits. Only got this thing a month or two ago, but have found it to be an incredibly useful tool.

Next are all of my 1/2″ shank bits. They fit with plenty of space to spare. I 3D printed the holders for these because I didn’t have the right sized drill bits. A 1/2″ bit will leave a really snug fit. My next size up was a 5/8″ forstner bit. Too loose! Everything is kind of grouped and there is a lot of room left for new bits. The last drawer is empty believe it or not. Plenty of room to grow!

Finishing Touches

With the drawers set I was able to work on a few finishing touches. I moved the power switch over from the old table to the new one. This works great and will stay. There is a hole in the back for the router’s power cord to come through. I covered it with a custom 3D print cover. I put a cover over the front router cavity with magnets. It comes right off if I need to service something, but otherwise has gaps to pull air and dust through when in operation. On that cover I have two printed holders with magnets for the collet release and hex tool that runs the lift. Lastly I added a shelf to the left cavity. It holds common use accessories and a stack of different brass setup bars I cut from 12″ lengths of key stock.

I have been using this table for a few weeks and it has been working really well. The router lift was pricey, but is a dream to work with. It adjusts easily and locks down securely. The top is fine for now. The pine has already gotten dented and my install job has left some gaps. The fence clamps work well, but it flexes too much. I will take all these lessons learned and do a series of upgrades soon. For now, it is back to work on other projects.

Sharpening Station

Sharpening is one of those things that you know you should do often, but always gets put off.  It is often said 90% of your problems with hand tools can be fixed by proper sharpening.  I am getting better at free hand sharpening, and getting less lazy over time.  It is hard to always have some dedicated space to sharpening though.  I read an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine where someone suggested using a basic tool box plus custom top as a sharpening station.  It is portable to follow you around the shop, and has all the right stuff where you need it.  Instead of buying something I decided to stash bust and build one.

I have a ton of 3/4″ plywood around from my temporary kitchen counter tops, and some left over spares from the cabinet installation.  I turned them into a 16×16 open fronted box, along with a few drawers.

Given that the case and drawers would be short I didn’t want to use my normal method of attachment.  This typically involves building the drawer to just below the inside width of the box, and using pine as runners.  It is quick and easy, but the drawers fall out if you pull too far.  Instead I went with metal slides, and got to use my new drawer install tools.

I picked up a slide install tool and drawer guides from rockler.  They help a lot, but are a little awkward to use.  I wish I had do more research before buying.  I think kreg might have a better system.

Instead of using some kind of gripy surface to hold all the various plates and stones in place I went with a small vise.

On the left is a small work surface with bench dog clamps to help hold sharpening plates.  It is offset to the left to prevent drawer interference.  On the right is a small granite surface plate I had.  I added a protective cover to it eventually (seen in later photos).  Now I can use whatever method of hand sharpening best fits the situation of the tool.

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I built 3 sets of drawers to start with because it was all I thought I would need.  Then I found enough stuff to add a 4th drawer.  Once that was built and installed I found enough for a 5th.  I probably have too much sharpening junk.

The project ended up stretching out over a month as I worked on other things and came back with more ideas.  In that time I used a few different pieces of plywood for the front face of the drawers, so they don’t match well.  I did cook up a cool side caddy for honing fluids though.

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In all I think I am going to like it.  It rolls nicely, tucks away under one of my other benches that didn’t have a use for that space, holds a lot of stuff in the drawers, and even has space on the bottom shelf for my work sharp tool box and saw sharpening clamp.  The only thing it might need is weight in the bottom to help with stability.  Now I have no excuse not to sharpen early and often.

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Sander Cabinet

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This is my new beast.  I posted about it a few weeks back and have been really happy with it since.  Happy with the machine, but not the stand.  It is too low, and my little shop vac doesn’t really fit under it.  Time for a new cabinet.

I designed this to work with a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood.  The doors, drawer, and back could have easily been made with 1/2″ plywood, but I didn’t have any, and buying one sheet of each didn’t make sense to me considering I can’t really store half sheets.  Besides, the price difference is minimal.

Started with an open box that would house the dust collection, and raise the tool up high enough when castors are installed.

With a shelf added I had room for a drawer in the bottom, and was able to cut holes for the intake and exhaust hose.

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The drawer is a simple box like I have been making for other cabinets and drawer organizers recently.  No handle on the front, just a finger cutout.  This is big and deep enough to hold all the sander’s spare belts and disks as well as some random miter saw parts that needed a good home.

At this point it was assembled enough to apply the boiled linseed oil finish and castors.


Accessory Holders

The sander has two different allen keys to make adjustments and remove guide plates.  Additionally it has a small miter guide for use on the disk sander.  I milled two pine blocks to make custom holders for the keys and guide.  Both sets of tool holders screwed to the inside of the doors.


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Speaking of my CNC mill, I employed it a bit more for this job.  I think calling this thing a beast is really fitting.  I took some two color HPDE and milled out a BEAST Rikon logo.

 


Dust Switch

It won’t do to fumble around inside the box every time I need the vacuum on.  I found safety tool switches online that come with a split up power cord.  You can plug it into the wall, and plug your tool into the cord.  It took some trimming of the flange to make it sit flush on the cabinet side.  Once trimmed and screwed in place though, it looks and works wonderfully.

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Storage, integral dust collection with an easy switch, and a perfect working height.  What more could you ask for in a beast?

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