Zip Tie Caddy

Zip ties are one of those magical inventions that are simple genius, and I can’t live without them.  I have a fancy zip tie gun at work that does a really good job of tensioning the tie, automatically cutting at a set point, and keeping the tail captured.  They are expensive, so I found a different design that works pretty well and is affordable by mere mortals.  This calls for a custom caddy to keep all my zip ties organized and ready to go.

I cut up some spare plywood and played around with layouts a bit.  I think this is a good size.DSC_0899

I cut out a window to make tool access easier.

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I cut some more wood for a small base.  Narrow enough to make storage easier, but wide enough to keep it from tipping.  I really like how the rounded corners turned out from my router jig.

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I gave the two pieces a good painting and assembled.  I picked the color scheme of the zip tie tool.  The black zip ties contrast nicely against the orange background.

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To attach each zip tie bundle I used a zip tie that can be screwed down.  That looped into a zip tie around the bundle.  As you pull ties out you just tighten the bundle to keep things tight.

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It holds a variety of lengths and sizes along with my colorful re-useable ties and the screw down ones.  Plenty of room to grow too.

The handle was printed to match my hand size and keep with the color scheme.  Same deal with the zip tie tool holder.

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Battery Charging Station

I am mildly obsessed with flashlights.  These flashlights take fancy 18650 lithium ion batteries that can be recharged.  I have a lot of light accessories, spare batteries from laptops, and other things that need storage and organization.  Similarly cameras tend to have their own specialized batteries that need storage and charging.  I built a flexible station to hold all my chargers in one place.  Later I added an extras organizer from a repurposed storage box.

I started with all the specialized chargers I could find.  Two for flashlight batteries and two for cameras.  I decided to go for the pedal board route.  Guitarists can have a lot of effects pedals for their instruments.  Instead of having them all splayed across the floor they tend to put them on a thin box using velcro.  The box has slits that allow cables to pass inside the box out of the way.

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I built it to fit a shelf in my office closet and made it wide enough to expand with new charger capacity if need be.  Nothing special, just some pine I had hanging out.  The chargers are held at about a 60 degree angle, and there is space in the back to strap down a power strip.

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I wanted it dark to help hide the dark cables and velcro.  I never have good luck staining pine, but mixed up a water based dye blend.  It turned out great!

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With velcro and power strip in place I could start attaching chargers.

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A 4×1 outlet extender lets you plug in chargers that are supposed to go directly into a wall outlet.  I added a device called a blackout buddy.  Eaton makes them and they are red cross branded.  It plugs in and charges itself.  When the power goes out it turn on the light so can see.  Now when our power goes out I can find my way to the flashlight stash in the dark.  It fit like a charm on the shelf in my closet.

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Next up I pulled an old drawer storage box thing out of the trash.  It used to have board games in it, but was destined for the dump.  I thought the all-wood construction it was worth saving.  After re-gluing a few bad joints it was in good shape.

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The bottom drawer houses all the extra batteries I had from laptop pulls and random purchases.  I printed a number of organizers to keep them from touching.  Every organizer positively holds the battery in place so they can’t come out and can’t touch each other.  Keeping them from touching is an important part of preventing battery damage and fires.  Plenty of room left to store more batteries.

The middle drawer has random flashlight stuff.  O-rings, manuals, cases, etc.  I printed some dividers to hot glue down to keep the drawer from being a mess every time you open and close the drawer.

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Lastly I threw some of my DSLR gear in the top drawer because I never really had a good place for it.  3D printing and woodworking come together to help organize and support my camera and flashlight fixations.  What a gorgeous synergy!

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Clamp Racks

A year back I modified a set of buckets to hold my 12-24″ clamps.  It worked as a method to keep them in once place, but had some flaws.  They were tucked away, which means out of sight out of mind.  With all the bars going down into the bucket it was really hard to tell the length of the clamp when you wanted one.  I was able to de-clutter some wall space which gave me the opportunity to build wall racks.  One would think that clamp racks are really simple, and that not many mistakes could be made.  You can screw it up, and I did.

I wanted to try out french cleats, and I wanted them to be strong.  I didn’t have much 1″ thick lumber, so I went with 2x4s.  Big beefy cleats right?  This is stash busting at its finest.

Mistake 1

20170326_201149.jpgI thought 2x4s would make a great french cleat system.  They aren’t horrible, but they
aren’t great either.  Because of the thickness when you cut them on a 45 degree angle, you don’t get a lot of flat bearing surface left over.  A 1×4 would provide plenty of holding power, is easier to attach to the wall, and has more bearing surface to glue/screw to against the wall and tool holder.  I would also suspect that moving the weight out further from the wall transfers a little more load into trying to pull the screw out instead of shear loading it.  Might not be significant, but not something you want to do.

Mistake 2

I had plenty of cabinet grade 3/4″ plywood around from my temporary counter tops.  Why not break out my old machine cut dovetail jig and go into production?  It was a little overkill for strength, but they would look nice and once I got the jig setup I could make lots.  Turns out plywood doesn’t play well when doing that kind of cutting.  The bit ripped off a lot of layers.  I could have sandwiched the part on both sides, but the novelty and speed of doing a lot of these was quickly evaporating.

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Mistakes 3 & 4

I mounted the cleats up high to maximize space and keep them out of my way when not in use.  I ended up with them too high.  When trying to place a clamp in the rack, it hit the ceiling before going in.

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If I did rotate them to get them in, the double bars didn’t help.  I used that double bar trick on a small clamp rack at the end of my work bench.  Small clamps have a center of gravity that makes them want to rotate badly when hooked like this.  Big ones have enough weight down low that they don’t.  It was a waste of materials.

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To recover I removed the holders, and cut off the top bar.  That is a nice thing about french cleats, you can take them down to adjust or make modifications.  I also added a small bumper at the bottom to help with the loading path.  See mistake 1.

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It took a while, but the two foot long clamp rack was complete.

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Mistake 5

I had pre-cut material so that I could assemble lots of 14″ clamp sets with dovetails.  When the dovetails failed I started using screw.  That worked out, but the small sizes weren’t needed.  The dowels are plenty strong enough to hold the weight across 28″.  I just caused more work for myself and wasted materials.  I was able to use some of this stuff, but if I had tested the dowels for sag before hand I would have done all of them in one span instead of two.  Test next time.

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Mistake 6

Almost out of the woods.  I made the classic “Measure once, cut twice, and still too short” mistake.  I always have problems when drilling holes for dowels.  I seem to always drill one size too big.  These aren’t 7/8″ poplar, they are 3/4″.  More material wasted, I need a tight fit for the glue joint.

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The next set avoided mistake 4, the second bar was really needed to keep everything from rotating, but got tied up with mistake 3 again.  It was up too high.  I had to remove the cleat and lower it down a few inches to get everything to clear the ceiling.

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From here out it was actually pretty smooth sailing.  I used my limited stock of 1×4 to make more cleats and the racks came together well.  I even managed to dig my spring clamps out of the drawer and give them a nice home.  Bigger parts on the spindle sander might be an issue, but that is attached to a mobile base.  I can always move it out if need be.

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In the end it works wonderfully.  The fact that it took twice as long and 50% more material than it should have is going to be chalked up to learning.  8 years after starting this hobby I still have a lot of learning to do.

Drawer Dividers

While the cabinets were being installed I was hard at work making accessories for the drawers.  Most commercially available drawer dividers had a few strikes against them.  They were either plastic or bamboo (doesn’t match my maple cabinets), they weren’t very adjustable, and most don’t fit the narrow drawers next to my stove.  So I made my own.  The first trick is to take two thick boards and make four thin boards.

I resawed (cut standing on edge in the bandsaw) these two 3/4″ maple boards to make four slightly undersized 3/8″ boards.  After a few trips through the planer to clean up all the heavy bandsaw marks they were all about 1/4″.

I could have tried to glue various thin pieces together to make dividers, but wanted to include 1/4″ plywood as a bottom.  It would make the thin dividers a lot stronger to glue along those long edges.  I pulled out some silverware and got to settings sizes.

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Every edge got a few swipes from my lovely little lee neilson tiny block plane.  That thing is perfect for knocking down sharp corners.  Once I had all the dividers in place for a particular drawer I applied expert and professional clamps until the glue dried.

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Drawers full of spatulas and cooking spoons needed backup in the rear to keep them from leaning, so I used a short segment to shore them up.

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I had planned to divide out our junk drawer and a drawer full of odds and ends, but that doesn’t appear to be feasible.  Entropy will reign supreme in those drawers for the time being.  I did however get all the heavy use drawers near the stove well organized.


dsc_0683As a bonus I had extra thin cut maple left over.  I want to use this stuff up quickly.  At these sizes and with it being flat sawn, it will cup and bow quickly.  At work we stretch regularly using a deck of cards with different stretch moves.  The box the cards came in was complete junk.  I thought having a two sided card caddy would make transport and use easier.

The cards are in a tray at an angle to keep them from falling out when carried.  As you do a stretch the card moves from the face down side to the face up side.  Eventually you get through all the stretches, shuffle everything and start over.

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I took this as an opportunity to try two new things.  The first was liquid hide glue.  I have been hearing a lot about this (very old) product recently.  Long working time, reversible and low visibility under finishes made me very interested.  It was a fine glue, I will be using it more.  The next was my  new pin nailer.  It worked miracles on my quarter round baseboard molding and did a great job sneaking pins into this thin stock.  The pin heads are only somewhat visible on the flat sides.  It wasn’t the best usage case, but I like them a lot.  They kept it clamped and are much lower profile than brad nails.

Printer Cabinet

I am keeping with the printer theme, but this is the 2d paper chewing variety.  Our old printer was on the fritz, so I upgraded to a more professional model that does document scanning and yada yada.  It has been over a month and it prints well, scans fast, and is cheaper to operate than the last one.  It is quite big though, and the old location in the closet isn’t going to cut it anymore.  I need to be able to get to the top and have lots of room to flip up the scanner.  We are gonna need another cabinet.

DSC_0441I wanted to build this quickly so I could clean up our office a bit.  Plywood is what I have used on many of my previous shop cabinets.  It looks decent out in the garage, but I wanted something nicer for inside the house.  Edge banding is a possibility, but I wanted to try something else.  This product is available at most home centers.  It is pre-made laminated pine boards.  The price is pretty reasonable and it has a nice rustic look while still looking better than plywood.  Never buy it.  The thickness varied from board to board, and once I cross cut it there was a lot of warpage.

Consider yourself warned.  I built a basic box using rabbeted edges, glue, and brad nails.  The thickness differences made doing a proper rabbet really tough, and the warping kept the joints from being tight.

I did a basic framed panel door to go across the front opening.  My issues continued, I cut the panel right at the edge of too short.  It will work, but I have to be careful to prevent it from shifting and showing a gap.  I used some of the left over laminated material to build a pull out drawer.  Cutting at the angle relieved more stress and showed a lot of bad warping.

 

For a finish I decided to try out a home built shellac.  Fine woodworking had a decent article and video on making your own and application.  I like it!  This is kind of a big project for wiping, but it was easy to mix, went on really fast, and didn’t alter the color too much.  I used a very blonde shellac.  Next time I will do something darker and see how it works with soft woods like pine.

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The screw-ups keep on coming.  I cut the panel groove all the way through the side board.  I should have stopped it.  Not only does it look bad, but it compromises the strength of the pocket hole screws.  They don’t have as much to bite into.

The drawer went in on a set of full extension metal drawer slides. This will house my paper shredder and paper storage.

The warping of everything showed up in the front door.  Tight on one side, slightly open on the other.  Oh well, it is going in a closet.

Speaking of closet, here is the final resting place.  It slides under the existing shelf nicely, and is short enough front to back so that you can close the closet door and conceal the printer.  If you just need to make a few prints, the front area is accessible enough to do so.  If you need to scan, the whole cabinet is on wheels, so you can just pull it out, do your work, then shove it back in.

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The best part is what is housed inside.  I put my shredder on the back side of the drawer, and used the front as paper storage.  Now instead of a pile growing around the shredder it collects neatly here until I can get to it.  My implementation and the materials leave a lot to be desired, but it still looks decent, and is super functional.  I learned, didn’t get hurt, and got a useful piece of furniture.  I’ll call that a win.

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Paper Organizer with Milk Paint

Summer roars in Central Florida, but I am still in a spring cleaning and organizing mood.  I have kind of a two for one.  My office closet is a mess and needs something to organize printer paper and materials, and I want to try something with milk paint.  I don’t know if shabby chic is still a thing, or if it includes cabinet grade plywood, but here we go.

I cut the height to specifically fit the height of a shelf in my closet, and the width of a sheet of paper plus a bit.  I made as many shelves as I could with the scrap I had left over from previous projects.

A shallow drawer goes in the small bottom cavity.  This will hold ink cartridges and other small printer related items.

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I am 100% new when it comes to milk paint.  I followed the directions and thought I was doing it right.  I could have been making a complete hack of it though.  The final product was really freaking rough, even with some buffing with a maroon finishing pad.

The first coat looked really streaky and terrible, while the second coat evened things out a bit.  It was still lighter than expected and a bit rough.  I hit everything with a coat of BLO to help seal the paint and unpainted sections.  In retrospect a project with lots of internal cubbies and tight spaces was not the best way to try out milk paint for the first time.  I will have to give it another shot later, but am not currently impressed with the results

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The office closet still has a long ways to go, but at least the paper isn’t getting spilled or bent up any more.

Hardware and Sanding Drawers

I built a set of cabinets a little while back to help out the organization of my shop.  I initially built both with pilaster strips and intended them to be mostly shelving.  The one on the left would be best served with a few small drawers for sandpaper related items, but otherwise all shelves.

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It all started innocently.  Just a few shallow drawers for sandpaper and sanding blocks etc.  Then after those I figured I could store all the powered sanding sheets and belts.

Then a few boxes of nails needed a nice cozy home, my jig hardware would fit well there, and then before you know it, the entire cabinet is full of drawers.  It took me a few weeks to slowly build the drawers as I found items to fill them with.  The problem is that when I finally went to add finish to the drawers they were already half full!

For the drawers, I cut 1/2″ plywood for the drawer bottom, and then stacked more 1/2″ ply for the 4 sides of the drawer.  The sides got glue and brad nails through the bottom.  An oversized front was added later.  It could have saved space and probably been strong enough with 1/4″ ply on the bottom, but I had a lot of 1/2″ left over from the cabinet project, so I just kept going with that.  I rip 1×2″ pine in half to make runners.  The runners and sides got a rubdown of paste wax once the finish has had plenty of time to cure.

In retrospect I wish I had planned this all out from the beginning.  The drawer bottoms could have been thinner, and the layout could have been better.  Given that I slowly added drawers as I found a need for them, it is a hodge podge mix of sanding/finishing supplies and fasteners.  Preplanning would have had finishing on top, and hardware on the bottom.

Regardless of the haphazard nature of its creation, the final results look good.  It holds all my sanding supplies and the remainder of my hardware with plenty of room for future expansion.  Bronze card holders let you label everything cleanly.  A must for this many seemingly identical drawers.

Building your own drawers in this fashion can be quick and efficient.  And at 35 dollars a piece, a 1/2″ sheet of cabinet grade plywood can produce probably 8 drawers at this size.