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Hidden Storage Solutions

By: Bryan Nelson
Shop drawers often turn into a catchall for small parts. These simple solutions can clear up the clutter and get your shop drawers organized now.

The secret to good organization is to divide and conquer your storage space. And one of the easiest ways to maximize storage space in the shop is to take control of the chaos in your shop drawers.

A drop-in grid system (pictured above) is an ideal way to organize shallow drawers. The system consists of identical strips made from 1/4" hardboard. The strips are notched so they interlock to form a secure grid. Then, it’s just a matter of fitting them together and slipping the grid into the drawer.

A simple grid system works well for shallow drawers, but it’s all too easy for stuff to get lost in deep drawers. To solve this problem, I like to divide each deep drawer into two layers. For the bottom layer, I made a divided box. When you measure for the box, you’ll want to leave a 1/16" gap between the box and the drawer. This way you can take the box out if you ever need to.

The dividers are dadoed into the sides of the insert box. They also accept subdividers, so you can customize the box for whatever you need to store.

To take advantage of the space above the box, I made some totes to rest on top. Each tote has a pair of fixed dividers and a handle. Besides making it easy to organize small items, you can remove a tote from the drawer and take it right where it’s needed.

Making the totes is similar to making the divided box. But there are some things to keep in mind while building them. It’s a good idea to allow a 1/16" gap between the totes. This makes it easy to slip one tote in place while the other is in the drawer. You’ll also notice that the rabbets and dadoes for the tote dividers are cut in the front and back pieces, not the sides like in the divided box. And don’t forget to cut notches for the wood handle and the groove for the 1/4" hardboard bottom.

A good option for storing small hardware is to use “watchmaker’s cases.” But to keep them organized in drawers, I made a couple of inserts with cutouts in them to hold them in place. The photo shows round cases of different sizes. After cutting a 1/4" hardboard insert to fit the drawer (remember the 1/16" clearance), arrange the cases on the hardboard and trace their shapes. Then, you can cut the holes.

You could just use one insert and set it on the bottom of your drawer. But the cases I used weren’t very tall. So, I built a second insert to set on top of the bottom insert. The upper insert is only half the length of the drawer, so you can slide it out of the way. To keep the cases from falling through, you’ll want to attach it to a base made from MDF or plywood. Runners. To provide clearance between the upper and lower inserts, I added runners to the bottom edges of the upper insert. You’ll just need to make sure the runners are high enough to clear the cases on the bottom.

Published: Dec. 24, 2015
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