Tag Archives: organizer

Bench Helpers

One thing about a bench – you invariably wind up with all sorts of handy-dandy things to make it more useful. Now, bear in mind, I’m a simple hobbyist woodworker.  While I like to make nice pieces, you won’t see them in my shop.  I can see no reason to use expensive woods and involved finishes on something that’s going to take a beating as part of it’s normal existence.  As a result, my shop furniture and fixtures tend to be simple and to the point.   That said, below are my solutions to various problems around the bench:

Accessory Retention System

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my favorite bench accessories is my collection of T-spacers for my face vise.  The problem is, there are several that I use routinely.

Bench Organizing 1

This Accessory Retention System (hey, sounds good anyway) is a simple little good piece of plywood drilled for holdfasts, notched for T-spacers, and screwed to the underside of the end of the bench.  After installation, I realized that vibration from working on the bench caused the T-spacers to jump out of their notches, so I added the lips to the end to keep them in place.

French Rack

I’ve never been fond of tool trays in a bench.  Called “hamster nests” by many (including me), the seemed to be a great way to give up bench space and lose tools at the same time.  Some time back, Christopher Schwarz wrote about employing a “French Rack” on his latest Roubo workbench.  His was, typically, made of hardwood and attached with some fantastic Roman nails.

Bench Helpers 2

My version is, typically, made of strips of 2×4 with spacers/dividers cut from matching strips and then glued and brad nailed where desired.  The entire assembly is then screwed to the back edge of my bench with not-so-fantastic drywall screws.  I liked it so much that I added a second one to span the entire back of the bench.  I realize that it is not nearly as impressive as the one The Schwarz made.  However, it performs the same basic function of holding tools out of the way for the work in progress.

Board Jacks

One of the main advantages of the Roubo bench is that the legs are flush with the front edge of the top.  This allows all sorts of holding and clamping options not available with other designs.  When I made my bench almost four years ago, I didn’t take this factor into consideration.  However, by lucky coincidence, my top overhang was almost exactly 1 1/2”.  This allowed me to install a pair of board jacks made from simple 2×4’s with 1” holes.  A pair of moveable brackets were added to support the board.  I chose this over a simple peg to prevent “ovalling” of the holes over time from the weight of boards on a single peg.  Two legs, two jacks – simple and effective.

Bench Helpers 4

As you can see, my bench helpers are lacking a certain “fit and finish.”  I simply used available materials in response to a particualr need.I’m sure there may be better ways to do things but, as Detective Rick Hunter (remember him?) used to say years ago, “It works for me.”


What I Screwed Up This Week – October 13, 2010

As I mentioned last time, there were two errors that I made during the construction of the sauce packet bin.  The first had to do with planning for installation.  If you missed that one, look back at my post on October 7.

The Problem:

WISU 10/12/10 1The one covered in this episode was also the result of a failure to plan.  (I think I’m starting to see a pattern here.) In this case, it had to so with trimming out the pivot blocks.  When I cut them out, I made them the same height as the bin ends.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, as I usually cover plywood edges with edge banding.  However, this time I was planning on using 1/4″ stain-grade birch plywood.  As you can see from the trim strip perched on top of the pivot block in the photo, this presented a problem.

The Solution:

WISU 10/12/10 2This was a simple enough fix.  I removed the bin from the shelf and trimmed 1/4″ from the top of the pivot blocks.  This allowed the trim to nestle into place quite nicely.  Why not the front as well?  If you remember from the first installment, I had planned for the front panel of to overlap the pivot blocks, and it was made from the same plywood.

Luckily, the entire assembly was secured with some screws, so re-installation was not a problem.  The trim was then cut to fit and glued in place and we were ready to paint.

Lesson Learned:

Never forget that components have thickness.  This may seem obvious, but can be easy to overlook.  I’ve caught myself almost making this mistake on bookshelves – calculate the space between the shelves, but forget to allow for the thickness of the shelves themselves.  Small things like veneer, edge banding, and even film finishes like varnish or paint all add a thickness that can be at least felt with the fingers, and can influence the fit of components.  As a last step in any design, at least do a layout of certain key components as a crude sketch and make sure that all your measurements add up.

Later this week I’ll be starting on the outfeed table for my tablesaw, and I’m sure this project will yield more grist for our error mill.  Stay tuned!

Sauce Packet Bin – Part 2

When we left our bin, it was being overrun by a horde of shop cats (well, two anyway).  Since that time, I added three dividers placed to give four pockets of varying sizes.  The unit was then spackled, primed, and painted (yes, white).

WISU 10/12/10 2The bin, together with its pivot blocks, was worked into position. The gap was a little wider than I wanted, so I added a piece of 1/4″ plywood as a shim on the left-hand side.  This allowed just enough room for free movement of the bin without binding.  After a couple of adjustments, the plywood pivot blocks were  attached to the sides of the cabinet with screws from the outside.  This “outside” is actually the inside of adjoining cabinets, so nothing shows.

To make for a smooth surface, the pivot blocks and shim were covered with strips of 1/4″ stain-grade birch plywood (at left).  To insure a smooth surface, no brads were used.  Rather, the trim was attached with dabs of hot glue.  In hindsight, considering the tight quarters where I was working, it would probably have been better to pre-prime and paint the trim.  However, everything worked out in the end.
Spice Packet Bin - Part 2 1Spice Packet Bin - Part 2 2

And here we have the finished product, already busy carrying out its assigned task in the kitchen.  It was a simple project, but one that performs its allotted task as planned.  If it had been in the front of the cabinet rather than behind swing-out shelves, I would have designed it differently.  I would have made the piece out of solid wood, and given the top a graceful curve of some sort, or maybe even some scroll piercings for decoration.  However, in its actual location, a simple box is more than sufficient for the task.

Granted, this project doesn’t have the complexity or glamor of a Colonial secretary or a Federal demilune table, but it serves two very important functions:  it helps make the kitchen a more organized place, and it makes momma happy.

And when momma’s happy, daddy gets brownie points!

Sauce Packet Bin – Part 1

While I was starting my planning for the toilet cabinet, it occurred to me that I first needed to build an outfeed table for the new tablesaw. As I was shifting gears to start on THAT, my wife reminded me that we needed some way to organize the sauce flavoring packets that were trying to take over the pantry.


Sauce Packet Bin - Part 1 1

The need should be apparent from the above photo. What I envisioned was some sort of divided bin that would tip out to allow access to its contents. This would, in turn, necessitate some sort of pivot mechanism. All of this would be painted (brace yourselves) white. I know, I know, but hey, it’s going in the back of the pantry behind a set of swing-out shelves and will rarely be seen. No need to waste wenge and curly maple here.

It would be preferable to make this without a trip to the lumber yard, so I headed for the scrap (excuse me – little good pieces) bin. Sure enough, there was a goodly quantity of both 1/4 and 1/2 inch birch plywood, as well as various hardwood dowels – perfect.

The bin was to be a basic box with dividers to retain a semblance of order among the contents. It would pivot on a pair of stub dowels retained in pivot blocks attached to the wall. Travel would be limited by two more dowels moving in grooves in the pivot blocks. (See the pictures below.)
Sauce Packet Bin - Part 1 2Sauce Packet Bin - Part 1 3

Yes, those are staples – don’t look at me like that.

Consider the stresses this bin will endure. The cook (often me) will hurriedly snatch the pantry open, yank down the front of the bin and rummage blindly for that one last pack of taco seasoning that’s managed to work its way to the bottom despite the dividers. Holding his prize triumphantly, he will slam the bin closed in a panic because the onions are scorching.

Do YOU want to count on a glued butt joint for that?

Narrow-crown staples have better holding power than brads, and are unlikely to split the plywood. All the joints also received a healthy bead of liquid hide glue. Don’t worry, all will be countersunk and spackled, and should be well hidden under the paint (white, remember?).

I had originally made the front panel wider to cover the pivot blocks, but the bin couldn’t be angled into position with them in place. So, they were trimmed flush, and an alternative trim-out will be necessary.  The arcs for the stop pins were simply laid out with a compass and freehand-routed with my new Bosch Colt (great little router!).  No need for anything fancy here, just provide clearance to move to the stop point.  Why build a jig?

The next installment should see the project completed and installed. That is, of course, if I can keep the shop cats out of the way!  Stay tuned.

Sauce Packet Bin - Part 1 4