Creating Utility Storage

Time spent organizing your tools and lumber will pay off handsomely in the long run. Work can be positively fun when the things you need are in easy reach. A home center will carry a variety of utility storage units, which may cost little more than buying materials to make them yourself. If you have the space, create a dedicated workroom, complete with workbench, shop tools, and organized storage. Plan the layout carefully. If, for instance, you want to run full sheets of plywood through a table saw, you will need more than 8 feet of space in front of and behind the saw. If space is limited, it may help to have movable rather than stationary shop tools. An unfinished garage ceiling is ideal for storing things that you do not need to reach often, such as seasonal gear. Adding cross ties and nailing up plywood opens an entire level of new space.

Lumber storage. A storage setup with shelves up high keeps scrap lumber and sheet goods handy without taking up too much space or looking cluttered. Make plenty of shelves; if you end up stacking the lumber in more than a few layers, it will be difficult to get the bottom pieces out. Plan the arrangement so it is easy to move pieces in and out. That means you will need ample room to the right or left of the sheet goods. Elevate the sheet goods on boards laid on the floor; if plywood or particleboard gets wet even once, it can be ruined. Place the larger sheets to the rear so you can see the smaller sheets.

Small-tool storage. Locking cabinets are best for storing expensive tools, chemicals, paint, and other items that might attract children. For easy access, attach a sheet of pegboard to the studs, and use special hangers for the tools. For portable storage, use a large toolbox or a bucket with a pocketed fabric apron.

Large-fool storage. Shovels, rakes, and other large tools are best protected from damage if they are hung, rather than simply propped in a corner. Inexpensive storage is easy to create with nails and scrap lumber. Or purchase special hangers designed for large tools.

Building a Sawhorse

Sawhorses are portable workbenches that will hold lumber at a comfortable height, making it easier to produce accurate cuts. The sooner you buy or build a pair, the better. If the top piece is a flat-laid 2x4 or 2x6 (as in the first example at right), a single horse can act as a small workbench. You may want to add a second (replaceable) top layer so you can cut into it. Also consider attaching a shelf to the legs for storing tools.

Make the length of your sawhorse legs 30 inches, cutting the ends at a 15-degree angle. Make the length and width of the top rail any size you want, but a 2x8 board 4 feet long makes a stable platform on which to set and work on paneling and sheet goods.

A collapsible sawhorse is not as stable as an all-wood model, but it can be stored in a small space. Your options are a sawhorse kit that includes brackets and lumber; brackets only (you cut the lumber to suit); or all-metal collapsible sawhorses.

Building a Workbench

A clean and spacious work surface makes any repair job or construction job more pleasant. Commercial units range from simple steel-and-particleboard arrangements to elaborate versions that would satisfy a cabinetmaker. The workbench shown at right is a simple cut-and-assemble job, yet it’s plenty serviceable. Specify your own dimensions to fit the available shop space.

The height is important so you won’t be bending over more than you need to, and depends on your height. A range of 34 to 40 inches should be in your comfort zone. Width should be 24 to 36 inches. Length will depend on space, although 6 to 8 feet gives you plenty of working area to handle standard-length materials that don’t need much cutting.

A simple workbench. Cut the legs from 2x4s or 4x4s, and use 2x4s to support the top and the shelf. Use 2x6s for the top planks and 3/4-inch plywood for the backboard, back, and shelf. Top it off with 1/4-inch tempered hardboard, which can be replaced when it is worn out. Assemble the framing with carriage bolts, and nail or screw on the shelf and planking. If you have a clamp-on vise, extend the front of the planking and top so it overhangs the frame by 3 inches to accept the clamp. Give all the lumber two coats of penetrating sealer, then assemble the parts. Sand smooth any rough or sharp edges.

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