to Build a Sterilite Storage Cabinet
I have a problem.
OK, I have a lot of problems but some of them aren't relevant to anything
I'm going to talk about in this article and if you're lucky then I won't
talk about them anywhere else on this site either.
Anywhere I go in my home and shop every counter is
completely covered with stuff. I don't have any work space at all.
This is actually a very real problem and it is the reason I have not
completed a model airplane for a very long time.
In my quest for even more consolidation I
discovered Sterilite storage bins at my local Walmart a while ago and bought
a few. I decided I really like them so I bought a few more.
In the shop I use them to store all kinds of items such as wrenches and
zero-clearance inserts for my table saw, sandpaper, extra glue and tape,
small pieces of hardwood with each species having its own container, et
cetera. As a side note I just Googled whether to end a sentence that
ends with "etc." with a second period. The answer is no. Also,
this is the first time ever in my entire life that I have actually spelled
out "et cetera". Just thought you should know.
I pack fixture orders in my office and have some pre-bagged items such as
Vertical Presses, clamp pads, hardware as well as instructions, shipping labels
packing tape. Then there are all the miscellaneous office supplies —
staples, notepads, any drafting stuff that will fit... you get the picture.
If you decide to build something similar to this cabinet or even if you just buy bins
like these then you should stick with one brand because they're made to
stack. Stacking doesn't matter if you build a cabinet but the reason
they stack matters. Different brands differ in
width so when you do build this cabinet it will probably only hold one brand
and not any others. At least I wouldn't depend on it.
One thing I found is that the Sterilite brand is wide enough for standard
9" x 11" sandpaper sheets to lay flat. The other brand I have isn't
wide enough. If sandpaper is stored in those bins the edges curl up the
inside of the bin.
What I like best is that they have lids that lock on. I am really
tired of continually dusting things that I need to keep but don't use all
the time. Whenever I turn on my table saw everything in the shop gets
covered with sawdust. The enclosed units keep things clean and are a
lot easier to clean up. They aren't sealed so they won't offer rust
protection in a humid environment but they will keep out sawdust.
While I really like these bins what I don't like is that I had them in
stacks which meant un-stacking them to get at the bin I needed. Where
this first became annoying was when I used my router table. I had
several bins stacked on a shelf under the table. To do even the
simplest thing I had to open multiple bins multiple times.
routed a few boards to use as walls with built in rails for my router table
to hold router table stuff such as collet wrenches, bits that don't have a
better home, instructions, push blocks, finger boards and whatever else.
It's not beautiful but what I wanted to know is if the bins could support
themselves when hanging on rails. As long as the weight isn't
excessive the idea works very well.
These bins can actually hold a lot of weight but that causes bottoms sag a lot which
will probably cause them to crack over time and it means they have to be
spaced farther apart vertically in a cabinet so they have space between them.
And let's be honest — nobody thinks saggy
bottoms look good. Don't fill these bins to the brim with nuts and
bolts if you're going to hang them from rails.
In the interest of maximum consolidation I made a rule to never put
unreasonable weight into a bin so I could get more of them into less space.
Because the idea worked with my router table I got the bright idea to make an
entire cabinet (two actually). The first one I built is shown here.
It is approximately the same height as other furniture in my office and it has
a real counter top. It actually came out 1" too high because I had to
adapt things while I was building such as put in additional support for the
castors and I forgot to take that away someplace else. So I screwed up
but I still love this thing. It's one of the most useful things I've
ever built. The cost of the cabinet itself is one or two steps up from
dirt cheap. Compared to solid hardwood furniture the cost is
Whenever I'm trying to solve a problem I tend to come up with the most
complex solution first. Then I start the project and at exactly the
time that I'm far enough along that it would be very wasteful to start over
I realize I could have achieved the same thing much more simply. You might be thinking that I'm mentioning that because it
applies here. And you might be right. Actually, you are right.
I'd give you one of the delicious cookies I'm eating right now if you were
Before I tell you how I complicated things I'll tell you my original
intent. I was not pretending that I was building a piece of
classically beautiful furniture. Plastic and classic don't belong in
the same room, much less the same sentence. I was looking for functionality and competent craftsmanship.
Solid cherry cabinets are beautiful but not what I needed. The
requirement was to get it built and put into service as quickly as possible
to get reclaim some counter-space and then get back to my real work.
So what I could have done and would have done if I'd thought of it soon
enough is just cut out sticks that
the bins sit on top of instead of making grooved rails for the bins to slide
into. I don't know why I was thinking that's what needed to be done
but I spent a lot of time cutting boards into strips, routing them and then
sanding each one by hand. Sticks would have been much simpler.
While making adjustments I had to route each of the rails two more times.
Lots of hours are in those rails. Either way the rails would begin
life as pine boards. You can buy pre-cut sticks but that would
increase the price of the wood several-fold.