Introduction: Easy Fill Storage Bag Filler

Easy Fill - Another Pair of Hands in the Kitchen

If you ever have to fill plastic bags for freezing or storage you're more than familiar with the problem: you're holding a pot full of stuff in one hand and trying to hold open a very flexible bag to pour the stuff in with the other hand. The thing is, it really takes two hands to hold the bag open properly and if the pot you're pouring from has any weight to it at all it really takes two hands to do the pouring as well. You need four hands. My wife does a lot of freezing and storing stuff - especially in the summer - and if I'm not around to help it often means a lovely mess in the kitchen when she tries to do this by herself. We've come across a few different gadgets designed to hold a bag while you fill it, but they all seemed to be only halfway engineered. Either they weren't particularly stable or they didn't work with a variety of bag sizes or they just didn't work very well at all.

I decided to tackle the problem one day and came up with a prototype for the Easy Fill. It worked better than anything we had ever tried, but there's always room for improvement. When our grandson needed to come up with a school project involving the demonstration of an original idea I suggested we might work together to refine the Easy Fill idea. So the resulting gizmo is a collaboration across the generations.

Some of the neat features of the Easy Fill:

It works with sandwich size, quart and gallon bags.

There are only six pieces made entirely out of wood - no glue, no screws, no nails - just wood.

It collapses completely flat for storage.

It looks nice.

It's easy to make if you have the right tools.

It really does work. Very well.

MATERIALS YOU WILL NEED:

One piece of wood 11 5/8 inches by 5 inches and 3/8 inches thick. This should be a harder wood such as oak, hard maple or cherry.

One piece of wood 15 inches by 7 1/8 inches and 3/4 inches thick. Poplar or pine would be fine.

Two pieces of wood 11 inches by 3 1/2 inches and 3/4 inches thick. These can also be something like poplar or pine.

TOOLS:

Scroll saw - you need a saw that is capable of making angled cuts. Use a #7 blade for all cuts.

Router - A 3/8" straight bit, a 3/8" round over bit and a 1/4" round over bit.

Ruler

Compass

Sandpaper

Rubber cement

Polyurethane finish

Step 1: Making the Legs

The legs are your 11 by 3 1/2 by 3/4 inch thick pieces

A. Rout the channels: On both of the legs you will use a 3/8" straight bit set to a depth of 3/8" to cut three 3/8" wide and 3/8" deep grooves. Refer to Figure 1 to properly space the grooves.

B. Cut a notch: Cut a 3/8" by 3/8" by 3/4" long notch in the outside left lower corner of each of the legs (Figure 2). This becomes a "key" so that the legs will only fit into the base one way.

C. Round over: Cut or sand the top two corners of the legs to round them off. Then use a 1/4" round over bit to round the outside edge of both legs. Do not round over the last inch at the bottom of the legs. Your legs will look like Figure 3. That's it.

Step 2: Making the Base

The 3/4 inch thick 15 x 7 1/8 inch piece of wood is your base.

A. Cut the Center: With the scroll saw you need to cut a rectangular hole - centered in the base - that is 3 1/2 inches wide and 12 1/2 inches long. See Figure 4. Drill your entry hole for this cut near one of the ends of the piece you'll be removing - you are going to use the piece you cut out. Make your lines as straight as possible. The small angle at each end corresponds to the notches in the legs so that they will only fit into the base one way.

B. Cut the Base Middle: Take the piece you have cut out of the base and trim both ends down until the piece is 11 inches long.

Take the legs and stand them in the hole you cut in the base so that they are perpendicular to the base and at either end of the hole. Now take the piece you cut out of the base and place it between the legs - it should be just a bit too long to fit. This is a good thing. You need to remove about one eighth of an inch to get it to fit - but do this carefully.

Begin sanding one end of the insert piece, checking often to see if it fits between the legs yet. Sand at an angle so that the bottom of the piece becomes a bit shorter than the top. See Figure 5. You want to get it to the place where a firm push down on it will seat it into place between the legs, causing both legs to be held firmly in place and perpendicular to the base. You should be able to firmly pull up on one of the legs - or knock on the insert piece from the bottom - to take the pieces apart again. Be patient with this step and sand just a little at a time, checking for fit between each sanding. A snug fit here is the key to the whole thing fitting together well. It usually takes me at least half a dozen trips from the sander to the workbench to try my piece out until I get it sanded just enough to make a firm fit.

C. Round Over: Cut or sand the four corners of the base to round them off, then use a 3/8" round over bit to rout the top edge of the base.

Step 3: Making the Top

A. Use the Pattern: An easy way to do this entire step is to print out the pattern in Figure 6 and use rubber cement to glue it to your workpiece. The pattern grid is one inch squares, so if you can adjust the size of your printout so that the squares measure exactly one inch you will have a pattern precisely the size you need to make the piece. Since the pattern is more than 11 inches long, I crop it at the ends of the inner slot, which is exactly 10 inches long. This allows it to be printed on a single sheet of paper. Then I center it on the workpiece and fix it in place with rubber cement. I use a pencil and ruler to extend the outer edge lines to the ends of the piece. See Figure 7.

If you can't print the pattern to size, mark a 3 1/2" diameter circle centered in the 11 5/8 x 5 inch piece of wood. Mark a concentric 2 5/8" diameter circle. Draw two extensions from the outer circle toward each end of the piece as shown in the pattern.

B. Cut the Edges: Cut the 11 5/8 x 5 inch piece of wood to the outside dimensions shown in the pattern.

C. Cut the Inner Circle: Drill a blade entry hole inside the innermost circle and use a scroll saw to cut this circle. The circle of wood you cut out will be discarded.

D. Cut the Outer Circle: Drill a blade entry hole in one of the areas extending outward from the outer circle as shown in the pattern. Set your scroll saw to a 7 degree angle and cut around the outer marked circle. See Figure 8. Now you have a ring that has a straight edge around the inside and an angled edge around the outside. Use a 1/4" round over bit to rout the top (widest) inside edge of the ring.

E. Cut the Slot Extensions: Set your scroll saw back to zero degrees and cut out the extensions on either side of the circle.

Note: When you first assemble your Easy Fill, if the top piece does not slide easily into the grooves in the legs, simply sand a little taper into the last inch or so of the ends of the top piece until it slides smoothly in and out of the leg channels.

Step 4: Make Reference Marks

Before finishing it is a good idea to mark some pieces so that you will be able to easily tell how things fit together. This can be done by using a Sharpie to make a small line or dot. There are three places you should mark:

1. Unless you're really, really good with a scroll saw, your circles won't be absolutely round. That's fine, and you can do a bit of sanding on the edges to make them a bit cleaner, but the ring will fit into the circle best if it's lined up with the grain so that you're putting it in oriented the way it was when you cut it out. So check the grain of your ring, lay it into the circle so the grain matches, and make a small line across the top of the ring near the edge and extending across the cut to the edge of the circle (see Figure 9). This way it will be easy to line the ring up for the best fit. You can make this even easier by making this mark before you cut the ring out of the top piece.

2. Unless your base has a very distinctive grain it will be hard to tell which way to insert the middle. Once again check the grain and find the proper orientation for the middle piece. Put it in place and make a small line from the edge of one side of the middle piece, across the cut to the top side of the base. Now you can tell which way things go. See Figure 10.

3. One end of the middle piece of the base has been sanded down to a slight angle. This is the end you push down into place when you're putting the Easy Fill together. Rather than squinting at the ends of the middle piece every time you want to assemble the Easy Fill, just mark a dot or line on the top of the end that's angled. Again, see Figure 10.

Step 5: Sanding and Finishing

Sand all pieces lightly and finish with a polyurethane finish such as Wipe On Polycrylic or 3X Polycrylic. This will produce a waterproof finish so the Easy Fill won't stain and can be easily washed. DO NOT apply the finish to the angled outside edge of the ring or the angled inside edge of the circle into which it fits. These surfaces need a bit of a grip to hold the bag securely as you pour things into it.

There are three ways I've found to finish the angled edges so they will grip the bag:

1. (Expensive) Buy a can of clear spray-on rubber finish. Mask everything on both the top piece and the ring except the angled edges and spray the angled edges with the rubber finish.

2. (Expensive) Get some of the silicone grit used as an additive to paint to make it non-slip. Add some of this grit to a small amount of the polycrylic finish you used and paint the angled edges with this.

3. (Cheap) Brush an even coat of rubber cement on the angled edges of both pieces and let dry thoroughly. The only drawback to the cheap rubber cement solution is that it probably won't last as long as either of the other two. But it can always be peeled off rather easily and a fresh coat applied. If you use this option, let the rubber cement cure for at least a day before trying out your Easy Fill.

One suggestion for storing the Easy Fill when it's not I use is to drill a small hole in the bottom of the base at the center of one end. Find a large rubber band - big enough to go around all of the pieces stacked together. Lay the base down and put the middle in place. Lay the legs on top of the base and the top piece and ring on top of the legs. Wrap the rubber band around the whole thing and hang it from a nail in the kitchen wall.

The video will show you just how easy it is to assemble, use and disassemble the Easy Fill. Clean it up with dish soap and water - but don't put it in the dishwasher. It is really a very easy project to make and will be a helpful addition to your kitchen tools. Thanks for checking out my Instructable, and

Peace,

Radical Geezer

Comments

author
Johanvnza (author)2016-05-17

Kudos - you have my vote!

author
Radical Geezer (author)Johanvnza2016-05-17

Thank you very much!

author
BrigitteM1 (author)2016-04-16

HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF COMMERCIALIZING IT?

author

Yes, but - like so many of my ideas - because of the amount of craftsmanship it takes I could not make a profit cranking them out by myself, and I do not have the funds or the background/contacts to produce them in quantity :-(

author

with the plan you could have a company in China manufacture it for you and sell it on amazon. I'm sure you could find someone who would let you start with not too high a number of units. ThIs is a great product that should be sold. Because it comes apart it's also easy to ship.

author

I truly appreciate your vision of the possibilities, Brigitte, but I wouldn't even know where to begin...a self-promoter I am not. Heck, it's a challenge just getting things together to put an Instructable up! But I have several more in the works. Hope you'll keep checking in to see what else I can come up with.

Peace,

RG

author
jproffer (author)Radical Geezer2016-04-22

just put it up on kickstarter or indiegogo.

author
AndrzejR (author)2016-04-22

Love it! This is just begging for a 3D printer model... If I only had the time :(

author
Radical Geezer (author)AndrzejR2016-04-22

Thanks! Now if the folks at Instructables would just run a contest where I could win a 3D printer maybe I could make one myself...}%b

author
JohnM703 (author)2016-04-14

How about the base? i tried to do it like in the plans and it didnt work. Granted i used a jigsaw. Is there a way to attach it with out using screws or glue but make it more stable. I also used a dado blade to cut the grooves in the arms; it came out much cleaner than when i did it with a router table.

author
Radical Geezer (author)JohnM7032016-04-14

You should be able to cut a base with a jigsaw that will work just fine. Here are the important parts to make it work:

1. Drill your starter hole for your jigsaw cut very near one of the ends of the cutout. The important thing is that once you have made the cut, the cut out piece needs to be as long as possible to make it work.

2. Once you have the piece cut out, put the legs in the hole at either end and sand the ends of the cut out piece until it is just long enough so that when you drop it in place between the legs you have to give it a little push to seat it in place.

The important part here is to sand the cut out piece a little at a time until you get it to fit. If you try cutting it to size instead of sanding you will almost certainly cut it too short.

I tried other methods of making the base, but none of them worked as well as this method did.

author
JohnM703 (author)2016-04-14

Is there a way to do it without a scroll saw. I tried it with a Jigsaw and it did not work.

author
Radical Geezer (author)JohnM7032016-04-14

Hello John - thanks for asking. The angled cut in making the ring is crucial to the function of this design. If you simply make a straight cut, the ring will fall through the circle because its diameter is smaller by the thickness of the blade you used to cut it (the "kerf") than the inner diameter of the ring. Likewise, if the angle is too small, the outside diameter of the ring will still be smaller than the inside diameter of the circle and the ring will fall right through. If the angle is too large, the ring will simply lay on top of the bag once you place the bag in the slot - there will not be enough friction between the circle, the bag and the ring to hold the ring and bag in place. It turns out that the best angle to make this work for wood that is 3/8 of an inch thick is about 7 degrees. Because the kerf of even the finest jigsaw blades is much wider than the kerf of scroll saw blades, a seven degree angle is too small to overcome the kerf width and the ring will fall through. The only thing I could think of that you could do if you don't have access to a scroll saw is:

1. Cut the outer circle of the main piece.

2. Lay the piece on a separate piece of 3/8" wood and trace the circle you cut onto that piece.

3. Cut where you traced. This piece will become the ring.

4. Cut the middle out of the ring.

5. Sand the outside of the ring and the inside of the original circle all the way around until you've sanded a slight angle into both. Check the pieces against each other often until you've sanded enough so that when you drop the ring into the circle it drops about one third to one half of the way into the circle but does not fall through the circle. When you've done that, you'll have a piece that will fit into the circle but not fall through and will be a close enough fit to provide the friction you need to hold both the bag and the ring in place. It would be a lot more work, but it could be done.

Peace,

RG

author
Dawsie (author)2016-04-09

this is a brilliant idea I love it :-) I have been using a large jug to put my bags in and then pouring from a smaller one but sometimes it gets a little messy :-/ but this, this is perfect :-) I will have to make me one :-) thank you for a great Instructable :-)

author
John T MacF Mood (author)2016-04-08

Simply brilliant! Well done!

author
bmaverick (author)2016-04-08

Zoinks. Strawberry season is a month away! Processing them for the freezer is an intensive time dealing with the bags. This indeed is the third hand helper. This has my vote!

author
chuckstake (author)2016-04-08

i know i will hear about this but i think i will make one out of a poly cutting board but your instructable is worth a vote thank you

author
Gregbot (author)2016-04-07

I like it and will build one or two. I can't tell you how many friends complain about the problem. Sweet!

author
Mrballeng (author)2016-04-03

I really like how you did this. I'm really impressed by how great of a speaker you are. You make it look so easy to make a video in one take.

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Radical Geezer (author)Mrballeng2016-04-03

Why thank you - you flatter me! But I have to confess that it took two takes. When I did the first one I held the pieces up to show each of them, but my wife observed that while I held them so that I could see them, they were edgewise to the camera so viewers could only see the edges. So...take two!

author
GordonD6 (author)Radical Geezer2016-04-07

No matter HOW many things a person makes there will ALWAYS be 1 critic in the crowd.But still I loved the video and instruct able .Thank you kind sir it helps us to think smarter NOT WORK HARDER.Great job.And now off to to mill I go to make the wood to do this. ;-) :-D

author
morsed2 (author)GordonD62016-04-07

Great instructable, I added it to my 'Household' collection.

I had not considered that way of filling a bag (not just Ziploc's) I just may make one. On first glance, I did not see the ring to keep the back open, that was a good idea.

I have to agree with GordonD6, when I did my first instructable, I had a couple of non flattering comments, I for the most part ignored them.

author
Radical Geezer (author)morsed22016-04-07

Thanks - the ring is what makes it work so well. As long as there's a way to make it grip a bit such as the rubber cement I recommend, the heavier the contents of the bag get the stronger it grips so that you can fill a gallon bag all the way up with liquid and it isn't going to slip out.

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morsed2 (author)Radical Geezer2016-04-07

Ah, I wondered why you suggested rubber cement. Now I know. Thanks

author
GordonD6 (author)Radical Geezer2016-04-07

No matter HOW many things a person makes there will ALWAYS be 1 critic in the crowd.But still I loved the video and instruct able .Thank you kind sir it helps us to think smarter NOT WORK HARDER.Great job.And now off to to mill I go to make the wood to do this. ;-) :-D

author
Radical Geezer (author)GordonD62016-04-07

I'm certain that when whoever it was invented the wheel, someone said, "I don't know what's so great about that - my square rock works just fine". When you get right down to it, as my wife observes, pretty much everything we do is gilding the lily. But isn't that how we make things better? Besides, she's allergic to lilies. And I'm so glad to know you're going to take a shot at making one - that's why I'm bothering to write these!

author
benelum (author)2016-04-07

In response, I was not indicating that it be made of wire. The only thing i was suggesting is that the bottom would swivel up and down and slide across on a wire thru the end. Thanks for the reply.

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GregW31 (author)2016-04-07

While I am sure this was a fun project, it was guiding the lily.
You see, most everyone already has several things in there kitchen which will serve this purpose with out spending any resources and 3 trips to Home Depot.
I buy a dozen papayas for my smoothies and freeze them because papayas tend to ripen so quickly.

I simple insert the Ziploc bag in my blender jar and wrap the edges over the lip. and scrape the flesh of 4 fruits into one bag.
You can use an old coffee can, a canister or what ever to accomplish this.

I love innovation and invention, but the first rule is to invent away to use existing things before trying to reinvent the wheel.

author
Radical Geezer (author)GregW312016-04-07

I'm assuming you have a router and a scroll saw if you want to try to make this. So three trips to Home Depot? To buy two pieces of wood (the legs and base are made from the same board)? Really? And if you can fill a gallon bag by stuffing it in your blender you must have an awfully big blender! I'm into making things that work better - and I can assure you this works better.

author
GregW31 (author)Radical Geezer2016-04-07

Your device is nice and I'm sure works well. I just like things that I already have and make them multi-task.
My blender is already sitting there. Try it, you may be surprised at how well it works for your described task.

author
cmentmixer (author)GregW312016-04-07

That's a great idea. That is until what you want to put in the bag is in the blender jar.

author
ClareBS (author)2016-04-07

What a practical idea, beautifully crafted and a well made instructable. I'd buy one if I found you at a craft fair.

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Radical Geezer (author)ClareBS2016-04-07

Thank you - my wife is seriously pressing me in that direction... ;-)

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benelum (author)2016-04-07

Very nice, i love the idea. I am not being critical of your work. But, the first thing that hit my mind was. Instead of making it with 2 boards as wide as they are, ( I don't think they need to be that wide to do the job). why not split the board to 1/2 the width. Put a rod (the size of a clothes hanger) thru the bottom end. They could then totally fold dddown into the base, then when needed, raised up and slid to the c

author
benelum (author)benelum2016-04-07

cont'd. and slid to the center . And make the base thick enough so that it could all fit into it. Excellent idea. thank you for the idea.

author
Radical Geezer (author)benelum2016-04-07

I put a lot of experimentation, thought and research into something as seemingly simple as this. Yes, I did consider making something out of a heavy wire frame at first, and as a matter of fact I encountered several similar gizmos that are commercially available and made out of wire. But they all seemed quite flimsy and I wanted to be able to fill every size bag up to a full gallon. A gallon of liquid is a lot of weight and I became convinced that a wire type support would not be strong enough. The last thing I wanted to do was to make something that my wife would be using and - as she was pouring a gallon of liquid into it - have it fail and have a gallon of mess all over the counter, the floor and her. This is also the reason for the width - it really does need to be this wide to provide the necessary stability. As a matter of fact, an earlier design did not have the tapered end on the top piece - it was as wide at its ends as the legs. But I found having the top that wide was not really necessary and it made it harder to slide the top piece in and out of the channels in the legs. Thanks for the suggestions, but it turns out they were possibilities I had considered and rejected on the way to developing this.

author
bobdeetoe (author)2016-04-07

"So simple, like the jitter bug, it plumb evaded me" I have used something similar when cleaning fish. A 3' x 2' piece of plywood with a circular hole cut in one end the diameter of a piece of 4" pvc pipe. The bag goes in around the piece of pvc and then through the hole in the plywood. The Bag end of the piece of plywood hangs off of the edge of the table. Scales, guts and skin can then get swept into the hole and bagged all in one fell swoop. I never thought to take it one step further and into the kitchen.... Well Done !

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spark master (author)2016-04-07

Dear Geezer,

I use a milk carton , this is way nicer!

author
blueaxe (author)2016-04-07

Nice! I will be making one of these for my 82-year-old Mom. She too likes to freeze homemade soups and such. And she will be able to do it by herself; she loves to be independant. Thanks for this!

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Radical Geezer (author)blueaxe2016-04-07

Thank you, Blueaxe. That's exactly the kind of thing we use it for. I really hope your mom likes it!

author
cmentmixer (author)2016-04-07

Radical: I'm with you in this project. Great idea! Greg's idea is good as well, it has one major limitation. It fails when what he wants to pour into the bag is in the blender jar he uses to support the bag.

author

Heh! Heh! Good point ;-)

author
PatH31 (author)2016-04-07

you should consider selling them! I would be interested. Nice job.

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Radical Geezer (author)PatH312016-04-07

Thank you! I've considered doing just that and may just make some and offer them at craft fairs around here this summer...if I'm not too busy writing more Instructables ;-)

author
bruce.desertrat (author)2016-04-07

Very nice looking, but I'd make a couple suggestions:

1) Since you're using a router anyway, I'd rout slots in the base (or cut them with the scroll saw too) to hold the legs rather than use the removable part, because it won't fall over and require three hands to set it up, as your video neatly demonstrates at about 1:07 :-)

2) I'd make the inner bag-holding ring out of a piece of plastic HDPE cutting board, but that's my preference because I'll be using this to fill bags with much gloopier stuff than rice, like spaghetti sauce, chili and soup. It's also a little flexible and would help conform to the hole. And because I have one sitting in my garage with various bits cut out of because it's from a set of three that I only use two of 8-)

author

Thanks for the suggestions, but:

1. I did exactly that for a prototype, but found that by the time you made the slot large enough so you could easily get the legs in and out, it held the legs too loosely to be stable once assembled and I had to make a dovetail end on the top piece and the leg slots to hold it together properly. This works much better. And in the video I was just a nervous klutz - it was because I picked the wrong part up in the wrong hand.

2. Making the ring from HDPE might work very well, but to me, it destroys the elegance of making it completely out of wood...and I have a thing about making things completely out of wood - not even stains if I can help it. ;-)

author
watchmeflyy (author)2016-04-06

Very clever design! It's nice that it's collapsible and easy to assemble.

author
lglira (author)2016-04-05

wow super useful

author
morpheusprime (author)2016-04-02

very nice job.

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Bio: Vietnam era veteran (USAF), former air traffic controller, former entrepreneur, former clergy, former chauffeur. Currently retired and busier than ever. Devoted husband to an extremely ... More »
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