Introduction: Polyethylene Kitchen Helpers

Here are 4 fun and moderately easy projects using repurposed cutting boards and stainless steel screws. These gadgets make food preparation faster and better in my tiny kitchen. A workshop with a table saw will help, but they could be be built with a router, drill, and hand tools.

Polyethylene board has peculiar properties. It machines easily and holds screws well. However, any power tool provides enough heat to melt the board and make the plastic creep. So use a sharp utility knife to slice away the creep instead of sanding — which causes even more creep.

Step 1: Zippie Filling Station

Problem #1: Filling zippies. It takes an extra hand to fill food storage bags, so I gave myself 2 extra. This started with a trip to flee market. I bought a medium-sized polyethylene beard for $2.50 and a pack of plastic clothespins for a dollar. Add to that a dollar's worth of #6 x ½" ss screws I had on hand.

I sawed off the handle and split the rest of board down the middle. Then I taped the thicker edges together inside and out. This made it easy to drill 3/32" pilot holes through both pieces in the same places. I countersinked the outside holes and bored them with a 9/64" bit to let the screws slip through. Screwing the pieces together carefully gave me an angle both sturdy and steady on the countertop. The Zippie Filling Station works with both pint and quart bags. It makes filling them with anything from liquid to sticky rice quick and easy. Then I can sanitize it with bleach and store it out of the way.

I used to use a rusty old can to load zippies. That's gone in the trash now.

Step 2: Sink Top Station

Problem #2: Lack of Counter Area. Despite taking up the same area as all my open counter, the sink doesn't even fit my largest pans. It's a nightmare. Until I can tear out some walls, topping the sink with a removable workstation is my solution.

I cut a cardboard pattern that fit snugly into the side well and traced it twice onto the bottom of a nice new ½" cutting board. With a ¾" bit set to cut 9/16" deep, I routed the area outside the patterns. Since this cut doesn't show, I freehanded it. Rounded the corners, sliced off all the creep, and dropped it in the sink.

Now I can set up for a big cooking project with 50% more clean work surface. Plus, it gives me total juice containment when processing fruit or meat. Plus, I can grind on my big pans while they set flat. (I have included a simulation of what a grubby pan might actually look like while scrubbing.)

The Sink Top Station works well when any mess needs to go straight down the drain.

Step 3: Cling Wrap Station

Problem #3: Big, heavy box. I use a lot of cling wrap. If you knew about commercial quality wrap, you would too. It's so much better than supermarket varieties, food storage is just the beginning. I even cook in it. However, the box is huge and awkward to store. Also, I have no counter area to use it.

I began by cleaning out this ridiculous cabinet. Then I installed roll-out wire frame bins from Lowes. These are very sturdy and work great, but some assembly (23 screws each) is required. The cling wrap box fits in the top shelf and I was happy. For a while.

Then I brought home another ½" cutting board and cut it to fit into the door opening. I grooved the cutoff piece to snuggly grip the wire frame. Safety tip: Since these parts are small and need repeated cuts, I made both grooves on the same piece before sawing it in half. These rails raise the table just enough to capture the hexagonal hubs that come with the cling wrap.

Getting the table to grip both sides of the wire frame is tricky. I started by attaching the flush rail with #8 x ⅝" ss screws. Pressing this onto the wire frame with the other rail hanging loose, I scribed its position on the underside of the table. Then I clamped it in the proper place and screwed it to the table. The assembly press fit like a charm and hasn't budged in daily use over 3 years.

The Cling Wrap Station works better than I hoped. An inch gap on the left side of the door opening allows the material to stay on the table when stored back in the cabinet. The wrap glides up smoothy and gently sticks to the polyethylene. Juicy or greasy or raw foods do not matter. The station is always wrinkle-free, sanitary, and ready to go.

Another trick is sliding a pint-sized bread pan under the wrap. I make frozen treats by shoveling in fruit puree or mousse on top of the wrap so the food can never stick to the pan. Folding the wrap over the top of the fill seals well enough to stop leaks before the liquid freezes. Then dessert drops right out of the pan and the wrap peels off.

Step 4: EZ Clean Dish Drain

Problem #4: Disgusting sink well. This project is too silly to stand on its own, but fits the overall theme.

I live on a tropical island surrounded by salt water. Nothing ever dries here. Every dish drain I tried either rusted in a week or grew black mold every day. All of them took up too much space. I know people have bigger problems, but yuck.

Taking another cheesy polyethylene cutting board, I cut it to not quite fit. A couple of ss screws in the back give it some angle. I don't care if it looks stupid. I works better than anything costing 30 times more. I splash it with bleach once a week and worry about other things.

Comments and questions welcome. Cheers from Sarasota.

Comments

author
mary.wauck (author)2016-01-07

Thank, I'm handicapped & the zip lock holder is something enough use alot.

author
ringai (author)2015-08-10

Great ideas, all of them.

On the sink workstation board, you might route a drain channel around the top, left, and bottom perimeter to let juices drain to the sink.

I'm going to be making that one this weekend. I have very little counterspace and that will make a big difference!

author
flavrt (author)ringai2015-08-10

I appreciate your generous compliment.

Yes, juice control is essential. I process birds and whole cuts of red meat and at least 100 melons every year. With a low profile on the board edge, my sink rim picks up that function. But if the sink was under-mounted, a perimeter channel leading to a pour-off over the open sink would be choice.

author
ringai (author)flavrt2015-08-11

I've got a drop in with a wide rim, so mine will definitely have the channel. No more watermelon juice all over the counter for me!

author
jeanniel1 (author)2015-08-07

What great ideas! I especially like the plastic wrap counter top!

author
flavrt (author)jeanniel12015-08-08

You are kind to say so.

A week after Thanksgiving, I spend a whole day processing 3 sale turkeys. The wrapping station is an enormous help here. Separating all the turkeys completely, I wrap 18 parts and knot the ends into tight cooking bags. Through the day they get tossed into a temperature controlled kettle. Later they quick chill in water and then go directly into the freezer. Surrounding in their cooking juices, the pasteurized turkey parts keep perfectly for months.

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author
PetrichorXFi (author)2015-08-07

I like #2 "sink cover/countertop" the most.

one suggestion pertaining to all your ideas, be sure to pay attention to mold. typically a cutting board is flat, but when you have angles and corners, you will likely, especially for the sink countertop method, have some issue with mold unless you carefully clean all little cracks

author
flavrt (author)PetrichorXFi2015-08-07

Mold is a constant concern here, thank you. It grows on the windows, in the toilets, under the facet lever, and along the fridge door seals. I never used so much bleach. Happily the underside of the sink top board rarely sees water. But it will be sanitized just like every other kitchen surface.

author
Mindmapper1 (author)2015-08-07

Excellent!

author
flavrt (author)Mindmapper12015-08-07

Thank you. I'm checking out your soup, because I have a windfall of coconuts and it sounds delicious.

author
tisaconundrum (author)2015-08-07

I'm confused about the drain cutting board thing. Could you elaborate? Is it so you don't have to see the drain? Or so you can stick things in the sink and still show for draining?

author
flavrt (author)tisaconundrum2015-08-07

Yes to both of your interesting points.

Considering this more deeply, there is a lot of psychological value for me in hiding the drain. I can pretend my clean dishes are not hovering above an open entry point to the sewage system.

The more practical matter was providing an angled surface off the sink bottom. The sink is too flat to drain efficiently, so it gets cruddy. The drain board gives me a few days relief from constantly sanitizing it.

The angle is important for me because water simply will not evaporate here. For example, if I attempt to dry a drinking glass straight upside down, a puddle of water will persist forever in the dimple on the glass bottom. Every horizontal surface is a potential tidal pool and instant ecosystem. Mother tried to warn me about these strange effects from high humidity. I thought she was nuts. Now I'm the one who talks crazy.

author

I think the theory behind the sink part is that his countertop in his kitchen is small. if he already has stuff on his existing countertop, he can put a "cover" on-top of his sink to basically make his sink a countertop. clearly cannot use sink while this is setup this way, but it would allow him to have food set out on his existing countertop and use this "sink cover countertop" as well... just more countertop space for cutting food etc.

author

Show = allow

author
USMC-USAF-USN (author)2015-08-06

Thank you! This is a great starting point for ideas, because we will be moving & drastically downsizing next year. (Moving from a 2-floor 3-bedroom house to a 1-bedroom apartment!) The kitchen in particular will shrink to about 1/3 of the one in the current house so I need space-saving ideas.

author
flavrt (author)USMC-USAF-USN2015-08-06

You're very welcome and congratulations on your new adventure. There's a dance of the residence and occupants adapting to each other. Cramped workspace steals your time. Good organization is the countermeasure. If you build an extra high shelf in a clothes closet to store kitchen items you use only once a year, the things you use constantly will be more accessible.

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Bio: retired chemist trying to stay out of trouble
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