Introduction: Storage Bin Rack From Recycled Plastic Coffee Containers

I was inspired to build these storage bin racks for three reasons.

First, my basement shop is filled with hundreds of small parts of various quantities and types. I build lots of different kinds of things, mostly from found or salvaged items.

Second, I noticed that my office was throwing away at least one, sometimes more, of these nice, sturdy, plastic containers every week. There had to be a good use for them, I thought. So I began collecting them.

And finally third, I found that the big box hardware stores wanted hundreds of dollars for their plastic storage bin rack systems. I didn't have hundreds of dollars to spend. At least not on plastic bins.

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed

Materials needed:

  • Qty 21 - plastic coffee containers (rinsed out, unless you enjoy that stale coffee smell)
  • Qty 1 - 24" x 48" plywood sheet, 1/2" thick
  • Qty 1 - 1x6 pine board, 8' long (ripped into 2-1/2" wide boards, then cut to 48" long each. This will give you 4 boards, but you'll only use 3 of them)
  • Qty 30 - 1-5/8" coarse drywall screws (to hang the containers on and to attach the boards to the plywood sheet)
  • Wood glue
  • Paint (if you want to get all fancy)

Tools needed:

  • Tape measure or yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Drill motor
  • 1/8" and 3/8" drill bits
  • Phillips head driver bit
  • Chop saw or circular saw (to cut the boards, or have them cut when you buy them)
  • Table saw (to rip the boards, unless your home improvement store will do it for you. Mine doesn't.)
  • Quick-clamps (to hold the boards to the sheet when attaching)

Step 2: The Containers

I ended up with two sizes of containers, depending on what the office manager was buying that month. The one on the left is 6-1/4" tall, the one on the right is 8-1/2" tall. Both are 6-1/4" in diameter.

I have made racks for both sizes using the same process. Currently I have two racks full of the larger size, and one rack full of the smaller, with enough large containers left over to make about three more racks. And enough parts to fill them all.

The red color was a bonus. The decaf comes in green containers. Other brands have other colors. Pick your favorite.

Step 3: Spacing

The home improvement stores sell pre-cut 24" x 48" plywood sheets in the lumber aisles, or you can cut your own. Seven of the 6-1/4" diameter containers fit comfortably across a 48" wide plywood sheet. And three rows down the 24" height allow for a good tilt.

I wouldn't use anything thinner than 1/2" plywood unless you plan to screw it to a wall, since the thinner stuff could warp or bow without reinforcement. Plus the hanging screws don't have much to bite into if the plywood is too thin.

Same problem with MDF. Use 1/2" plywood and save yourself the headache.

Step 4: Mark and Drill the Plywood Sheet

Marking:

Using the marking template (above) as a reference, measure off from the bottom edge of the plywood sheet and draw horizontal pencil lines at the following distances:

  • 4"
  • 8-1/2"
  • 12-1/2"
  • 17"
  • 21"

Measure from the left edge of the plywood sheet and draw vertical pencil lines at the following distances:

  • 3-1/2"
  • 10-1/4"
  • 17"
  • 23-3/4"
  • 30-5/8"
  • 37-1/2"
  • 44-3/8"

The screws that the containers hang on will go where the blue lines intersect the green lines.

Drilling:

Look at the template and note the small black dots where the red lines cross the center and two outermost green lines. The dots are 3/8" (half a board thickness) above the red lines. The red lines in the template will be where the bottom edge of the boards will sit.

We will eventually attach the boards with glue and screws. So, we need to put three screws through the plywood sheet and into each of the boards. To do this we need to drill holes through the sheet.

Using the 1/8" bit, drill a hole through the plywood sheet where each of the small black dots are shown on the template (9 total). Remember these are 3/8" above the red line so they will fall in the center of the boards.

Step 5: Attach the Boards

Put a line of wood glue along the edge of one of the boards. Using the marking template as your guide, clamp one of the boards to the sheet so that its edge is aligned with one of the red lines and it is covering the three holes next to that line.
Turn the sheet over and attach the board to the sheet using drywall screws. Run the screws through the holes you drilled. Wipe off any glue with a damp rag.
Do the same for the remaining two boards.

Step 6: Install the Screws

Refer back to the marking template. The screws that the containers hang on will go where the blue lines intersect the green lines.
You'll need to get the screw in at about a 35 degree angle. I did it by starting them straight in, then backing them out and going in at the angle. Take your time.
You want them to be in through the depth of the plywood sheet thickness, but not so far that they are sticking out the back.
Also make sure they are in the correct orientation/direction. The board that is along the edge of the plywood sheet is the bottom edge of the rack. You want the heads of the screws to face upward.

Step 7: Mount the Rack

Now's a good time to mount the rack in its permanent location. I mounted mine to the legs on the work tables in my shop. The next set I build will probably be mounted to a wall.

Make sure to leave enough clearance around the rack (especially the top) so you can get the containers on and off easily.

Step 8: Drill Holes in the Containers

Drill a 3/8" hole in the bottom of each container just in from the edge. This is the hole that allows the container to hang on the angled screws. The 3/8" hole is just large enough to go over the head on the drywall screws.

On these red containers, there was a convenient point where two of the plastic mold seams came together that made it easy to always hit the same spot on every one. Make sure you keep your containers in the same orientation so they all hang in the same direction for a good uniform look.

Step 9: Hang the Containers and Fill 'em Up With Stuff

After you've mounted the plywood to a wall (or a work table, in my case), hang the containers on their screws and start filling them up with stuff.

When you need a container of parts, just lift it up off the screw and take it to your work area.

Comments

author
OneEel1953 (author)2016-11-10

My father eats tons of Talenti gelato, which comes in very nice lidded plastic containers. If I downsize the instructions for this Folgers rack I can see it solving my problem of piles of gelato containers.

author
ooohlaa (author)2014-06-29

I often use my drill to make holes in plastic tubs for gardening and I find they go dull so quickly that it takes forever to drill a hole. Does anyone have advice as to special drill bits to buy? There seems to be titanium, regular alloy and who knows what. Just wondering if maybe I just bought the "cheapest" at harbor freight?

Also I have used a hot glue gun to make holes and that works pretty well even with a mini gun, but I prefer to drill. Thanx for a great job, very useful and love recycle/repurpose lifestyle we all celebrate.

author
dloki (author)ooohlaa2016-04-27

When drilling out bottle caps for a wicking planter, I found that you have to pay attention to the bit tip. The plastic melted and stuck to the tip. every couple caps I had to clear the plastic off the tip of the bit.

author

There is no way the drills are dulling from drilling plastic. Something else is going on. You say you are using them for gardening. Are you drilling buckets with dirt in them? Possibly leaving the drills out where they could rust?

I do agree on using step drills though. They work great for thing materials because they don't have spiral flutes and won't pull through the material. They work more like a reamer.

author

no, certainly not using dirty buckets nor dirt in them, they are new; after a few holes the bits start spinning and take a while to pierce thru; anyway harbor freight is giving free step bits with a $50 purchase which I need to make anyway, so thanx for advice everyone, I will try them. I think it may be that my cordless drill doesn't rev up enuf power, but even with my corded drill, there is a problem. Mostly these are plastics from the Dollar type stores so maybe there is some extender in there that is making it difficult, the drill bit does get pretty hot and then that kinda melts it. I tried it on garbage cans to make a composter and same problem. Dunno.

author

If the plastic is melting, the drill is spinning too fast. If the drill has 2 speeds, set it on the lowest speed and use firm pressure. Should shoot through it quickly.

author
Tanzer26 (author)ooohlaa2014-07-01

If you're drilling one after another, I'll bet the bit is heating up and then melting the plastic, rather than cutting. You need to cool the bit between holes. I've done it by dipping in ice cold (cubes floating in it) water for half a minute between holes. Starting with a cooler bit will help. Drilling at a lower speed is advised. Make sure bit is dry when done, so it doesn't rust.

author
DaddyQ (author)ooohlaa2014-07-01

Hi Ooohlaa,

It kind of sounds to me like you may have your drill spinning the wrong way :s.

author
pooter1433 (author)ooohlaa2014-06-29

I have found that the absolute best drill bits for thin materials, such as plastic or sheet metal, are "step" drill bits. They make a really fast cut and super clean hole. Good thing is that they are available at Harbor Freight too. They are like $10. Don't forget your 20% off coupon :)

step bits.jpg
author
ooohlaa (author)pooter14332014-06-29

thanx for photo ... would have had no idea wut you meant1

author
pooter1433 (author)ooohlaa2014-06-30

:)

author
ooohlaa (author)pooter14332014-06-30

this week harbor freight they are free with a $50 p;urchase, which I AM buying a chopper for branches so great, I will try these for my growing potatoes in plastic bins projects. they need lots of drainage holes. hopefully its not dangerous plastic fuming into the soil!

author
antioch (author)ooohlaa2014-06-29

Plastic making drill bits dull quickly? That surprises me, too. Unfortunately I can't speak much from experience but here's 2 thoughts:
I try and lube the drill bits if it's hard plastic. And while plastic is soft prompting one to use bits for wood it might be worth a try to go with drill bits for metal. They are hardened significantly more. There are special products to lube and cool these drill bits but to drill plastic and softer metals any regular machine oil will do perfectly.

I won't be drilling any plastic soon, I'm afraid, so please do share your experience with us when you try it out.

author
Tanzer26 (author)ooohlaa2014-06-29

I've had my best results in plastic with brad point drills. Muck cleaner cuts than regular drills. Keep the speed down. I haven't noticed any particular problems with dulling. Maybe it's a particular plastic with a filler that's causing your problem. For some uses s fibre, such a glass fibres may be added to strengthen the plastic.

author
simplied (author)ooohlaa2014-06-29

Get drills that are TiN coated (the the gold color ones!) to help with drill life. Also helpful all around is a "bullet" point type drill. I've seen them listed this way as Sears etc. but what you are actually after is something with 130 degree +/- "self starting" drill point, instead of the classic plain drill point that has a rather wide web in the center that doesn't cut. This will also enable the drill to start right into the cut rather than rub & dull in difficult conditions. Some plastics & definitely composite materials will take the edge off a high speed steel tool in a heartbeat even with TiN coating. Drilling polypropylene & similar plastics should be easy with a good quality coated drill bit.

author
ooohlaa (author)simplied2014-06-29

thanx very helpful!

author
buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

Great use of recyclables

author
PaulChau (author)2015-05-28

I prefer more uniformed containers rather than coffee containers for storage, but I suppose anything that recycles and can be made useful in the house is a good thing as it is! Haha!

author
UdyRegan (author)2014-11-26

This is a great way to recycle things into a decent form of storage for the workshop, I'd much prefer something that has lids on it, so might be a good idea to see if the caps of those containers still fit!

author
ooohlaa (author)2014-07-05

thanx everyone, lots of good feedback!

author
bclamore (author)2014-06-29

Excellent idea! I am a HS teacher and this is a great way for kids to see how to re-use/re-purpose. We used to use these Folgers cans, but the coffee is horrible. So we switched to individual packs of Green Mountain (much better coffee!) I do have some of the cans I used to recycle white board markers, but not enough for this rack. Occasionally we do see a Folgers can, however, so maybe eventually.

If anyone has recommendations on how to make the Folgers more palatable, I'm listening...

author
Tanzer26 (author)bclamore2014-06-29

Try Folger's 'Black Silk' much better than their Classic Roast

author
midsummermuse (author)Tanzer262014-07-01

I like black silk better than the regular, but that is less often on sale for cheap! :-) YMMV

author
RadBear (author)2014-06-30

Awesome work!.

author
omikeo (author)2014-06-29

nice job

author
ghaom (author)2014-06-29

Ms ooohlaa,

I use numerous large nails, 6p - 16p, held in a clothespin and heated with a propane torch for making my holes in plastic. The best drill bits are cobalt, but TiN is okay around the house for light drilling, Please remember to use bees wax for lubing the bit for wood and machine oil to lube the bit for metal.

You might want to use the lids with an example glued on top to keep the critters from nesting and to keep the jetsam and flotsam out.

author
Chookums (author)2014-06-29

Brilliant use of recycled materials - love the frugality and functionality. Well done!

author
Tanzer26 (author)2014-06-29

I like it. I'm wondering if the might be a way to make a 'keyhole' slot for better security. The only downside I see, is a ho
e in the bottom of the container will make it unsuitable for small parts.

author
DAYJAY (author)2014-06-29

Most excellent! Well done...

author
BigCountry (author)2014-06-29

I did almost the same thing for my chickens with 5 gallon buckets. Just 1 layer though. worked pretty good!

author
amekdala (author)2014-06-24

wooow u are caffein addict :)

author
therealchrislee (author)amekdala2014-06-25

I get a little help from the other 25 people in the office.

author

I've got a large collection of coffee cans too at work. This would be a great use for them. Thanks!

author
ladykalous (author)2014-06-28

I am a recycler big time! (I drive my husband crazy) How ever we are converting our shed into a work shop and this will be awesome! The mice and bugs wont be in it, it will be organized and look nice too! Thanks! What a great idea!

author
ladykalous (author)ladykalous2014-06-28

I will have to use this idea for my craft room too! OMGosh! THe ideas are endless!

author
gcanders (author)2014-06-25

I use something similar, but yours is awesome with the slanted shelf implementation! Great idea. I use it for miscellaneous garage items and also in the basement for Lego bricks.

Thanks for the idea for improving what I have.

author
Penolopy Bulnick (author)2014-06-25

Great organization! Directions are really easy to follow along with :)

author
Eldalote (author)2014-06-25

Smart idea! I will surely make something similar, because my rook looks like after explosion. There is material and tools everywhere! :D

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