I love free stuff from junk. This is a project to give you lots of small parts storage for almost no cost but your effort. The result is a set of ten to hundreds of small part storage containers, perfect for nuts, bolts, buttons, and the like. You can buy storage systems but you may be put off by the price.
Step 1: Materials
Large number of cleaned cat food cans or other small free containers. Cardboard. Construction adhesive.
Step 2: Construction
Decide on your base size. Do this by laying out a set of containers and see how much area they take up. I used 12 inches by 18 inches. This is a size that gets a good number of containers on each level, but leaves each level a easy size to handle. Cut the cardboard. Plan the layout of the containers, perhaps even marking guide lines on the cardboard. I just eyeballed it. Put 4 dabs of construction adhesive on the bottom of the can and press in place. Construction adhesive is the stuff to use because it is a gooey stuff and fill in any gaps. It is also strong. Place the second can, there should be a dab of adhesive at the upper rim where the cans touch. This gives the whole construct a surprising strength, much more than gluing to the cardboard alone.
The units can be easily stacked to a surprising height. To aid in this you may want to add some guides to the bottom of each unit. What I did was to cut two disks of cardboard just a bit smaller than a can and glued these on the bottom of the unit. When stacked the disk goes in the can of the unit below and stops it from slipping sideways.
Step 3: Use
Surely if you have gotten this far no directions are necessary.
Step 4: Variations
Cardboard will fail if it gets wet, you may want to use thin plywood, or the plastic version of cardboard if you think the units will get wet . These are harder to get for free. Rather than stack the units you can make a frame of Â¾ inch wood with groves cut to slide a unit in like a drawer. This makes it easier to get to any unit without disturbing the others. I did not do this, so no picture. If the units are in 2 stacks you take off one stack and add to the other to get to the desired unit.
Cat food cans are not the only cans you can use, but beware of deeper containers, to get parts out you need to reach in with your fingers. If the container is narrow and deep you can not get your fingers down there. Picking the unit up and turning it over is not usually the best way to find a part as you dump out all the cans.
I layered out the containers for close packing, you may want a more rectangular arrangement. This leave more space between the containers for parts to get lost in. The space could be filled up with some paper mache to prevent this.