These were our requirements: first, we wanted it to be mobile, so we could take it to places like the Maker Faire, as well as back and forth from home to the Flowering Elbow workshop. Second, it had to be effective and easy to use - while it needed to do a good job of keeping things safe and dust free, we needed easy access to its contents (no rifling through multiple compartments looking for this or that component). Third, it would be nice if it could be quickly mounted on the wall at the shop, to keep it in place, out of harms way and easy to access. Fourth, in line with the Flowering Elbow ethos,we wanted it to be made almost exclusively from re or upcycled material. Here’s what we came up with and how you could make one too.
Step 1: Materials & Tools Overview
For the disk drawers you need:
Lots of old floppy disks. One drawer requires 5 disks and 12 zip ties (2.5mm x 100mm). So to make this particular size of store, which houses 16 drawers, you need 80 floppies and 192 zip ties (though we also experimented with old wire wrapped tight and soldered in place instead of zip ties - it works but takes much longer) . Of course it is quite possible to scale the project and make as many drawers as suits your needs. This was something of a prototype, but I can easily envision large wall sized stores, and modular stores that fit together.
For the folding ply box you need:
Some plywood. We gratefully received a load of off cuts of 12mm shuttering ply form a local ‘sure chill’ cooling company, who use it for overseas packing crates. Shuttering ply is not the best quality ply in world (in fact in its raw form it’s pretty awful), but it’s cheap or free if you can find off cuts, and there is a lot you can do to improve it, not least a bit of sanding.
One 10” wide 8’ long board will do for both halves of the folding box.
The dividers are scraps of 5mm thick ply - long bits that are 115mm (or 4 ½”) wide is what you want.
- Clamps: The more the better!
- Table saw and all the safety equipment that goes with it - dust extractor, goggles, ear defenders, etc...
- Side cutters or sharp scissors
- Marking knife
- Measuring tools
- Drill and 3mm bit (or you can try a quality punch)
- Sander random orbit power sander recommended
- Finger jointing jig easy to make yourself if you have a few scraps of ply - fits nicely onto a shop make cross-cut sled
Step 2: Preparing the Disks
Drilling the Holes
To make holes for the zip tie fixings we need to drill two 3mm holes in each disk. For the four disks that make up the sides of the drawer, there are some convenient little holes already in the disk that just need punching through (see photo - arrows mark positions to drill holes).
In the photo the black disk on the right is one of the four drawer sides, whereas the white one is a bottom panel. The bottom of the drawer needs the holes in a slightly different place, so for every 4 you drill like the black, drill one like the white (obviously you can choose whatever colours you like). Notice that occasionally, as is the case with the white one, the square hole is not present so that needs drilling too.
With a scrap of wood underneath drill the holes with a 3mm drill bit.
Step 3: Putting the Drawers Together
Start by creating a loose string from the four side disks, as in the first photo.
Decide which side of the disk you want facing outwards (we like the label out and the circular metal bit in), and thread them so that the square business part of the zip tie will end up on the inside of the drawer- it will catch on the housing if you have it outside. Then join the two ends of your string of disks, and tighten away. Be sure to pay attention to the way the edges butt against each other.
Once you have tightened the four corners up you are ready to put on the bottom. Again it helps to keep the zip ties loose until they are all in place, then tighten away. Notice the orientation of the bottom disk.
Once that’s done use a pair of side cutters or sharp scissors to snip off the zip tie ends.
Step 4: Make Lots of Them!
The last disk drawer process is to add handles to the drawer fronts. For the disk drawer to fit in its slot in the storage cabinet, the front and back need to be the narrower edges. Make sure the handle goes on one of the disk’s edges. We used old electrical components to signify the intended contents of the disk. The method of fixing the handle will obviously vary depending on the component you're trying to fix on. For some, like the resistor, two small holes are drilled, the legs threaded through and soldered together on the inside. For other components a small dab of 2 part epoxy does the trick.
Step 5: Creating the Store Box - Overview
We used the table saw to cut the ply down to the right sized pieces, but I won't actually cover the ins and outs of table saw use here (there are whole books on that subject). I’ll just share a few project specific table saw tips here. The table saw is one of the more dangerous tools in the woodshop, so please stay safe: you need to know quite a lot about table saw use to do this so enlist knowledgeable help if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
Step 6: Dimensions and Cutting List
Pieces to make the outer (both halves) in 12mm shuttering ply:
x2 Back 455mm x 225mm
x4 Sides 455mm x 125mm
x4 Top & bottom 225mm x 135mm
In the second picture you can see one side of the cabinet cut and laid out ready. The long edges are mitred together, and locked in place by the top piece which is finger jointed on three edges. The bottom is just stuck in there (it only carries the weight of the lower two disk drawers so should be strong enough).
Step 7: The Joints
Do plenty of dry test fitting, and remember to cut approximately 4mm deep channels to house the dividers before gluing up.
Take your time with these joints and do a test on a scrap piece to check the jig settings. If you can, use a stop block to cut pieces to length, to keep lengths absolutely consistent.
Step 8: Dividers
Similarly when we come to cut half way through the dividers, so they fit together, mark them in situ, with a marking knife (or blade of some kind).
Step 9: Glue Up
Remember that as soon as you put glue on the finger joints they will swell slightly making it hard to adjust them. To avoid the problem, practice dry first for a quick assembly.
You can simply bang the dividers home with a protective scrap of wood and mallet.
Step 10: Tidy Up the Ply
Shuttering ply usually has a very rough outer surface so a light sanding with a random orbit sander can do wonders. You can also go ahead and sand those nice finger joints flush, and if you like, give them a bit of curve. It’s rare, ok lets face it, unheard of, for people to talk about the beauty of shuttering ply, but we really like the pattern this techniques leaves.
To preserve the origins we left the original FSC stamp on there…
Step 11: Add the Hinge
Observant among you will notice the extra strip of wood we added- this just protects the hinge from damage by stopping the opening half from ‘over opening’.
Step 12: Wall Mount
Step 13: Add a Cleat/Latch
Little catches like this are only a few ponds for a bunch, and they always come in handy for projects like this...
Step 14: Use
The final step: if you make one take a photo or five and e-mail us, or post on the Flowering Elbow facebook page, I would love to see your creations, especially how you do or don’t change and adapt the design. I want to see a wall sized storage unit ;)