Adjustable Shelving for Part Bin Organizers

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Introduction: Adjustable Shelving for Part Bin Organizers

About: I enjoy dabbling in everything. By trade I am a software developer during the day. At home for fun I like to dabble in electronics, minor woodworking, house projects, IOT, Smart Home setup, software developmen…

I enjoy playing around with woodworking and electronics for fun. The downside is that you can accumulate a lot of various parts and equipment, especially smaller in size. It's not fun trying to keep it organized, especially when they all come in different sized containers, with some ranging in quantities of one to 100. Usually they all can end up in a messy drawer or box and I wanted to get a handle on all my small parts.

I needed a solution and having some spare plywood, I only needed two sheets of plywood to build. This cost around 40 dollars.

Here is where this solution comes into play. I've seen many use portable bin organizers. However, once you get a few of them, you then have to organize them. My measurements here are based on Harbor Freights Portable Storage Bins so feel free to adjust to your needs, as there are other brands or your storage requirements may be different. An advantage was that some of my other tool cases were able to fit as well, like my Dremel and socket set.

Supplies:

Parts (~$30-$60 pending spare wood and quality purchased)

  • 1 - 4'x8' Sheet of 3/8" Plywood
  • 2 - 4'x8' Sheet of 3/4" Plywood (Only need a little out of a second sheet, either for the top/bottom or 2 of the fixed shelfs)
  • Screws
  • Set of 4 Casters
  • Wood Glue (Optional)

Tools

  • Drill
    • Drill & Driver Bits
  • Table or Circular Saw
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Square/DIY Jig/DIY Guide
  • Router (Optional if have table saw and dado blades or other solution)
  • Pocket Hole Jig (Optional)
  • Kreg AccuCut/RipCut or similar (Optional if no table saw)

Harbor Freight Portable Bin Organizers (Optional)

Step 1: Initial Tips

Some initial tips and insights that I learned during the process or would suggest.

Safety First! Safety First! Safety First!

Please use proper eye & ear protection!

Please use all safety guards on your tools!

Please read and understand how to use and operate your tools as they might not match how mine are used.

Project Note

I hope this instructable can serve both as a instruction manual, as I'll provide my dimensions, but also as a tool that you can use to change it up to your needs. Whether that is making it bigger or smaller, adding more shelves or fewer, changing the shelf spacing or more. The only limit is your imagination.

Build/Assembly

With a few of the steps there could be various methods, both that I know and share or that I might not know. Work with the potential tools that you are able to do safely. For example, I used a router, but a table saw could also work. I ended up using pocket holes, but they are not necessarily needed. Just make sure to put safety first!

I also might recommend making a jig if using a router to make your life easier.

(5/15) Some good feedback in the comments. For reccomendation to have all the dado cuts line up during assembly. Cut the dadoes first THEN cut out each wall, would recommend cutting Side, Middle, Side to reduce risk of alignment issues.

Cutting
Measure twice (and trice) and cut once..... unlike I did with my first side and had the wrong measurement. Thankfully it will go to a future project and I had other large scraps to make the project work. :)

Step 2: Planning

Planning will save you later down the road. I based my plans around Harbor Freights Bin Portable Storage Cases. I planned the shelf spacing based on the shorter cases, allowing the adjustable shelves to be pulled out so the larger cases fit. The width and depth were planned for it as well. If you plan to use something else, double check measurements and adjust accordingly.

For the frame and fixed shelves I used 3/4" plywood, for the adjustable shelves I used 3/8".

I planned this out initially by drawing it out on paper and have now created a CAD drawing too.

Step 3: Cut Frame Pieces

(5/15) From some good feedback in the comments making this recommendation to switch this step and the next one. To reduce risk of having all the dado cuts line up during assembly. Cut the dadoes first THEN cut out each wall, would recommend cutting Side, Middle, Side to reduce risk of alignment issues.

All easy straight cuts for this project. I personally don't have a table saw, but that would be one method. I used my circular saw and the Kreg Rip-Cut and Accu-Cut tools to cut my straight lines. You can cut the two sides, which are the same width and height, as well as cut the back wall. You can also cut out the top and bottom pieces that are both the same size.

Step 4: Lots and Lots of Dadoes!!!

Now is for the fun and time consuming part, cutting out all the dadoes on both side pieces and the back wall.

I personally used my router and set the depth to half the thickness of the plywood (3/8"). Since all the adjustable shelves are to be 3/8" plywood I used my 3/8" router bit. Adjust all according to your plans.

I first measured out all of the spacing and grooves. All shelf spaces are spaced at 2.5". For my plans I did 5 adjustable shelf pieces of 3/8" (so 6 slots spaced at 2.5") and then placed a fixed shelf of 3/4" plywood and so on. If you are matching my plans, it would look like this for dado sizes: 5 -- 3/8", 1 -- 3/4", 5 -- 3/8", 1 -- 3/4", 5 --3/8" with 2.5 inch spacing between each.

I clamped my large quick square down as a straight edge for the router. The square did not go all the way across to route a straight line. After routing down one side I rotated the plywood and finished routing the other half. In hindsight I would recommend either building a dado router jig or make your own larger square out of scrap pieces that can cover the full width.

You could also potentially use a table saw with a dado blade set if you're able to safely do with your saw.

Step 5: Assemble Frame

Next step is to assemble the main frame. I decided to use pocket holes to attach the sides to the back wall. You could also just screw in from the back wall into the sides if you don't have a pocket hole jig (recommend pilot holes).

I would recommend to dry fit and dado check alignment. I did have to route a little bit extra off for some shelves, as the edges didn't exactly align and it is easier to fix now. I used some scrap pieces of plywood to help with the dry fit.

After you've done that you can go ahead and glue up the sides and screw together. I would still recommend using some scrap plywood pieces to hold the walls in position during assembly.

After you have the walls in place, you can screw on the top and bottom pieces. After doing so, you can go ahead and add castors if desired.

Step 6: Cut and Add Fixed Shelves

I felt for sturdiness and rigidity to have some shelves fixed. (These are the 3 -- 3/4" dado sections and plywood)

If all is assembled as planned, you should be able to cut out 3 -- 13 7/8" x 17 3/4" square pieces out of 3/4" plywood. (I would recommend double checking and measuring the space so they fit properly)

Place these in the proper shelf locations and screw in place, coming from the side walls screwing into the shelf (Make sure to drill pilot holes).

Step 7: Cut and Insert Adjustable Shelves

Next step is cutting out all of the adjustable shelves out of 3/8" plywood. Out of one piece of plywood you are able to get 15 total pieces. There are 20 total slots but if you have some of the larger bins you won't need a total of 20.

Pull out the table saw or Kreg Rip-cut and cut out all of the shelves. That should hopefully be 13 7/8" by 17 3/4" out of 3/8" plywood. (Cutting out of a 4'x8' sheet - cut the 13 7/8 wide long strips, you should get 3 of them. Then you can cut 5 - 17 3/4" out of each strip)

Once you cut them out go ahead and place them into your shelf!

Step 8: (Optional) Finish Touches/Labeling

After completing the last step, you can call it a day. That's were I personally stopped.

One option I might still do is to cut out a section in the front of each shelf to expose the handles of the bins for ease of grabbing them.

If desired, you could also paint or stain your assembly. Since mine is just sitting out in the garage workspace, I currently don't feel the need to do that.

To stay organized can go the extra step and label all your bins and part so they can be easy to find!

Enjoy!

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    25 Comments

    0
    Syncubus
    Syncubus

    10 months ago

    To save a bit of wood on this project, you could have made dados to fit the 'ears' of the organizers (if using all the same organizers) and left the shelves out - or made a few shelves for oddball things. I've done this with a few types of organizers.

    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 10 months ago

    Great tip and idea. And I definitely considered this as a potential option during my planning stages. I guess I didn't think about the idea of only making a few shelves for the oddball items and something to consider.

    But yea I decided to add the shelves for the odd ball items or HF smaller cases. In the end I do like how it adds a uniform look with all items having a shelf vs some using the "ears" and then some with shelves. I also didn't know how well some of the containers "ears" would've handled when loaded with screws as they can get a little heavy with the deep bins.

    Great idea and suggestion!

    0
    uncle frogy
    uncle frogy

    11 months ago

    I just last month made something like this. The one I built was wall mounted and made for 24 compartment boxes. I used what scrap plywood I had on hand. the shelf-deviders I used 1/4" ply as there was not going to be heavy nuts & bolts only electronic components. I never thought of caking some of the "selves" adjustable a little late for me but good idea. my dividers are only dry fit I think I will remove 2 in the middle and glue them in, the back is not going any where there is a 3/8 back screwed in place.
    My other workshop has a lot of crates stacked on rolling dollies, the crates make it easier to move what fasteners I need to the job instead of bringing everything and since there is the inevitable accumulation of the exact fastener and the limited space the dollies make it possible to work in the space that is always too small.
    uncle frogy

    0
    JohnW51
    JohnW51

    11 months ago on Step 8

    This is a great project and one I think may be easy enough for even me to build. I need this! But, where to put it? Time to get out in the garage and see what I can move to make room.

    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    I understand the struggle as we have a small garage. But who needs to store cars in a garage, right?

    0
    JohnW51
    JohnW51

    Reply 11 months ago

    I keep my cars in the garage because I keep cars a LONG time. I live in central Oklahoma where we have lots of hail storm in spring and summer and very hot sun in summer. These take a heavy toll on cars kept outside.

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    11 months ago

    The adjustable shelving is nice - if HFT stops selling the inserts, you may be able to fit the replacements. Or remove a couple of inserts to make room for a large tool.

    You could have made all the dados 3/8" inch and 3/8" rabbits on the 3/4" stock leaving 3/8" material to fit into the dados (makes a real strong glue joint for the fixed shelves).

    As to the 'tippy' issue, this project might work nicely as a double-wide two-piece affair with a deeper base under a shorter DW stack of adjustable 'shelves' for the HFT containers. By cutting two additional dado'd members out of 5/8" stock and gluing them back to back, you could have the ame number of shelves in a broader, more stable footprint.

    Frankly shelves way down near the floor are less attractive then those at or close to 'eye level.'

    If the 'base' were 25" deep and around 33" high and 37" wide (for instance), it could be divided into to wide drawer spaces to hold larger objects (or two shelves) enclosed with a couple of doors.

    The exposed top of this base would serve to hold one of those containers while one fished our the pop rivet, number eight wood screw or the three or four red wire nuts needed.

    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    Yeah being adaptable was very important for me, was pleased too that some of my other tool cases either fit the height of one space or two.

    Love the tips and ideas, I know I borrowed some ideas from pieces of different solutions I had seen. I thought about doing two shorter ones for exactly that reason to place the containers on top while grabbing parts and still would of loved that. But floor space came more of a value to me at this time. But as I update the garage and change storage and organization changes I might cut it in half to do just that :)

    0
    JohnW51
    JohnW51

    11 months ago on Step 8

    To make sure all your dado cuts line up properly, cut them into the 3/4" plywood BEFORE you cut the sides and back to width. That way, you are guaranteed they dados will line up perfectly.

    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    Great feedback and tip, thankfully I ended up lucky but know it doesn't always turn out. I've updated the instructable to include this helpful tip.

    0
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    11 months ago on Step 8

    Bravo, exactly what I need at this point. I've been organizing my workshop and have a bunch of these bins. I've been planning on making something like this, but I don't like the planning stage. So I've been putting it off.
    Now to grab some sheets of plywood and get building.

    I know it doesn't really matter, but are those the 3" light duty casters from Harbor Freight?

    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    I can understand the struggle at times with the planning. I know I can be in the same boat. This definitely came from many different ideas/solutions I saw out there combined into one as I didn't like any of the others.

    Those aren't, they are ones I got from Menards, not sure off hand which ones. Like someone else commented, it can be top heavy when moving around but I'm personally not moving it around much.

    0
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    Reply 11 months ago

    I would eventually have planned and made one, but I keps putting it off in hopes someone else would make this.
    I won't be moving it around much anyway, so if it's top heavy, I'll pull out some of the upper bins when I need to move it.

    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    That was the same for me, I wanted the ability to move but I am not moving it on a daily/weekly basis and mostly will stay in the same spot. It hasn't been to bad for moving around, just push down low, sometimes using my feet for an extra push. I have my bulk screws on the bottom and lighter electronic stuff up high and haven't needed to remove anything to move it around.

    0
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    Reply 11 months ago

    My only complaint about the HF organizers are the bins. Solved that with a 3D printer.

    resistors.jpg
    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    I'd agree some of them aren't perfect and might not align the best when closing with the slots on the lid. I like those resistor organizers. One of these days I'll get a 3D printer, but a coworker is going to long term loan me his he isn't using and some custom organizers are on the top of the list. Both for small parts but also bigger bins for long and skinny items. I'v thought about using foam but haven't done that yet.

    0
    JohnD818
    JohnD818

    11 months ago on Step 8

    Great project. I built something similar. Two comments;

    1) While the harbor Freight bins are ok and inexpensive, the ones from Stanley are better constructed and only a bit more expensive.

    2) In my design I used aluminum angle stock to create the shelves for the bins as that wastes less space than using wood and no dados need to be cut. The unit is also on casters for mobility.

    Thanks!

    15894631189168750499861583812822.jpg
    0
    mtclmbr
    mtclmbr

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks for the comments. Correct there are other brands out there with similar products, Stanley as one as well as a handful of other tool/storage manufacturers ranging in price and quality. Stanley is another common one I've seen.

    I like that design, I did stumble across similar looking plans when brainstorming up my idea. I do like how that saves some space and able to get more bang for the buck, didn't think of that angle. Adjustability though was an important thing for me as I figured my needs would change over time and wanted the flexibility. I also have some of the HF bins that are only half as wide with all the smaller bins and looks like those wouldn't work here unless modified. I know I've seen other plans where you use the lips of the storage bins and slide the bins into the dado slots but ruled away again for having a full surface shelf.

    Great ideas and thanks for sharing!

    0
    gdsmit1
    gdsmit1

    Reply 11 months ago

    On Amazon, they are at least $20, the HF bins are less than $10. This cabinet holds a bunch of them.

    But yeah, the Stanley are a lot better constructed.

    1
    JeffM15
    JeffM15

    11 months ago

    Awesome Idea. I have seen something similar done before and they were too short. The one thing they did though was they cut the dado grove all the way across the whole sheet then cut the 13' and 18." pieces after. Then the groves all line up perfectly.

    Very nicely done, Thank you for sharing,
    Jeff