Introduction: Jug Shelves

About: Retired Tool Maker ( 1980 ) Retired Mechanical Engineer ( 2009 ) Full time Tinkerer

If you have any sort of work shop I'm sure you have loads of spare parts. Nuts, Bolts, Nails, Hinges, Electrical Outlets, the list is almost endless. So here is a cheap and quick way to have 1/2 gallon and 1 gallon drawers in a "cabinet" in almost no time.

Step 1: The Jugs

So this idea started back in 1981 when I needed a drain pan to change my car's oil. I cut the front off an anti-freeze jug and then realized I had the makings of a drawer with a built in handle, for no cost! Later I saw that half gallon milk jugs would be nice too and offer twice as many drawers in the same space, smaller of course. There is usually a bit of liquid in the jugs so I use some wood saw dust to soak it up. Also if you put the cap on the milk jugs they will really stink when you open them. So do a quick rinse and poke the lid inside. It should be dry by the time you get around to cutting it open.

Step 2: The Makings of a Cabinet

Back in 1981 I was poor, but had some scrap wood available. I had found some wall paneling in the Magic Woods that wasn't falling apart from water damage. So since the anti-freeze jugs are about 12" high I cut the panels into 12" strips. A generous opening for the anti-freeze jug is 9" wide and 4.5" high. The milk jugs fit 4.5" x 4.5" and are also shorter so you can rip the panels to 11". So using a dado blade in my table saw I cut slots 6" deep in the panels. Make sure they are not too tight, an easy slide is best. The table saw was handy and my radial arm saw is handier, but a hand saw or saber saw would work. You can even make shelves like these with cardboard using a box cutter knife. But I digress, the slots should be on the back side of the shelves and the front side of the vertical board. This makes the front edge "strong", I found the back side is OK without full support.

September 2019 - Just added a spreadsheet to calculate the pieces required. You can change the number of shelves and the sizes and the cut list should update. Good luck, Carl.

Step 3: Where to Put the Shelves

So I had this 12" shelf above my garage door that wasn't doing much. Here you see a vertical board set in place. It looked good so I cut the shelves to fit the horizontal space.

Step 4: Assemble in Place

Usually I assemble these shelves on their backs on the floor. Here I didn't want to lift the assembly, so I assembled it in place. I was a real juggle to get the first shelf in place with all the verticals. But each shelf was easier than the one above.

Step 5: All Assembled

So here is the finished shelf. Since this shelf was over head I used some pipe strapping to fasten it to the wall. It would be a major mess to have all those jugs fall and spill on the floor. Also you can see I mixed sizes, two columns of anti-freeze jugs on the left and six columns of milk jugs on the right.

Step 6: Loaded Shelves

Here are the shelves with jugs. You can see the pipe straps screwed to the second from the top shelf. Next fill the holes with the jugs. When I have to climb a ladder I find making a location list of each jug really helps!

Step 7: Shelf #1 - 1981

So here is that first shelf from 1981, still going strong. Six wide and six high, plus you can store one jug on the top shelf!

Step 8: First Milk Jug Shelf - 1986

Well, not really the first, I tried One Gallon Milk Jugs and they just don't fit well. So here is a four wide by twelve high shelf. This has a plywood box with sides, top and bottom. Ends of the shelves don't have any support, but the 3/8" plywood does fine.

Step 9: More Jug Shelves From 1995

New work shop and more jugs! Anti-freeze below and Milk above. At this point I started a data base on the computer to keep track of the contents.

Step 10: Built in Shelves - 1999

These shelves are built into a wall, the shelves go all the way across and have been very handy. The milk jugs are mostly Metric Bolts and the anti-freeze jugs are mostly English sizes.

Hope you are inspired to build some, I'm sure your friends will help you save up jugs once they know you can use them. Also they make great gifts!

Good luck, Carl.

Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Wood Contest 2016