Introduction: Master Horizontal Space for WIP's

Works in progress (WIP) require lots of horizontal surface. A useful approach is to use standard trays for each project. The trays can be efficiently stored in a rack or cabinet. This makes it easy to transport your project to wherever you want to work on it- the workbench, kitchen table, or even in front of the TV.

Things need to time to dry or cure. Maybe you don't have time to finish your project in one go. Lots of creative sparks urge you to start other projects. Leave your stuff "out" and it will get buried under someone else's stuff, chewed on by the dog, or pushed off by the cat.

Step 1: Off the Shelf Option

Choose Your Tray

I use the standard 18 inch which actually measures 17 ¾ " x 14 ". You might be able to pick some up second hand like I did, but they are easy enough to find new- even on Amazon. They have a sturdy rigid rim which makes them hold up to heavy use. I originally used this system for making pottery. You can also supplement your sturdy trays with DIY cut foam-board. Foam-board is sturdy enough for the kids macaroni art. Just make sure they are all the same width.

Size Your Rack / Cabinet

The food service racks and cabinets are expensive, but you might be able to pick one up from a failed restaurant. I scored mine at a self-storage auction. The main thing is it must fit your trays. the side walls must be just slightly wider than your trays. For my 17 ¾ inches wide trays the inside of the cabinet is just slightly wider than 18". There are other standards such as 14 inch, so double check before you buy.

Step 2: Consider Making Your Own: Setup


There are several methods for supporting trays.

  1. Narrow supports
  2. Pegs and holes
  3. Grooves or slots

I've shown a quick example from scrap wood to demonstrate options 1 & 2. Option 3 takes more skill than I have. If you are comfortable making those types of cuts on a table saw, you will probably find that to be the best option.

This example uses just scraps and left-overs

  • (2) sides- they are approximately 3/4", but aren't even as wide as the trays are deep
  • (3) cross supports
  • screws and nails
  • very thin scraps for shelf supports
  • metal shelf support pegs (leftovers from another project)

Setting tray supports

On the inner surface of the sides, set your supports (peg-holes or grooves) at regular matching intervals. Remember if the supports are not aligned on each side, the shelves will not be level.

Step 3: Making Your Own: Assembly

Squaring it Up

It can be a bit difficult to assemble the rack while keeping the sides square in all dimensions. The sides must be a little further apart than your tray width. I recommend cutting two 2x4's to the right length to use as squaring aids. I used a carpenters pencil taped to the trays to guarantee a little extra room. This brought the width to a full 18 inches. I was also able to use an 18 inch ruler to help in the squaring process.

Back Support Pieces

Place the front edges down and attach the back supports. Start with one side and then square it up before you screw in the second side. Starting with just one screw in the support makes squaring it up easier.

Top Support

Set the rack vertically and check for square before adding one more cross piece near the front. Here I am using the trays and the 18 inch ruler to confirm it is still square.

Step 4: Load Up Your Stuff

I have found it best to start from the top and place the next project just below, leaving as little space as possible. This is not only efficient, but should also help keep that cat from exploring. It's a good idea to keep them labeled. I sometimes use a label maker, but have used tent labels made from index cards.

Step 5: Bonus Dollar Store Electronics Storage Tips

Starring on my shelves are some lovely dollar store containers perfect for storing electronics. The Yellow container is the perfect fit for a half size bread board and an Arduino Uno. They are 2 for $1, or sometimes 3 for $1. The small container is the perfect for the mini size breadboard and a few small components. They are typically available in packs of 8 or 10 for $1. The last photo shows a classroom set of minis ready to go in another Dollar Store basket.

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