Introduction: Modular Record Storage Units

About: I'm a design engineer, university lecturer and weekend shed goblin.

So here is a project I've just finished that I thought some of you might like to see. The project came from a commission I received a last month to make a modular storage system for two thousand records!

The design is nice and simple and very achievable, as well as being cost effective. I do use one very expensive tool to make these cabinets however, it is not necessary that you own this tool.

I have entered this project in the Furniture Competition on Instructables so if you do love it please vote for it!

Also any questions or comments, leave them below!

Step 1: Cut List

In terms of materials I have used MDF as requested by the customer, which will be perfectly adequate. However if I was to make these for my own home I would use Birch Plywood, Valchromat or MRDF (the moisture resistant variant of medium density fibre board)

For one cabinet you will need:

3x Base 714mm x 342mm x 18mm

2x Side 342mm x 330mm x 18mm

1x Divider 340mm x 320mm x 18mm

1 x Back 688mm x 340mm x 9mm

Most timber yards will be able to cut these pieces for you from an 8x4 sheet. using a panel saw

Note: In total I will be making eight of these modular storage units as I need to store two thousand records. Each section of the unit is able to hold approximately 130 records so dependant on the size of your collection work out how many you need. Of course the cabinets don't have to be used for records this is just what the dimensions are based around.

Step 2: Tools + Materials

I own a fair amount of tools and I do not expect everyone to have all of what I own. Where possible I try and advise appropriate alternative tools and methods. We all start somewhere, I certainly did.


Router - My new favourite is a 750w trimmer made by Kastu and costs just £25 or in USD $32.68

Router Cutters - 18mm ,9-10mm (I used a 9.7mm) and a round over I use a 1/8

Chisel - Ideally as close to 9mm as possible

Drill - I favour Makita for drills although truthfully any modern 18v or even 12v drill is superb these days

3mm lip and spur (bradpoint) bit

25mm forstner bit

Paint Roller - I use the cheapest ones available at screwfix, three rollers, a handle and a tray for £3

Primer - I used MDF primer

Undercoat - I went for a cheap oil based arctic white


Pencil - I like the mechanical type for fine work

Masking tape

240 Grit Sandpaper and Sanding Block

Two Small Clamps - I used 150mm ratcheting clamps but any will do

Six Larger Clamps - Over 400mm

25mm felt pads - These came from amazon 100pcs for £3.99, here's the link


Domino Jointer - This is an obscenely expensive tool that I use all the time, however, you can achieve the same results and strength for this project using simple dowels. Failing that if you are using Plywood you can use screws and fill the heads with two part car body filler.

Track Saw - Invented by Festool now made by many others the track saw is fantastic piece of kit! It can be had for less than £150 and is a very capable tool. I use it in place of a table saw.

Step 3: Sketchbook

Here are some early sketches just in case anyone was interested, some of the dimensions have changed so please do not reference from them.

Step 4: Jig Making

To start with I mark out one of my base boards to make a jig for drilling the pilot holes. I mark the center (357mm) and then mark 22mm in for all edges and both sides of the the centerline.

If you are in any doubt have a look at the above picture and/or download the DWG. You could even cut it out on a CNC or laser cut a template if you wish.

Step 5: Drilling Pilot Holes and Forstner Holes

So for this task I used two clamps to clamp the jig to my work-piece (another base) and bench. I marked the front of the jig so I always use it the right way round in case of any human error.

I then drill through my jig, stopping as soon as I feel the drill hit the work-piece underneath; if you are unsure if you are going deep enough wrap masking tape around the drill bit at 20mm up.

I then remove the jig swap drills and use a 25mm forstner bit and my drills in built depth guide, going in 4mm. You could also do this on a drill press or with a router.

Step 6: Routing

I first drew a straight line on my base board 12mm down and another at 22mm, stopping 12mm before the ends of the board. Doing the same for both boards, this will form the top and bottom of the cabinet.

For the sides you can just groove all the way through.

For routing the grooves I used a 9.7mm twin flute straight cutter bit. Using my trusty, cheap, Katsu router in my plunge base and set a depth of just over 5mm using the turret stop. I also used my guide rail and guide rail fence to ensure a smooth cut.

If you do not have the luxury of the guide rail not to worry! you can always clamp a straight edged piece of timber to your work-piece and reference from that.

I used the same steps to also cut a 5mm deep, 18mm wide groove in the centre of the board for the centre support/divider on both the top and bottom boards.

Note: When using a larger cutter (such as the 18mm cutter) remember to slow the routers speed down to ensure a safer cut and smoother finish.

Step 7: Chiselling Waste

I then had to chisel the waster to square of the rounded corners or my stopped groove left by my router. A nice sharp chisel makes this quick work.

Step 8: Domino

For the attaching the sides of the cabinet to the base and top I used three 6mm x 40mm dominos on each side. The same structural strength can be gained by using hardwood dowels.

The Domino was used to cut mortises 12mm deep into the base and 28mm into the side panels, there is no reason you could not do this with a drill and 6mm dowels. My reason for using a domino, in this instance, is speed.

Step 9: Masking

Now you need to mask of the edges of the top and bottom base boards 18mm in to ensure that paint does not go onto where the sides will attach. You should also mask of 5mm of the divider on each side as the paint will stop in from going into the 18mm routed slot.

Step 10: Painting Insides

Paint the insides of the cabinet with primer using a roller, I recommend two coats. Sanding with 240 grit sandpaper in between.

At this step you can also add an undercoat and a final finish coat if you wish. It will be much easier than when it is assembled.

Note: the back panel will need to be painted on both sides.

Step 11: Glue-Up

I used titebond III for this project as it's easy to clean up and makes a strong joint. Try and avoid PU glues for this project as they're very messy and could damage the finish.

These units can be tricky to glue up, I recommend gluing in this order:

  1. Apply glue to dominos or dowels and insert into the sides.
  2. Attach sides to the base (bottom board)
  3. Slide the back panel down the 9mm groove
  4. Attach top board
  5. Slide in centre support

Note: I recommend using some scraps to cut some right angle blocks for multiple glue-ups it just makes life easier.

Step 12: Round-Over

I used a 1/8 round over bit for this project as it's a nice and subtle radius, but use what you wish. Remember though the bigger the bit the slower the speed.

Step 13: Painting and Sanding Outside

Now it's time to sand of any glue excess and paint the outside. I used rollers, two coats of MDF primer and one coat of arctic white undercoat as the customer is yet to decide a final colour. However I would recommend a water based acrylic paint for a top coat.

Note: Sanding with a nice hard block will give you a nice even finish.

Step 14: Interlocking Felt Pads

So unfortunately I don't have to many pictures to explain this but the principle is every simple. The pads go in-between the cabinets locking them together and allowing to be moved into multiple combinations. As an added benefit when they're placed on the bottom they compress to level the cabinets.

So here's what to do:

  1. Open the packet of self adhesive 25mm felt pads
  2. Remove backing on two pads and stick together
  3. Repeat multiple times
  4. Insert in the holes on the top + base of cabinet

Step 15: Finished

So here they are with there felt pads locking them all together you can finally see what they are! On a side note they are incredibly rigid and stable when together, I think I'll put up a video when I make the next batch.

I do hope you enjoyed the project. Feel free to leave me a comment, I really enjoy reading them.

Note: The project will be updated when the customer fills them with records.

Furniture Contest 2018

Participated in the
Furniture Contest 2018