Introduction: Polyethylene Kitchen Helpers

About: retired chemist trying to stay out of trouble

Here are 4 fun and moderately easy projects using repurposed cutting boards and stainless steel screws. These gadgets make food preparation faster and better in my tiny kitchen. A workshop with a table saw will help, but they could be be built with a router, drill, and hand tools.

Polyethylene board has peculiar properties. It machines easily and holds screws well. However, any power tool provides enough heat to melt the board and make the plastic creep. So use a sharp utility knife to slice away the creep instead of sanding — which causes even more creep.

Step 1: Zippie Filling Station

Problem #1: Filling zippies. It takes an extra hand to fill food storage bags, so I gave myself 2 extra. This started with a trip to flee market. I bought a medium-sized polyethylene beard for $2.50 and a pack of plastic clothespins for a dollar. Add to that a dollar's worth of #6 x ½" ss screws I had on hand.

I sawed off the handle and split the rest of board down the middle. Then I taped the thicker edges together inside and out. This made it easy to drill 3/32" pilot holes through both pieces in the same places. I countersinked the outside holes and bored them with a 9/64" bit to let the screws slip through. Screwing the pieces together carefully gave me an angle both sturdy and steady on the countertop. The Zippie Filling Station works with both pint and quart bags. It makes filling them with anything from liquid to sticky rice quick and easy. Then I can sanitize it with bleach and store it out of the way.

I used to use a rusty old can to load zippies. That's gone in the trash now.

Step 2: Sink Top Station

Problem #2: Lack of Counter Area. Despite taking up the same area as all my open counter, the sink doesn't even fit my largest pans. It's a nightmare. Until I can tear out some walls, topping the sink with a removable workstation is my solution.

I cut a cardboard pattern that fit snugly into the side well and traced it twice onto the bottom of a nice new ½" cutting board. With a ¾" bit set to cut 9/16" deep, I routed the area outside the patterns. Since this cut doesn't show, I freehanded it. Rounded the corners, sliced off all the creep, and dropped it in the sink.

Now I can set up for a big cooking project with 50% more clean work surface. Plus, it gives me total juice containment when processing fruit or meat. Plus, I can grind on my big pans while they set flat. (I have included a simulation of what a grubby pan might actually look like while scrubbing.)

The Sink Top Station works well when any mess needs to go straight down the drain.

Step 3: Cling Wrap Station

Problem #3: Big, heavy box. I use a lot of cling wrap. If you knew about commercial quality wrap, you would too. It's so much better than supermarket varieties, food storage is just the beginning. I even cook in it. However, the box is huge and awkward to store. Also, I have no counter area to use it.

I began by cleaning out this ridiculous cabinet. Then I installed roll-out wire frame bins from Lowes. These are very sturdy and work great, but some assembly (23 screws each) is required. The cling wrap box fits in the top shelf and I was happy. For a while.

Then I brought home another ½" cutting board and cut it to fit into the door opening. I grooved the cutoff piece to snuggly grip the wire frame. Safety tip: Since these parts are small and need repeated cuts, I made both grooves on the same piece before sawing it in half. These rails raise the table just enough to capture the hexagonal hubs that come with the cling wrap.

Getting the table to grip both sides of the wire frame is tricky. I started by attaching the flush rail with #8 x ⅝" ss screws. Pressing this onto the wire frame with the other rail hanging loose, I scribed its position on the underside of the table. Then I clamped it in the proper place and screwed it to the table. The assembly press fit like a charm and hasn't budged in daily use over 3 years.

The Cling Wrap Station works better than I hoped. An inch gap on the left side of the door opening allows the material to stay on the table when stored back in the cabinet. The wrap glides up smoothy and gently sticks to the polyethylene. Juicy or greasy or raw foods do not matter. The station is always wrinkle-free, sanitary, and ready to go.

Another trick is sliding a pint-sized bread pan under the wrap. I make frozen treats by shoveling in fruit puree or mousse on top of the wrap so the food can never stick to the pan. Folding the wrap over the top of the fill seals well enough to stop leaks before the liquid freezes. Then dessert drops right out of the pan and the wrap peels off.

Step 4: EZ Clean Dish Drain

Problem #4: Disgusting sink well. This project is too silly to stand on its own, but fits the overall theme.

I live on a tropical island surrounded by salt water. Nothing ever dries here. Every dish drain I tried either rusted in a week or grew black mold every day. All of them took up too much space. I know people have bigger problems, but yuck.

Taking another cheesy polyethylene cutting board, I cut it to not quite fit. A couple of ss screws in the back give it some angle. I don't care if it looks stupid. I works better than anything costing 30 times more. I splash it with bleach once a week and worry about other things.

Comments and questions welcome. Cheers from Sarasota.