About a year ago, my wife and I bought a house. Originally built in the early 1900s, it is a spacious Baltimore rowhome with high ceilings, great light, and a walk-out basement. However, it hadn't been well-maintained or updated, and lots of major systems needed repair or replacement. My wife and I took most of those projects on ourselves, including a new kitchen, bath, half-bath, and basement. (More on those projects in future Instructables!)
Settling down was a big change for us. As I've previously documented on Instructables and elsewhere, I've spent most of the last decade on the move, living in 5 states. Always apartment-bound, I made my workshop where I could -- backyards, driveways, basements, or borrowed studio space. Now that I finally had a space to work in (and access to other resources), it was time to get organized! A year of frenzied renovation had the left my tools scattered and the basement unusable.
Taking inspiration from Adam Savage's mastery of workshop entropy and my own existing collection of fastener boxes, I hacked together a rolling fastener cart with room for seven boxes and a small collection of caulk and finishes. The whole project took just an afternoon and cost almost nothing since I used scrap materials and boxes I already had. If you have to do it all from scratch, the boxes are about $10-12 each at the big orange store, and new pine 1"x12" will run you a healthy $70. To save money, I'd recommend just ripping down a half-sheet of 3/4" construction-grade plywood, which will only run you about $20.
You will need these tools:
- Tape measure
- Speed square
- Circular saw
- Impact driver
You will need these materials:
- At least 16' of 1"x12" pine, plywood, or similar material
- Panel of 1/4" MDF, plywood, masonite, or similar that is 15-1/2" x 40"
- 4 casters, preferably with 2 that are locking
- At least 16 3/4" #8 screws for fastening casters or 1" #8 machine bolts if appropriate
- Wood glue
- 2" #8 coarse drywall screws or Spax self-driving/split-resistant screws
Step 1: Material Prep and Cutting
My basement provided a rich well of scrap material. The previous owner left behind some bookcases, and I tore out a small drywalled room and was able to save most of the studs. For the fastener cart, I broke down a bookcase made of 1"x12" pine. It was warped, bowed, and brittle, but it was free! If you can't find scrap material, buy a half-sheet of inexpensive 3/4" construction-grade plywood and rip it down into 11-1/2" strips with a circular or table saw.
Using a circular saw and a clamped speed square as a straightedge, cut two side walls that are 38-1/2" long. Then cut seven shelves at 13-1/2" long and a baseplate that is 21-1/2" long. Overall, that's 193 linear inches of material, or just about 16' even.
Last (apologies, but I didn't get a good picture), cut a back panel from 1/4" MDF, plywood, or Masonite that is 15-1/4" wide by 40" long.
Step 2: Assembly
Assembly is straightforward -- just stacking the shelves in with simple butt joints. Since the cart doesn't bear a ton of weight, there's no real need to dado each shelf.
First, butt-joint baseplate to the side walls with wood glue and 3 2" #8 drywall or similar screws screwed in from the bottom. The side walls should be spaced 13-1/2" apart. Be sure to pre-drill for the screws with a countersink bit to prevent splitting. Since the side walls were cupped, I faced the cup in and used the subsequent screws attaching the shelves to force the side walls flat.
Next, measure 4-1/2" up from the baseplate along each side wall and make a mark. Fasten in the first shelf with 3 screws and wood glue on each side. Make sure to check that the shelf is square front-to-back by registering your speed square to the front edge of the side walls. Once the first shelf is in, measure up 4-1/2" from its top surface, make a mark, and repeat the procedure until all of the shelves are in.
Step 3: Back and Casters
The baseplate is wide than the shelf unit in an attempt to widen the foot print and make the cart more stable. I had salvaged casters from an old furniture dolly that were small and attached with four 3/4" screws; use whatever you can scrounge up or get 1-1/2" rubber casters from the local hardware. Place the casters as far out towards the corners as possible to maximize stability.
The tower of fastener boxes is off-center so that the scrap of leftover real estate could be used to contain caulk tubes and spray paint. In order to contain the finishes, use some scrap 3/4" material to build up a little rim. Mine was just wide enough to contain 2 spraycans of width.
Last, measure the diagonals of the shelf tower to ensure the assembly is square. The diagonal measurements should be the same; if they aren't, push and pull on the assembly to square it up. Attach the back with glue and screws, using the back to force the assembly into square as necessary. Make sure to put some screws into the sidewalls and at least one in the center of the back edge of each shelf for maximum strength.
Step 4: Organizational System
The great thing about this cart is that it is adaptable to you and your workshop. The two-sided small part bins are relatively cheap and have translucent tops so you can see the contents, and the little dividers are removable so you can customize the size of the compartments. I added some hooks to the side wall so I could hang a caulk gun, tape, rope, and cords.
I have a certain way that I decided to divide up my fasteners based on my needs, and my system is just a suggestion. In order, from top to bottom, I have:
Bits and Blades
- Twist bits
- Forstner bits
- Spade bits
- Twist bits
- Countersink bits
- Router bits
- Jigsaw blades
- Philips, straight, star, square, and specialty drivers
Frame and Finish
- Drywall screws in 3/4" 1", 1-1/2", 2" and 3" lengths
- Spax screws of various lengths, including #6 trim-heads for finish work
- Deck screws
- Framing nails
- Finish nails
Electrical and Plumbing
- Power cords
- Lamp parts
- Heat shrink tubing
- Faucet screens
- Sharkbite fittings and reversing tool
- Plumber's tape
- Light sockets
Pens and Pencils
- X-acto knives, blades, and accessories
- Bone folder
- Drafting tools (small triangles, french curve, protractor, etc.)
Fabric and Misc.
- Nylon webbing
- Webbing buckles
- Grommets and grommet tools
- Felt pads/levelers for furniture footing
- Lock hardware
Lags and Bolts
- Ledger Lok quick-drive lag bolts
- Traditional lags, various lengths
- 1/4" bolts for road sign bowls feet
Washers and Hanging Hardware
- Cobra wall anchors (the only ones I trust)
- Eye scres