These inexpensive metal trays can be built in no time flat, are durable enough to withstand decades of use, and have an aesthetic that works in the workshop or inside the house (my house, at least). They are also sturdy enough to hold just about anything that will fit inside them whether it be shop tools, kitchen utensils, or the ever expanding collection of remote controls.
I made them at TechShop, Chandler which opened only a few months ago and is like winning the lottery for workshop junkies like me. The superb creative space, top notch instruction, and dizzying amount of high quality tools available to anyone who walks through their door is nothing short of revolutionary... and this is coming from a guy who already has a workshop full of tools at home. Check them out at www.techshop.ws
Sheet metal (approximately 24 gauge, perforated in this case)
Basic layout tools (tape measure, square, ruler, or whatever you have on hand)
Step 1: Layout
I started with a piece of perforated sheet metal that I picked up at a local scrap yard months ago. It is perforated and 24 gauge (I think). Sheet metal, and steel in general, is surprisingly strong when formed into a finished, three dimensional piece so don't be too overzealous in picking a super heavy gauge of material that is going to be difficult to work and unnecessarily robust.
The finished dimensions of my trays weren't critical so I decided to cut off the convenient, rectangular portion left over from a previous project and design the layout around that material. I cut out my working material using a hydraulic shear, but this could also have been accomplished using hand shears although that's quite a bit more tedious. Be careful not to cut yourself! Sheet metal can be deceptively sharp in its raw state.
Once I had cut my big rectangle into two smaller rectangles I measured and marked 2" cutouts at each of the four corners. I marked the piece using a Sharpie for the benefit of camera visibility, but layout marks can alternately be scribed using a utility knife. The utility knife offers the advantage of making much more precise lines and does not leave any noticeable markings on the project that may need to be cleaned up later.
Lastly, you'll notice that I left a tab on each of the corners rather than marking out the full 2" x 2" section. These tabs will be used to attach the sides of the trays later on. Again, no need for precision measurements here if you're not trying to build to a specific finished dimension. Just eyeball it and mark accordingly.
Step 2: Cutting Corners & Forming a Hem
I made quick work of removing the corner waste material using hand shears.
Once the template has been cut to size, it's time to start bending. I started by forming a hem (or folded over portion) on the outer edges of the templates. These edges will soon form the top of the metal trays so it's important to do something that mitigates the sharp edges of the raw sheet metal in these areas. A hem is a simple solution that can be achieved quickly and enhances the look of the finished product.
The bends were started using the finger brake (aptly named so because it has removable metal fingers; not because it breaks fingers) and then I used a dead blow mallet to finish the job, making the hems nice and flat.
Step 3: Bend 2D Template Into 3D Tray
At this point the only thing left to do is bend the sheet metal into its final shape. At the metal brake start by bending the long sides of the trays. This bend will create the long sides of the tray in addition to the tabs on the short sides. This will give you the flexibility to position the tabs either on the inside or the outside of the tray, depending on your preference.
After the long bends are completed, remove the fingers from the brake in such a configuration that it will allow clearance for the vertical sides while also providing enough clamping area for the remaining short bends. As mentioned before, the tabs can either be located inside or outside the finished tray. I tried both, and found that locating the tabs on the outside of the tray did a much better job of covering any potentially sharp edges of the sheet metal. Bend all remaining short sides of the trays and that's it! The project has taken shape.
Step 4: Finishing
The sheet metal has plenty enough rigidity to hold its bends without needing any fasteners. Alternately the sides of the trays can be welded for added stability. Be sure to check the finished trays for any sharp edges and use a grinder of files to smooth those out where appropriate.