Storage Idea: a System of Buckets -or- How to Retrievably Pack More Stuff in a Semi-trailer Etc.





Introduction: Storage Idea: a System of Buckets -or- How to Retrievably Pack More Stuff in a Semi-trailer Etc.

I'm always on the lookout for better ways to organize my stuff.

If you are like me, my apologies, as I tend to live in "systems of piles".

So many ideas and projects and with a serious day job in the way, I have to time-slice and store the current state of the project I'm working on.

This instructable covers an idea for a "System of Cans" to be stored in a "System of Buckets". Later I hope to do another instructable on a "System of Trays" I have used for the past few years

Ok, first concept: Hexagon's are cool.

As one the simplest organization schemes in nature, they pop up everywhere. Anytime a circular, or spherical, item is stacked and compressed into an area or volume, they will tend to form simple patterns of arrangements. First triangular shapes appear, then hexagons.

Bees make stacks of tubes for their pupae to nurture. This forms the resultant hexagonal honey comb. Likewise, bubbles will form these configurations if compressed together. The type of hexagon arrangement we are interested in is formed by tessellations of circles. This type of construct has 7 chambered areas. (see 2nd section Honeycomb Geometry) note: honeycomb pic above is CC BY-SA 3.0

Ok back on target.

The 2nd concept: Plastic bins don't last well. The ones that do are expensive.

While wandering in my nearby HomeDepot, or most DIY Home Stores, I found nice 5 gallon buckets for about $2.50. If you bargain at the pro desk, or buy online in bulk, you can get the price down even lower.

These buckets are made of a better grade of plastic that lasts a long time. They don't seem to get brittle and crack like the clear plastic bins you get at stores like Target or Walmart.

The 3rd concept: I have cats. Lots of cats.

I treat them with tuna by divvying up a can between them with their other food. So I also have lots of tuna cans which are made of nice metal and the hoarder in me is always thinking of uses for them.

So adding the 3 concepts together gives you raw materials for an interesting storage notion.

By connecting 7 tuna cans into a hexagon (remember one is in the center.)

These grouped cans will fit nicely in a HomeDepot Bucket. If you make more layers of grouped cans, they tend to stack well. Added dowel pins can help keep them in line.

So here's what you will need (please view the full article first to see what options are best for you):

- Some average home store buckets at least one for proof of concept.

(Note: lids are optional if you opt to get 12" wooden squares cut. See below description)

- Lots of Cats... Just kidding, lots of TUNA CANS or similar sized cans. Soup cans work for taller layers

- Dremel, drill, or rotary tool

- A SpotWelder if you are lucky, or can use from a local trade school or community college shop.

Alternately - Heavy-Duty-Eyelet-Grommet-Pliers and Eyelets Similar to mine: Heavy-Duty 3/16" Eyelet Grommet Pliers Set with 400 Eyelets

- A 1:1 printout of the supplied pdf pattern or the dxf version, is helpful for dividing the can's circumference.

- 1/4 Fiber board for 12" squares (or some sheet material thing similar)

- Or- Bucket Lids that fit your buckets.

StudleyLee is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Step 1: ​We Need to Divide the Can’s Circumference by 6

We need to divide the can’s circumference by 6. You can accomplish this easily using the supplied pdf, or dxf printed out.

Note that the center can will need all 6 markings, but the outer ring cans only need 3 adjacent marks. Start off by centering you can on the circular pattern and where marking the 3 (or 6) lines project up the side of the can.

Try to keep things reasonably perpendicular to the work surface.

Use a block of wood, deck of cards or similar item that will

consistently raise the marker to about ½ up the side so you can make cross-marks as shown in the picture.

Step 2: Fastening: Next You Will Either Use a Spot Welder or Eyelet-Grommet-Pliers

If using a spot welder, you will need to use your rotary tool with a small band sanding bit to buff the enamel or paint of a small ¼” sized area on both sides at the center of the cross- marks. This will allow the spot welder current to flow through to successfully weld the contacted points. By practicing joining the cans you will get better at lining things up. The lever action of the spot welder’s tips will help to compress and hold the cans together for welding. Sometimes if the continuity is not there, you can rock the cans back and forth while holding the welders trigger and the friction will short the contact points into conduction. The welder will typically buzz nicely when things are good and the weld will glow a little orange for a second. That’s all you need.

Start from the center 6-marked can and add outer cans in succession until a 7-canned circle group is done.

Step 3: Alternatively Using the Eyelet-Grommet-Pliers and Eyelets

If using the Eyelet-Grommet-Pliers and Eyelets, you will use the hole-punching portion of the pliers (or carefully, a drill at an angle) to make holes at the center of the cross-marks.

Starting with center 6-marked can, use the Pliers and eyelets to connect the cans and add outer cans in succession until a 7-canned circle group is done.

Don’t worry about messing up a few cans. Practice makes perfect. Make as many layers of can groups as you need. You can always make more if you get more cats…

Step 4: Fill Them With Junk and Stack Them in Buckets Then Stack the Buckets

When you are done you can stack the layers of can groups into the buckets. To keep them from rotating, you could use dowels to keep the layers aligned or maybe make add a wooden base with vertical dowels spaced to fit in 2 or 3 of the gaps between cans.

You can use the wooden panel squares to act as tops for the buckets to stack them vertically. I had the home shop rip cut a 4x8 sheet into 32 individual 12inch squares for this purpose.

So now we have a "System of Cans" to be stored in a "System of Buckets".....

To be stored in a "System of Semi-Trailers.........." yes. no. yes.

Then the stacking compulsion just gets worse. The end for now.

Next, I will show the semi-trailer full down a side with bucket madness.

As always:

Disclaimer: This instructable involves the use of power hand-tools, electricity, and soldering, etc.
1) If you are not comfortable handling items used in this instructable, then refrain from doing so. 2) I'm not responsible for what and how you do after reading this instructable. 3) If you disagree with this instructable or any items therein, .....please feel free write an instructable reflecting your experiences. 4) If you are a Troll, go be bothersome elsewhere. 5) Everything causes cancer. Get over it.



    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest

    18 Discussions

    bahahahahahahaha I LOVE the way you write!! you are so funny and keen!! also clever! in a weird way, wev got a so close way of thinking that i felt like you stole the words from my brain as i read... great great way of making a "storage system" but for me it's still too expensive... I'm currently using discarded plastic disposable honey pots, and plastic fruit crates...good luck and all the best 4 ya!!

    1 reply

    Ok, binder clips (awkward); magnets (expensive?, maybe not up to content weight?). Perhaps, welding the empty cans into a single cluster for the bucket, but before adding contents, put them in another container with its own lid, i.e. baby food jar, or pickle jar, or plastic container with lid. This would allow the inner container (and its contents) to be added/removed as a unit...into, or out of, the cans cluster, and the units mixed and matched per project?? (or have I made your ears wiggle)! lol.

    4 replies

    All good points and valid ways to go. Having spacer between cans would allow lids per can. Almost worthy of making a custom tool like the old "Buttoneer" that could puncture and wire in one shot. Hmmm. You know you guys just got me thinking about a "hog" ring plier thing I got a while back.

    Perhaps you'll come back with Project Bucket 2.0 . lol. I, for one would enjoy the next generation.

    Your thinking is dead on: Buckets can be tailored to whatever would fit in them.

    The square thin wood bucket tops I have mentioned are great for placing a barcode per bucket. Then, there's an android app for taking pictures of the contents and linking them to the barcode with database features and google drive uploading etc: "Barcode Express" or similar. That was to be in a future ad-don instructable.

    I just tried the hog ring pliers and it did work, but was not 100% repeatable in puncturing the cans every time.

    Love the binder clip idea. What about using epoxy to secure the cans? Just need time for curing.

    1 reply

    Epoxy could work if the adhesion is good. The holes might even help with that also if the epoxy was putty-like and applied on both sides of the hole. Sort-of an epoxy rivet. If you want to do lots of them cheaply, the spot welder is a great investment. These even lots of great Instructables on how to make them.

    What I also appreciate is how one can 'build' a bucket for a particular project...just prepare the cans with the appropriate elements, set them, en mass, in the bucket, and one is good-to-go! I LOVE practical mind-blowingly simple solutions to everyday needs! One question: could the cans be attached in a non-permanent manner, enabling them to be separated without being emptied, so that fresh combinations of cans could quickly be assembled???

    4 replies

    Magnets will work too. It was a little wobbly when I tried but with the correct magnets is should work.

    Great Instructable, Lee! Very creative method of organizing those small items and saving space, etc. I have a few of those heavy duty buckets from Menards and have food storage stuff in them (rice and sugar) in mylar bags...those buckets are nice and last a very long time. I love using the honeycombs for inspiration!

    1 reply

    EXCELLENT: use of space, cans, organization, versatility. Bravo!

    1 reply

    Thank you!!!!! I thought this instructable went into the twilight zone. It's a work in progress as I find my way back into my machine shop mess.