3 Quick & Easy Shop Hacks

I guess everyone has their favorite shop hacks.  Whether it saves time, space or just makes a tricky task easier there are thousands of little tricks out there that make life in the shop a little more enjoyable.  Here are three of my favorites.

 

  1. Drying Rack

Cabinetry, furniture, bookcases and built ins are all projects that can clog up a workshop.  They take up a lot of space especially in the finishing stage when everything is spread out drying and nothing else can be done for fear of dust getting into the finish.  A vertical drying rack is one way I have found to make the process more manageable and, in some cases, cut out a second round of finishing.

More often than not, these projects involve a dado slot whether it be done by a table saw or router.  When the project involves a number of small to medium size pieces that will have to be finished individually like shelves or drawer bottoms, I will take advantage of that dado setup and run a series of repetitive dados in some scrap wood. (Fig. 1.1)   When these boards are securely attached to an unused wall, side of a workbench, or something stable, it becomes a great drying rack.  Just slip one edge of the material you finished into the dado you cut and let gravity hold it out of the way. (Fig. 1.2)

 

  1. Instant Handle

I have a tendency to keep a number of those inexpensive foam brushes on hand.  Since they are cheap, they are great for when I want a throw away brush.  They work for paint, polyurethane and even glue.  When I have used them, I wrap them in a plastic bag and separate the wooden handle from the foam brush.  (Fig 2.1)   Having a few of those wooden handles around can be very handy.  They are soft wood, but they are convenient and already have a centered hole cut in one end.

2.1 Shop Hacks by WoodAirGrille

A few of the uses I have employed include file handles, hooks, pushing rivets into stubborn material, inserting a nail to make a marking tool, and extension for a hex wrench.  (Figs 2.2 & 2.3)   I am sure there are countless other uses I haven’t stumbled on yet.

 

  1. Center Marking jig

When I have to use screws or drill for through dowels in a project, I like them to be centered, but more importantly, lined up consistently.  If there are more than 2, I prefer not to have to measure and mark with a speed square.  Typically, I am going to have to put in 20 or more screws in a project by the time it is all said and done so I want a faster and more accurate method.

This little center marking jig is very easy to make.  Just take a scrap piece of lumber at least 3/4″ thick and mark the distance from the edge you want your screw holes.  Drill a 5/32” hole through the scrap wood you just marked which is a slightly smaller diameter than a 12 penny nail.  (Fig. 3.1)   Then with some glue and a few small nails, I attach a rail to the side of the scrap block.

3.1 Shop Hacks by WoodAirGrille

The next step is to cut a 12 penny nail just longer than the thickness of your scrap lumber.  (Fig. 3.2) Next, cut off the ends of a plastic screw anchor with a utility knife so it is  shorter than the length of the nail and place it around the shaft of the nail.  (Figs. 3.3 & 3.4)

The plastic screw anchor is a sacrificial piece to space the nail centered in the chuck of a drill below the nail head.  By spinning the nail against a file or piece of sandpaper, I can put a blunt point on the end of the cut off nail.  (Figs. 3.5 & 3.6)

Place the nail in the hole in the scrap lumber with the point protruding out the side you marked.  That side will be precisely the spot you marked in case the drill wondered or your angle wasn’t dead straight.  (Fig. 3.7)   You can put marks on the edge of the guide for the spacing you want between your screw holes.

3.7 Shop Hacks by WoodAirGrille

Just tap the end of the nail to make a divot in the wood marking you drill hole.  (Figs. 3.8 & 3.9)  One added advantage to the speed is that the divot serves to keep the tip of your drill bit from wondering when you start to drill the hole.  It is especially effective with brad point or taper drill bits.

 

Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.
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Easy Wooden Printer Stand (Universal Shelf)

It is funny, or irritating depending on your disposition, how one thing tends to lead to another.  When I was building houses, we used to joke around about how a minor last minute color change could lead to fifty thousand dollars in change orders.  In fact, I was once asked how to fix a kitchen cabinet with a very minor and easily repaired delaminating veneer corner.  Within a few hours, the couple had talked themselves into, and put down a deposit, on a thirty thousand dollar kitchen remodel.

That is how this project started.  My old printer finally died.  I should have been better prepared considering the screen had been blinking on and off form months, the chances for a paper jam were about one in six, and it seemed to have an ongoing auto-response to my computer telling it to print that is identical to my 8 year old’s auto-response to my wife telling her to take a bath.  So, when I brought in the new printer, the power cord was on the opposite side which immediately initiated a return trip to the store for a new surge protector.  It was then that I discovered that the new printer would not sit neatly on top of my safe because the feet were further out and hung off the side.

At this point, I refused to go shopping for a printer stand knowing I would never find one I really wanted anyway so I went into the shop and within 90 minutes built a very strong printer stand that fit exactly the way I wanted.  The design can be used for a printer stand, a shelf on top of a desk, stacked on top of each other to form a type of bookcase or anything else you may come up with.  The one I built is 19 ½” wide, 17” deep and 15 ½” tall, but, you can make it any size you want to suit your needs.  However, suggest staying under 30” wide to minimize the chance of bowing.  I built mine specifically to hold a wide format printer above my safe.

I started by cutting 1x2s down to the desired length.  I needed 6 uprights, 4 side cross members, and 2 back cross members.  I used 1x4s for the top because that is what I had lying around but you could use any width.  Below is a calculation for cutting based on your desired finished dimensions.

  • 6 pcs. Uprights – 1×2 = desired finished height minus ¾”
  • 4 pcs. Side cross members – 1×2 = desired depth minus 3”
  • 2 pcs Back cross members – 1×2 = desired width minus 4 ½”
  • Top = desired depth divided by width of boards. (one board may have to be ripped, substituted, or left with an overhang.  Cut number of bards to desired finished width.

Once I had all my pieces cut, I glued together my top.  Glue is the only connection I used for the top and I wanted to allow it the most time to dry.  According to the bottle it needed a half hour before I could start working with it again (fig. 1)

fig 1 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

While that was drying, I cut the dowel Holes in the sides of the uprights and the ends of the cross members with a simple doweling jig.  (figs. 2, 3, & 4).  You can use screws and glue for these joints, but I did not want to have to either see the screws or deal with plugs since some of these joints will be visible.

I now simply glue and clamp the frames together.  I used ¼” x 1 ¼” dowels.  Once glued I shoot through the back of the frame into each dowel on either side of the joint to lock it in.  This will hold the joint securely long enough for the glue to dry while I continue to work on the structure. (fig. 5)

fig 5 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

After sanding all of the frames and the top smooth using an orbital sander, I ran a bead of glue along the outer upright of the back frame assembly and clamped the back and side it into position. (fig. 6)

fig 6 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

Then, after predrilling the holes (fig. 7), I secured the back to the side with some 1 ½” wood screws (fig. 8).  The process is repeated for the other side.  I could have used dowels here, however in my application, the back will not bee seen so I went for the speed of screws.

I attached the top in the same way by predrilling the holes (fig. 9) and securing it with a bead of glue and 2” wood screws. (fig. 10)

With a little light sanding to clean p the joints, the printer stand is now ready for your favorite finish or just leave it natural as I did.  (fig. 11)

fig 11 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

 

 

Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com, a leading producer of wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

30 Slot Mailbox Organizer

First graders can sometimes be hard on things.  My wife wanted a mailbox organizer for her student’s papers in her classroom but didn’t want one of the carboard or particleboard ones that only last a year or two.  So, of course, she talked me into building one.  I built this mostly with plywood and a lot of reinforcement so it would not sag and hopefully hold up to a small swarm of 6 year olds.

The design utilizes lumber I had around the shop.  My table saw sled was already set up for a ¼” x ¼” dado and I wanted to utilize that set up which is limited by the depth of the sled.  That is why I went with the 3 piece back.  (see fig. 1)  It may be beneficial to others to modify the design to a one piece back.  I also had to work with a height limit of 2 feet in order to fit under some other existing cabinets.  I set up the design with a height of 23 ¾”, a cabinet width of 36” and depth of 11 ¼”.  I cut the top to have a finished overhang of ¾” on the front and sides.  (see fig. 2)

The casework is all plywood with ¼” thick edge strips cut from ¾” stock to finish the edges of the ¾” plywood. (fig. 3)   On the ¼” shelves I used a 7/16” strip of birch with a ¼” relief rabbit cut into it with a router as a stiffener.  (fig. 4)   This will not only add strength to prevent sagging, but, will finish the front edge of the individual shelves.  The other 3 sides of the ¼” plywood are captured in dados so there should never be any sagging.

The cutting dimensions for the ¾” plywood are as follows:

  • 1 – 10 ¼” x 34 ½” x ¾” Bottom
  • 2 – 11” x 23” x ¾” Sides
  • 2 – 11” x 22 ¼” x ¾” Intermediate Vertical Supports
  • 3 – 11” x 22 ¼” x ¾” Backs
  • 1 – 11 ¾” x 37” x ¾” Top
  • 27 – 10 ½” x 11 ½” x ¼” Shelves

With all the plywood cut, and my table saw dado blade and sled set to cut dados of ¼” x ¼”, temporarily attached a ¼” x ¼” piece of square lumber planed down from some scrap 2” parallel to the dado blade. (fig. 5)   This will allow consistent and precise spacing of all the dados for the shelves.

Starting with the sides, I used the ¼” x ¼” spacer I just installed as a bump stop for the first dado at the top of the sides.  (fig. 6)   Since the top will sit directly on top of the rest of the box, this will provide consistent spacing for the shelves.  I then placed the dado over the ¼” spacer and cut the next dado.  (fig. 7)   I repeated this process until I had cut 9 dados in each side, both sides of the intermediate vertical supports and the 3 back pieces.  (fig. 8 & 9)

With all the dados cut, I needed to think about which parts needed to be finished and how to finish them.  All I planned to do was apply a few coats of polyurethane to make for a smooth, durable and cleanable surface.  I did not think it was necessary to finish the underside of each shelf since nothing would ever rest on it, but I also realized it would be extremely difficult to finish the shelves once the unit was assembled.  To overcome this, I pre-finished all the shelf surfaces that would be difficult to reach after assembly.  (fig. 10)

With limited surfaces in the ship to lay out the 8 pieces of ¾” plywood and 27 pieces of ¼” plywood that needed to be finished, I utilized some scrap plywood and cut dados into it utilizing the same method for the sides and back of the unit.  (fig. 11)   I then attached them to an empty wall space in the shop and used it as a drying rack. (fig.12)

I also made a single dado in some scrap ¾” plywood and inserted some ¼” plywood to work as a miniature saw horse to finish both sides of the intermediate vertical supports.  (fig. 13)

It is now time for assembly.  I started by taking one of the backs along with the two intermediate vertical supports and fitting them together with one of the top shelves.  (fig. 14)   With glue in the dados for strength, I shot 5/8” 18-gauge nails through the bottom of the ¼” plywood shelf into the ¾” intermediate vertical supports and the back at approximately a 30° angle.   I also shot 1 ½” 18-gauge nails through the intermediate supports into the back piece.

I then installed either side with the top shelf in the same way angling the nail gun slightly to shoot through the intermediate vertical supports into the backs on either side of the assembled center section.  (figs. 15 & 16)

With all 3 sections pinned together, it is just a matter of working your way up shelf by shelf.  Each shelf is inserted into the slots and secured with glue and 5/8” 18-gauge nails.  (figs. 17, 18 & 19)

I installed the bottom with glue and 1 ½” 18-gauge nails.  (fig. 20)   I then went over the intersections of the joints with a sander to level out any imperfections.  (fig. 21)   The top is then secured with glue and 1 ½” 18-gauge nails.  (fig. 22 & 23.)

To apply the trim, I started by gluing and nailing the ¼” edge strips to the 2 intermediate vertical supports.  (fig. 24 & 25)   For the cleanest look, I left the strips long and cut them off with a flush cut saw after they were secured.  (fig. 26)

The stiffeners were then cut to fit between the edge trim on the center section.  They were secured into place with glue and ½” 23-gauge pin nails shot in at opposing angles.  (fig. 27 & 28)   The stiffeners were then installed on the two flanking sections.  This is done before the edge trim because, unlike the center section, the trim can be easily sanded flush to the side for a very tight and clean fit.

With all 27 of the stiffeners installed, the edge trim is installed on the 2 sides, across the bottom and the top is wrapped with mitered cuts at the corners.  I used wood filler to touch up the nail holes and fill in any hairline cracks at the joints.  After it dried the entire unit was sanded smooth.  (fig. 29)   A few coats of polyurethane complete the project. (fig. 30)

 

 

Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

Portable RC Track

Main Photo 2

Two Christmases ago the three kids in the family (my son, my daughter and me) all got good quality off road radio control cars.  By good quality, I mean RC cars that were ordered complete from a retailer that specializes in RC cars, can be repaired with readily available parts if something breaks, and are capable of better speed and performance than the RC cars your typically find at the local toy store or department store.  It seems necessary to explain my definition because there are a number of RC car enthusiasts who are quite passionate about building and racing some extremely impressive vehicles.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for those people, however, I am just a dad having some fun with my kids and though I would share an idea.

We had played around with raking leaves out of the way in the wood behind the house to form a track and with setting up obstacles in the yard to drive around and had fun with all of that.  I decided that it would be worthwhile to come up with a track system with the following specifications:

  1. It needed to be able to be set up in our yard and removed at the end of the day or at least in time for me to cut the grass.
  2. I wanted it to be portable to take to a friend’s house or grandma’s house and be set up there.
  3. It needed to be fun to set up, take down and play with.
  4. I needed it to fit on the shelf in our store room that the RC cars were on which restricted me to 33” width, 8” height and 21” depth. About the equivalent to an average suitcase.
  5. It needed to be light so it could easily be moved.
  6. The track had to stay in place so it would not become a mess every time someone missed a turn.

The kids have had a blast with this system and it was pretty cheap to build.  The main ingredients are pipe insulation sleeves, a roll of high visibility duct tape and a box of nails.  I had most of the lumber lying around, but it was all common cheap lumber.

 

There are really 2 projects here.  One is the track system.  The other is the wood storage box that doubles as a ramp.  The box could easily be replaced with a plastic storage container and the lid could probably be used as the ramp.  The dimensions of the box and track pieces are built to fit on a specific shelf in my house and could vary to suit your own needs.   Here is how I did it.

I built the box first.  I wanted it to store the track, but also to double as a ramp when the track was in use.  I started by cutting the sides.  I used a 1×8 and cut 2 pieces to a length of 19 ¼”.  I then measured and marked one end at ¾”.  The other end I measured and marked halfway at 3 5/8”.    Using a straight edge, I connected the 2 marks to give me my cut line. (Fig 1)

Fig 1

Using small finish nails, I attached both sides together so the cut would be precisely the same.  A portable circular saw or even a hand saw would be adequate for this project.  For convenience, I used my table saw and cut both sides at once along the line I had made.  (Fig 2)

Fig 2

I used a piece of 1×2 stock and a ½” square dowel to create the approach lip to the ramp.  The leading edge was beveled with a hand plane.  I just eyed this until it looked about right.  Depending on the scale of your RC car, you may want more or less bevel for the wheels to bump over to get onto the ramp.  On the opposite side of the 1×2 stock, I attached the ½” square dowel to provide a mounting surface for the thin plywood that will make up the top and bottom.  (Fig. 3)

Fig 3

Using a leftover piece of ½” plywood, I cut the 2 back sides to a dimension of 3 5/8” x 33”.  The thicker plywood is used here to support the hinges.  The rest of the parts are cut from ¼” plywood.  The top is 19 ¼” x 33”.  The bottom is 20 ½” x 33” and the front is 6 ¾” x 33.  (Fig. 4)

Fig 4

Using staples and wood glue I assembled the bottom first.  Nails or screws will work just as well, but I certainly recommend using wood glue at all the joints.  (Fig 5)

Fig 5

Where the 2 pieces of ¼” plywood meet, there needs to be some additional support to nail or screw into.  I used a ripped piece of stock lumber leftover from another project, (Fig. 6), but you could use another piece of ½” square dowel or any number of metal or plastic joint connectors (Fig. 7)

After assembling the top (Fig. 8), the 2 halves were joined by a pair of 1 ½” hinges.  (Fig. 9)  There is no magic to the hinge size, I just had these in the shop.

To keep the lid closed, I mortised a magnet into the bottom of the approach (Fig. 10).  Depending on how you intend to use the box or how it may travel, you may consider using a more secure closure such as a hasp, but this works for my purposes.  I also cut in a pair of handle holes. (Fig. 11)

The box is now complete (Fig. 12).  It opens to hold the track (Fig. 13) and flips over when open to double as a ramp (Fig. 14)

Now onto part 2 of the project, the track.  I used the ½” black foam pipe insulation found at most home improvement centers.  It is cheap and has an outside diameter of about an inch and a half.  I found it in 3’ and 6’ lengths with an average price around $1.15 per 6’.  I purchased 108’ (18 pieces) which could yield up to 216’ of track.  Since I restricted my length to 31” to fit on my shelf, I produced 186’ of track (72 pieces).  There is a lot of repetitive tasks involved in making the track, but they are easy and go by quickly.

I first placed a piece of masking tape 31” from the edge of my bench so I could cut my lengths quickly.  I then proceeded to cut all of the 6’ pieces down to 31” by inserting a sharp utility knife and rotating the foam insulation.  (Fig. 15)

Fig 15

I then placed a piece of masking tape on the bench 3” and 10 ½” from either end of the 31” foam insulation lengths.  There is nothing magical about those measurements other than they are nearly evenly spaced and the tape on the bench helps provide consistency.  I then wrapped the foam insulation with a piece of orange reflective duct tape.  I used Gorilla tape because I have had good experience with it on other projects, but any bright colored duct tape should work just fine.  (Fig. 16)

Fig 16

Each piece of foam insulation is slit along the length about 80%.  Using that existing slit, I cut the rest of the way through one side with a utility knife, also cutting the reflective tape that was just applied.   (Fig. 17)

fig 17

In order to split the foam insulation completely in half with a clean straight cut, I first clamped a straight edge to the side of my bench. (Fig. 18)  Then with a sharp utility knife, I cut along the length of the foam insulation utilizing the straight edge as a guide. (Fig. 19)

Now that I have a whole lot of light track pieces, the problem is that they will need to be secured so they don’t blow away in the breeze or scatter every time one of the cars misses a turn.  My solution was to pin them down like you stake down a tent.  With 72 pieces of track, I figured would need at least 150 stakes.  With that many, the cost effective solution is to use nails, but that creates 3 major problems that need to be solved.  Nails are sharp.  Nails can be hard to see.  Typical nail heads will pull through the foam over time or if enough pressure is applied.

To resolve the nail head and visibility problem, I bought a box of button cap nails.  These have an orange plastic disk at below the nail head to distribute the force of the nail over a larger area on materials where the head can easily pull through.  (Fig. 20)  This makes them ideal for my purposes except for the fact that since their primary application is roofing and siding, they are too short.  So I purchased a second box of 3 ½” common nails and took the plastic caps off the small nails and put them on the larger ones.  (Fig. 21)

The large nails are now easy to spot if dropped in the grass and won’t pull through the foam.  To take care of the point, I simply cut it off with a bench grinder so they are blunt like tent stakes.   (Fig. 22 & 23) A handheld angle grinder, Dremel tool, file or hack saw would also easily do this job.  It is a repetitive and tedious task, but in reality it only took about an hour.

Two last touches finished the project.  I left a few of the foam insulation sections without the reflective tape to use as a mogul section for the cars to bounce over.  I also cut some of those marking flags down to about 10” so they could be inserted through the foam and into the ground an any location the kids thought it made sense.  (Fig. 24)

Fig 24

I put everything in the box and the project is complete.  (Fig. 25 & 26)  The kids have fun setting up the track in different configurations and pounding in the spikes.  The ramp is usually the favorite attraction and we are looking forward to trying out some different locations.

 

Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com, a leading producer of wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

 

Improved Drill Centering Jig

After extended use of the original drill centering jig, we discovered a number of opportunities for improvement and identified some of the weaknesses that developed over long term use.  To be fair, the original jig ended up getting a lot more use than was originally expected and held up well all things considered.  One of the first things that became apparent was that a stationary jig mounted to the drill press table would be more effective.  After drilling hole after hole with a portable jig, it was easy to allow it to tilt slightly which forced the hole off center.  Another issue was that the square tubing in the original jig provided a large surface area with which to clamp the board, but it also trapped wood chips from the drill occasionally throwing the hole off center.  Eventually, the hole in the guide bar enlarged due to the friction from the drill bit, which was expected, but could be eliminated in a stationary design.

F1

The new jig has now had nearly as much run time as the original and aside from the occasional recalibrating to center, has no major drawbacks or replacement items.  The addition of a dust collection hood was a major improvement from a convenience standpoint, but is not necessary.  For what it is intended to do, which is consistently bore a specific diameter hole in the center of a board over and over, the jig has performed exceptionally well.  As an added bonus, the jig is not limited to one size drill bit.

To ensure the jig does not flex, I first cut two 3/4” steel box tubes and two 1” steel u-channels to a length of 8”.  The u-channel will serve as the clamping surface against the wood creating minimal opportunity to trap wood chips while remaining rigid.  I also cut two 3 1/2″” lengths of 3/4” square tubing to serve as the parallel rotating members.  (fig. 1 & 2)

fig 1 fig 2

The next step was to bore three holes in the two 3 1/2″” pieces of steel square tubing.  One hole is centered and drilled at a ¼” diameter. (fig. 3) The other two are located 1” from either end and drilled at a 5/16” diameter.  In order to ensure the holes would match, I stacked them and drilled both pieces of box steel at the same time.  To ensure alignment, I drilled the center hole first and then ran a ¼” bolt through both pieces before re-clamping to bore the side holes.  (fig. 4 & 5)

fig 3

fig 4 fig 5

I then drilled 5’16” holes 1” from either end of the 8” steel tubing.  Again, drilling through both pieces, once the first hole was drilled, I dropped in a 5/16” carriage bolt to ensure alignment. (fig 6 & 7)

fig 6 fig 7

One side of each of center holes in the 3 1/2” pieces of the square tubing needed to be enlarged enough to accept a ¼” socket.  The bolt cannot extend above the surface of the square tubing because the wood will be riding on top of it.  Therefore I opened the hole up on one side with a 3/8” drill bit and then widened the hole a little more with a small grinder. (fig. 8, 9, 10 & 11)

fig 8 fig 9

fig 10 fig 11

On the opposite face of the 3 1/2” piece of steel box tubing, the two 5/16” need to be squared to in order to lock a carriage bolt.  I in the absence of a hole broach, I used a small file to square off the holes. (fig 12 & 13)

fig 12 fig 13

The u-channel needs to be drilled with some small holes to mount to the perpendicular face of the 8” square tubing.  The holes need to be offset so the bottom surface where the clamping structure will rotate is flat.  (fig. 14)  Once the holes were drilled in the u-channel, I lined up the u-channel with the box channel and drilled through the box channel using the holes as a template.  (fig. 15)

fig 14 fig 15

It is time to assemble the clamping unit.  Using 1/8” bolts, I attached the u-channel to the 8” box channel. (fig. 16)  I then used 5/8 x 2” carriage bolts to attach the two pair of box channels ensuring that the expanded holes are facing up.  (fig. 17)

fig 16 fig 17

It is now time to build the mounting base.  I used a piece of 5/4 x 8 poplar which was plained to ensure flatness and cut to a length of 18”.  I drew a center line and placed the clamping assembly on the wood and drilled the 1/4” mounting holes using the assembly as a template. (fig. 18)  I used a countersink bit on the back of the wood to create a countersink for the bolts so the base would mount to the drill press securely.  (fig. 19)

fig 18 fig 19

In order to promote the longevity of the jig considering the repetitive use, I cut a light gauge piece of sheet metal to place between the clamping jig and the wood base.  With the correct number of wide flange washers on the mounting screws, the heads of the carriage bolts can ride on the sheet metal and stabilize the jig.  I also drilled 2 large holes in the base and the sheet metal to accommodate two large bolts mounting the base to the drill press. (fig. 20 & 21)

fig 20 fig 21

After utilizing ¼” x 1.25” bugle head bolts to attach the clamping assembly to the base, I installed some plastic thumb blocks to make the clamping easier.  I also installed some rests on either side of the base to reduce the tendency of material to tilt out of the jig.  (fig. 22)

fig 22

It is now time to set the depth of the hole and calibrate the jig to center.  This requires patience and I suggest re-calibrating the jig every few hundred holes, but it is well worth it.  The jig is quick an accurate if you have to repeatedly drill holes dead center in stick lumber.

 

One final addition was to use a piece of 1/2″ square steel tubing cut to a length of 13″ to add a handle to the right side cross member.  This allows for smooth and easy operations.  I drilled a hole in the end and wrapped paracord around the steel for a grip.

Hole Centering Jig Handle Modification by WoodAirGrille.jpg

 

Rod Gunter is General Manager at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com, a leading manufacturer of wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

 

 

Ultimate Battery Management Station

Cover Image

It seemed like half the time I went to that shoe box size plastic bin overflowing with batteries and their respective packaging, much of which was carelessly left behind and empty, I would find 3 of the particular size when I needed 4.  Sometimes, I would find a dead battery in the box which was even more frustrating and I was amazed at how fast my family seemed to be going through batteries.  I later discovered that my children were generously supplying most of the kids in the neighborhood with their battery needs.  Not that I minded occasionally helping one of the kids get their toy up and going again, but I hadn’t meant to start a regular service.

There were some various battery organizers on the market and a few plans out there, but I wanted to create a battery station that not only organized my batteries, but provided a central and convenient charging station as well.  I also wanted to be reminded when I turned out the lights at night if I had any batteries charging that needed to be unplugged.  Therefore I created what I call a battery management station that organized my alkaline and rechargeable batteries, housed my chargers and cables, provided a central place to charge various batteries, and lit up to remind me that something was charging.  It features a see through door so I can see how many batteries I have, power strip with USB outlets, storage compartments for chargers or cables, a small drawer for odd size batteries, a shelf to rest things on while being charged them and a battery testing meter.

On this project I was utilizing materials I had laying around purchasing only a small piece of plexiglass, a power strip and a small light rope kit I happened to find on sale.  First I cut the top and bottom frame members of the battery storage unit using 1×3.  The top is cut to a length of 23 ¼” and the bottom is cut to 13”.  I then mark off the location of the 8 vertical members cut to a length of 12 ½”.  (Fig. 1)

Battery Station Fig 1

In order for the batteries to all line up at the front of the storage organizer, it is necessary to cut spacers that will fit in the back of the compartments.  Utilizing small pieces of scrap, I used a thickness planer to achieve the correct dimensions but this could also be easily done with a table saw.  (Fig. 2 & 3)

The spacing for the battery compartments is as follows with ¾” between for each vertical member.  Also included are the thicknesses of the rear spacers.

  • Alkaline D – 1 7/8” no spacer                            Capacity: 10
  • Alkaline C – 1 1/2” 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 13
  • Alkaline 9 volt – 1” 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 18
  • Alkaline AA – 3/4″                 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 24
  • Alkaline AAA – 5/8” 3/4″ thick spacer              Capacity: 38
  • Rechargeable AA – 5/8” 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 20
  • Rechargeable AAA – 1/2″ 3/4″ thick spacer              Capacity: 30

I now needed to prepare the vertical members of the battery storage area starting with finger holes at the bottom.  I used a quarter to mark the bottoms making sure to enlarge the 2 on either side of the D batteries.  After rough cutting with a band saw (Fig. 4), I cleaned it up with a spindle sander. (Fig. 5 & 6)

At the top of each vertical member, except for the one on the far left because it would be the outside frame, I used a ¾” forstner bit to drill a hole along the very top for the light rope to slip through.  (Fig. 7)

Battery Station Fig 7

The far left vertical member would need to be mortised for the 2 hinges.  This was achieved with a hand chisel.  (Fig. 8 & 9)

The far right vertical member needed to be mortised for a pair of magnets that would hold the door closed.  This was also done with a hand chisel.  (Fig. 10 & 11)

One last detail for the vertical members was to use a ½” forstner bit to drill a shallow recess in the second to the right vertical member.  This will provide clearance for the screw that holds the knob on the plexiglass door.  (Fig. 12)

Battery Station Fig 12

The bottom of the battery organizer was beveled to provide access and easier removal of the batteries.  I used a jointer, but a hand plane would easily do the job.  (Fig. 13)

Battery Station Fig 13

At this point, the rest of the cabinet pieces needed to be cut.  Left side of the cabinet below the organizer was cut from a 1×3 to a length of 6”.  The right side 1×3 of the cabinet was cut to a length of 20” and a 1 ½” hole was drilled near the top to allow the plug from the power strip to pass through.  (Fig. 14)  A piece of ¾” x ¾” wood was cut to a length of 10 ¼” to serve as a valance hiding the light rope on the right side.

Battery Station Fig 14

The bottom shelf assembly was made from 5 pieces of 1×3 cut to a length of 4 ½” to server as the dividers.  The 2 shelves are 24” long 1×6.  I used a belt sander to round over the corners.  (Fig. 15)  Finally the back of the unit is a piece of ¼” plywood cut 24” wide and 24 ¼” tall.

Battery Station FIg 15

The last part that needed to be prepared was the door.  The door is simply a piece of 1/8” thick plexiglass cut 13” wide and 11 3/4” tall.  What appears to be the frame is really just some decorative trim.  I mitered 4 pieces of half round molding to match the outside dimension of the plexiglass.  I pre-drilled holes for the hinges and a few to attach the molding with screws, making sure to match some of the screw holes with the magnets.  (Fig. 16)  Finally, I pre-drilled a hole for the knob lining it up with the relief hole I drilled in the second to the right vertical member of the battery organizer.  All of the holes except for the knob were widened with a countersink bit.

Battery Station Fig 16

After Sanding and painting, it is time to start assembly.  Since I was using mostly screws and nails, I masked the areas where the parts would be in contact so the glue would be bonding to bare wood.  I did not mask the back because I attached that with screws.  (Fig. 17)

Battery Station Fig 17

I started by locating and screwing in the top shelf using #8 – 1 ½” wood screws.  (Fig. 18)  Since I was using a pneumatic nailer on finished material, I wanted as few exposed nail heads as possible.  That is why I started in the middle and worked my way out.

Battery Station Fig 18

The lower left side and the right side were installed with the same screws through the back.  Where the sides make contact with the shelf, I used glue and 18 gauge 1 ½” finish nails. (Fig. 19)

Battery Station Fig 19

Next I assembled the battery organizer separately by shooting nails through the vertical members into the back spacers in order to conceal a majority of the nail heads.  I started with the right vertical member and worked my way to he left.  The exposed side on the left did not have a spacer adjacent to it so no nail heads are visible to the side.  The vertical members were also glued and nailed through the top and bottom.  (Fig. 20 & 21)

Once the battery organizer was fully assembled, I attached it to the back with some #8 – 1 ½” wood screws through the back and a few 18 gauge 1 ½” finish nail through the right side. (Fig. 22)

Battery Station Fig 22

The bottom shelf and dividers were then installed with screws and nails in the same manner as the rest of the unit.  (Fig. 23)  One of the dividers was deliberately sized to accommodate a small plastic bin l happened to have.  This became a drawer for button type and odd size batteries.  I also installed the light valance at the top right between the right side and the battery organizer.

Battery Station Fig 23

The door was assembled by with some #6 – ½” screws through the plexiglass into the half round molding.  It is very important to pre-drill everything including the molding.  I drove several screws at the location of the magnets to help hold the door closed.  I also installed the small wooden knob and the hinges.  (Fig. 24)

Battery Station Fig 24

The magnets were installed in the recesses carved out prior to finishing and the door was installed by attaching the hinges.  (Fig. 25)

Battery Station Fig 25

The light rope was threaded through the holes in the top of the vertical members of the battery organizer and held in place behind the valance with some screw hooks (Fig. 26)

Battery Station Fig 26

I needed to reinforce the back where the power strip would be attached.  I accomplished this by installing a piece of half inch plywood with #8 x ½” screws through the back.  The mounting screws for the power strip were then attached. (Fig. 27)

Battery Station Fig 27

Some double sided tape was used to mount the battery meter.  The light rope is simply plugged into the power strip so that when nothing is being charged and the power strip is off, the light is off.  The unit is now complete and ready to sit on a table or be mounted to the wall. (Fig. 28)  I have had the unit in place for several weeks and the improvement is dramatic.  Just eliminating the clutter of that old battery box is just as rewarding as the functionality of the new battery station.

Battery station Fig 28

 

Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained countless professionals including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.