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.


Creating Clearance for a Wood Return Air Filter Grille

When ordering a wood return air filter grille, it is essential to pay attention the clearance you have around all 4 sides of the rough opening.  Given the structural properties of wood compared to metal, the wood grille will almost always requires more clearance.  Typically 2 ¼” around all four sides of the rough opening will accommodate a wood return grille.   So, what do you do if you do not have enough clearance?

The simplest solution is to contact WoodAirGrille and ask to have the filter housing offset.  This can reduce the clearance needed to as little as 1 ½” on as many as two adjacent sides.  There is no charge for this type of modification just as there is no charge for a 2” deep filter housing.  Though this modification can be done in the field, it is difficult and the amount of movement is more limited.  The factory can easily produce a modified housing that is cleaner and accommodates a closer offset.

The reason this is possible is because the frames of the grille itself and the mounting frame utilize traditional 1 ½” wide cabinet stock.  It is ideal to place the filter within the 1 ½” grille frame, but it does leave room, in a pinch, to move it over to one side or another.  It is still easy to get the filter in and out because it is not behind the frame.  The functionality is only marginally affected.   Notice the housing in figure 1 has been moved all the way to the bottom allowing this wood return air filter grille to clear the baseboard.

WoodAirGrille.com Wood Return Air Filter Grille Clearance Fig 1

WoodAirGrille.com shifted filter housing on Wood Return Air Filter Grille

Sometimes you can increase your clearance by modifying the rough opening.  This method usually works the best if the clearance is only slightly off.  Typically you only have to adjust one side of the rough opening and if you need ¼” or so, you can typically trim the sheetrock to make it work.  A word of caution though – you do not want to remove material that creates a gap allowing air to bypass the filter.  (fig. 2)

WoodAirGrille.com Wood Cold Air Filter Return Fig 2

The most common obstruction is the trim itself, specifically the baseboard.  The most common method for dealing with this, particularly in a new construction application is to simply modify the trim.  This can be as simple as using the grille as a template to cut the offending trim out of the way.  However, with a little planning an a few leftovers, it is common for the clearance issue to be turned into an attractive design feature incorporating the grille into a seemingly seamless part of the homes design.  (Fig. 3 & 4)

Rod Gunter is Operations 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 which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

Craftsmanship is the Greenest Component in Homebuilding

There are a lot of terms floating around like “green building”, “sustainable building”, “energy efficient homes”, etc.  All of which have at least some merit in improving the way homes are built.  However, navigating the minefield of what we will call “green building” almost inevitably becomes a confusing and overwhelming endeavor.

House Craftsmanship WoodAirGrille.com green building 2

Several years ago, I was in charge of purchasing materials and labor for one of the nation’s most respected homebuilders.  We took on the challenge of determining the best ways to build the most “green” house possible within reason of being sellable.  Almost always, green changes come with a price tag.  We understood that in our middle to upper middle price point, people are willing to spend more for a green home, but only to a point.  You could build an extremely green home, but very few are willing to pay several million dollars for an ugly 2 bedroom subterranean box.

The project turned into a six month study filling several large binders with spreadsheets, data sheets, comparisons, reports, etc.  Worse yet, if you tried to determine the “greenest” product or method to any component of the home, you would end up with more questions than answers.  To add insult to injury, the more answers you tried to find, the more questions you would end up with.

House Craftsmanship WoodAirGrille.com green building

Here is a typical example of how it went.  One representative for a product would come in and explain how their product was the best and most environmentally responsible because they did or didn’t use some particular process or chemical that improved the sustainability or eco-footprint by whatever percentage.  The next representative would come in and explain how that was all wrong because it took more energy to produce a certain substance in the manufacture of that product and that this other product was the way to go.  That gave us a nice research project for one of the purchasing assistants to find out who is on the level.  That usually led to a cost benefit spreadsheet because both claims had at least some validity to them.  With hundreds of components going into a house, it got maddening fast.

So, where did all of this ultimately lead us?  Though wading through the massive amount of propaganda got to be a lot like wading through the filthy sewage plant of a political election, we did ultimately find that if you back up a step to look at the big picture, there is an elegantly simple answer to the question “How do we build the most ‘green’ house possible within a reasonable cost?”  The answer is good old craftsmanship.

Is it really that simple?  Of course not, but that one word should be the navigational true north to building a home.  The most green home is one that functions efficiently and does not have to have major parts periodically replaced.  The longer it lasts, the more environmentally friendly it is.  For example, an HVAC system that is properly sized to the home, installed with quality materials, and the installer took the time to use mastic to seal all the joints and hung the ducts with two stainless screws through galvanized straps instead of one drywall screw through nylon straps is going to last longer and be more efficient than the system that was hastily installed with cheap materials, unqualified labor, but boasts a greater energy rating on a compressor.  The fact that it was poorly installed nullifies any advantages.

Craftsmanship WoodAirGrille.com Worker Installer

Though some products were clearly better, like finger jointed studs are great for vertical applications because they are straighter and essentially made from scraps, it really depends on the quality of installation.  Finger jointed studs will fail when installed in a horizontal application.  Paying our insulating company to take the time to slit and wrap the insulation around electrical wires or staple it against the subfloor to eliminate air gaps not only made the home more efficient, but made the home more comfortable overall for the homeowner.  After all, isn’t it more green to buy a screwdriver that is made from high quality materials and lasts a lifetime in the hands of a qualified professional than it is to buy one from the discount store that breaks after a kid with a summer job uses it as wrench condemning it to a landfill?

Rod Gunter is Operations 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 which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

Drill Centering Jig

Drill centering jigs are certainly nothing new.  However, finding one off the shelf for an odd size drill bit can be quite a challenge.  We needed one specifically for a large metric drill bit that had to be dead straight and dead center for our return air filter grille frames.   It had to be substantial enough to endure drilling 25 – 50 holes per day and we needed to be able to see the point of the bit enter the wood due to where the markings are located on the material.  The one thing we had going for us was that it would almost always be used in conjunction with a drill press.  Additionally, we had to be able to account for slight variances in the thickness of the material since the holes were drilled prior to the finish milling stage.  This is what rendered our previous jigs and stops ineffective at maintaining the level of accuracy we needed.

The design we settled on was simple to build and has worked exceptionally well.  Since the entire jig is only 7” long, we use nothing but scraps that were lying around so you could certainly use different materials or sizes based on your needs or what you have available.  We needed to drill 14mm holes 22mm deep into ¾” frame stock.

The key to the jig was the top piece that serves as the drill guide itself.  I used a 3/8” thick x ¾” piece of aluminum bar stock cut to 7”.  I used a press mill, but a drill press vice or a simple stop held down with a C-clamp would due.  The precise center was determined by placing the tip of the bit on the metal, spinning it by hand just enough to make a mark, then rotating the bar stock 180° and making another mark with the tip of the bit until they matched exactly.  (Fig. 1)  Once the 14mm hole was cut, I used a countersink bit to flair the hole so it would be easier to insert the bit when the jig went to work.

The process was repeated for the ¼” holes placed 1” from either end of the aluminum bar stock for the pivot bolts.  (Fig. 2)  I repeated the process again for the 2 clamping members made from 3/4” square aluminum box channel using the top drill guide bar stock as the template for the hole spacing. (Fig 3)  Using the same method, a center hole was cut along with 2 outer holes 3/8” from either end of 2 pieces of ½” square box channel which was cut to a length of 2 ¾”. (Fig 4)

Now that all the components were ready, it was time to modify the hardware and assemble the jig.  (Fig. 5)  I could have tapped the ½” box channel, but I wasn’t confident that it would be strong enough for long term repeated use.  Therefore, the 2 opposite surfaces of a pair of hex nuts were filed down to fit in the box channel.  (Figs. 6 & 7)  Placing washers between all of the pivot points, a pair of ¾” long ¼” hex bolts were used to connect the top drill guide to the center hole in the ½” steel pivot sections with the hex nuts previously inserted.  Four 2” long ¼” hex bolts were used to connect the clamping members to the pivot sections, again using washers at the pivot points.  Two ¼” hex nuts torqued against each other on each bold secure the apparatus together allowing it to pivot without becoming loose.  (Fig. 8)  Nylon insert lock nuts would work just as well or better, but again, I was using what we happened to have around.

Finally, a piece of ½” x 1/8” steel bar stock was bent around a 5/8” bolt to create a finger hook to easily pull the jig tight to the work piece.  (Fig. 9)  It was secured with some self –tapping screws.

The jig has held up well with several hundred holes drilled so far.  It has produced a notable quality improvement due to the jig compensating for variances in the thickness of the wood. (Fig. 10)  The jigs production speed is equal or better than other jigs we have used, particularly when you factor in making adjustments for the inaccuracy of the former methods.

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.