What do you do when you have more tools than space?

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Blog entry by RHaynes posted 01-10-2014 08:33 PM 2166 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

You make more space of course! Get rid of tools . . . what are you, nuts?! For me, I needed to clear floor space in order to get bigger tools back against the walls, get them on wheels, and create some storage underneath them. But to do that, I needed to learn how to make cabinets. Because there’s no way in hell I’m paying for cabinets! I’m a semi-competent-carpenter-wanna-be-woodworker with a fair share of self respect after all. So I bought a Freud rail and stile bit set and got to work. First, I started with my router table.

When my new Rockler top, plate, and fence came in, I made a new base for it from scrap, keeping the hinged box part, which works great. I use scrap for everything I possibly can – I hate buying new wood. I just figure out a way to make it work with what I have available. Into the base I made and mounted two drawers. The top drawer is “sealed” off from the rest of the cabinet below. That way, all of the chips and dust not grabbed by the dust collector hooked into the fence fall into the top drawer, which I can then pull out and vacuum out. The stand included my first set of cope and stick doors, just 3/4” poplar with scrap plywood panels. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have made inset doors to match the drawers, or vice versa. But hey, it works, and once again I learned a valuable lesson on this project.

But could I make a cabinet someone else would want to use in their house, with higher tolerances and better overall look? Where do you try such an experiment? Your in-laws’ house of course! We had just finished drywalling the new garage my father-in-law had built and the new subpanel was just sitting in the center of a hole in the wall. I told them I could make a cabinet to enclose it and they said sure. Rather than using the rail and stile bits, I just made this door on the table saw, using it to create the tenons and the groove for the ¼” plywood panel and stub tenons. It was a big hit.

Next up was the shoe cabinets my wife found at Lowes. They were open shelves, allowing the shoes in them to get covered in wood dust. I wanted to get them up off the floor and fix the dust problem, so I joined them together, put them on the wall with a French cleat, and made another set of poplar and MDF doors for them. Another hit.

Although wary of the garage redesign I was already well into, my wife looked the other way as her Costco storage area disappeared (shelves at right).

The shelves came down and I replaced mini-Costco with new storage cabinets made from low-grade plywood (although when you sand it down it’s more than enough for simple garage storage). They got covered in poplar and MDF doors to keep the dust off the spaghetti sauce and toilet paper. This made me man of the house for at least a week. But it also allowed the router table, jointer, and shop vac cabinet to get pushed up against the wall and out of the way.

So in a few months, I had gotten flat panel doors down to the point where I could turn them out in very little time and with some pretty good-looking tight joints. I had made jigs for speeding up the small stuff such as mounting euro hinges and drawers. And when I figured out the hard way that dealing with full sheets of material, you can’t safely break them down on a little contractor saw with only a 16.5” rip capacity. If you can’t do it on your little table saw, you also can’t cut cabinet-grade pieces (meaning accurate within an 1/8”) on a circular saw unassisted. So during this project, a new track saw snuck into the shop, and who am I to kick it back out into the cold, lonely world? The major problem remaining was dust control. Everything had new doors in order to keep dust out, but that dust is still there . . . just on the outside of the cabinets. Wow – air cleaners are expensive. But gable fans and furnace filters are cheap.

This is my ambient air dust solution. It’s a 1,340 CFM gable fan, which blows air through three 20×20x1 furnace filters, a MERV 1, a MERV 7, and then a MERV 10. MERV 1s are cheap, which is good because as the first filter in the sequence, it fills up the fastest. The 7 catches just about everything else, and the 10 is there to cut down on finishing fumes. It’s wired up with a switch and an always-hot outlet so when I moved the bicycles out and mounted the air-cleaner to the ceiling, it gave me a place to plug things in overhead, which is perfect for sanding or drilling pocket holes with a corded drill. It’s pretty loud, but since my shop is only 12×20 x 10, it’s strong enough to clean all of the air in the shop every 40 seconds. I made it out of scrap plywood. Only costs involved were $85 for the fan and whatever for the filters. Electrical components came out of my big-box-o’-wire-and-stuff. The cord is a piece of an old extension cord.

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

5 comments so far

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1683 days

#1 posted 01-11-2014 05:29 AM

I really enjoy reading this series, you have a way of writing that makes it very enjoyable. I am so glad you didn’t kick that poor track saw out into the cold with the Arctic front that you guys had. Poor little track(saw?) Probably just came into your shop for a few days until the cold passed. Would have been heartless of you to kick the poor thing out. Especially with all the new room you made.

I guess you will just keep it until it thaws out and at send it on its merry way by spring? :)

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2325 days

#2 posted 01-11-2014 07:31 PM

Great Job Man.

Starting to look like ‘Cabinets ‘r Us’

Work Safely and have Fun. – Grandpa Len.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2060 days

#3 posted 01-11-2014 08:50 PM

Orange walls??? :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View RHaynes's profile


112 posts in 1673 days

#4 posted 01-11-2014 09:41 PM

“Orange walls???”

Yeah, I wanted to beat the crap out of the guy we bought the house from for that (and not telling us about the leaks he had someone come in and paint over) but my wife told me I wasn’t allowed to. :-(

-- "Sometimes the creative process requires foul language." -- Charles Neil.

View Cruiszr's profile


88 posts in 1645 days

#5 posted 01-29-2014 11:25 PM

Funny how those track saws have a way of sneaking in your work shop, had the same thing happen to me about two weeks ago. I just didn’t have the heart to put it back out in the cold so I decided to be a “good guy” and let it hang around on the condition that it would have to help break down some sheet goods. !

-- George R. Forest, Virginia

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