Making Workbench Boxes
It’s spring cleaning season here at home and I’ve recently made a token effort to carry that into my workshop with a simple project I’ve been thinking about, and putting off, for far too long. This last weekend I made several small boxes to organize things like pens and pencils, epoxy mixing sticks, Q-tips, dental picks, sanding sticks and other similar items that I use regularly. This is a quick little project with no critical dimensions. Make them to suit based on your materials and needs.
You can use any handy scrap wood to make these boxes and I found a steady supply nearby for free. Before the punishing blow of a young hand or foot at our local karate studio, these panels measure 9×12 inches and are about 5/16 thick. The broken remains are free for the asking and perfect for odd little projects around the shop where thinner material is more desirable than full 3/4-inch dimensioned stock.
To start this project I ripped the scrap wood into 2 5/16-wide blanks using my 4-inch table saw from Byrnes Model Machines. The Byrnes is a fantastic bench-top table saw that allows incredibly precise dimensional control and is a joy to use. It lives on the end of my main workbench and gets used all the time. I squared up one end on each blank using the saw’s miter gauge and then crosscut the side pieces to 3 5/16 inches long using a stop block on the miter extension.
The next step was squaring up the bases to the proper size. The bases should measure no more than the width of one side, minus the stock thickness. I set the fence quickly by eye and checked the first test cut with digital calipers. It was slightly oversize at 2.050 inches. The Byrnes saw has an optional micrometer head to adjust the fence with great precision and I used it position the fence exactly 2 inches from the blade. Passing the remaining blanks through the saw on two adjacent sides gave me accurate square bases ready for final assembly.
Clamping a thin strip of oak and a machinist square near the edge my workbench gave me alignment guides and I protected them and the bench from glue with a strip of Top Flite Plan Protector. The karate boards glue very well with Pacer’s Zap-a-Gap medium CA. The sides are staggered around the base like a pinwheel so there really isn’t any critical fitting. The closer you get though, the less cleanup you will have later. Once the boxes were glued up my stationary belt sander loaded with 150-grit made quick work of cleaning up the edges and remove any residual markings. The wood sands very easily, so a handheld sanding block would do the job just as well, albeit slightly slower. A little final hand sanding knocked off the corners and these boxes were ready for service.
These boxes measure 2x2x3 inside and I find this to be a good size for their intended use, keeping supplies close at hand while not cluttering up the bench. The boxes are easy to move around and the wide base provides solid stability. Obviously you can change the size to suit your own needs and available stock.
Simple projects like this are ideal when you want to putter about in the workshop for the evening but don’t feel up to tackling a larger commitment. Making a few of these boxes shouldn’t take more than evening once you have the materials. They are great help at organizing the workbench and helping work more efficiently. While you’re at it make a few extras for the rest of the house. They are just as handy holding pens and pencils next to the phone or on the bedside table.
Byrnes Model Machines, www.byrnesmodelmachines.com, (407) 657-4663
Top Flite, www.top-flite.com, (800) 682-8948
ZAP Adhesives, manufactured by Pacer Technology, www.zapglue.com