Storage caddy solves two shop organization problems
This may seem an odd project, but as with most shop projects it sprung from a need.
I have always saved old t-shirts for painting and finishing. They make perfect, lint-free rags for staining,applying wipe-on poly or oil finishes. However, I have never had a proper system in place for storing them. I’m not sure why, but for years I have just piled them up under my workbench. As a result, they continually collected sawdust (the enemy of finishing) and required a thorough shaking-out before use.
My painting and finishing brushes seem to gather all over the top of my rolling fishing cart. And it’s been this way ever since I made that cart, the whole point of which was to improve organization! Like the finishing rags, paintbrushes covered in sawdust make for unpleasant finishing sessions.
An Aha Moment
The solution came to me quickly when I realized that things I typically use together should be stored together. A storage caddy to hold old t-shirts that doubles as a dust-free environment for paint brushes! Not sure why I didn’t think of something like this years ago.
I made this box using 1/2″ (13mm) MDF I already had in my lumber bin. MDF is one of my favorite materials to work with: it cuts like butter on my saws and makes profiles beautifully on my router with no risk of splinters or splitting. It requires very little sanding, usually just to ease over its sharp edges. It’s the perfect material for shop projects or anything you want to paint. There is no end-grain to be concerned with, nor grain direction to consider. It’s perfectly flat and stable.
Of course there are drawbacks to MDF. It’s heavy: a sheet of 3/4″ (19mm) weighs about 100 pounds (45kg), making it very difficult to maneuver. I never bring full sheets into my shop, but cut them to pieces on the tailgate of my truck.
Secondly, MDF is messy to work with. It creates a very nasty fine dust that is not good to breathe. Always wear a tight-fitting dust mask when working with it. And be prepared to do a lot of sweeping and vacuuming.
Last, it’s not a very pretty material, unless you just love solid, unvarying tan. It looks nothing like wood and you won’t get it to look like wood by staining it. It absorbs clear finishes such a lacquer like a sponge. What it does do very well is accept paint. I can usually apply a single coat and it looks great. Of course, for shop projects you don’t really need to finish or paint it. I like paint because I like colorful things. Especially in my shop, where I spend so much time. Bright colors make me happy!
A storage caddy box like this can be constructed easily just by butting the ends of the boards together with glue and brads, but my preferred method of construction is to take the time to cut rabbets, which are grooves along the edges of boards. While they provide extra gluing surface and probably make for stronger assemblies, the main reason I like to use them is that they ensure all the pieces will line up correctly when assembling and keep everything square. They make assembly and gluing a breeze: basically, Tab A fits into Slot B.
Rabbets along the inside of the lid create a lip for it to seat into the box. I cut all the rabbets with my router and a straight bit. If you have a stack of dado blades, you could use a table saw.