Monday, 27 January 2014

Insta-shelves for Paint Storage

I need to introduce this post by giving you a feel for what its like working out in the garage right now with snow blowing in under the door, and the digital thermometer reading "low" since it just doesn't work out there in these temperatures.

In the words of Robert Service, the balladeer of Canada's north:

"You know what it’s like in the Yukon  (Toronto) wild when it’s sixty-nine below;
When the ice-worms wriggle their purple heads through the crust of the pale blue snow;
When the pine-trees crack like little guns in the silence of the wood,
And the icicles hang down like tusks under the parka hood;
When the stove-pipe smoke breaks sudden off, and the sky is weirdly lit,
And the careless feel of a bit of steel burns like a red-hot spit;
When the mercury is a frozen ball, and the frost-fiend stalks to kill —
Well, it was just like that that day when I set out to look for Bill."

Now on to today's project... Quick and easy storage on the cheap.

We used a set of IKEA shelves to come up with essentially this same storage solution in our last house, and then built them again here to store Momma's canning and pantry stuff in the basement. Our plan uses a little more lumber, and is quite sturdy. We tied this shelf to the basement framing to hold everything square and in place. Ikea uses steel crosses to keep things from moving too much.

Here is one 4 ft rack of our version of simple shelving - you can see we need more of it by all the junk in the pic:

So I find myself making shelves.

This round of shelving will need to be a little more heavy-duty than the stuff we built in the past - mostly because it needs to house all the paint cans we own. We own a lot of paint cans.

So without more noise, I present, the paint-can shelf build...

Materials for a 6 foot long shelving unit, 16" deep and 6 ft high with 6 shelves. This list could make anything up to 8ft long and high with additional uprights:

  • Uprights - 1" X 4" X 8ft - 6 pieces (I prefer to avoid finger-jointed lumber but the staff at the box stores say its just as good as 'real' wood - local lumber yards still carry non-finger jointed lumber)
  • Shelf end bars - 2" X 4" X 8ft - 3 pieces
  • Shelves - 1" X 3" X 8ft - 30 pieces (see note above on finger-jointed lumber)
  • Approx 200 small nails to hold the shelf planks to the end bars
  • Approx 72 - 1/4" X 2-1/2" lag screws to hold shelves to uprights.

  • A chop saw (AKA Compound mitre saw)
  • Hammer
  • Drill and bits to match lag bolts
  • Wrench for lag bolts

I start by cutting the 2" X 4"s down to 16" lengths. Each 8 ft board should make exactly 6 pieces.
Once done cutting, there are 18 boards, or enough for 6 shelves. (3 boards per shelf).

Now we can start cutting shelving. I ended up making a custom fit for a tight corner in the basement and cut everything a little shy of 6 ft, but that's the beauty of making your own shelves, you can custom fit them. This materials list will work for any length of shelf up to the full 8 ft, but you may want to put in extra uprights and 2" X 4"s if the clear spans are too long.

I saved all my offcuts for a future project.

Nail the boards to make shelves as shown below. A couple tips...

  • If you will ever be extending the system, leave yourself an inch or two of space on the end 2X4 to rest the next shelf's boards on. This will save you from having to make a double post.
  • Also, keep the shelf boards inside the 2" X 4" by about a half an inch to allow room for a jig to fit over the 2" X 4" - more on that soon.
  • Use a scrap or even the next slat to create even spacing between all the boards on your shelf.
spacing the boards with scraps - building the first shelf square and to size - all the rest will be based on it!
Both Buddy and Cuppa came in with their hammers and helped me drive the rusty old finishing nails through the boards. It was fun.


As you build the shelves stack them atop each other so you can be sure all the 2" X 4"s line up. The shelving being perfect isn't critical, and there is some wiggle rooms with the 2" X 4"s, but you want it to be as close as possible.

With all the shelves built, its time to do some layout work for the risers. It is critical that all the risers have the same layout for their lag bolts, and that all the shelves have the same receiving holes for the lags to go into, otherwise the shelves will be out of square, and want to lean.

In order to overcome this, I built a T-square type of jig with holes where I want the bolt holes for the risers should go.
Just in from the garage - its cold out there! Running the T-square and lining it up with the layout lines.

All lined up and drilling.

I measured out 1 foot spacing for the shelves, then used the T-square to set the holes in the first riser board. Then I set the T-square jig aside where I wouldn't lose it.

Once the first board was laid out and drilled, I had my template for all the other riser boards for the shelving unit. By clamping the boards to the first one, I could be sure they would be an exact match when it came to assembly time.

All warmed up - no more coat and hat! Using holes in board #1 as my guide for another riser.

With the boards all drilled, I turned my attention to the shelves. In order to match the holes on the shelves, I would need to make the jig work on a corner with an end stop. this way, all the boards would have the holes aligned on both the X and Y axis. I added a simple fence to the jig.

T-square modified to become end-drilling jig

Now I would set the shelf board in the corner of the jig and drill through the holes to make a perfect match to the holes in the uprights.

Lag receiving holes - be sure to make them a little undersized. Pine is forgiving and the lags need some bite!

With the holes drilled we can start to lag together the shelves and supports. For this unit I used 2 lags for every shelf to upright connection. That meant about 36 lag bolts per side. It was probably overkill, but this unit is rock solid. You may be able to get away with fewer lag bolts, but at $10 for 50 bolts, I figured it was worth it.

I like to put on the bottom shelf and one about halfway up to start. This holds things off the floor, and lets me check to make sure everything is going together square and straight. Once all the uprights are attached to all the shelves on one side, flip it over and start on the next side. Note the lack of sanding and attention to detail - this is storage, not a showpiece!

Once all the uprights are bolted on, its a lift and push, and the shelves go in place.

You should bolt the shelves to the wall, or find a way to tie them into the house framing. Also, its a good idea to find a way to add in some diagonal bracing at the back of the shelves. I managed to escape that by building these to exactly fit a little corner of the foundation in the basement, so they are locked in in two directions, and cannot fall.

Time to put something on the shelves. I decided to try storing boys...

Cuppa said he didn't want to sleep up there. Instead he wanted to go to his own bed. So I loaded the shelves up with what they are meant to hold. Now I just need to get all the camping stuff organized!

These are a good afternoon project. I started at about 1:30 this afternoon (missed lunch because I was buying the wood) and had it done after dinner. I likely could have pushed a little faster, but I wanted a tight fit, and to keep things lined up nicely.

Let's see your basement storage solutions!! Post up a link to how your shelves look in the comments! I need ideas for our camping & sailing gear!

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