Organizer for long, thin tools and materials. Workshop Storage Solutions:

An Inexpensive Organizer For:

  • Long Tools

  • Millwork 

  • Thin Materials

In This Article:

A series of "pigeon holes" is built from scraps of plywood, to hold long and thin items.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: Time Taken: About 2 Hours

By , Editor



Lately I have been going crazy. My workshop has too much stuff.  I have once again reached "home improvement constipation", a condition where no project can move forward because there are too many other projects underway, and all those projects have parts and pieces that are occupying space in my shop.

This organizer rack is just a simple array of holes, like the mail sorting "pigeon holes" that you might see at a hotel in the old days. I made this organizer from scraps of plywood, OSB and other sheet materials that I had around the workshop.

The drawback with my "made from available materials" approach is that the size of those available sheets dictates the dimensions of the organizer.


There are three categories of parts to this project:

  • Vertical dividers
  • Horizontal base plates
  • Side coverings.


The location of the new millwork organizer... sitting on top of the twin steel shelf units.

These storage units are 18" deep by 36" wide. Rather than place them flat against the the wall (the obvious choice for most people) I have arranged them sticking out, perpendicular to the wall. When placed back-to-back these shelf units seem to help brace each other and become less prone to tipping.  I could tie them together with some  C-clamps, but I didn't need to.

These units are supposed to hold some huge amount of weight, like 500 pounds per shelf, but only if the load is evenly distributed.


Some of the materials I gathered together. I had many 4' long scraps of OSB and ½" plywood, so I decided to make the organizer four feet long.


I ripped divider panels on the table saw.

I would have made all the dividers 4 inches wide, but I chose 3-3/4" because it gave me less waste from the material I had on hand.


This is the first sub-assembly I made. Essentially three dividers tacked to a piece of OSB.


But... let's back up:

The first step in making this sub-assembly was to lay out the divider locations on the base plate.


I set a divider board in place and drew a line next to it.

Then I laid a bead of urethane construction adhesive next to the line. This will help hold everything together.


I put the divider in position and applied a few short beads of hot melt glue to tack the board in place.

When all the divider boards in position, I will need to turn the assembly over, and the hot melt glue will keep the boards from falling off.


When all the divider panels were tacked in place, I turned the assembly over. I had to draw some lines marking the centers of the divider panels, so I would know where to drive the staples.


Assembling storage organizer for long skinny items. I drove short staples (7/8 inch) through the base plate into the edges of the divider boards. I spaced the staples about 2 to 3 inches apart.

This was tricky because often the staple tips would poke out the side of the divider. It's important to hold the stapler as perpendicular as possible.


What If You Don't Have An Air Stapler?

A small pneumatic brad nailer would work almost as well.  I prefer staples because they are basically "two-legged nails".

If I had to build this without power nailing tools, I would use 4d box nails, which would be about an inch-and-a-half long. Box nails are slim nails with the head of a regular nail. Being skinny, they don't tend to split the wood as badly as other nails. The wide head is needed for better holding ability. Also, small ring-shank nails should work, such as 3d lath nails, also typically about an inch long. Most hardware stores should carry these nails.

I might also try using short (1¼") deck screws, as long as I didn't have too many problems with the wood splitting.


I stacked up the first two sub-assemblies, just to see how they would look.

You can see why I made the divider spacing different... so I can reach the point where I need to staple the sub-assemblies together.


I've seen similar projects built with all of the divider panels lining up nicely to form a perfect two-dimensional array of pigeon holes. But there is one MAJOR problem with this approach... you cannot easily fasten the adjacent rows of dividers. The usual approach to that problem is to cut a dado (rectangular groove) in the base plates, for the dividers to fit into. That is a LOAD of work. I have a lot of woodworking tools, but I don't even own a dado cutter. I don't want to own a dado cutter... it sounds like a lot of hassle for a small benefit.


To speed things up, I applied glue to all of the dividers at once.


To align the sections I placed a piece of hardboard next to the edges.


Once all of the sub-assemblies were built, I fastened them together with urethane construction adhesive and staples.


I fastened four sections together in just a few minutes.


Building millwork organizer. I stapled the "lid" on. This is actually the bottom piece.


I attached a cover panel to one open side...


...and then the other. This panel is extra tall because it will act as a fastening "tab".

Notice the different types of wood involved. I used some ¼" plywood, ¼" OSB as well as ¼" hardboard. I could have used lauan plywood for the base plates, which is even thinner.


Next... I lifted this organizer into place, by myself.

That may seem trivial to the reader, but this thing was heavy. It must have weighed at least 80 pounds.

Millwork organizer in place on top of steel shelf units.


I fastened the organizer to the wall with three 2½" pan head screws. I drove these screws into the studs.

One benefit of using OSB for the wall surface in my workshop is that I can see the staples that hold the board to the wall, therefore I can easily locate the studs without having to use a stud finder.


A Warning:

This design is meant to sit on a sturdy structure, such as a shelf unit. I attached the organizer to the wall to prevent it from sliding around.

This design is not intended to be simply hung from a wall, because the structure will probably sag, which could result in heavy and pointy objects falling on the heads of people. Not a good thing.

This design needs to be supported from below. It might also be possible to provide support from above by using steel strapping to suspend the side that is away from the wall.  Remember, if you start altering designs then you are playing engineer, and it will be your fault if something falls on somebody's noggin.


I loaded the organizer with a few items. Initially this organizer will be used for storing pipe clamps, prybars, and pieces of conduit.


Millwork organizer attached to shelf unit. This is the first millwork organizer that I built, a couple of years ago.

When I added OSB to the garage ceiling this past summer I slapped a coat of paint on the organizer.

I actually use this for storing millwork. Notice how this unit is only a few inches from the ceiling. The height works well for me... I can reach the lower slots without a stool, and I can usually put a stick of millwork into any slot without the aid of a stool, by simply giving it a shove.

Having materials nearby, but up and out of the way is one of my main approaches to achieving workshop sanity. The same goes for infrequently-used tools.


A Warning About Children:

Children and garages don't mix, yet we mix them anyway.  

Anything stored up high can fall.  If a falling object is heavy enough, it can injure or kill.  I suspect that the primary danger is from objects striking a person in the head, which can cause a lethal skull fracture. According to my college industrial safety textbook, it takes only 600 inch-pounds of kinetic energy to deliver a fatal skull fracture to an adult. That's like a 10 pound object falling 60 inches, or a 60 pound object falling 10 inches, or whatever.

Look at the final picture of the organizer. I have pipe clamps and big 36" Gorilla bars (prybars) stored in there. While those things are not likely to slide out by themselves, they could get pushed out by children playing around.

There are no children in my household, and if there were any visiting children in my workshop they would be accompanied my an adult... me.  But that is not the case in most homes.  The garage is an extension of the house, and kids play there.  If there is even a chance that children could play in your garage, I urge you to not place any heavy objects up high.



Tools Used:

  • Table Saw
  • Pneumatic Stapler
  • Hot melt glue gun
  • 4' Ruler
  • Caulk Gun


Materials Used:

  • Plywood, OSB scraps
  • 4' x 4' sheet of hardboard
  • ¼" crown staples, 7/8" long 
  • Urethane construction adhesive
  • Hot melt glue


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Copyright © 2004

Written December 20, 2004