A few months ago, I decided to build a custom shelving unit that can hold at least 40 dividable grid industrial containers. I have these bins in a couple of different sizes, but most are around 16.5″ long x 11″ wide x 6″ tall.
I’ve been using these sturdy boxes for a few years now, and like them a lot. I used to store them on wire shelving units, but I ended up losing a lot of space. And when I spaced my shelves out to fit 2 bins on top of each other, finding and retrieving what I needed took quite a bit more time.
I want my bins to be easier to retrieve, and highly space-efficient.
So, I thought I would give each box its own “shelf.”
I also want the shelving to be customizable and expandable.
They make wire shelving units that can hold 36 bins – 9 shelves with 4 bins per shelf. Or I could do as I did before, and combine multiple off-the-shelf units to increase the shelf count.
But, wire shelving units are not very adaptable. What if I want a heavy extra-tall bin at the bottom, and a heavy shallow bin at the same level? Some of my deep bins are heavily loaded, and so are some of my shallow bins, such as one that holds my granite surface plate.
Building my own shelving unit means that I can space things out as I please. If I want 4 sections, each with different shelf heights, I can do that.
I can also expand or divide it in the future as needed. If I add 2 legs and feet, I can split it into two separate units. If I add 2 legs and 4 crossbeams, I can add another column of bins. And if I add 2 legs and longer crossbeams, I can have an adjustable-height workbench, or, I can create an intermediate rack to hold wider tool boxes or organizers.
Plus, retrieving bins from a wire shelving unit, or even checking the contents, isn’t as easy as I’d like, even when there’s plastic shelf liner.
Some of my bins are light, others are fully loaded and quite heavy. I considered a few different options for the “rails,” including wood, plastic, and different sizes of aluminum channels, and ultimately settled on 1/2″ x 1″ aluminum with 1/8″ wall thickness. It’s strong, and perfectly sized for my needs.
I finished my test batch today, and am fairly pleased with the results. Right now spacing between bins is kept tight, but there will be enough room to space them out a little further apart.
Surprisingly, the project has been a lot more labor-intensive than I had anticipated.
Each pair of rails comes out to around $9.61, not including shipping fees or tooling (I had to buy a new blade to fit the smaller Milwaukee miter saw I’m currently testing). That’s also not including the 80/20 framing or the leveling feet, which I ordered and assembled a few months ago.
That seems like a lot, but the storage rack will be near indestructible, and can change with my needs when – not if – that happens..
I’m happy with the little but measurable progress I made. While it will take some more time and elbow grease to finish the project, I worked out all the kinks so far, or at least I think I did. I might talk about those another time, but some parts are embarrassing, such as how and why I rounded over some of the aluminum edges when I really didn’t need to.
There are ways to cut costs, such as using 2x4s or even 1.5″ x 1.5″ lumber for the uprights, but the rails are still pricey. Aluminum angle is $5.60 for 36″, which makes (2) 17″ rails, and adhesive-backed UHMW strips, which greatly improves sliding, is $7.36 for 15′, which is enough for 10 rails (5 bins’ worth). So that’s $7.18 per shelf or pair of rails, not including screws or other mounting hardware.
It’s a solution that satisfies very specific needs and wants. I tried to be budget-conscious with the rails, but I ultimately went with the best solution, and that was to use strong aluminum with low-friction UHMW tape attached to the top.
My only regret is that what I have so far doesn’t reflect the time and work that went into it, especially all the experimentation. But that’s okay, this isn’t a creative project, it’s functional, and it’s getting me a little closer to having an organized workspace.