How To Utilize Corner Storage To Maximize Tool Shed Efficiency

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Corner storage in the new tool shed seemed the best option. How to utilize that space most efficiently after first installing a big 50 gallon propane hot water heater…that was the question. From the Maximizer concrete pad to the steel roofing panels, hot water got first priority, but with that up and running, now what?

My wife also wants a freezer stuffed in there. Fortunately, there is room enough for either an upright or a chest freezer, at least as long as we don’t opt for the monsters that won’t even fit through the door in the first place. Interior wall length runs 7′ 4″. Installing corner shelves that extend 2′ toward the center of the wall from each corner (4′ total) will still leave 3′ 4″ of useable space remaining.

That will work, just in case I can’t convince my redhead we do not need a separate freezer at this point in time. (In truth, she’s already ahead of me on that one; I may not need to do much convincing.)

So, on with the project.

It began when I went out to start cleaning up all the scrap lumber left over from the porch building project. There were (and still are) a lot of pieces lying around out back, making the place look ugly and unkempt. Somewhere around the fifteenth or twentieth piece of wood, it hit me: Idiot. Why are you picking this up now? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use whatever scrap you can to build corner shelves before stacking it in storage and then having to haul it all out again?

That sounded like a plan.

Were the corners the best way to go? Definitely, yes. There were several advantages to building corner shelving rather than running shelves all along the walls.

    1. Wall to wall shelving is (for me, anyway) difficult to build well. Unless the shelves are made of steel or really heavy planking, they have to be supported vertically every few feet, and that’s no fun at all.

    2. The structure was too small to easily accommodate wall to wall shelving, especially if we were going to leave room for a (possible) freezer to be added at a later date.

    3. Triangular corner shelves are just plain fun to build and cool to look at. So there.

    4. Corner shelves would provide relatively small “containers”, ideal for isolating power tools, nails, screws, whatever, each to its own assigned place.

    5. Quite a few pieces of unused strand board were lying around, many of them large enough to provide the material for one or two shelves each.

Okay. Time to get out the circular saw, carpenter’s square, tape measure, and level. It’s shelf building time. The concrete floor is not precisely level (being the worst excuse for a concrete pour I’ve done since childhood). That meant the use of a level when building the corner shelving was crucial.

First, having decided that a workable “side length” for each shelf would be two feet even, one piece of 2″ x 3″ was cut to a length of 24″ and another cut to a length of 22 1/2″. The longer piece was nailed to the wall first, using 3 nails in 10d length. Somewhat shorter 8d nails would have worked, too, but the 10d version simply “felt right”. None of the nails hit any studs, but three strong nails piercing all the way through 15/32″ OSB strand board would be plenty strong enough to handle a 50 lb. load–and none of these shelves will ever have that much weight applied.

The first two 2" x 3" boards are nailed to the wall at (or near) floor level.

The first two 2″ x 3″ boards are nailed to the wall at (or near) floor level.

Next, the circular saw had to have its bed reset to cut across boards at a 45 degree angle. This is accomplished by the turn of a single knob on most models, including our Ryobi. There are lines to match up that will ensure a precise 45 degree cut.

The Ryobi circular saw with its bed adjusted for cutting boards at a 45 degree angle.

The Ryobi circular saw with its bed adjusted for cutting boards at a 45 degree angle.

If the boards were cut to perfect lengths and the walls were always at perfect right angles to each other, the length of the support 2″ x 3″ under the front of the shelf could be easily calculated. After all, every math student knows the sum of the squares of the legs at right angles equals the sum of the hypotenuse, right? (But don’t ask today’s math student to calculate the square roots without a calculator in hand.)

Fortunately, there’s a simpler way–just grab the tape measure, check the length across the opening between those two boards that were just nailed to the wall, and go with that. In this case, the measurement came out at 32″, which I used all the way up the stack of shelves. It wasn’t always perfect, but it was, as they say, close enough for government work. This is tool shed shelving, not fine cabinetry for madame’s parlor.

One end of a  2" x 3" board, 32" long, with each end cut on a 45 degree angle.

One end of a 2″ x 3″ board, 32″ long, with each end cut on a 45 degree angle.

The board with the fancy angles is then simply nailed (at the ends) to the boards already fastened to the wall–but wait; this part can be tricky. Vinyl coated nails are used for this (available at Home Depot, same price as uncoated); the coating helps the nails slip into and through wood more easily, reducing splitting. Since we’re working close to the ends of the boards for this connection, that’s a crucial factor.

Additionally, a smaller diameter 6d nail is used first at each end, to “lightly fasten” the angled board in place. Then a medium diameter 8d nail is added, a bit farther back from the tip (because it can be, being longer) to provide extra strength and stability. This first support setup, being close to the floor, was easy to support with a shim or two…just in case we decided to store heavy stuff down there, like loaded paint cans or some such.

Shelf support structure complete.  Note shim between front board and floor, toward the right.

Shelf support structure complete. Note shim between front board and floor, toward the right.

For this first shelf, there’s just one more step to go: The shelf itself. A piece of scrap strand board is cut, 24″ on each “wall side”, but not until after using the carpenter’s square to see just how far out of square the walls might be at each shelf’s height. There was a slightly surprising variation, ranging from dead on at floor level to nearly 5’8″ of “lean away” at chest height–and then I remembered. It really wasn’t all that surprising after all. One side for this shelf stack is comprised of the north wall, and the 2″ x 6″ studs for that wall were gleaned from a stack of old, leftover lumber. The fit to the “lean away” is allowed for during this process, producing a shelf board that is far from square but, once installed, looks like it belongs there. Also, before the hypotenuse of a shelf board is cut, a 1 1/2″ square cut is done at each end so that the shelf fits more or less neatly above the 2″ x 3″ support board ends.

Those studs weren’t exactly straight and true to the nth degree.

But no big. A shelf has been built. More boards have been cut. Things are looking good.

One shelf done and...

One shelf done and…

...support sticks for shelf #2 in place.

…support sticks for shelf #2 in place.

From there, it’s just a matter of, you know, rinse and repeat. I did cut one piece of board 11″ long, to use as a vertical spacer while placing each new set of shelf support boards. This puts the shelves roughly 14″ apart, an arrangement that feels workable for us.

One warning: If you build something like this, and if your power tools have been as many years without a true home as ours have, look out. You don’t want to get crushed in the stampede as the power saws, drills, hammers, etc., rush to claim their places.

One seven-shelf stack complete, including a number of tools and supplies that have already claimed their places.

One seven-shelf stack complete, including a number of tools and supplies that have already claimed their places.