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.

14 thoughts on “How To Utilize Corner Storage To Maximize Tool Shed Efficiency

  1. Nice looking, sturdy shelves for your tools. I like to save old peanut butter jars to put nails and screws in. The boxes always fall apart, and the jars are see through, so you can see what is in there. They also stack well and since water can’t get in, it helps keep them from aging. I guess you don’t need to worry about your nails rusting before you get to use them though. The humidity here is so high that they will rust here. I also have some old plastic jars that came with hamster pellets and bird seed in them. I use them for large amounts of screws. Nice screw on lids and handles on them so they are easy to haul around.
    I have clothespins in one that had a small mouth and a nice handle. I cut a hand sized hole right near the lid and then I cut a gap of about 1″ in the lower part of the handle. I hook the handle over the clothesline when I am using it. I drilled holes in the bottom of it so if I forget it on the line and it rains, the water drains out of it. I have been using one of those for years, and even made them to sell from gallon sized detergent jugs. I use the pretty colored ones and run a strip of denim around the edges, securing it with the hot glue gun, to make them look nice and keep the opening from scratching your hand when you reach in to get the clothespins.

  2. All of your fixes make total sense. I have to admit that I’ve not been saving our peanut butter jars, though, simply because cleaning them of every last PB vestige is (to me) hard work and I’m essentially lazy. But you’re right; nothing rusts here unless it’s left outside in the rain…which I’ve done on occasion.

    On the other hand, I really like the (open top) Mayo jar and cut-down coffee can shown in the top photo. Both of those house painted roofing screws. The Mayo is my favorite for working on a roof, as it will hold enough screws for a full day’s work (even on those days when I’ve worked dawn till dusk and not just a few hours per), plus the shape allows my fingers to reach in for a screw with no problem.

    All of the nails we have are bought in the black boxes with yellow labels. My preferred technique there is to remove all top cardboard, leaving a wide open container. With the single exception of the time we got flooded (last July) and a couple of the boxes were on the floor and got soaked, the boxes have held out long enough to empty out, and the bright labels make it easy to grab for the right sized nail.

    In any event, though your craft work definitely produces more attractive (and in some cases more efficient) containers, it sounds like we operate from somewhat similar mindsets.

    Pam loves the look of the new corner shelf construction as much as I do, it seems. Also, I pointed out, “You’re always erroneously stating that I never put my tools back in the same place–”

    “You never had a place to put them!” She interjected. So, it looks like getting enough of these shelves installed (3 corners in the back porch, perhaps some in the front porch, too) will good for producing family harmony as well.

  3. Reducing your clutter always helps with family harmony. There are two people in this house that will pass by the hanging coat rack and dump their coats on the couch or kitchen table. One of them has the excuse that he is trying to make it to a chair before he falls don. I will give him that one. The other one is lazy and it drives me nuts. If there is an empty table top, she will fill it up and it will stay, until I get on her again. That happens about once a week, because it is a major fight to get it done and that is not good for the peace of the other two of us. She will grow up one of these days, and then she will probably be OCD about keeping her house neat.

  4. Hm. Casually messy when young, OCD when older? I’ll have to think about that one. Pam cheerfully confesses to her OCD nature but also states with conviction that she was that way from childhood, as far back as she can remember.

    Got our new dining room table today. Thomas Furnishings in Douglas (Ashley dealer) is going out of business. We snagged a unit small enough to fit our kitchen, along with 6 chairs, for what my redhead tells me is about 1/3 of what we would have ended up paying anywhere else. . Six chairs is one too many–if we include that in the setting, nobody can get into the fridge–so the sixth chair is now doing computer desk duty in Pam’s room.

    One of the table legs has metal bolt receptacles that started to pull out when the bolts began cinching down, so sooner or later that one will have to be replaced its bolts (and receptacles) replaced with lag bolts or some such, but we’re satisfied with the purchase. Formica top, exactly matches the Formica counter tops I installed last year. Can’t beat that.

  5. I will have to think about that one. I heard of a type of glue that will hold those receptacles in place. I will try to remember what it is. I am thinking gorilla glue.

  6. Hm. We used to have some gorilla glue around here. Might have to check that out, see if it’ll bond to metal as well as wood. If it will, that would certainly make for a simple fix.

  7. Your storage unit is so neat and tidy.

    My shed is falling apart. It’s a metal shed, but my husband (at the time) raised it so his 6’1″ frame could get inside. He mounted it on particle board and made a wooden door for it. What he didn’t realize (being born and raised in Montana) is that particle board rots and falls apart in Florida’s climate. So I’ve got holes and gaps running all around the base of the shed. If you ever get a hankering to come to Florida, I sure could use your expertise! 🙂

  8. Sha, my neighbor had the bottom of their wood shed rotting and just took some 2 x12 and ran it around the bottom. That fixed the problem and after they painted it, it looks nice.

  9. I’ve never lived in Florida (except for the first six months of my life, having been born in Pensacola), but particle board falling apart in that climate makes perfect sense. If I did come to assist (Pam, too, ’cause I couldn’t leave her behind), I’d have to rework my whole skill set to account for ye olde humidity. (Wasn’t born in Montana, but was most certainly raised there.)

    Becky’s 2″ x 12″ fix sounds good, though. When Pam and I lived on the mountain off grid in Montana (1999-2002), we skirted our cabin (it was on skids) with two inch planking like that–salvaged from water bed sets that weren’t practical under the circumstances. They were already stained and heavily varnished, so they resisted the vicissitudes of nature rather well.

  10. If I had a way to get there, I would. I can’t seem to get out of Tennessee though. I have tried and tried. I hate humidity though, and I hear it is worse there than here.

  11. I have been thinking and I am pretty sure it was gorilla glue. I know it will bind metal and wood together, because we used it to bond and axe to the handle when it kept flying off. We tried soaking it and putting a metal wedge in there and it still flew off. Only thing that worked was the gorilla glue. Just a drop or two will do, it goes a long way and swells when you use it.

  12. Becky, the humidity here is horrendous. When I lived in South Florida the humidity wasn’t so bad because there are ocean breezes felt from just about everywhere. Now, being smack-dab in the middle of the state, it’s a different story entirely. The humidity can be very stifling at times.

  13. Becky: You’re no doubt right; Pam remembers it that way, too. I don’t believe we still have any gorilla glue lying around at the moment, but it’s only a store stop away.

    Sha: Your humidity story reminded me of me, my Dad, and Florida. When I was a little shaver, he used to tease me about being a “Florida sand crab”, since I was born in the Naval Hospital at Pensacola when he was stationed there during World War II. That went on for a few years, but one day I got big enough (maybe age 8 or so at most) to have my comeback ready. He popped off with his Florida sand crab remark, and I retorted,

    “Hey! I had sense enough to get out of there when I was six months old. YOU were there as an ADULT. Where does that leave YOU?!”

    He never called me a Florida sand crab again.

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