I’ve been working with my bench out towards the center of the shop, with tons of extraneous “extras”, that really always kept me from developing a storage solution that was both handy and functional. I finally made time to clear some of those “extras” from the shop space, and I am stoked! I’ve known that I wanted my bench in a certain location for a number of years, but there was always something that kept me from it. Funny how I made the time to get after this, after recovering from two major back surgeries. Seems this would have been more opportune before the injuries, but we trudge on.
Ok, this partially came about due to my drive, but there was a secondary (and really a 3rd, too) factor that also helped push me along. The hot water heater in our house is getting up in age, and we purchased one before the impending size adjustment hit. Of course we wanted to get this unit installed BEFORE the old one eroded and poured water all over the floor, but the quote our plumber gave us had a shelf-life of sorts. And one last thing was that I wanted to get it installed before going to help the kids for a couple of weeks.
Alright, so I got the bench over against the wall, so it was time to start making some updated storage, even if it was just a temp stop-gap, until I have the time to layout and build a storage cabinet for the wall. I had a partial sheet of solid-core plywood that I knew would be plenty strong to handle hand planes and most other things I might throw at it.
I decided to start off with making cleats for four of my hand planes: my #8, #62, #6 and #51. It can be a good learning lesson just going through the necessary layout and thought process related to this type of storage. On the surface, it seems like you’d just cut 8 small pieces of wood and attach them to the plywood. Done! Well, it’s not really that simple, even though it’s easily within most woodworker’s capabilities. As many of you probably know, the fact that I am severely anal can also have a pronounced impact on any of my projects.
I started off measuring the planes I planned to store, and get an idea how much space I should alot. When I started thinking about the cleats, I again took measurements to see just how much space each plane required, so they could slide under the cleat. (Note: Make sure you actually measure the thickness of both ends of the planes, as I missed this little detail. When I talk about the #62, you’ll understand!)
I had a strip of wood (3/8″ thick) that was just about the correct width (~2″) to fit between the side flange on most of the planes. I cut it up into 8 pieces, with four being a bit longer than the others. To get the space needed behind the cleats, I re-used some dense pine (also about 3/8″ thick), and cut them so they were just shy of the same width as the cleats. Each was glued to the back of a cleat, with some 5-minute epoxy, which sets strong enough for the initial work and will only get stronger.
I pre-drilled the holes where the screws would pass, even though I planned to use some that do not require a hole. I just didn’t want to take the chance that the bite of the screw might cause a split or crack. I need these to be strong enough to keep my tools safe.
I started placing the bottom cleats, working from the outside edge, towards the center. To get the bottom of the cleats to all reasonably line up, I placed a wooden spacer under the bottom of each cleat, before driving the screws home. I placed each plane onto it’s bottom cleat, to see how much space I wanted to leave between it and it’s neighbor(s).
After I had all four of the bottom cleats in place, I placed a couple of planes onto their cleats, to find the best placement of the upper cleats. It turned out with the lengths of the bottom cleats, there wasn’t any way to make the plane hold, and also release. It only took a moment to realize I had the cleats reversed. The bottom cleats don’t require a great deal of depth, and the upper must have more travel than is needed to disengage the lower. So, off with all four of the “bottom” cleats, and I repeated the process with the old “upper” cleats, only at the bottom. Jeez!
Ok, lets pick back up, with the #8 sitting on it’s bottom cleat. I again moved the upper cleat until it would easily restrain the plane, but also allow for removal. The #8 and #6 were each very easy. When I came to my #62, some major adjustments were needed. With the adjustability of the mouth, on the #62, there is very little lip on the toe, to grasp and potentially move to release the plane. I drew a section of the cleat’s center, that I’d remove, so the toe section could easily move enough to make this work. To remove the wood, it was two straight cuts down the length with my Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw, and follow that with my Knew Concepts fret saw across at the base of the cut.
Ok, so I attached the upper cleat for the #62, and when I went to test the plane, it wouldn’t fit under the cleat. At first I wondered what might have happened, but when I looked at the plane, it was the old palm to the forehead. Dang it, I hadn’t measured the thickness of the toe section, and with the moving parts, it is quite a bit thicker than the sole at the rear of the plane. I cut another small piece of pine, planed it down to remove some of it’s thickness. I glued this piece to the already existing offset, and after the glue set, drilled through the full thickness, using the original holes as guides. (Oh, and yes, I used a 1/4″ longer screw for this cleat.) I reattached the upper cleat and it worked nicely.
The #51 was a bit different, as it doesn’t have a centralized space between two side rails, so I took this into account. I cut and planed a thin strip of wood, that I could use to prevent this plane from contacting (or being contacted) by the #6 next to it. This strip of wood also acts to retain the #51, as it contacts the two cleats on the plane’s right edge, since there is no rail on this edge. With the strip in place, it was obvious the bottom cleat was still a bit too long, so I removed the excess with a sharp Japanese chisel.
With this quick modification, it was easy to place the upper cleat and secure it, so the plane was retained and also removable. Whew!
I realize this is just four planes, but it was a good mental workout, to deal with a couple of oddities. I haven’t yet made holding locations for my smaller planes, like the 4 1/2, 3, block planes or shoulder planes. These will come, as well as some additional chisels that aren’t already on the back of my bench, and additional saws. If nothing else, this will give quick access to these tools, and limit some of the shaving/saw dust exposure, they once had under neath the bench’s top.
This is a great dry-run for an upcoming tool chest for the wall, as the layout of the tools and ways of handling holding is something that very subjective and has the potential to always change. I will likely add at least a few more tools, prior to securely mounting the storage unit to the wall above my bench. I’m really looking forward to having the tools at the ready, without the work on the bench covering them in shavings.
I hope this might be useful to those that have never tried to create this type of storage before, and maybe add to what others have currently. Thank you as always, for taking the time to come check out my blog.