Canadian Woodworking

Sandpaper Storage Shelf

Author: Ted Brown
Photos: Ted Brown
Published: June July 2012

Organize all your sandpaper and get some practice with basic box construction at the same time.

Sandpaper is essential in a shop, so it makes sense to have a cabinet to hold the paper close at hand. It’s a simple set of shelves, housed in a carcase made from Baltic birch plywood. Sandpaper is larger than writing paper – 11″ x 9″. One and a half inch Baltic plywood makes a solid carcase, and cuts cleanly on the table saw. The shelves are held in grooves cut with a single saw kerf. The rabbets were cut using a dado set and a sacrificial fence. The outside dimensions of the cabinet are 14-1/2″ high x 12″ deep x 10-1/2″ wide. This makes the openings 1/2″ deeper and wider than a sheet of sandpaper. The shelves are spaced at 1-1/2″ intervals.

Cut one large piece of plywood to make two gables at 14-1/2″ x 25″ x 1/2″, as it’s easier and safer to work with a single large piece of material than cut it in half after all the grooves have been machined. Set up the height of your saw blade for just short of 1/4″ above the table. If you go up to the full quarter-inch, the grooves will cut into your rabbets later. Once the cabinet is put together, we will determine the final width of the shelves.

Set up your fence to cut the first groove through the gable stock 1-1/2″ from the top of the gables. Increment the fence position by 1-1/2″, and cut the next groove. Keep moving the fence by 1-1/2″ until all eight grooves are cut in the gable stock. By keeping the stock as one large gable, and then cutting it in half later, we will have a perfect match with the slots, and the number of cuts made is reduced. Set your fence to 12″ and cut two gables from the grooved gable stock.

Work the Gables as One Panel
 Cut the grooves in the oversized stock for both gables before separating them to assure alignment.

Sacrificial Fence
 Note that the dado set has cut into the sacrificial fence leaving about 1/2" of blade exposed. Fine-tune this dimension according to the material you’re using.

 Apply white glue to the rabbet and then nail the components in place.

Cutting the Rabbets

I used 1/2″ wide x 1/4″ deep rabbets for the carcase. Mill up a piece of 2 x 4 spruce stud material to 40″ x 2-1/2″ x 1-3/8″ to make an inexpensive sacrificial fence, then clamp it to your saw fence. Install your dado set with a couple of chipper blades so the width of the set is about 5/8″. With the dado blade fully retracted, place the sacrificial fence above the blade, covering about 1/8″ of the blade on the right side. Turn on the saw, and then raise the blade 1/4″ above the table. I put a mark on the sacrificial fence before cutting into it to help locate the 1/4″ height. Using a test piece of 1/2″ plywood cut a rabbet. Check that it’s slightly wider than the thickness of the carcase stock. When I say 1/2″, I don’t worry about the absolute dimension, but rather I set up my process to cut the joinery to fit the material. Add about 1/64″ of extra width to the rabbet; we will hand-plane this flush once the cabinet is assembled. I actually measure the depth of the rabbet and try to get it to 1/4″, but I don’t cut my cabinet back until the dry fit stage. Don’t rely on numbers – use logic. Most cabinets can be made without measurements if a logical approach is used. This method eases the mind, reduces errors, and speeds up the work. Cut rabbets on the top, bottom and rear edges of both gables and on the rear edges of the top and bottom. Dry fit the carcase, holding it together with bar clamps. Measure the opening for the back panel and cut it to size. During glue-up, placing the back panel in place will keep the carcase assembly square. For a utility cabinet, use either a brad nailer or finishing nails and a hammer, along with white glue for final assembly.

Bring it All Together

Start with the top panel held vertical in your bench vise. Apply white glue to the top rabbet in the gable and then nail the gable to the edge of the top panel then remove this assembly from the vise. Do the same thing with the bottom panel, and the opposite gable. Apply glue to the two remaining rabbets, put the two assemblies together to form the box and nail them in place. Apply glue to the rabbets at the rear, and then insert the rear panel. Pull the rear panel into place using F-clamps. The pad at the handle end of the F-clamp will reach over the protruding rabbet at the rear, and pull the rear panel in snug. Hand-plane off the protruding parts of the rabbets flush with the cabinet. Cut your 1/8″ shelves now, fitting them to the finished dimension of the cabinet. Do not glue the shelves; they are simply friction fit. Ensure that you cut the shelf material with the outside grain of the plywood going from side to side of the shelf for maximum strength. Drill and countersink 3/16″ holes in the cabinet back and mount the cabinet to a wall stud with #8 x 2″ flat-head Robertson screws. Install the shelves and load in the sandpaper. Your first sanding task is to soften all edges with 150 grit sandpaper and a sanding block.

Ted Brown - [email protected]

Ted is an avid guitar-maker in Ottawa, Ontario. His electric guitars blend premium components with sensitive use of exotic woods, creating one-of-a-kind boutique instruments.

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