Category: Organization

This one is for me! I love to tailgate for all sorts of events, but I especially enjoy tailgating for Virginia Tech football games. It becomes a bit of a hassle to keep all the supplies gathered together and organized while still being easily accessible, so I built a chuck box to help out. This would also work great for camping at campgrounds. I began by collecting, arranging, and measuring all of my tailgating supplies so that I could be sure they all fit nicely. I typically tailgate with a Coleman camp stove, two cast iron pans, two small propane tanks, roll of paper towels, cutting boards, coffee percolator, in addition to all the other plates, cutlery, common spices, etc. That’s a lot of stuff! It had to be small, relatively lightweight, and strong.

The body is constructed from 1/2” high-quality plywood with box joints. The front and back panel are the same plywood but fitted into a groove much like a cabinet door. The top has two folding wings that sit on top of the doors that open up on the front for additional working space. I used veneer to cover the exposed plywood edges followed by many coats of a high-quality outdoor paint in Virginia Tech’s own Chicago maroon to make it weather, heat, and spill resistant. All of the hardware is made from stainless steel so it won’t rust. There are two carry handles, four piano hinges for the doors and wings, two buckles to hold the door closed, a lock on the front, and a bottle opener on the back.

It has worked great so far and is easily loaded into the bed of my truck by two people. I can be parked and cooking breakfast burritos and brewing a pot of coffee in under five minutes. I’m still designing a stand to put it on that integrates well with the chuck box. In the meantime, I’ve just used some crates to set it on.

Before we get started a good tip to help keep your sandpaper organized.  If you have more sandpaper than you know what to do with, use a filing cabinet to store it all.  This has helped to keep my sandpaper perfectly sorted and easy to access.

Just the other day while I was finishing the bench that goes along with the farmhouse table I made I said to myself a few times, “Oh, right, don’t forget to do [finishing technique]” and figured a quick writeup could serve both you and I well!  Following is my process used for sanding bare wood.

  • Identify areas where yellow glue is still visible and focus on those when sanding.  Yellow glue does not take stain and will leave a hideous yellow mark with even the thinnest layer of glue.  A tip for finding these spots is to wet glue joints or use paint thinner on the glue joints to expose them.
  • Using a power sander, start sanding using 60 grit on harder woods (anything above 850 lbf on the Janka hardness scale) and 80 grit on softer woods.  Using a finer grit on softer woods will give you more control by not removing material as quickly and is less likely to leave hard to remove swirl marks.
  • Using a power sander, move to a finer grit like 120, then 220.  Don’t stop with the previous grit until the surface is consistent in look and feel and all swirl marks have become more subtle.
  • Between each phase of sanding, use compressed air to clean the surface.  If this isn’t an option, a lint free cloth will help.
  • Now for a little known trick.  Use a spray bottle to mist the surface of the wood with water.  This step is especially effective for softer woods because it causes the wood fibers to swell a little bit raising the grain in areas.  This step it critical if you’re trying to achieve an ultra smooth surface.
  • Immediately after doing this, sand using the 220 grit again.  Let the surface dry completely.
  • Clean the surface off again with compressed air.  Be sure to blow out any knots as they’re great traps for dust.
  • Sand by hand using an eight inch long piece of 2×4 wrapped with a really fine sandpaper that’s about 300 grit.  This should hopefully remove the last evidence of marks from a power sander and create an ultra smooth finish.
  • If an even smoother finish is still desired, I wouldn’t recommend using sandpaper at this point, but a set of card scrapers like my set pictured below.
  • Before applying any finishes I like to rub the surface down with rubbing alcohol to remove any last traces of dust that have accumulated on the surface due to sanding.


I have a very small shop so wall space is at a premium.  I also highly value mobility and rearranging as my needs, tooling, and projects change.  Due to these factors, I’ve really enjoyed installing a French cleat system along one wall in my shop.  The benefits of French cleats are tangible.  They’re easy to make, cheap, infinitely configurable, and strong.  French cleats would warrant a post of their own!

In the constant fight for balancing the triple-point of organization, accessibility, and physical volume, I’ve modified ideas I’ve seen elsewhere to create a clamp rack that can hold 60 clamps and sit on three French cleats.  This clamp rack has three layers that each hold up to 20 clamps.  The first layer is 10” tall, the second layer is 20” tall, and the third layer is 30” tall.  This clamp rack works perfectly for bar and F-style clamps, but what really makes it excel is that it can hold those really deep ratchet clamps on the 10” and 20” layers due to the space between the outside and middle layer and the wall.  Traditional clamp racks that just rest along a wall are often designed only to hold bar and F-style clamps.

I was able to use up a lot of scrap material to build this clamp rack so my actual version differs slightly from the version I recommend you make in terms of material usage but I wanted to be a good steward of resources and knew the compromises I made would still be adequate for a shop project.  For instance, I used plywood for the 4” corner braces and the 2” wide vertical support braces in the back-middle of each section whereas lumber would have been a better choice due to glue bonding strength and solid wood is better to screw into.  However, use whatever material you want, my only guideline I suggest you definitely follow is don’t make the slotted pieces out of solid lumber!  Use plywood, otherwise you risk breaking off the fingers especially if the grain isn’t parallel to the slots (which if using dimensional lumber is almost guaranteed since the grain runs lengthwise).

The finished project is 39.75” wide, by 30” tall, by 11.25” deep.  I used four heavy duty hinges, two for each layer of the clamp rack.  Each hinge costs a little under $5.  The hinges easily support the weight of the rack loaded with clamps when fully opened.  The hinges are secured using 1.5” flat head screws.  Even though I don’t own 60 clamps (yet) this suits my need well for today without having to redo my clamp rack as my collection grows.

I have published the SketchUp plans on GitHub if you’d like to make one for yourself!