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Storing and Organizing Car Care Products

Updated: Mar. 20, 2023

Simple shelves plus a handy worktable

FH08JAU_CARCAB_01-2Family Handyman
Organize your auto lubricants, fluids and other items in this simple shelf/work table cabinet. Build it in a few hours and keep all your auto needs close at hand.

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A full day

Overview: Time, tools and materials

It’s a whole lot easier to be a gearhead when all your gear is in one place. Here’s an easy-to-build organizer you can complete in one morning, even if you’re a beginning woodworker. If you build it from construction- grade pine boards and plywood, the materials will cost you about $40. If you use maple boards and birch plywood as we did, it will cost about $70. The only must-have power tools for this project are a drill and a circular saw, though a table saw and a miter saw would make the job much faster and easier.

A Fold-Up Door

The worktable is also a door that encloses the bottom shelf. Flip it up and you’ve got a mounting surface for a towel holder and other accessories. You can mount a fold-up door on special hinges, but we’ll show you a faster method that requires just a couple of bucks’ worth of hardware (Photos 3 and 4 below).

Step 1: Assemble the shelves

Photo 1: Lay out the shelves

Prevent mistakes by marking shelf locations on both cabinet sides at once. Then mark the screw locations and drill pilot holes.

Photo 2: Assemble the shelves

Clamp the shelves between the sides and screw the cabinet together. Give the exposed screw heads a neater look with finish washers.

To get started, cut the sides to length, lay them back to back and mark the shelf locations (Photo 1). Then mark and drill 3/16-in. pilot holes for the screws that fasten the shelves. Measure 1 in. and 2-3/4 in. from the back edges of the sides when you locate these holes. Set the 1×4 shelves between the sides and drill pilot holes into the shelf ends using the holes in the sides as guides. Drilling these pilot holes and screwing the shelves into place is easier if you clamp the whole cabinet together first (Photo 2). But you can hand-hold the shelves against the sides if you don’t have long clamps. After the shelves are screwed into place, rip 1/4-in. plywood into 1-1/2-in.-wide strips for the front lips on the shelves. Glue the lips to the shelves, using 3/4-in. brads or clamps to hold the lips in place while the glue sets.

To complete the cabinet box, lay it face down and make sure it’s square by taking diagonal measurements. Then run light beads of wood glue on the sides and shelves and tack on the plywood back with 3/4-in. brads spaced about 8 in. apart. The back is slightly narrower than the cabinet, so you don’t have to line up the edges perfectly.

Step 2: Mount the fold-up door and apply finish

Photo 3: Drill pivot holes

Drill the T-nut holes with the door locked tight against the bottom shelf. Drill as straight as you can through the sides and into the door.

Photo 4: Attach the hardware

Drive the T-nuts into the holes. File the recesses so the T-nuts sit flush with the edges of the door. Attach the door with machine screws.

Flip the cabinet onto its back and clamp the door into place with the back edge of the door resting flat on your workbench. Using a square, mark the location of the door on the outer sides of the cabinet. Then drill 5/16-in. holes 1-3/8 in. from the front edges of the cabinet sides. Drill through the sides and into the door, stopping at a depth of about 1-1/2 in. (Photo 3). Cut shallow recesses in the door for the T-nuts using a coarse file or wood rasp. Position the door and drive in the machine screws that act as pivot points for the door. Make sure the door opens and closes freely. If not, sand down the edges that bind with a belt sander or an orbital sander. If the fit is a bit sloppy, remove one of the screws and place a washer over the T-nut.

To put a quick finish on the cabinet, remove the door. Sand away any pencil marks and smooth sharp edges. Take the cabinet to a well-ventilated area and apply a couple of light coats of aerosol spray lacquer. The lacquer will harden in just a few minutes. Then lightly sand with a fine sanding sponge and spray on a final coat. Wait about an hour to reattach the door. To mount the cabinet, drive four 1-1/2-in. screws through the back and into studs. Add a dry-erase board and paper towel holder if you like and load those shelves!

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Circular saw
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Hammer
  • One-handed bar clamps
  • T-square
  • Tape measure
  • Wood file
  • Wood glue