All the World’s a Stage…except for the Storage

Theatre season started early this year, with a pre-Christmas play for the first time (that I can remember). In the next entry, I’ll discuss what went into building a mock front porch. First though, a step back to late summer and early fall. With a bit of a shakeup in the theatre company’s board, my wife and I became a bit more hands on with more behind the scenes functions. My wife took on revamping our storage options in the paid units, and they were a bit of a mess. She asked me to come up with an idea for making more/better storage options for our costume closet. As it stood, all costumes were hung on folding, portable racks and wasn’t very efficient. It also restricted the ability to then use those racks for transportation or at the venue.

The storage unit, previously

Since the storage unit is nearly ten feet tall, I saw that as an opportunity to create more space by taking advantage of that height. I settled on stackable racks, made of 2x4s, a design and material that would be easy to work with, stable, and inexpensive. In total, the project cost about $300, but should last forever.

SketchUp render

I wanted to build it in such a way that it would be super sturdy, holding as much weight as could be fit on the racks, plus any shifting or other movement that might happen during loading and unloading. I settled on frames at top and bottom of each unit connected by lengths of 2x4s. I made one set of racks that were four feet tall, and the other were six feet tall to better accommodate gowns and other long clothing. The frames would be joined together with glue and tenons, and the vertical supports would be screwed into the frames . The closet rod used would be mounted in additional 2x4s that had the byproduct of providing additional lateral rigidity

The frames were pretty simple. Butt joints, using Dominos to secure and hold while glue set making a strong connection. The only wrinkle to the design was that I cut out sections on the corners where the vertical supports would screw into. I figured this would provide better surface area for a connection, and not making the screws the weak portion in a butt connection. Insetting the vertical supports in the cutouts would provide some lateral resistance to racking as well. It made the construction a bit more tedious, but it was the right thing to do.

Detail of the cutouts

I purchased a new tool for this project, the Festool HKC 55. It is a cordless lumber saw, that can attach to a track, and is able to easily cut dimensional lumber at and angle between -45° to 60°. All I have to do is mark the cut line with a measuring tape, and put the track to that line. It doesn’t have the repeatability of a miter saw on a stand, but it does allow me to cut dimensional lumber without having to bring it into the shop – a must for anything over eight feet. Since I recently switched from the TS 55 to the TSC 55, using the 18v batteries that work for both was a no-brainer. I’ll talk more about my decision to be more mobile in another post.

So with the HSK, I was able to easily break down all the lumber I needed for this project. This particular project was only cross cuts, but the saw made it pretty easy. The saw even made it fairly easy to cut out the notches for the vertical supports. I couldn’t do the full cut with a round saw, naturally, so I finished with a jigsaw. I positioned the Domino locations so that they wouldn’t interfere with the cuts, either. With sixteen frames cut with modified corners, it was a simple task of cutting the vertical supports to make the four and six foot heights. I mean, look at the accuracy of this cut with a circular saw.

Perfect cuts with the HKC 55

Assembly wasn’t too terrible, until it came to installing the second frame on each rack. The vertical supports wanted to drift, and set up the possibility of tearing out. I had to be careful. Each corner has at least four 3″ screws to secure the two supports. That’s right, I doubled the supports for each rack to further support the weight and prevent racking. It added a bit more expense, but the goal here was to make these bulletproof and last a long time.

Different heights detailed

The cross supports for the closet rod were cut in the same manner, and a stopped hole was drilled to secure the closet rod, which was cut to length. The racks were then complete.

It did take a bit to get them stacked, with some clearance issues in the storage unit, plus the heft of the racks. However it did get done between the two of us, and more than doubled the amount of storage in less room. This was a very worthwhile project and it turned out great.

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