There’s nothing as satisfying as seeing a problem, identifying a solution, and fixing it.

Problem: messy and opaque flats storage

Our research space, Codelab, sports a great little prototyping fabrication area with lots of spare materials on hand. That’s great—the more stuff laying around and available, the quicker it is to go from idea to first model.

The only problem is that when all the material is stacked narrow and deep like this, you can’t really tell what’s there. If it’s buried, it’s invisible, and then it’s just taking up space.

original storage

Fortunately, though the fabrication area is small, there is a long narrow area that I could steal about a foot of width from. It already had some big flats being stored there. (Old storage on left, open area on right.)

area I'll install the thing

Solution: shelves with lots of surface area

Step 1: draw up some plans. The first plans I drew were very sketchy and just for general concept. Then I made a second drawing using an architectural ruler so I could draw to scale properly. I ended up departing from this drawing a bit once I started making the unit, but this gave me a pretty reasonable cut list.


Step 2: cut the lumber. In this case, I was able to get everything I needed at the Architecture Shop, which was great.

cut wood on table

Step 3: put it together! I started with the base and then added on the first row of vertical members,

the base

then added the second row,

second row

the first-level shelf,

first shelf

some improvised corner braces to affix the shelves firmly to the vertical supports,

corner braces

and finally the top shelf.

top shelf

Side view before installation.

side view

Installed, 8 feet in length, 12 inches deep.

installation view

Then I put the flats on the different shelves, and finished by screwing some chains into the wall: since the flats were standing pretty close to vertical, the added weight of the chain ensures that they won’t accidentally fall forward.


That’s it! Now we have two shelves, 8 feet wide apiece, that display our materials with a lot more surface area. Much easier to see what we have and pick out stuff for projects. I later added a lip to the bottom of the front shelf (the one on the ground) so that it can be used as a third level. We store lumber in the hollow bottom area, which helps weigh down the unit’s base, and the whole unit is also screwed into the wall for extra security.

If it does its job right, more of these sheets will get taken off and used!