This post is a round up of small kitchen organization projects, inspired by a few recently completed ones, but including some projects from years ago.
Organize a Bottom Freezer
This one isn’t very interesting as a woodworking project, but might be interesting to people looking for a solution to the problem of organizing a bottom freezer. Our old refrigerator had a top freezer, and I had containers in the door, labeled on the side, and shelves in the freezer space. The new freezer has a big open cavity and a sliding top drawer. How could I use this space effectively? When I looked around online for ideas on freezer organization, I didn’t see anything that looked both effective and efficient.
For the sliding top drawer, my solution is to use these air-tight containers that can be turned sideways and labeled on their sides.
For labeling I find that the Pentel Wet Erase Chalk Marker works well. It resists water, but can be washed off of smooth surfaces easily when desired (though it mysteriously does not come off in the dishwasher). The only problem is that these particular containers have a rough area on the side, from which the pen does not clean off.
For organizing the bottom some people put things in containers, but this wastes scarce freezer space. I made wooden dividers to partition the big, open space into sections sized to quart freezer bags.
I cut these dividers from quarter inch plywood using my band saw, but a jigsaw would work too. There is no need to finish them. Observe how the dividers fit into the gap in the freezer frame at the far right and left sides.
Measuring Cups & Spoons
We have a lot of measuring cups and spoons. Some of them hang on hooks from holes in the handles, but we had a plastic set with no hang holes that I hung using magnets. The nice thing about the magnets was that it was very easy to hang them or grab them. The troublesome thing was that adhering magnets to the polyethylene measuring cups required an expensive adhesive and they would eventually fall off. I got new stainless steel measuring cups and their different shape and increased weight made the magnets a more troublesome solution. So I came up with this approach that exploits the little tabs on the ends of the cups. (However the one cup measure has no tab and requires a little support bar underneath.)
I attempted to drill the large holes using an expansive auger bit. These tools seem to be plentiful on ebay but they don’t seem to work. (Why did they make so many if the tools didn’t work?) In each case the center hole cut by the lead screw would grow until the bit could wobble around in the hole with nothing guiding the cut. The deepest I could cut was about 3/16″ before it became impossible to make further progress. I had to cut out the centers with a coping saw and finish the edges with a drawknife. With a drill press and a circle cutter this job would be easy, in theory, but when I equipped my drill press with this unbalanced cutter the lateral forces caused the chuck to fall off. The chuck continued to fall off periodically after that, until I learned the trick of freezing the arbor.
I marked the sizes using punches and then inking them with pens. Curiously some pens, like the Pigma Micron, seem to be ruined by writing on wood. They never started writing again after I used them for this job.
For years we hung the other measuring cups on a store bought rack, which really didn’t work well. The hooks would fall off, and it wasn’t well organized. So to go with the rack above I made a rack with designated hooks:
Pen and Paper on the Fridge
We need pen and paper available at the fridge. To make a pen holder I started with a small scrap of cherry. I used the router to cut out a recess in the block of wood and I installed some magnets on the back. If I was going to make one of these today, I’d probably glue together two layers to avoid using the router.
To hold paper we used a plastic rack for many years, but its weak magnets resulted in frequent trips to the floor, and it eventually cracked beyond repair. I made a much nicer wooden replacement from quarter sawn cherry I had left over from the file cabinet.
Now we just need to figure out how to keep people from walking off with the pens.
Hanging Utensils on the Wall
We bought a rack for hanging utensils on the wall, but then we ran out of room. So I made a pegboard out of oak. I built it using frame and panel construction with oak plywood for the panel. I used a piece of pegboard to guide the drilling of the holes in the oak plywood.
For mounting cooling racks I made magnetic bars by setting 1/8″ thick half-inch rare earth magnets into 1/4″ thick wooden bars. The magnets hold the bar onto the fridge and also hold the steel cooling racks. They worked well—until we switched to a stainless steel rack that was only barely magnetic. Each of the three bars could hold its own steel cooling rack, but all three bars together barely keep the stainless one on the fridge. A better design would probably make use of hooks instead of magnets to hold the stainless steel racks.
Draining rack by the sink—fail
We have the dish soap and hand soap by the sink and that area stays constantly wet, leading to mold. I tried building a draining rack to improve this situation. I used the router to cut grooves in a piece of ipe. (I think I killed the router bit.) Underneath the groves are perpendicular so water drains all the way through. The first problem was that the wood stayed wet underneath. I discovered that tiny insects had taken up residence. To correct this problem I raised the wood up off the counter on rubber feet. This got rid of the bugs, but I now have brown staining coming from the wood. It seems that wood is not the right material for this application.