Making The Most Of A Small Woodworking Shop
After recently moving to my new (but still small) workshop, I have found myself faced with a lot of random odds and ends cluttering up my already very limited floor space. Things like power tool cases and attachments that I really don’t use that often but still need to keep around for the odd occasions that I might find myself in need of them.
An overhead roof storage shelf seemed like the logical solution as it would give me the ability to store these not-so-often-used objects well out of my way.
What I didn’t like about such a shelf is the fact that they often require objects to be crammed behind each other in rows. The result of which would be me having to unpack large portions of the shelf when I find myself in need of something stored at the back.
My solution was to compartmentalize such a shelf and with the addition of a simple pivot system, give it the ability to swing down for simple access.
Swing Down Roof Shelf
The shelf needed the ability to be changed from its stored position to its opened position fairly easily while the bin compartments needed to stay horizontal while the shelf is being folded up and down.
To achieve this all the bins were mounted on hinges and linked together using secondary pivots. This allowed the horizontal orientation of the bins to be unaffected while the angular position of the entire shelf is changed.
Caution! Beyond building this shelf for myself, no real testing has been done to determine the load-bearing capabilities of the shelf as a whole or of each individual component.
The shelf I built is a prototype and further development is needed to ensure a well functioning but more importantly, safe mechanism.
Therefore, there is a degree of risk of injury involved as the shelf and its contents would be suspended overhead. If you decide to copy this shelf you do so entirely at your own risk.
Folding shelf – The concept
For the purpose of this explanation, I will first make use of a block diagram that represents a single tier shelf.
The idea was to suspend the entire shelf from the roof and to give it the ability to swing up into a stored position via a pivot axis created at the mounting (roof bracket).
The problem at this point was that the swing arm would change from a vertical position to a horizontal position, the shelf/bin would in turn change from a horizontal position to a vertical one.
The first step in overcoming this problem was to also add a pivot axis to the shelf/bin at the point where it fixes to the swing arm. This would allow the shelf to fold at an angle different to that of the swing arm.
To keep the bin level while the shelf is being folded, a second pivot point was created on the shelf and on the mounting bracket. The spacing of the 2 pivot points on the shelf/bin needed to be copied exactly on the mounting bracket.
The result of which was the shelf always staying parallel to the mounting bracket when the swing arms change angles.
The final step was to offset the pivot points on the horizontal plane while still keeping with the above-mentioned spacing rules. This was to allow the shelf to fold up all the way into the roof.
To give the bins the ability to stay level while the shelf is being opened or closed, each bin needed to have two axes at which they could pivot.
One pivot axis would be used to fix the bin to the main assembly and so give it the ability to be folded at an angle different to that of the main assembly.
Considering the above diagram.
As can be noted by (A) and (B), the spacing between the pivot points on each bin and also the roof bracket needs to be identical.
The spacing (C) of the bin pivots on the rear swing arm needs to be copied on the front swing arm.
Also, the distance (D) from the primary pivot on the roof bracket needs to be the same for both swing arms.
The distance (C) needs to be slightly larger than the width of each bin. This is to create a small space between the bins when they are in their stored position.
My folding shelf consists of three main components.
The static roof mount bracket, the swing assembly, and the latching bracket.
- The roof mount bracket is the only component that is fixed to the wall and roof. It is primarily responsible for carrying the weight of the entire shelf. It is for this reason that extra care was taken to ensure it was strong enough and secured correctly.
- The swing assembly is mounted to the wall mount bracket using hinges and can be further sub-divided into 3 sub-components. The backboard, linkages, and bins.
- The shelf latching bracket is what is used to latch the fold-down shelf in its stored position. The bracket needed to be mounted securely and able to carry the weight of both shelves and their contents while storing.
Roof mount bracket
I made the roof mount bracket wide enough to snugly fit between my shop’s roof beams which are 1300mm(+/-52″) apart.
This would allow me to not only fix the bracket to my cement brick wall but also support it by fixing it to the roof beams.
To reduce the weight of the folding shelf I decided to split the roof mount bracket into two sections and instead of installing a single folding shelf roughly the width of the bracket, I added two independently operating sets.
The purpose of the bracket was to act as the fixed suspension point for the shelf. The front and back swing arms would be attached on pivots to the bracket.
For the rear swing arm, a solid backboard was used and was fixed to the bracket using T-type hinges.
The second swing arm was secured using dowels installed into a recessed cutout made into the roof bracket side panels.
The spacing between the pivots would then be copied for each bin allowing them to stay parallel to the roof bracket when the swing arms are being moved.
Swing Assembly – Backboard
The 18mm(3/4″) plywood backboards consisted out of two parts. A longer segment that would accommodate three of the four shelves and a shorter segment that would only accommodate the last/bottom shelf.
The two segments were fixed together using a piece of piano hinge that was orientated so that the hinge pivot axis would be located toward the top of the boards.
The backboard assembly was then fixed to the roof mount bracket also using hinges. The strength of these hinges and ensuring they were secured correctly was very important as they would carry roughly half of the suspended load.
The backboard would act as the rear swing arm with the added feature of creating the illusion of a ceiling when the shelves are closed/stored and so conceal the contents of the shelves.
Note: The hinges I used to build my prototype may be underrated for the load. I am currently looking into a more robust hinge and securing solution.
Swing Assembly – Linkages
The secondary/front swing arms were installed in the form of linkages.
The linkages were planks that had 20mm(3/4″) holes drilled with a spacing to match that of the rear pivot points on the backboard.
Later I would install 20mm(3/4″) dowels into these holes and attach them to the bins in a way that would allow the dowels to rotate inside the holes when the shelf is being folded up and down.
Swing Assembly – Bins
The bins were assembled to be slightly narrower than the space available between the installed linkages. This would allow me to add washers to act as spacers between the linkages and bins when installing the linkage dowels.
A piece of piano-hinge was attached at the rear of each bin which would be the point where the bin fixes to the backboard.
For the second pivot point, a 20mm(3/4″) cutout was made at a depth roughly half the thickness of the plywood.
A dowel was then installed into the cutout made in the bin side panel and a center hole was added into which a bolt would be installed to secure the assembly.
Between the bin and the linkage, two washers were added to act as spacers. These were to prevent the linkage and the bin from grinding up against each other when the shelf is folded up and down.
The assembly was then secured using a bolt. The dowel was made to be slightly longer than the assembly so that it would protrude beyond the linkage. This meant that when the bolts were installed, the force from the bolt was applied to the dowel and bin side panel while the linkage was still free to move.
The bins were then fixed to the backboard with the same spacing as the holes on the linkages.
The spacing needed to be far enough apart to accommodate the bin when it is in the stored position plus a small space between the bins that are necessary to prevent the bins from colliding when they move past each other during folding.
Shelf Latch Bracket
To latch the shelf in its stored position a simple bracket was installed between the roof beams.
The bracket needed to be secured correctly to allow it to carry the weight of the loaded shelf.
Bolt latches were installed to keep the shelf in its stored position but as I mentioned in the video, this is a safety risk as the latches alone are not supposed to carry the entire weight.
An additional tension mechanism needs to be installed to support a portion of the weight of the shelf. This will reduce the force required to hold the shelf in its stored position, reduce the risk of the shelf dropping down uncontrollably, and reduce the strength and energy required for me to open and close the shelf.
I am currently considering a number of possible solutions and will be posting that information when I have decided on an affordable option.