November 2015
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How I Applied Permaculture Principles to Workshop Storage

We all know the feeling. It seems like we never have enough storage. We put in some shelves and before you know it they somehow magically fill up with things. We’re right back where we started looking for more storage. When I expanded my workshop, I wanted as much storage as I could get. So I thought about lining the walls with shelves. The problem was that I also like pegboard for organizing tools and parts, and pegboard takes up a lot of wall space. I decided to get creative and find a way to incorporate both pegboard and storage shelves into one solution.

I was already on the path to using permaculture principles to guide many things I do. Permaculture is not only about growing things. Its principles can – and should – be applied to everything you do. What I came up with was a system that would give me storage shelves and pegboard in the same space. The idea of solving two problems with one solution follows the permaculture principle of function-stacking. Building the shelves with reusable materials and construction techniques also follows permaculture principles.

Here’s a description of function-stacking from Toby Hemenway:
“Each element performs multiple functions. Choose and place each element in a system to perform as many functions as possible. Beneficial connections between diverse components create a stable whole. Stack elements in both space and time.”

The space I had to work with was 16’ x 16’. I wanted sturdy shelves 24” deep for storing large items. If I lined the outer walls with shelves, that would still leave me with an open space in the center almost 12’ x 12’. I built the shelves using 2x4s, 2x6s, ¾” plywood, and coated screws. In fact, I use coated screws for most of my projects. They can be reused along with many of the other materials if you decide to dismantle a project. Some of the screws I used for this project were recovered from previous projects.

The shelf supports are constructed of 2×4 and 2×6 vertical supports, with 2×4 horizontal support members. The shelves are ¾” plywood ripped lengthwise. A single 4’x8’ sheet produces two 2’x8’ pieces for a total of 16′ of shelving. The horizontal supports are attached to the vertical legs with four 3” screws at each intersection – two screws from each side. The shelves are screwed down with 1 5/8” screws. When everything is fastened, the structure is extremely strong. There’s nothing special about the shelves – they are simple, but strong 24” deep shelves. Next is the really cool part.

Finished Pegboards

Finished Pegboards

Remember I wanted pegboards too. The innovative part of the design was to make the pegboards switch out on hinges to provide access to the shelves behind them. To accomplish this, I designed the pegboards with sturdy frames for rigidity. I cut a 4’x8’ sheet of pegboard in half to form two 4’x4’ pieces. Each piece is framed with 2x4s laid flat on the back around the edge. The pieces across the top and bottom go the full width. The side pieces are cut to fit between them. They are glued and screwed to the pegboard for extra strength. I added two pieces of 2×4 on each side running the full length to overlap the joints of the first layer. Then a diagonal 2×4 brace is added for extra strength.

Pegboard - 1st Layer of Supports

Pegboard – 1st Layer of Supports

Pegboard - 2nd Layer of Supports

Pegboard – 2nd Layer of Supports

The resulting structure is fairly heavy but it is very sturdy. The pegboard is attached to the shelves using heavy door hinges. This is why I used 2x6s for some of the vertical shelf supports. These are placed on the hinge side of the pegboard, allowing extra room to attach the hinges and in some cases room for the neighboring pegboard to close against it. I used spring catches to keep the pegboards in the closed position.

Pegboard with Tools

Pegboard with Tools

Pegboard with Storage Behind

Pegboard with Storage Behind

The completed project is very functional. The shelves are heavy duty and deep at 24”. The pegboards swing open and closed like a door, allowing access to the shelves. Because of the 3.5” depth of the supporting structure on the backside of the pegboards, both sides are usable for hanging pegboard accessories. I put my frequently used items on the front side, and less used stuff on the back side. The 2×4 supporting structure attached to the back of the pegboard blocks some of the holes, but that is more than made up for with the use of both sides. You could easily modify this design to use smaller or larger pieces of pegboard, depending on your space. I built this project about 3 years ago, and I’ve been very pleased with the functionality. It is especially satisfying to me that my design follows the principles of permaculture.

Resources for this post:
Permaculture Ethics and Principles from Toby Hemenway

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