By Mark Clement
Anyone who knows me or watches MyFixitUpLife on YouTube might’ve heard me discuss this: I’m not a big fan of piles.
The pile system for anything—tools, toiletries, kids’ toys—really rankles my mojo.
We cannot have rankled mojo now, can we?
Things that are off the ground and within reach work better. They’re easier to get, easier to use, easier to put away. Things trapped in the bottoms of bins or boxes are harder to use. I am not anal or OCD; I am in a hurry.
Plus, if I’m going to waste my time, I want to waste it on my own terms. I prefer wasting it on Facebook fail videos or reading an actual book or riding my bike—not breaking my knuckles wrestling a log out of a box.
This mojo is the source code for my firewood organizer design.
I want to enjoy the fire, not fight with the logs or have a pile of ants crawling around under a heap of firewood on my deck. I want to listen to the crackle, not muck around in bark. I want my house to look like I care about it. The former owner (pretty sure the old hag haunts the place from time to time) would probably like it, too.
So here’s how I made it.
I designed this project to store firewood, kindling and related supplies outdoors but near the house—on a porch, for example.
Or near the backyard fire pit, which is where this one lives.
I also designed it to be off the ground so wood can stay reasonably dry and out of the snow and other weather. And, if I want to sweep or blow the debris away from it periodically, I can.
Finally, I designed it to look cool. So you’re not just looking at a hunk of sticks and brackets, but a skillfully assembled shape. It is made from five 2x12x12 pressure-treated Southern Yellow Pine boards, exterior screws and some miter-saw magic.
It’s not impossible to make this with a circular saw, but the miters might suffer somewhat. I used my 12-inch slide compound miter saw to mac-daddy these miters.
While you could scale the dimensions for this up or down, each piece of the octagon in this project is 20-inches long. (Make a test piece to help visualize scale).
Each miter for the frame is 22.5-degrees. Once assembled, it’s under 5-feet wide in all directions.
Making the miters. This project relies on accurate cuts. Because we’re building a shape, it’s important that all the pieces are as equal to each other as possible.
The first step is making sure your miter saw is cutting accurate angles. Check it with your square and adjust it before starting this or you will be upset later. Next, it’s important that the work is supported. Even a short 2×12 is heavy, and a support table of some sort is ideal for getting accurate cuts. Sharp blades don’t hurt either.
Next, I cut an 8-foot board down to 4-feet. This makes the pieces easier to manage. I then tune up the saw to be sure I get an accurate miter. A 2×12 is a lot of acreage to cut.
Measure once, mark the rest. The chance of making eight measurements and cuts exactly the same as each other by measuring them individually is almost zero. It’s much better to make one piece then copy it.
So make one piece, then copy it. I can do this on my miter saw work table because I can simply draw a line on it, then place my new pieces and cut. Have I mentioned how much I love my miter saw work table?
For circular saw cutters, use the first piece you cut as a pattern piece, like you’d do with stair stringers.
Make the frame. The flatter the surface you have to work on, the easier this part will go. I have a driveway that’s as flat as the surface of a lake during a thunderstorm, so I used my table saw deck instead.
I also oriented the boards so that all the good sides (i.e. not dinged by the forklift in the home center) are faced the same way. The show sides are placed on the table saw deck, and I fasten with Spax HCR-X deck screws.
Three-inch, #10 screws are ideal for making a great connection, but that’s a lot of steel threading its way through a loose miter. To get things stable, I clinched the pieces with some 2-1/2-inch screws. They’re just long enough to hold everything fast. Once I bomb a few longer screws in there, I replace the shorter ones with the heavier iron. I like three screws going through the miter in each direction.
I could assemble four of the eight sections on the saw table into two halves. I then joined the halves (this is fairly heavy by now) on the ground. I then raised it vertical and finished screwing everything together.
Shelves. The shelves serve two purposes. First, they’re the sections for the organizer. Second, they hold the piece together, like ribs. Because they have a structural function, and I’m a glutton for miter punishment, I interlocked them with the frame’s miters.
To get the overall length, I measured the span, flat-to-flat.
Next, I used a 1x scrap (3/4-in. thick, or half the thickness of 2x) to mark the edge of the shelf blank. Then, I tipped my saw to 45-degrees and cut to the line. This is not the easiest cut in the world to make. I chose it because it gives the shelf a connection to four shelf segments as opposed to two, which would be a lot easier to cut.
For the vertical dividers, I made the same angle cut. Then, when installing them, I found that using a square was the best way to close the miters at the top and make it look just right. I tapped them into place with my hammer.
I say tapped because I don’t mean pound. If you have to hit it hard, it doesn’t fit. Whack off half the thickness of a saw blade and try again.
Feet. I ripped a 2×12 in half on the table saw. Then I ripped 22.5 degree bevels on each end (the feet are shaped like a parallelogram). I clipped a 60-degree bevel off each foot on the miter saw to give the tops a nice taper, then fastened to the base.
When people ask me why I like long bit holders for my impact driver, it’s situations like this.
I also used the 2-in. screw approach to trap these pieces in place. Screwing at weird angles like this, it’s easy to shoot a screw out the edge of a board. It might take a few second glances for your brain to make sense of the geometry and where the screw is really going. I popped a few in the wrong direction.
Finally, I ripped a couple of stretchers to span between the feet.
Unless you’re the Hulk, this is too heavy to move. I rolled this into position in the garden. A trip up the porch stairs will probably require some hired muscle.
One more thought on vertical organization. Places for things breed places for things. For example, my axe. I usually just put it “over there” because there is no place for it. Now, with a nail poked into the side of the firewood organizer, there is.
Editor’s Note: Mark Clement is a carpenter in Ambler, PA, and co-host of the MyFixitUpLife show.
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