Discarded cardboard tubes
were attached to strips of wood to make a quick and cheap
light-duty storage unit for small pieces of wood.
Bruce W. Maki,
Warning - Read This Disclaimer:
This article describes the construction of a potentially dangerous
storage device, using waste products for something beyond
their intended purposes.
This is an unproven design and could cause bodily
harm if any fasteners fail to hold. Any person that
reproduces this design does so at their own risk.
This article is for entertainment value only. The
following information should not be viewed as
We've been doing some roofing work lately and every time we
finished a roll of Ice and Water Shield I couldn't help but
think that the heavy cardboard tube in the center of the roll would
make a really handy storage organizer. In fact, I've been collecting
these tubes for a couple of years now.
I've been on an organizing kick lately, and I finally got around
to cobbling these tubes together to concoct some sort of storage
device. It actually worked. Of course, the best feature is... this
project was virtually free. The tubes were waste products,
and I had plenty of wood scraps available for the other parts.
|A cardboard tube from a roll of Grace Ice and
Water Shield. These tubes are 38 inches long and have an
inside diameter of 5 inches. The cardboard is quite heavy,
about 1/8" thick.
I don't know if other brands use tubes that are as heavy as
the ones used by W.R. Grace.
||The basic layout I wanted to accomplish. The two
boards are pieces of 1x4 Douglas fir, which were once
horizontal slats for a twin bed. Fir is good strong wood with
straight grain and little tendency to warp.
|I drilled a 1/2" hole about 7 inches from
the end of each tube. The purpose of this hole is to let me
drive a screw through the other side of the tube, into
the wood slat.
||It might be tempting to drive a screw like
|... which results in this.
But... I have no confidence that this will hold the
tubes in place once I store some materials in them. I can just
see the tubes falling on my head while I'm working in
the shop someday.
||So my solution was to create a small "load
spreader" piece of wood. This is basically a large
washer, with a curved side placed against the inside of
This is very important. Without some sort of load spreader or
curved metal washer, I'm concerned that the cardboard will tear out
when weight is applied to the tubes. And if these tubes ever get wet
(if the roof leaks, for example) the cardboard is going to lose much
of its strength. I have to take all reasonable precautions with any
object mounted overhead.
Making The Load Spreader Blocks:
I made this "load spreader" by ripping a small
strip from the edge of a scrap of 5/4 x 6 radius edge deck
This could also be done with a hand saw or a circular saw
(be careful, don't try to trim the edge from a short block, it
leaves you nothing to hold onto).
The curved edge of deck boards gave me a pretty close fit to the
inside of the tube.
I chopped these special strips into short sections and drilled a
hole in the middle of each piece (otherwise the small piece of wood
will split when a screw is driven through it).
||I used a drill/driver with two bit-holder
extensions so I could reach all the way through the tube and
fasten the screw.
|Note how the rounded piece of wood meets the
inside of the tube. This should help transfer the weight to a
larger area of cardboard, making the connection stronger than
using a screw by itself.
I used 1¼" long Simpson Strong-Drive Screws, which
have a wide head.
Note that these last few photos show the attachment being made near
the end. This is for demonstration purposes only. On the
actual project the screws were 7" in from the end. It's too
dark in those tubes for pictures.
||In a matter of minutes I was able to assemble
this row of 6 tubes.
The red arrows point out the strips of wood that hold these
I found that the easiest technique was to:
- Start the screw in the pre-drilled hole in the "load
spreader" block of wood.
- Insert the wood block into the tube with my left hand.
- Use my left hand to guide the screwdriver tip into the screw
- Drive the screw with my right hand.
This took a little practice because it's necessary to keep the
drill perfectly aligned with the screw, and angling the drill is
restricted by the cardboard tube.
A Second Row:
My original idea was to employ two layers of tubes, but when I
realized the need to use the wood "load spreader" block, I
saw that this piece of wood would lay on the bottom of the
upper (first) row of tubes. This would interfere with putting
millwork into the tubes.
|My solution was to use some plumber's tape
(perforated steel strap) to hold additional strips of lumber
to the first row of tubes. The strap is screwed to the 1x4's
with short sheet metal screws, #8 x ½".
One of the drawbacks to this approach is that the weight of the
entire second row is supported by only two tubes in the first row.
I'll need to ensure that the second row doesn't get too much weight
applied to it.
Note how the 1x4's for the second row are not directly above the
strips for the first row. If they were aligned, I wouldn't be able
to get a drill into place to fasten the ends of the first row's
boards to the ceiling.
||The second row assembled onto the second pair of
This completes the fabrication of the millwork organizer.
It's very important that any heavy overhead object be securely
fastened to solid wood framing. Redundant fasteners are a good idea.
|Of course, there was no way I could
actually lift this monster into place, hold it with one hand,
and drive in some screws to attach it to the ceiling.
So I set it on top of a 7-foot step ladder, using a big
block of wood for a spacer to bring it closer to the ceiling.
From there I was able to install the rack by myself.
|I drove a couple of 2½" cabinet screws
through each end of both mounting boards. These screws were
driven into the bottom chord of the roof trusses.
You can't see the trusses because I have kraft-faced
insulation installed in the ceiling of my shop. But it was
easy to feel through the paper facing to find the edges of the
Under no circumstances would it be considered safe to
mount an object as heavy as this (about 25 pounds when empty) to
ceiling drywall using any sort of hollow-wall anchor. The only safe
mounting method is to use wood screws, cabinet screws, or lag screws
driven into the ceiling structure. Drywall screws and many
types of deck screws are too brittle for this purpose. Nails
are right out.
I built this organizer with the 1x4's spaced at 24" on
center, so the strips of wood could be fastened directly below the
roof trusses. In some buildings it may be necessary to first attach
some 2x4 cleats to the ceiling (running perpendicular to the joists
or trusses), and then attach the organizer to the cleats.
||The finished product.
|Loaded with millwork. These are all shorter
pieces, 3' to 5' in length.
||For an additional degree of security, I
installed a long piece of plumber's tape under each end of the
unit. These straps were screwed into the bottom of the truss.
If a tube ever becomes loose, these straps should stop it from
Finding These Tubes:
Not everybody does roofing work, so these tubes might not be
readily available. However, Ice and Water Shield is widely used, and
some of these products have heavy fiber tubes at the center.
I suppose the first place to inquire would be at a local roofing
contractor. You might be able to visit a job site and pick up some
tubes. Keep your eyes open for roofing jobs and ask the workers if
they'll set the tubes aside for you. In some parts of the country
the cost of waste hauling is getting expensive, and some builders
and roofing contractors may be glad to get rid of some waste
products for free.
There are several brands of ice and water shield on the market. I
have primarily used Grace brand, so I don't know if other brands
have center tubes that are quite as thick as these. The tubes Grace
uses are about 1/8" thick. They are so sturdy I can
stand on a tube and it won't crush.
Sonotubes could also be used. Sonotubes, or their generic
equivalent, are heavy cardboard or fiber tubes used as forms for
concrete footings. Sonotubes come in many diameters. I think the
smallest I've seen is 6" or 8". Lumberyards and home
centers normally stock these.
My Last Warning:
I recommend keeping an object like this out of the reach of
children. Even older children might be tempted to hang from
the open tubes. I suppose these could resemble gymnastics
equipment. I've known a few teenagers that could not
possibly walk past something like this without jumping up and
hanging from it, just to prove something. If you have any
people like that in or around your household, then don't
Remember... if you build this and it comes crashing down on
someone's head, it's your fault, not mine.
- Basic Carpentry Tools
- Cordless Drill/Driver
- Spade Drill Bit, ½"
- Step Ladder
- Table Saw (Optional)
- Hand Saw
- Lumber, 1x4x4'
- Simpson Strong-Drive
- Cabinet Screws
- Plumbers Tape (Perforated
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