Kitchen Caddy

Easy to make in a single shop session, these attractive kitchen holders make a perfect home for coffee filters, recipe cards, a notepad or just about anything else. 

TOOLS: Standard woodworking tools. An oscillating spindle sander would be a great help.

TIME: A few hours
MATERIALS: Hardwood stock or 1/4” plywood. Size (before cutting profiles): Large – 7” x 20”, medium – 6” x 15”, small – 5” x 13” 

Two standard shapes have always been associated with the kitchen. One is the outline of a rolling pin. You may not even own a rolling pin – I have no clue where mine is – but I’m willing to bet that if you own more than two cookbooks, at least one has a rolling pin on the cover. For me, though, the shape that most makes me think of my second favorite room in the house (right after the shop, of course), is that of an old cutting board.

Cutting boards come today in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and materials, but once upon a time, all were made of wood and all shared an identical shape. The main body was a short rectangle with rounded corners; a handle on one end of the rectangle always had a convenient hanging hole.

This shape was repeated throughout the kitchen – cast iron trivets, potholders, stove guards and even items with no truly useful kitchen function other than decoration often shared the shape. I guess that’s why I used it when I made a wooden holder for coffee filters for our kitchen some 20 years ago.

When we switched to a different kind of coffee maker that didn’t use the same filters, the old holder saw new duty as a place to keep mail, bills and other correspondence, so keep in mind the other possibilities for this project. 

The most common standard filter sizes are the #1, #2 and #4, but adjust the general pattern to match yours. 

As you cut stock to size, note that each holder is really a scaled-down version of the one before it. For the #4, I used standard 1/4” lauan plywood for the faces, and 3/4” x 1” red oak for the sides and bottom. The mid-sized #2 uses 3/8” walnut stock for the back face, 1/4” for the front face, and 3/8” x 1/2” stock for the sides and bottom. I used bird’s-eye maple for the little guy’s 1/4” back face, 1/8” front face, and 1/4” x 1/2” stock for the sides and bottom. 

Plane the stock to the appropriate thicknesses, and cut it to size. It’s a good idea to sand the flat stock you’ll use for the faces – after assembly, the inside will be impossible to reach.

1. Transfer the face patterns to your flat stock. For woods like walnut, use a dark pencil or a fine-tip marker.
2. Cut the sides and bottom for each holder to length, being sure that the sides extend up past the curve of the back face.

3. Apply glue to the side and bottom pieces, and sandwich everything together with clamps.

Remember that you can alter any of the dimensions, especially the sides and bottom as the depth of those pieces determines the holding capacity. Thinner stock yields an attractively thin holder that has to be refilled frequently; thicker stock makes a fatter holder that can go weeks between refills. Of course, if your holder will be for items other than coffee filters, there’s no limit to the dimensional changes you can make.

Transfer the face patterns to your flat stock (Fig. 1), and cut the faces out on a bandsaw or scroll saw. The straight edges of the faces can be cleaned up on a disk sander or with a sanding block, while a sanding drum on the drill press or an oscillating spindle sander makes quick work of the curved edges.

These holders won’t take much abuse, so simple butt joints in the lower corners are fine. (After 20 years, my original – shown on page 44 – has held together just fine.)

Cut the sides and bottom for each holder (Fig. 2), extending the side pieces slightly past the upper curve. We’ll want these pieces to be flush with the entire curve when we smooth it and round the edges later.

When you’re satisfied that everything is a good fit, glue and clamp up each holder (Fig. 3).

4. Knock the corners off on the bandsaw or scroll saw, and then sand the rounded corners and all straight sides smooth on the disk sander.
5. Give the sides a good sanding to remove all marks left by the disk and spindle sanders, and soften all the edges by giving them a slight rounding.

When the glued has dried, cut off the protruding portions flush with the curve of the handle on the bandsaw, scroll saw or by hand. To match the cutting boards we’re emulating, mark each corner for rounding, then cut and sand the profiles (Fig. 4).

Give the entire project a good sanding, starting with 100-grit, and move in steps up to 220-grit (Fig. 5). Finally, to make the impression complete, drill a mounting hole in the handle.

At this point, a good final finish will not only enhances their appearance, especially figured wood like bird’s-eye maple, but add durability.

Just about any type of topcoat will do; shellac, lacquer or a polyurethane varnish will all work well. The trick is to use a very small brush, the smaller the better, when finishing the narrow interior.

When dry, all that’s left is to find a good spot in the kitchen to hang your caddy, and fill it up.  Remember that although originally conceived as convenient storage for coffee filters, it can hold just about anything you’d like to be close at hand.

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