Workbox/Storage Shelf Tutorial + Printable Plans

Alternate Title:  "The Knock-Off/DIY Version of the Ikea 'Trofast' Storage Unit" 

We intended to publish this last week and life got in the way!  But as promised, here is the tutorial along with printable plans. (Told you my husband is awesome!)  They should be easy to download, but if you have any problems, please feel free to leave a comment letting us know. 
(*Update: The pdf is working now!  Sorry for the inconvenience!)

As a side note, our family is still LOVING this storage unit used as a workbox system for homeschooling.  It is fabulous and has made our school days so much smoother!

Workbox/Storage Shelf Tutorial:
1.  My husband purchased the MDF at Home Depot and had them cut the 1/2" MDF into three boards. (2 - 16 1/2" wide by 97" long; 1 - 15 7/8" wide by 97" long)  
*TipTell them to cut the 16 1/2" wide boards from the bottom up!  This way the saw does not have to be moved and the two cuts will be identical. The piece left over should be 15 7/8" wide.

2.  At home, he cut the boards to length to make the cabinet parts and cut the 1/8" MDF (eucaboard) to make the back.  (See plans for detailed dimensions.)

3.  With the leftover 1/2" MDF pieces, he cut forty-eight 3/4" "runners" that the bins slide on. 

4. Sanding the edge of MDF is important so that the marks from the saw do not show when it is painted.

5.  With all the pieces sanded, he measured and marked where the runners should be attached.

6.  We didn't have a nail gun, (the one we have had for years has mysteriously disappeared...so frustrating!) so he pre-drilled 3 holes in each runner, applied a moderate amount of glue and attached the runners with 3/4" screws.  He sanded off any rough edges by hand.  
*Tip: The glue is what really holds the runners on so whether you use screws or nails, don't skimp on the glue!  You can always wipe the extra off with a damp rag.

8.  After all of the runners were attached, it was time to paint all of the interior surfaces.  With MDF, primer is important, especially on the edges.  To paint the shelf, we used lacquer primer and a latex top coat.
*Tip:  The best primer to use is lacquer, second best is oil-based.  Latex primer can be used, but it does not seal the MDF quite as well and it is not as easy to sand. 
9.  Once all the interior surfaces are painted, the cabinet is ready to be assembled, including building and attaching the base.  (Again, see the plans for details.) 
10.  Fill the screw holes, sand and paint the outside. 
 *Tip: Bondo works great for filling screw holes!  It dries chemically, not by air, so it dries harder and more consistently. 
"I love this...but how much will it cost??"
If you are like me, that is the first question that comes to your mind!
Cost Breakdown:
  • 1 sheet 1/2" MDF--$22.00
  • 1 sheet 1/8" MDF (also known as Eucaboard)--$8.00
  • Wood Glue--$5.00
  • Screws--$10.00 (could have saved on this if the nail gun wasn't missing!!)
  • Paint--already had
  • Trofast Storage bins--$3.00 x 24 = $78.00 (tax included)
Total cost: $123.00

When compared to other options (you can read about them here), this was the best for our space and family needs.  While not the cheapest workbox system to use, this storage unit is extremely durable and can be used for many, many years.  (Sometimes spending a bit more for quality pays off in the long run!)  Considering the abuse it will take with daily use from children, durability is good!!  And hey, one day when the kids are grown, this will make an awesome storage unit for my dream craft room. =)  

Hope this tutorial is a help to you!  If you decide to use this, please let us know...we would love to see the results!

{*Note:  If you repost this tutorial, we ask that you simply give a link to the original source.  Also, please note that the printable plans are copyrighted.  Thanks in advance for your kindness!}


Linking up to: Today's Creative BlogSkip to my Lou, Singing Three Little Birds, The Lettered Cottage,  Not Just A Housewife, Adventures in Home Education, Savvy Southern Style, Miss Mustard Seed, Under the Table and Dreaming, Metamorphasis Monday


  1. You are AWESOME! thank you...love to all

  2. Thank you so much for the tutorial! I'm not using workboxes yet as my kiddos are a bit too young but can't wait to put my hubby to work in the next few years! Really appreciate you putting it online!

  3. Awesome!! You get what you pay for. And you can see this is a great investment!

  4. awesome! We have the ikea ones (the tall ones)...but one day we are going to need more...what a great less expensive alternative!!

  5. This is awesome! Thanks for linking-up!

  6. This is great! Bookmarked this for when I start homeschooling next year :)

  7. It looks wonderful and it will serve you well doing workboxing!.. we have been homeschooling for over 20 years and used the same system...I was just not quick enough to think about marketing it! :)...
    from another homeschooling, DIY crazed mom..


  8. Love this workbox storage system! It is obviously completely functional, but it also looks good and like you said, is very durable.

  9. wow! this is awesome! thanks so much for sharing! do you by chance happen to have your numbers and "done sign" available as a printable file? they are so cute!

  10. This looks like a great system. I think it would even be helpful with keeping my one year old busy!

  11. good technique used as less space is utilized..

  12. this is great! thanks for sharing we are starting homeschool in july and just found your page. lots of great tips and advice.

  13. How is the water resistance? I know that can be a big problem with MDF. I am thinking about making this project with a few adjustments.


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