Articles - Strip Storage
05/11/2016
Since I scratchbuild with styrene, I started collecting a lot of those little Evergreen plastic bags that they come in. It became increasingly more difficult to find that one size I needed at the moment. Recently I came across a tip in one of the magazines about using PVC tubes as a storage medium for the strips. I thought it was a great idea. I went to Lowe's and bought a pile of 5-foot lengths of 1/2" PVC tubing (found in the plumbing section). If you maintain a large inventory or model in a larger scale, you may want to opt for a larger diameter tube to store more items in each. The Evergreen styrene strips are 14 inches long, but I decided to make my individual storage tubes 12" long, so that a bit of the styrene strips sticks out of the tube. This makes it easy to see how many full-length strips I have in stock. I went off to my trusty table saw and cut the 5-foot tubes into equal 11-7/8" pieces (so that I can get 5 sections out of each 5-foot tube). Next, I measured the diameter of the tube and cut square pieces of styrene. This is shown in the photo.
Strip Storage
After filing the bottoms of the tubes smooth, I clamped a handful of them to my work space and used 5-minute epoxy to glue the styrene squares to the bottoms of the tubes.
Strip Storage
Next, I went to the computer and created a spreadsheet with a handful of values that I then printed. What I decided to do was make the measurements of the strips in terms of inches in S-scale (my modeling scale). So the last entry is "4 x 12", which means a scale 4 inches by 12 inches. I have another document that converts those values to the Evergreen product number, but that could just as easily have been printed out on the labels. You have plenty of space on the tubes. Pick a nice big, bold font so that the labels are easy to read.
Strip Storage
After the glue had set, I used clear tape to tape the individual pieces of paper to the tubes. I tried to line them up such that the blue pre-printed information on the tubes is not visible. You could paint the tubes beforehand if so desired. Mine rest in a drawer, so they don't need to look pretty. The reason for using square pieces of styrene for the bottom of the tubes should now be obvious; it keeps the tubes in the right orientation so that I can always see the labels. As you can see in the photo, it is now easy to grab the strips that I need, and it is pretty obvious which one I need to order next! One side note: make sure the glue used for the bottom is thoroughly dry before inserting the styrene strips (or else they get glued to the bottom of the tube!).
Strip Storage
I also made these tubes for my strip wood, and for the various sizes of brass (phosphor bronze) wires and shapes (not shown). I have more strip wood than can fit in one tube, so additional tubes will need to be made for those.
Strip Storage
Update: Well, I lived with the PVC tube approach for a bit over a year. There were several problems with it. It was hard to determine if I had any shorter-than-12-inches strips leftover. Despite the square pieces of styrene to keep the tubes from rolling around, they still moved around in the drawer quite a bit. Finally, a number of those square pieces broke off over time. Of course, I didn't realize that until I tried to grab the tube, and all the pieces fell out of the back. But, really the big issue for me was not being able to see if I had short pieces available. Sometimes when you just need a small piece, you don't want to cut up a long piece. So, I had to get the tube out of the drawer, dump its content, select the piece I wanted, and then try to put all the pieces back in.

So..., my solution was to just "hard-wire" the drawer with fixed slots. However, using wide strips of wood is wasteful. One day I was at my local Hobby Lobby and found some 2-foot long 3/32" by 1" strips of basswood. My drawers are 14-3/4" deep, so I cut the strips to the right length and glued them on to the drawer bottom. No table saw needed for this solution. The boards are glued 3/4" on-center. Leftover pieces of the boards are glued together to form another slot. Very little of the boards was wasted.

At the front of the drawer I wrote the S-scale dimensions of the strip, and the Evergreen part number by each slot. For most pieces I can grab them with my fingers, but with others I have to use a pair of tweezers. However, I can now see, at a glance, what I have in my inventory, and if I have a short piece available for a particular dimension.
Strip Storage
Update #2: Having run out of my supply of spacer boards from Hobby Lobby, I one day noticed my collection of wooden popsicle sticks. Again, these can be bought at Hobby Lobby for not much money. I had two kinds on hand. The wider but thinner "tongue-depressors" and the more conventional ones. Both work fine; it is a matter of how much you want to place in between them. I simply applied a thin layer of wood glue to one edge and pushed it into place. The thicker ones stay put by themselves, but the thinner ones need some temporary support. Once done, the storage system works just as well, and leaves more room for the materials rather than being taken up by the wooden slats.
Strip Storage
Update #3: I finally got around to organizing my strip wood collection. Using the above-mentioned popsicle-stick method, I marked a line every 1/2-inch on the drawer's front edge and inside the drawer bottom. I then glued two sticks on each line. I found it easiest to just quickly run the edge of the popsicle stick over a file so that it is nice and smooth. The stamping and the slight warping of the popsicle stick can leave it such that it will not stand up straight on its edge. I marked each slot with a pencil indicating the scale dimensions of the wood that is to be stored in the slot (I got a listing of what is available from the Kappler Mills web site - my favorite strip wood manufacturer). As you can see in the photo, for some materials I have a lot of strips available. To solve storing those, I simply glued another row of popsicle sticks on top of the first row.
Strip Storage
This second drawer shows how I make the number of vertical popsicle sticks as high as I need them to go.
Strip Storage
The third drawer dedicated to my wood supply is the miscellaneous drawer. Here I needed separators that matched the inside height of the drawer, so I cut some strips of 1/4-inch MDF and glued those into the drawer. The large section of the drawer is dedicated to scrap materials. Next, is a slot for wood I use for making railroad ties, followed by one for all sorts of dowels (round strip wood), and, finally, a slot for special shapes.
Strip Storage