A CD’s slim, compact design allows for all sorts of creativity when it comes to storing them. Tall CD towers and spinning CD cases have flooded the mega-music stores.
Look under any passenger’s car seat or flip down any driver’s visor and you’ll probably find some sort of CD storage device that involves plastic sleeves. And if you’ve ever built a desk for the home office, you’ve probably purchased plastic hardware designed to hold and organize your software and music collections.
Last year Senior Editor Christopher Schwarz was building an entertainment center and wasn’t too excited about installing cheesy plastic rails designed to organize CDs into a handsomely built wooden project. Thinking there has to be a better way, he came up with one, opening all sorts of new doors for CD storage. All it takes is a table saw, a dado stack and some creativity.
The concept is simple: Rows of dados specifically sized and spaced to hold the ends of CD cases. You can plow these dados into any piece of wood and then cut the result into all sorts of shapes – creating endless CD-storage possibilities. I liked Chris’s idea so I decided to stretch his concept. It worked great.
Cutting the Perfect Dado
Before I even headed into the shop, I collected a bunch of CDs from around the office and began measuring their thicknesses with dial calipers. The thickness of the cases ranged from .393″ (a little more than 1/4″) to .412″ (a little less than 7/16″). So I decided to make the first test dado .415″ wide.
Next, I headed to the shop. To create a dado exactly .415″ wide, I used two 1/8″ dado blades, an 1/8″ chipper and two .020″ shims. Then, I cut a test dado 1/2″ deep in a 3/4″-thick piece of scrap plywood. Next, I tested the .393″-thick case (the smallest one we found) and the .412″-thick case (the largest one we found) to see how they fit in the dado. To my surprise, the .415″-wide dado was a perfect match. The .412″-thick case slid in and out without any difficulty. And while the .393″-thick case drooped slightly in the dado, it stayed in place just fine.
Next, I tested how much wood I should leave between each dado. Too little wood created too fragile a project while too much wood looked chunky. I concluded that 1″ (which includes the width of the dado) worked quite well, and allowed me to work with a simple whole number.
One more important fact: You need to cut dados and not grooves to make this work. Dados are cut across the grain; grooves are cut with the grain. When you cut dados, the CDs won’t ever be pinched by the seasonal expansion and contraction of your board. Plus, the end result will be stronger. That’s because wood is stronger along the grain than across it.
Rows and Rows of Dados
Before you start cutting your dados, you need to determine the shape of your CD rack. If it’s simply going to be an insert inside a cabinet, measure what you need. But if it’s going to be a rack hung on your wall, or a case you set on your desk, let your creative juices flow.