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My son, Matthew, and I are outdoor enthusiasts and fish year-round in the freshwater lakes and rivers near our home in eastern Washington. Like most anglers, we’ve collected tons of rods and reels, tackle boxes and bags, and organizers for lures. And it’s nearly impossible to keep everything neatly organized and safely stored away.
We saw a cabinet specifically designed for fishing tackle at our local big box outdoor gear store. We liked the idea, but I knew I could build a stronger, more capable cabinet for a lot less money, and I could customize it for our specific gear.
After taking inventory of our gear, we finalized the design on paper, purchased the necessary materials, and built the tackle cabinet pictured here. It includes three storage shelves and two rod holders each holding six rods and reels.
Cut plywood pieces
▶ Cut cabinet sides, top and shelves to ½”. plywood. Next, cut the ¾” cabinet base. plywood and cabinet back ¼ in. plywood.
Next, countersink ¼ x ¼ in. rabbets in each end of the top of the cabinet and in the upper ends of the side pieces. Next, cut ¼ x ¼ in. rabbets in rear edges of cabinet top, sides and base to accept back.
Lay the two side pieces on your workbench and mill out the ¼” deep groove joints that hold the shelves. I installed three shelves and spaced the top two 10 inches apart and the bottom shelf about 13 inches above the base of the cabinet, which resulted in four storage compartments. Cut the grooves using a router fitted with a ½-in.-dia. bit of undersized plywood. Secure a ruler guide in place to ensure straight cuts.
Prepare to cut two ¼” deep x ½” wide grooves in the ¾”. plywood base to accept cabinet side pieces: First, notch the bottom front corner of each side piece so that it conceals the ends of the grooves when the cabinet is assembled. Outline the notch in pencil on each side by measuring ½” back from the front edge and ¼” up from the bottom edge. Then use a jigsaw or handsaw to cut out the notches.
Secure the cabinet together, with the top and shelves in place. Then place the assembled cabinet on top of the ¾-in. plywood base, centered left to right and flush with back edge. Draw lines along the inside and outside of each side piece, marking their positions on the base. Also mark the ends of the cut notches in the side pieces. Now move the cabinet out of the way and countersink the two ¼” deep grooves in the plywood base.
Assemble the cabinet
▶ Apply carpenter’s glue to the six shelf grooves and the rabbet joints cut into the top of the side pieces. Clamp the pieces together, then hammer in 1 ¼ in. nail the finish across the top of the cabinet, as well as up the sides and into the ends of each shelf. Space nails approximately 3” apart.
Lay the cabinet face down and press glue into the rabbets routed into the back edges. Set the ¼ in. plywood into the rabbets and fasten with nails. Now apply glue to the cut grooves in the base. Place the cabinet on the base, fitting the side pieces into the grooves. Secure the cabinet by nailing through the underside of the base and into the bottom ends of the side pieces.
Cut Fishing Rod Holders
▶ I mounted a fishing rod holder on each side of the cabinet; each holds six rods and reels and has an upper and lower rod holder.
Each top rack is a 2¾” wide board with six notches cut into it (one for each rod) attached to the side of the cabinet 1″ below the top of the cabinet. The lower racks are made up of four pine parts: two ends, a railing and an angled base.
Cut the top rod supports to the length of a 1×4 pine, then tear them to 2¾” wide. Use a jigsaw to cut the notches.
To make the two lower rod supports, cut the four ends and two angled bases from a 1×6 pine. Cut the two railings from a 1×2 pine.
Build the fishing rod holders
▶ Assemble each lower rack by placing the guardrail and the angled base between the two end pieces. Position the guardrail about an inch below the top front corner of the end pieces and ¼ inch back from the front edge. Position the angled base 2 inches from the bottom of the end caps, then angle it 45 degrees. Attach the railing and the angled base with glue and screws.
Spread glue along the bottom ends of one of the assembled bottom rod holders. Place it on the base of the cabinet and secure it by pushing in 2 in. screws through the underside of the base and into the end pieces of the rack. Repeat the operation to install the second rack on the opposite side.
Attach a top rod holder to each side of the cabinet, positioned 1″ below the top of the cabinet. Drive four 1½-in. screws through the interior of the cabinet and into each rack.
Once the furniture is assembled, smooth out any sharp, square edges with a router fitted with a rounding bit.
Use a 3/16-in.-rad. drill bit for smoothing the edges of ½ in. thick cabinet pieces, and a ¼ in. rad. drill bit to round off ¾ inch thick sections. After routing, fill the cracks in the edges of the plywood with wood filler if necessary. Once the putty is dry, sand all edges and surfaces with 120 grit sandpaper. Wipe off dust with a tack cloth.
Paint and prime
▶ Apply one coat of primer, followed by two top coats of acrylic latex paint.
Let the paint dry overnight, then attach four 2-in.-dia. swivel casters under the cabinet – locking casters in the front and non-locking in the back. Secure each caster with four 3/4-in. cylindrical head screw.
Finally, line the notches of the upper rod supports with felt. Cut a 9×12-in. sheet of adhesive-backed felt into ¾-inch-wide strips and glue them inside each notch.