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POP Projects is a collection of new and classic projects from more than a century of Popular Mechanics. Master skills, get tool recommendations, and, most importantly, build something of your very own.


My son, Matthew, and I are avid outdoorsmen, and we fish year-round in the freshwater lakes and rivers near our home in eastern Washington State. 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 it all neatly organized and safely stored away.

We saw a cabinet specifically designed for fishing tackle at our local outdoor-gear big-box store. We liked the idea, but I knew I could build a better, sturdier cabinet with more capacity for a lot less money, and I could customize it for our specific equipment.

After taking inventory of our gear, we finalized the design on paper, bought the necessary materials, and built the fishing-​tackle cabinet shown here. It features three storage shelves, and two fishing rod holders that each hold six rods and reels.

pop projects tackle cabinet

George Retseck

Cut the Plywood Parts

▶ Cut the cabinet sides, top, and shelves from ½-in. plywood. Then cut the cabinet base from ¾-in. plywood, and the cabinet back from ¼-in. plywood.

Next, rout ¼ x ¼-in. rabbets into each end of the cabinet top and into the upper ends of the side pieces. Then cut ¼ x ¼-in. rabbets into the rear edges of the cabinet top, sides, and base to accept the back.

Lay the two side pieces on your workbench, and rout the ¼-in.-deep dado joints that hold the shelves. I installed three shelves and spaced the top two 10 in. apart, and the lower shelf about 13 in. above the cabinet base, resulting in four storage compartments. Cut the dadoes using a router fitted with a ½-in.-dia. undersized plywood bit. Clamp a straightedge guide in place to ensure straight cuts.

Prepare to cut two ¼-in.-deep x ½-in.-wide dadoes into the ¾-in. plywood base to accept the cabinet side pieces: First, notch the bottom front corner of each side piece so it’ll conceal the ends of the dadoes once the cabinet is assembled. Outline the notch in pencil on each side by measuring ½ in. back from the front edge, and ¼ in. up from the bottom edge. Then use a jigsaw or handsaw to cut out the notches.

Clamp the cabinet together, with the top and shelves in place. Then set the assembled cabinet on top of the ¾-in. plywood base, centered left to right and flush with the rear edge. Draw lines along the inside and outside of each side piece, marking their positions on the base. Mark the ends of the notches cut into the side pieces, too. Now move the cabinet out of the way and rout the two ¼-in.-deep dadoes into the plywood base.

Assemble the Cabinet

▶ Apply carpenter’s glue to the six shelf dadoes, and to the rabbet joints cut into the top of the side pieces. Clamp the parts together and then hammer 1¼-in. finishing nails down through the cabinet top, and through the sides and into the ends of each shelf. Space the nails about 3 in. apart.

Lay the cabinet face down, and squeeze glue into the rabbets routed into the rear edges. Set the ¼-in. plywood back into the rabbets and secure with nails. Now apply glue to the dadoes cut into the base. Stand the cabinet on the base, fitting the side pieces into the dadoes. Secure the cabinet by nailing up through the underside of the base and into the bottom ends of the side pieces.

Cut the Fishing Rod Holders

▶ I mounted a fishing rod holder to each side of the cabinet; each holds six rods and reels and has an upper and lower rod rack.

Each upper rack is a 2¾-in.-wide board with six notches cut into it—one for each rod—fastened to the cabinet side 1 in. below the top of the cabinet. The lower rod racks are made up of four pine parts: two ends, a guardrail, and an angled base.

Cut the upper rod racks to length from a pine 1×4, then rip them to 2¾ in. wide. Use a jigsaw to cut the notches.

To make the two lower rod racks, crosscut the four ends and two angled bases from a pine 1×6. Cut the two guardrails from a pine 1×2.

pop projects tackle cabinet

George Retseck

Build the Fishing Rod Holders

▶ Assemble each lower rod rack by setting the guardrail and angled base between the two end pieces. Position the guardrail about an inch below the upper front corner of the end pieces, and ¼ in. back from the front edge. Place the angled base 2 in. up from the bottom of the end pieces, and then tilt it back to 45 degrees. Secure the guardrail and angled base with glue and screws.

Spread glue along the bottom ends of one of the assembled lower rod racks. Set it onto the cabinet base, and secure by driving 2-in. screws up through the underside of the base and into the rack’s end pieces. Repeat to install the second rack to the opposite side.

Attach an upper rod rack to each side of the cabinet, positioned 1 in. below the cabinet top. Drive four 1½-in. screws through the inside of the cabinet and into each rack.

Once the cabinet is assembled, ease all the sharp, square edges with a router equipped with a rounding-over bit.

Use a 3/16-in.-rad. bit to ease the edges of the ½-in.-thick cabinet parts, and a ¼-in.-rad. bit to round-​over the ¾-in.-thick parts. After routing, fill any cracks in the plywood edges with wood filler if needed. Once the filler is dry, sand all edges and surfaces with 120-grit sandpaper. Wipe away the dust with a tack cloth.

Paint and Prime

▶ Apply one coat of primer, followed by two topcoats of acrylic latex paint.

Allow the paint to dry overnight, then attach four 2-in.-dia. swiveling casters to the underside of the cabinet—locking casters in front, and nonlocking in the rear. Fasten each caster with four 3/4-in. pan-head screws.

Last, line the notches in the upper rod racks with felt. Cut a 9×12-in. sheet of adhesive-backed felt into ¾-in.-wide strips, and stick to the inside of each notch.

fishing tackle cabinet

Courtesy Tim Faszer