Sunday, 17 February 2013

How to build a shoe organiser to tame a messy closet

This was our entrance-way closet before:

So I decided it was time to build a shoe organiser to tame this mess. Here is the finished product (sorry about the darkness - we don't have a light in that closet yet). I've added hooks on right side of the closet to hang our dog leashes and bags on too. 
Our entrance-way closet is under the stairs so its one of those Harry Potter style walk-in closets that is fairly spacious so I decided to build a 1.2m (4 feet) wide shoe organiser that is 90cm (3 feet) tall, with four shelves. If you don't have a Harry Potter style under-the-stairs closet, this shoe organiser would also look good just placed in the hallway/ entrance-way.

I made this using MDF because it is cheaper than using plywood or pine. It was also cheaper to buy MDF in 2.4m (8 foot) lengths and cut it to size using my sliding mitre saw than to buy it in several smaller lengths (such a buying four of the 1.2m lengths, two of the 90cm lengths etc). I bought four of the 2.4m lengths for this project  and used the left-overs to build a closet organiser in my room.

Difficulty: This is fairly easy to assemble, providing that you have cut everything exactly right or it won't fit together properly.

- Four 1.2m (4 foot) long pieces of MDF that are 30cm wide (1 foot) and 18mm thick (3/4 inch thick). These are the horizontal shelves.
- Two 90cm (3 foot) pieces of MDF, also 30cm wide and 18mm thick. These are the vertical sides of the shoe organiser.
- 1.8m (6 foot) length of MDF, 30cm (1 foot) wide and 18mm thick. This is to build the six shelf dividers. Do not cut this yet. Because the middle shelves are 18mm thick, the dividers will not be 30cm high each - they'll be closer to 27cm-28cm high.
- a sliding mitre saw, capable of sliding to cut 30cm (1 foot) wide MDF panels.
- screws. I used 50mm (2 inch) screws to attach the horizontal shelving, and to fix each shelf divider in place I used 38mm (1.5 inch) screws.
- a cordless drill to pre-drill your holes.
- a counter-sinking drill bit is best, but using one small (the size of the screw body) and one large drill bit (the same size as the head of the screw) is fine instead. 
- a tape measure and pencil
- white paint and a paint brush

1. I started out by making a rectangle using two of the 1.2m MDF pieces and the two 90cm pieces:
I used two 50mm screws to connect each corner together, pre-drilling the holes. I don't have a counter-sinking drill bit, so I just used a small drill bit (the size of the screw body) to drill the holes and a large drill bit (the same size as the head of the screw) to drill 2mm into the top of the hole so that the screw head could sit slightly under the surface of the MDF. This means it is completely hidden once the wood filler has been added later on.
Counter-sink the screws
2. The next step is to connect the first of the two 1.2m middle shelves. Use the tape measure and pencil to mark out 30cm on each of the two 90cm side pieces. Pre-drill two countersunk holes on each side and attach the shelf using 50mm screws.
3. When I measured the distance between this shelf and the bottom shelf, it measured 27cm so that is the height to cut the first three shelf dividers. Double check yours before cutting because it depends on how all of the other pieces have been measured, cut and assembled - you might find you actually need to cut them at 27.5cm or 28cm. If I had measured everything with rocket science precision then technically each shelf divider should be 27.6cm high each (and that's assuming the manufacturer has produced these at exactly 18mm thick). This is why I wait to cut them, rather than cutting them all at the start. If your divider height is larger on the bottom, it just means that the other shelves will need shorter dividers to compensate.
4. Measure and mark where each divider will go. I placed the middle one in first, at 60cm from the edge, then attached the other two 30cm from the centre divider. Attach the dividers using the 38mm screws - two screws at the top and two at the bottom.
I find it easier to work on the shoe organiser when it is lying down, but I just stood it up for this photo.
5. The next shelf is a similar process. I marked out 60cm from the bottom of the side pieces and placed the shelf there. I then measured the distance between the two shelves and found that this time it was 28cm, so I cut the two dividers at 28cm and attached these.
5. I measured and cut the top divider at 27.5cm and attached this, then applied wood filler to all of the screw holes. I had drilled a couple of mistake holes in the wrong places too, but this is no drama because with wood filler added its completely unnoticeable.
After the wood filler had dried, I sanded it down and it was ready to be painted:
6. I used a paint brush for this one, but a small roller actually work really well on this type of project. I used the same white paint that I used to paint our fence because the paint was designed to withstand exterior conditions such as rain. I'm not planning on putting wet shoes on this shoe organiser, but just in case someone does put muddy, wet shoes on it, I'd rather have a waterproof paint on it that will protect the MDF from turning to mush.
I used white paint because our closet is dark but I think this shoe organiser would look really good if it was painted in a more fun purple or blue colour. If you are planning to place this in a hallway where it would be seen by other people, I'd recommend using a more interesting colour.

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