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newcougar 07-26-2012 06:04 PM

Closet organizer plans. Opinions requested.
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Hello everyone! I am very new to woodworking, and have been reading this forum a lot lately. I've mainly done projects for my garage & shed (shelves, workbench, wood horses, etc), but I'm about to tackle a closet organizer as my first indoor project. I'd really appreciate it if I could get some feedback on my design plan. I'll try to keep it simple and to the point. Thanks in advance! Means a lot!

This is the closest example I could find of what I'm trying to accomplish:

The material I plan to use is 3/4" MDF, which I will sand & stain after the cuts are made and prior to the final assembly.

I'm not sure exactly how the shelves and horizontal parts are connected to the vertical dividers in the picture above, but I love the way it looks. I don't mind spending a lot of time at this project, as I want to learn how to do shelves like this so I can do a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in the living room down the road.

The only way I can think about doing this, is using a router to make dado joints that are cut into the vertical dividers and then using cleats nailed to the back wall for support (maybe I might not need cleats for the middle horizontal shelves, as no heavy objects will be going there, but I'm sure I'll need them for the top horizontal shelf). Is this the best way for obtaining the look in the picture above?

Then, to eliminate the sharp corners on the outside edges, I was thinking of using the router table with a round over bit. I guess this would look the best? Any recommended size come to mind?

Then, I was thinking that I should maybe place thin felt padding on the bottom on the vertical dividers that will touch the floor, so it doesn't scratch the hardwood. Seems simple enough. I'll just have to take the width of the felt pads into consideration when making my cuts.

I won't be having an drawers in my closet organizer. So that's one thing I don't have to worry about.

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to read this and post any thoughts, suggestions or comments! It is greatly appreciated!


mae-ling 07-26-2012 06:50 PM

Mkae the uprights wider then the shelves, that way the roundover works where it joins.
Uprights say 16" shelves say 15.5" or whatever to be behind the roundover.

1910NE 07-26-2012 07:32 PM

I've never heard of sanding/staining MDF. Most would either buy the stuff with laminate already attached, or plan to laminate it after making the cuts.

Are you referring to plywood of some kind? If so, 3/4 is a good bet. I like to use the stuff with the poplar veneer, as it reduces the amount of finish sanding, and paints/stains very nicely.

Millertyme 07-26-2012 07:54 PM

i usually use the melamine stuff. i make a box first and attach it with particle board screws or confirmat screws. depending on the height i will attach one or two dividers in the middle to keep it stiff. Then i drill holes for adjustable shelves (or you can buy the melamine with the holes already drilled.) you will also need cleats at the back of box to attach to wall.

Toronto 07-26-2012 08:08 PM

I built 3 closets similar to this last year for my Mom, having never done it before. The thing with closet shelves is that you want them to be adjustable as your needs change, you buy different clothes, more shoes, etc etc. My Mom has already had me make some new shelves as she's reconfigured the closets a couple times since I installed them and moved shelves up and down.

What I did is I bought this shelf drilling rig from Lee Valley Tools. This is a Canadian company but for sure these things are available in the US too. If not, just buy from Lee Valley and have it shipped across the border. Our country needs the business, lol!,180,42311

It allows you to easily drill holes for shelf pins in the vertical pieces of wood that are going to hold your shelves. It was time consuming to drill the holes but very easy to understand and do. I also bought the split depth collars for drills as ensures you don't go farther into the wood than you want to when you drill the hole:,42311,42335

I also bought sleeves to go into the holes and shelf supports to put in the holes to hold the shelves (although the sleeves are not absolutely necessary as you can put the sleeves into the bare holes - just make sure you don't oversize the hole for the support as I think the hole has to be slightly smaller if you don't use the sleeve):,43648,43649

My Mom is very pleased with the versatility and configurability of the closets I did for her. Adding the sleeves (which don't cost much) gave the closet a real finished look. And, also, remember that you don't have to drill the holes all the way up the vertical pieces and down. You can just have a few at each vertical position, that will then allow you to adjust the shelves just a few inches up and down (but I found it less complicated to just run the holes all the way up).

Good luck!

newcougar 07-26-2012 08:38 PM

Thank you guys so much for the replies!

mae-ling: I like that idea. I was thinking the rounded edges wouldn't look right when you matched the vertical & horizontal pieces together. This should solve that nicely. Thanks!

1910NE: You're right. After a little research, staining MDF seems challenging at best. But I will now paint the MDF instead. I'll also look at those other types of wood too. Just so hard to decide on what to use.

Millertyme: I'm not familiar with melamine. I'll have to research that.

Toronto: I'm from Canada too! And I also love LeeValley website. Good stuff there. My hopes was to learn from this project and carry over to building a floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcase for the living room. But I do see your point about the adjustable shelves. Maybe I should go this route instead.

Toronto 07-26-2012 09:14 PM

You're welcome. What I did is I bought oak veneered plywood at Home Depot. I didn't want to go to the extra trouble of painting wood and the veneer finish looks very good (and plywood is lighter and easier to handle than MDF). For the front edges I used the iron on oak edge veneer that Home Depot sells. You can also do it in maple or birch and remember for the back of the closet you can use a thinner veneered plywood or just have the back wall there. You buy an edge veneer width that is just slightly wider than the wood thickness and use the tool they sell to cut off the slight excess that overlaps each edge. The finished product way better than painted wood and hardly much more expensive, if even.

mae-ling 07-26-2012 10:56 PM

Or you can use solid wood edging with oak or maple or whatever plywood

Millertyme 07-27-2012 05:18 AM

Agreed.oak ply at home depot is 45 per sheet and mdf is 35.
I don't now if you have your mind set on mdf, but if you do, they make a lightweight mdf now which is easier to work with.
THe melamine plywood is nice though because y can buy it in pre ripped sheets

newcougar 08-08-2012 05:55 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I've updated my design and did a 3D image in Google SketchUp (I was bored @ work one night). The vertical dividers will be slightly smaller in width (15.5" as oppose to the top horizontal shelf of 16"). I think the rounded edges will look better this way. I've also added a row of cleats on the bottom for the vertical dividers to rest on - which negates the concern for damaging the floor. The bottoms of the vertical dividers have been tapered to allow better use of the floor space, and an overall cleaner look, imo.

I still plan on using MDF, but I will prime and paint it, instead of stain. I was thinking about using Oak Plywood, because it looks soooo nice, but it's almost twice the cost, and this is only a closet organizer. I'll use the oak plywood when I make my floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and fireplace mantel, probably.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts & opinions!! Greatly appreciated!

Millertyme 08-08-2012 08:11 AM

like i stated before, oak ply is only $12 more a sheet at Home Depot. Thats not that much

Blondesense 08-08-2012 10:00 AM

I've been following this thread because I would like to do something similar someday.
I like the angled verticals, but I can't wrap my head around how they will work.
If you angle the vertical dividers, how will you attach them to the wall?
Also, I assumed the verticals sitting on the floor carried most of the weight, how will the whole thing be supported?

edited to add: Kreg also makes a shelf pin jig that is a bit more economical.

mae-ling 08-08-2012 10:20 AM

Usually with the angles verticles we leave 2-3" before the angle starts, this rests on the floor.
We also use a 1x2" or similar on the inside edge and attached it to the wall and then the verticle to it.

newcougar 08-08-2012 02:23 PM

The weight of the vertical dividers are supported by the lower cleat, but also they will be screwed into the sides of the upper & middle cleats (you can't see the middle cleats in the picture, but they support the rear of the middle shelf that divides the upper & lower racks). I'll pre-drill the holes, as it will be a delicate place to put in screws.

Am I making a huge error in judgment here?

I couldn't find the oak ply in Home Depot. I could only find it at Kent. I'll double check again though.

fstellab 11-15-2012 10:30 AM

Did you consider a all wood - no plywood design

I am starting out with building a closet organizer for a 8X5 walkin. All of the plywood designs turn me off (especially since I don't have Table Saw).

I like the all wood "vented" designs such as:

I ordered one 24" shelf unit so I could create a plan based on the
retail version.



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