Introduction: Shoji Style Sliding Closet Doors, From Scratch.

Picture of Shoji Style Sliding Closet Doors, From Scratch.

My house had the generic metal bi-fold closet doors which look very cheap. I wanted a higher end look but not a higher end price tag. After pricing real Shoji doors at near $1000 I decided I could build something similar, make it more durable, and make it cost a lot less.

I built this from scratch, with simple tools and a special jig called the Kreg Jig. It is available at the big box home improvement stores. I will show you how to use this jig, although the instructions it comes with are very easy. Simple to use with a professional result.

Step 1: Step One: Plan It Out

I am writing this about a year after I completed my doors, so I don't have my original draft paper to show you. I measured my opening and drew it out on a piece of paper. To make 2 sliding doors with overlap of one edge, find the centerline of your opening and draw a line. Figure out how large you want your wood frame to be. I used poplar wood because it is lightweight and more importantly, cheap. I just used the width that the wood comes in for the bottom and I cut it in half for the vertical frame pieces. Once you have the dimensions of your wood, add 1/2 the width of a vertical side to the final width of the door. That should be right but check your own dimensions to be sure. Mine did not come out perfect because the closet frame is not square.

You can make any pattern you want in the middle of your doors. I choose a pattern based upon the size of the "shoji screen" I had. You can use various items for this, but I choose Corrugated Plastic (the stuff plastic signs are made of) that I ordered online from a craft supply site. It's translucent but not enough to see your junk in your closet and it looks really cool with a light behind it.

Tools used:
Tape measure
Carpenter square
Kreg Jig
Utility knife
Table saw
Chop saw

Material used:
Poplar wood
Corrugated Plastic
Sliding door kit
small screws

Step 2: Step Two: Make the Frame

Picture of Step Two: Make the Frame

Now comes the fun part. The Kreg Jig I mentioned in the intro is invaluable to this instructable. The kit cost around $30 if memory serves correctly and is simple enough for a child to use (if you let children use power tools). The jig includes everything you need except for the clamp. It also includes the screws but you will probably need to buy more. They have a special head on them for use with the driver attachment included with the jig. I won't give a step by step on how to use it but the pictures are pretty self-explanatory.

When you construct the frame, its best not to do it on the floor as I did. The reason is because the clamp will raise up the pieces when you drill them together and you will end up with a frame that is warped.

ALSO NOT PICTURED BUT VERY IMPORTANT!!! Square up your sides with a carpenter square and check it after you screw the pieces together to keep it square!!

Step 3: Step Three: Hang the Door

Picture of Step Three: Hang the Door

I found a sliding door kit for $15 at the big box home improvement store. It included the upper rail and 4 hangers which are adjustable.

Measure and mark your holes and mount the rail.

I measured a set distance on the door frame on each end of the frame so the 2 hangers would be spaced evenly.

The kit also included a piece for the floor to keep the doors in line. So far I have not needed it but I recommend using double sided tape on your floor instead of drilling if you do use it in case you change your door in the future.

Step 4: Step Four: Adding the Middle Pieces

Picture of Step Four: Adding the Middle Pieces

This portion is where you can get creative. If you have a big enough insert piece you can do different kinds of geometric patterns. I kept mine simple but you don't have to!

Remember to measure twice and cut once! Drill your jig holes into the middle pieces and attach them to the frame. I added the middle divider first then the shorter pieces to it second.

Step 5: Step Five: PAINT!

Picture of Step Five: PAINT!

I originally wanted to stain the wood but I got lazy and after trying out a few different stains I wasn't satisfied. I ended up using some Rustoleum black paint I had laying around. It gave a high gloss black finish to the wood. I like it a lot.

Step 6: Step Six: Add the Backing

Picture of Step Six: Add the Backing

Corrugated plastic is easy to cut with a utility knife so measure it out, and slice it up!

I attached mine to the wood using small screws and washers. If you use the plastic like I did, make sure the screws are deep enough into the frame so when the plastic deflects you can't see it from the front of the door.

Step 7: Step Seven: ENJOY!

Picture of Step Seven: ENJOY!

Congratulations, you now have custom made closet doors. They look much better than the construction grade metal doors and will surely add some value to your home.

The total cost of this project, including buying the special jig, was right around $100. The corrugated plastic was the most expensive part, over $50 but I have enough left over to do another set of doors. I am also planning on using the same plastic in the master bathroom with wooden dowels securing it against the glass but that is another project.

Thanks for viewing my instructable!!


AlbertC42 made it! (author)2016-06-13

I made this. I used a Mahogany stain and I used the Tapco plastic. A little pricey, but it works SO well. Rolls out and is firm and in place. Cuts easy and attaches quickly. Whole project took a bit longer than I figured.

anuragdelta (author)2016-06-13

one thing is there slide space on top or bottom so that airleak or insect may enter . as i also wanna make sliding door partition for my dining hall to cool it efficiently and also separate dining from living area
carpenter said there is chance of airleak in sliding partition is it true its 8 ft hight 20 ft wide

lolstrom made it! (author)2014-06-29

Thanks for this great Instructable. The kreg jig has changed my life, LOL. I am now in the process of replacing all the closet doors in my house.

I didn't like the look of the corrugated plastic, but I am loving the product from Tap Plastics. I used 1x2 and 1x3 poplar and spray painted it

neonack (author)lolstrom2016-03-30

Did you have a bottom rail to help back and forth movement?

lolstrom (author)neonack2016-03-30

I did not bother with a bottom rail. The doors moved nicely with just the top rail. The doors did swing a bit but it wasn't an issue for me

jdoherty5 (author)2015-01-08

Nice one man

AdrianaG (author)2014-08-19

Would hot glue work instead of screws?

AdrianaG (author)2014-08-19

Why do you add the middle pieces after the doors are hung?

Cube_ (author)2014-04-30

the corrugated plastic looks roughly right, but my only concern is when light shines through, wouldn't it look wrong? (I'm intending to make this myself)
Do you have any idea of some other plastic material that would work as well?

Cube_ (author)Cube_2014-04-30

Wooooah never mind :3
I just found this
at $8.95 per linear foot it's somewhat expensive but it looks like the proper rice paper and it's much stronger.

createdbyme (author)2013-11-28

So awesome...I have a large living with an opening to the dining room which we never use its just for show. I wanted to turn into bedroom for youngest but being that I'm a renter didn't know what to do, this is perfect it can be taken down anytime. Thanks

Espo78 (author)createdbyme2013-11-28

That is a great idea!

spigro (author)2013-11-01

Awesome posts everyone, I have a question in total how much do you think it ran you. I've purchased the kreg jig an will be starting this project soon I'm excited hanks again for the info :)

questteck (author)2013-09-09

Excellent, project, would love to be able to do it out of aluminum and other more sophisticated materials, if you know how please share. Thanks in advanced,

fgwii (author)2010-01-18

this SUCKS!!!!!I find what I need thought it was a good site then I end up having to pay for the instructions!I will look elsewhere!

mados123 (author)fgwii2013-08-21

If you don't have the ability to figure out to use the website to get all the info then you probably can finish this project.

Espo78 (author)fgwii2010-01-18

You only need to pay if you want to have all the steps listed on one page.

Greg__ (author)2013-03-24

I tried to build doors like this a few years ago, but they all twisted and warped. I now think I used the wrong type of wood and the wrong technique to join the pieces. I'm going to try again with poplar using your methodology. What are the dimensions of the wood that you used?

Espo78 (author)Greg__2013-04-01

My doors have been hanging for almost 4 years no with no noticeable warping. Well no more than when I first installed them! They were warped slightly from the begining because I assembled them on the floor instead of on a table so the jig elevated and twisted the wood slightly. So don't do that haha. But there have been no changes to the doors they are holding up great!

Dadrepus (author)2013-03-25

I did the same thing a while back but haven't finished the project. Wife and I don't agree on finish/stain. So, here that stand right now. I used oak 1x3 and veneer panels, notched out the verticals to accept the horizontals (design choice, wouldn't do it again). Used Kreg Jig to fasten them. On left pivot door, on right sliding. No sanding or finishing, for 4 years, #$!*&^%$#@.

Espo78 (author)Dadrepus2013-04-01

I like the look of the natural wood without stain, actually.

IBBen (author)2013-04-01

We finished up one set of sliding closet doors this weekend (used 1" maple with five coats of wipe on Poly finish, picked up the corrugated plastic at Home Depot). We love them and can't wait to finish up with the other two doors (and we still need to trim the doors). Thanks for the tip, this was a fun and rewarding project!

Espo78 (author)IBBen2013-04-01

Those came out really good! Please post a pic after you finish up the trim!

mirad83 (author)2012-05-14

I LOVED this idea when I saw it so I decided to give this a try and I'm so happy with the end result!! Mad props for coming up with this dude!

I did one slight modification.. Since I had a table saw, I actually made about 1/4" grooves into each side of the wooden frame and slid the corrugated plastic into the frame, then joined the second of the two long sides. Didn't take pics along the process but I'll attach images final product. I also used wood glue as I was joining the sides b/c a couple of the pieces ended up coming off...

I had been wanting to make closet doors for our non-standard closets (for which we couldn't find semi-decent doors for) and was unsure of how to join all the sides of the wooden frame. This gave me the perfect solution, the jig saw! Awesome! Thanks so much!

Espo78 (author)mirad832012-05-14

Wow those look great!

mirad83 (author)Espo782012-05-16

Thank you!! :D

sway (author)2012-01-21

I love this idea and actually stopped in today looking for this.
I have wood sliding doors in my apt and would like to make the conversion using the materials I have as much as possible.
My concern is the thickness of the doors.
Any suggestions?

mirad83 (author)sway2012-05-14

Ours are 3/4" thick popler...

raiderforlife (author)2012-04-25

im actually doing this project this week. im wondering, did you use caulk for your joints and if anyone thinks this would be a good idea? thanks

Espo78 (author)raiderforlife2012-04-26

I did not use any caulk on the joints. the Kreg Jig works really well. My closet doors are still installed and have no issues whatsoever . Good luck with your project!

Athena2060 (author)2011-09-14

Harbor Freight or other big boxes have some cool clamps that are a real help holding things in a 90 degree angle, this becomes especially important if you don't have that extra set of hands to hold something while you screw it together. I had throught of this same thing except clear plastic to give it a french door look. Part of my porch was enclosed but not insulated, I use it for litterboxes and want to put in a door that still lets the light through from the window but keeps a little more of the cold and smell out. Thought is to leave one of the bottom squares open as a cat door.

dan11111 (author)2011-03-27


MsEarthtonez (author)2011-03-16

Try (it's an art supply store in nyc). :)

DeusXMachina (author)2011-01-19

Whoops. My mouse spazzed out and I accidentally added this to the "Anything Kinky" group. And I can't figure out how to undo that.

Well...I guess it could be used for a seductive silhouette undressing scene. :-P

caldweln (author)2010-07-13

I got some really good sliding track and rollers at Ariel Door Gears Ltd... Roy was the one who helped me, they were full of advice and talked me through the whole process.

PMSandaGun (author)2010-04-27

What thickness did you use for the corrugated plastic? I was just looking to see where i could find some and saw there's a huge range of thickness in millimeters. I want to let in as much light as possible, but also have privacy (my strange house has bifold doors for my bedroom door and I want to replace them with these)

Espo78 (author)PMSandaGun2010-05-03

I did not know it came in different thicknesses. Mine is about the same as cardboard...about 1/8"

cmbrughnews (author)2010-03-06


DimensionalDecay (author)2010-02-21

Just finished a second one for another closet in my house, for some stupid reason this closet has a window in it, so instead of plastic for the backing, i used plexi glass, it cost a bit more, and there's some extra weight, but if you get a translucent color, i did blue, it looks great with the light shining through.

Espo78 (author)DimensionalDecay2010-02-21

Hey thats awesome. Can you put up a link to some pictures of how it came out? And the tip about the sign store is pretty good. I wish I had thought of it!

rjsone (author)2010-02-18

 Great project!  

Hopefully, is not the best online source for the plastic.  I can get  sheets of 48" by 96" white plastic for only $12....PLUS $104 SHIPPING?!?!?!?  Same shipping price for the smaller 36" by 48" pieces.  I get that the pieces can be large, but we're not talking about steel beams here!

Maybe there is a source with pieces cut closer to letter size for reasonable shipping charges.

DimensionalDecay (author)rjsone2010-02-20

If you want the plastic, i suggest going to a Sign store, a place that will make signs for you, they use that plastic all the time, should be cheaper to buy it there, and there wont be any shipping cost.  Thats what i did, can't remember the price, but it wasn't to much.

Espo78 (author)rjsone2010-02-18

Yeah I had that site bookmarked but I'm not sure thats the one I actually used. Wherever I got it the shipping was pretty expensive, I think I spent about $50 on the plastic and shipping combined

stolzerpa (author)2010-02-07

Looks awesome....where did you buy the corrugated plastic???

Espo78 (author)stolzerpa2010-02-08

I bought it here I think:

but it is available in many places, you might be able to find it local to you as well at craft stores.

Gabypotter (author)2010-01-25

this looks sooooo cool
it's looks like japanesse style
I like It a lot!

Im building a closet and you gave
me a great idea!

raul38 (author)2009-12-18

Nice work!!
I wanna make a shoji lamp.

HedgehogNinja (author)2009-10-08

Thanks so much! I've been looking around for this!!!!!!!

Mick0s (author)2009-10-04

Wow, really nice project! I've actually been thinking of something similar for some bedroom cupboards myself. Really impressed with the use of corrugated plastic, never would have thought of that, and it looks great! The only slight criticism I might add, it looks like the wood you've used is very lightweight, and thin. Personally I'd use something a little sturdier, which would in turn give the door a more heavier feel when sliding it, but each to his own. You also might find that without the bottom rail attachment, the doors would tent to swing back and forth. Naturally, adding the bottom rail would stop this.

fritsie123 (author)2009-10-04

Very nice doors and it seems it isn't all that much work either. The plastic looks way better than I would have imagined! Please also show your bathroom doors when you're finished!

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