Introduction: Adjustable Desktop Organizer

About: Jack of all trades, Master of none. I might not get much done, But Damm do I have fun. - Life of an ADHD crafter

Here we have two simple free standing shelves, that can be used to organize, and clean up almost anywhere, I use a set of them on my desk, but you can use them in the kitchen, workshop, craft room, children's room, to hold plants... anywhere that needs a bit more support.

These shelves can also be used in a multitude of different orientations and can be lengthened, or shortened, as needed. They can stand in a corner, or flat against the wall.

Needless to say I love them, and hope that you will as well. They are quite easy to make, and don't need many tools or time.


  • A messy corner of your house, or workshop that needs support, (this shouldn't be to hard for most of us to find, If you cant find one in your home, then you're the one who should be writing instuctables)

  • Wood, (I used a leftover 1x12, but what you use plywood or 1x6... depends on what you have, and how big you want to make your shelves. See step 1 for more details)
  • Table Saw (You'll only need this if the wood you chose is too wide for your shelves. If you want a small shelf and your using a 1x6, perfect, then you don't need the table saw)
  • Miter Saw (If you don't have one, most hardware stores will cut instore lumber for you, you just need to know the length you want it)
  • Plainer (optional)
  • Sandpaper (I used 220, and 320)
  • Tape Measure
  • Drill
  • Countersink bit, or tiny drilling bit
  • 1'' screws
  • Level (Since this shelf isn't very big I used my phone)


  • Stain or Paint in the colour of your choice. (I used Minwax special walnut)
  • Paintbrush
  • Soft cloth (if using stain)
  • Varnish (if using stain, I used a water based, semi-gloss)

Step 1: Determining the Size

Making a custom shelf allows you to make it precisely the way you want it. This may look a bit complicated, but trust me it's not. First what are you planning on using it for? your desktop, or to help organize your kids reading corner. You don't want something large and bulky taking up room on your desk, and something too dainty isn't going to be much help in the workshop, or kids room.

I'm making this as a gift for my niece so its on the larger side. It still looks good on my desk. but I would recommend going with a smaller size.

There are 4 different lengths of wood that you will need;

Thickness of wood used was (For large shelf = 3/4'' For small Shelf = 1/2")

I) This is the width of the shelves (For large shelf = 7'' For small Shelf = 5½")

II) x2 (For large shelf = 24'' For small Shelf = 12")

III) x3 (For large shelf = 14" For small Shelf = 11")

IIII) x1 (For large shelf = 17½" For small Shelf = 7½")

IIIII) x1 (For large shelf = 6½" For small Shelf = 4")

Feel free to play around with the sizes, if you want a longer shelf increase the length of "III", for a taller one "II" and "IIII".

As for what wood to use, for the Large shelf I used some 1x12 wood ripped down to 7'', for the small one I used a 1x6 planed down to ½" but you can use it as is. You can also use plywood, I would recommend the 3/4" so it doesn't get too bulky

Now that we have the numbers we can get to building.

Step 2: Planing the Wood

This is an optional step, that you likely won't need it if your using nice wood, but the wood I'm using hasn't been stored properly so its a bit curved, and I want it to be flat, so I just took it down from 3/4" to 5/8"

Step 3: Prepping the Lumber

Using a Miter saw, and the cut list in Step one, I cut out

  • 2) 24 inch Pieces
  • 3) 14 inch Pieces
  • 1) 17½ inch Piece
  • 1) 6½ Inch Piece

Then I sanded all the pieces down with 220g sand paper, this is much easer to do before assembling, be sure to get all 6 sides.

Step 4: Assembling the First Shelf

You will Need;

  • 1, 24"
  • 1, 14"
  • 1, 6½"

Use the 6½" Piece to mark a straight line across the bottom of the 24" Piece (on both sides of the wood so you know where to place the screws)

Put it on its side and place the 14" Piece so the top rests on the line.

Use the countersink bit to pre-drill the holes, you don't want it to crack. To keep the wood straight, drill one hole, then add in the screw, before moving on to the next one. Its a bit time consuming but I think I helps.

Now add the 6½" piece to the end, like shown in the picture.

Set it up and see that the shelf is level, (I used my phone as the level so I couldn't take a pic.)

Step 5: Assembling the Second Shelf

First since this shelf is going to be resting on the firs shelf, I used the first one to mark where to add the first 14'' piece onto the second 24" one. (mark on both sides so you know where to put the screws)

Attach it the same way you did the top.

Now you can decide how big you want the center of your shelves to be. I wanted the top to be the same as the bottom of the first so I went 6" in from the top, but you can do what you want.

Take care to keep your lines straight; fasten one side securely, then adjust, and fasten the other.

Next add the 17½" piece, secure it to the bottom shelf.

Then measure the distance between the secure ends of the two shelves (for me it was 10½'')

Measure the same length out on the 17½" piece and fasten down the second end as well. (for best results try to keep the screws for both these shelves in a straight line.)

Set up both shelves to see if they are level, make adjustments if needed, but if you took care they should be OK.

Lightly sand out the pencil lines.

Step 6: Finishing

Now you can decide how you want your shelves to look, you can paint it in all black, white, multi-coloured, or stain it however you think will look the best.

I used the "special walnut" stain from Minwax. (be sure to stir well)

I find it best to use a soft cloth (old t-shirt) to apply the stain, then I use a clean one to wipe off the access.

I let the first coat dry for 6 hours, then added another, and let dry overnight

The next day I applied 2 Coats of a water-based, semi-gloss varnish, sanding lightly with the 320g sand paper in-between coats. (when varnishing use long, even strokes, and take care not to apply it too thick.)

Keep an eye on the shelves as they're drying to catch any drips forming, (See pictures for places where drips like to appear.)

Step 7: Enjoy

You can now use these shelves to bring a bit of order into any corner of you house, or shop. They look great in the kitchen, or in your childrens room. (while the shelves are quite sturdy, you may want to fasten them together or to the wall for some extra support, especially around kids)

Play around with the order, and layout till you have exactly what you want. I have some examples, but I'm sure you will find more and better ways that fit your needs.


Organization Challenge

Runner Up in the
Organization Challenge