Introduction: An Entry Organizer

[UPDATE: I hope you'll vote for this, as I've entered it into the Workshop Contest.  Thanks!]

The dream house for our family of four would include a mud room--a place to collect all the crap we bring home but don't want lying on the floor. The problem: we don't live in our dream house. What we do have is a small home with small rooms.

Just inside our front door, between it and the wall when the door is open, is a pile of crap--shoes, backpacks, gloves, hats, etc., all crammed into a space that's about 9 inches by 50 inches, but more likely spilling onto the floor in front of the door. So, I thought to finally organize it a bit with some sort of furniture.

Since I've never put together a stick of furniture in my life, what little knowledge I have on the subject is theoretical. Fortunately I just bought a cheap power miter saw at Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and I picked up a pocket-hole jig at the big-box hardware store. With these two tools, and a steady supply of curse words, I'm sure I can knock something together.

First, though, I need some drawings.

Step 1: The Plan

Above are the drawings I made in Trimble Sketchup. Actually, this is the third version of the idea, all of which took about fifteen hours of fiddling about until I was happy with the design.

A note about how I've used Sketchup here: I drew each board individually, consulting the chart below for actual board dimensions (because a 1x3 isn't 1 inch by 3 inches, but 3/4 inches x 2.5 inches).

North American softwood dimensional lumber sizes (source:
1 × 2 34 in × 1 12 in (19 mm × 38 mm) 2 × 2 1 12 in × 1 12 in (38 mm × 38 mm) 4 × 4 3 12 in × 3 12 in (89 mm × 89 mm)
1 × 3 34 in × 2 12 in (19 mm × 64 mm) 2 × 3 1 12 in × 2 12 in (38 mm × 64 mm) 4 × 6 3 12 in × 5 12 in (89 mm × 140 mm)
1 × 4 34 in × 3 12 in (19 mm × 89 mm) 2 × 4 1 12 in × 3 12 in (38 mm × 89 mm) 6 × 6 5 12 in × 5 12 in (140 mm × 140 mm)
1 × 6 34 in × 5 12 in (19 mm × 140 mm) 2 × 6 1 12 in × 5 12 in (38 mm × 140 mm) 8 × 8 7 14 in × 7 14 in (184 mm × 184 mm)
1 × 8 34 in × 7 14 in (19 mm × 184 mm) 2 × 8 1 12 in × 7 14 in (38 mm × 184 mm)
1 × 10 34 in × 9 14 in (19 mm × 235 mm) 2 × 10 1 12 in × 9 14 in (38 mm × 235 mm)
1 × 12 34 in × 11 14 in (19 mm × 286 mm) 2 × 12 1 12 in × 11 14 in (38 mm × 286 mm)
That way, when I'm happy with the design, I could pull it to pieces virtually and know what kinds of boards I'll need, how long each should be, and how many uncut boards to buy.

I'm using 'whitewood', which is a softwood that's not treated for rot. I think it's spruce. Generally, the standard lengths of these boards are 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 feet. I tried planning my design around these dimensions to avoid waste, but I wasn't especially successful! There are too many variables for an inexperienced doofus to handle.

Each type of board in the second graphic is color coded according to it's nominal dimensions. Below is the cut list. Keep in mind that some dimensions, marked with ~, would end up being cut to fit as closely as possible into an existing spot, rather than measured with a tape measure and then cut. No one wants to measure a piece of wood 22 57/64" long.

1 1x8, ~53.5" long
3 1x6, 53.5" long
2 1x6, 5.5" long
2 1x4, ~12" long
3 1x3, ~51" long
3 1x3, 47.5" long
2 1x3, 12" long
3 1x3, 5.5" long
2 1x2, ~23" long
1 1x2, ~51" long
3/4" plywood, 42" high x ~51" wide (the drawing says 41 7/8" high, but that's just silly. The dimension isn't critical in this application, and 42 is just easier).

The cost of the wood ended up at $43. I had the plywood on hand, though.

Also required for this project:

A power miter saw
A pocket hole jig
1 1/4" pocket hole screws (the length of which is specific to 3/4" thick material)

Step 2: The Shoe Shelves (part 1)

The first part to build was the face frame for the shoe shelves. It's made of 1x3s. I cut 3 boards 47 1/2" long (by stacking them up, aligning one set of ends precisely, then cutting the other ends to get three exactly equal length boards). These are the middle boards.

Then, I stacked two boards of the cutoffs and trimmed those down to exactly 12".

Using the pocket hole jig, I drilled two pocket holes on each end of the middle boards. I used the pocket screws to form the outer frame, and then added a board in the middle to complete the face frame. This middle board was placed so as to leave a wider gap between the middle and top boards than between the middle and bottom boards; thicker boots would eventually be going in the top gap, and skinnier shoes in the bottom gap.

Step 3: The Shoe Shelves (part 2)

To the face frame I added some sides. These are 12" long 1x4s. Instead of using a measuring tape, I laid the boards on the face frame, and marked them for the cuts. I cut them a bit long, then ganged them together and cut again for a precisely equal length.

Then I drilled the inside front edges of the boards for pocket screws, and attached them to the face frame as shown, flush with the outer edge of the face frame. It helped to use a bar clamp to attach the parts together while I drove the fasteners.

Step 4: The Shoe Shelves (part 3)

To add some rigidity to the face frame, we'll add some horizontal boards. These are 1x3s, approximately 51" long (again, we'll cut to fit rather than use a measuring tape).

After ganging them together and cutting them to length, I drilled one pocket hole at each end of each board (on the bottom side), and a series of pocket holes along the front edge (again, on the bottom side). The pocket holes on the end will attach these boards to the 1x4s we attached in the last step, and the holes along the bottom front will attach each board to its face-frame member.

Step 5: The Shoe Shelves (part 4)

for this step I'll need a 1x6 cut to 53.5" long. Since I'll later need 2 other 1x6's cut to the same length, I ganged three boards together and made the cut for equal lengths.

Two of these boards will be notched to fit around the plywood back. The notches would each be 1" deep and 51" wide. This sounded like a pain in the ass to get perfect with my jig saw, and it was. I don't know why, but using a straight edge with my jig saw never works out like I think it should. If you're not comfortable with imperfection, you could:
  1. Decide which of the faces of each board would be the 'good' side.
  2. Gang them together
  3. Use a table saw to make the 1" cuts near the ends
  4. Plunge cut the long 51" cut on that table saw.
  5. Because of the curved table saw blade, stop well short of the end of the cut to finish with a hand saw. Marked the fence so you know about where to stop.
This seems a bit dangerous, but if you're very lucky when you're done you'll still have you'll fingers.

Anywhoo, after checking the notch's fit on the shelves, I screwed it to the shelves from underneath the top shelf.

Step 6: The Plywood Back

Now that our shelves are put together, I could add the plywood back. I wanted a tight fit, so I cut the plywood board to fit the shelves instead of measuring with a tape measure.

Once again, pocket screws were drilled, and the parts were screwed together so that the bottom of the shelves were flush with the bottom of the back.

Now, on to the top cabinet.

Step 7: The Top Cabinet (part 1)

Remember that other 1x6 we notched earlier? Gang that together with the un-notched 1x6, and mark for the dividers. Since these will be used for scarves, gloves and hats, and each member of the family gets one, they'll be spaced equally apart to make four compartments.

That means five dividers, of course (two on each end, and three in the middle). I measured and marked the front side of the boards, and transferred the lines to the top of the bottom board, and the bottom of the top board so I'd know where to place the dividers in the next step.

Step 8: The Top Cabinet (part 2)

I knew from my drawings that this cabinet would be pretty short, which would limit my ability to put the pocket holes where they wouldn't be seen. Ultimately, I decided that I could live with pocket holes on the visible front edges of the dividers, since the door would be shut most of the time to hide them.

So, I ganged together three 1x3s and two 1x6s, and cut them all to exactly 5.5" long. Then I drilled pocket holes in each of the narrow faces of the boards, front and back, top and bottom.

I then lined them up on the marks I made on the bottom board, and screwed them down. BUT!  I cracked one of the ears off the bottom notched board when I screwed into it to attach an end divider.  I guess one needs a little more meat to avoid splitting the wood, even with the self-drilling pocket screws.  I had to re-attach the ear with epoxy and re-locate the pocket hole to the inside of both end dividers.

Flipping that assembly over, I then lined up the marks and screwed the dividers down to the top board.

Step 9: The Top Cabinet (part 3)

One problem with a shallow cabinet like this is that whatever you put in it might fall out immediately. So I decided to use a length of 1x3 to create a lip along the bottom to prevent that. Again, after marking the board I cut it to fit and clamped the resulting board in place. Pre-drilling and screwing from the bottom completed this part.

note: after putting it together, I decided I wanted to cover the pocket holes in the middle dividers after all, so I used some scrap 1x3 to cover them up. There was enough space between the lip and the divider to fit them in.

Step 10: The Top Cabinet (part 4)

At first I thought to use a piano hinge for the door of the top cabinet
(see the drawing). But then I realized I had a couple of surface-mount European-style overlay hinges lying around, so I used those instead. I really wish I had taken photos of this part, because I really didn't know what I was doing and could have used a reference myself (really hard to find online, as these hinges are called all sorts of things).

To install, I first made a template, figuring I could use them to mark the holes for the screws before installing the hinges. I put the hinges on a piece of cardboard and marked the outlines of the mounting plates, and the screw holes, then I cut them out as precisely as I could. I clamped the door to the cabinet in the open position, using spring clamps and a couple scrap pieces of wood to hold the door in place. Then I taped the templates to the top of the cabinet and the door.

For a full-overlay door (which, when closed, covers up the cabinet frame completely), the hinges need to be located such that, on the door side, the inside edge of the hinge is away from the edge of the door. That distance is equal to the thickness of the door plus 1/8th inch. That allows the hinge room to open without the door smashing into the cabinet as it does so, and to close so that it covers (overlays) the frame of the cabinet. See the notes in the second picture for a little clarity on this.

One thing I'd have done differently if I'd realized ahead of time that I was going to use this hinge: attach the hinges to both the top of the cabinet and the door *before* assembling the rest of the cabinet. I had almost no room to use a screwdriver doing it this way.

Step 11: Final Assembly (part 1)

Time to attach the top cabinet to the plywood back. Just like the shoe shelves, it slips over the plywood back and is attached with pocket screws on the top and sides. I decided not to worry about attaching the bottom of the cabinet with screws. It wasn't going anywhere.

Step 12: Final Assembly (part 2)

Last step! Pretty simple--I cut to fit two 1x2 boards a hair less than 23 inches each, and pocket screwed them to the sides of the plywood back to unify the top cabinet with the bottom shoe shelf and to cover the plywood edge.

Step 13: Finish

For a finish, I chose Rustoleum X2 spray paint. Super smelly, and may not last, even using the grey primer made for it; time will tell.

To allow for easier access, I removed the back from the shoe shelves and
top cabinet so I could more easily spray the paint. I also removed the hinges. I used wood putty in all the holes I could see, then I sanded every exposed surface with 120 grit sandpaper on a belt sander, then painted.

To prime, I laid down light coats, with 20 minutes between them, until I achieved full coverage. Same with the paint and clear. I probably should have sanded the clear after, but I was losing steam. Onward.

Once the primer, paint, and clear were down and had about a day to dry, I screwed the hinges back onto the top cabinet and the door.

This came out well, but I used a lot of spray cans and the house smelled like paint for days. I should also have used a lot more wood putty, as when I was done I could still see some holes around the various knots and elsewhere. But it came out reasonably well, and I'm happy with it.

The next piece I make will be finished with a water-based stain and satin clear. After sanding and applying some wood conditioner, I would brush on the finish. And I would follow up with a couple coats of satin clear for protection.

Step 14: Wall Mounting and Hooks

During the build, I added some legs to the bottom. I'd planned on using some french cleats to simply wall mount it, but I noticed the thing was getting really heavy, and with backpacks and shoes I figured it might weigh too much. So I decided to add legs (which are a bunch of 1x3s cut at complicated angles and pocket screwed together) and also screw it to the wall (from inside the top cabinet) using wallboard anchors so that it wouldn't tip.

I also added some coat hooks for backpacks, making sure they were high enough that, when hanging, the bags wouldn't rest on the top of the shoe shelves.

Finally, I added some 3/4" aluminum angle to protect the bottom edges of each shoe shelf.  I attached them with some outdoor mounting tape, which is pretty damn strong. 

Those interested in adapting this, I've added a Sketchup file of the plans.

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