Introduction: DIY Laundry Bag Hamper

Got a nice laundry bag you like, but want it to stand up on its own, open and ready for all your dirty clothes at a moment's notice? Recently broke your other hamper, and don't feel like spending $50 to replace it? Just looking for another thing to make, because making things is fun? Well, I've got the perfect project for you!

Okay, I admit it's a bit of a niche situation, but I had a perfectly good laundry bag I liked, and the only problem was that its permanent home was slumped over in the middle of my bedroom floor. I wanted to make a hamper out of it just the right dimensions to stand it up in my closet out of the way. Conveniently, I was able to do this for next to no money, since I've got a bunch of wood on hand and more tools than I know what to do with!

In fact, I see some very comparable hampers at Target for $40-$60, though they sell cool looking bags for only $3! Check it out:

Expensive hamper we'll be making cheaper:

Cheap bag to use with this $10 frame:

Let's get started!

Step 1: Step 1: Planning.

As it happens, I planned this project mostly around materials on hand, but that's not typically the case. The first step in any good project is to sketch out what you want to make, perhaps with an eye to what materials you intend to use.

In my case, I decided to build the hamper around a laundry bag I already had. I wanted the laundry bag to fit around the top of a frame, and stand so that the bottom would be just barely on the ground - maximum volume to hold clothes, but if it's overfull, the weight isn't sitting on the bag or frame, but mostly on the floor. Further, I wanted the frame to be simple and collapsible so that I could move it out of the way if I wasn't using it or needed the closet space.

This sketch is what I came up with. The bag is 25" wide at the opening and 36" high (really, slightly more), so I wanted my frame to be about 36" from ground to top while open. 25" wide gives a 50" circumference opening for the bag, and there's a roughly 23" x 16" opening in my closet floor space to put the finished product. From that, I sort of arbitrarily chose 16"x9" as the opening rectangle over which I'd hang the bag on the finished frame. I knew I'd make the project out of sticks cut from fence posts roughly 3/4" thick, so I came up with the dimensions for a folding X structure in the notes above. I wanted to make a frame out of two X's attached at the top by cross pieces, so with 16" as the opening dimension set by the cross pieces, and 9" set by the open X's, I calculated that a 37" hypotenuse (leg) and a 9" width at the top (opening) would get me the 36" height off the ground I wanted.

Step 2: Step 2: Materials

I already mentioned that I mostly built this around materials I already had. Home Depot carries a lovely redwood fence post that looks just gorgeous when you sand and oil it with a bit of linseed oil, and I've used quite a few of them to make shelves and whatnot. I had a few extras on hand, so they were a natural choice for the project. And new, they're dirt cheap since they're completely unfinished: about $3 each for a 11/16" x 5.5" x 6' board (link below). One problem with them for this project is that, because they're not sold as structural, they tend to have lots of knots or imperfections that you'll have to work around for a project like this. Luckily, because they're 6' long and we only need 37" for this project, it's easy to find suitable boards.

Besides the boards, the only other thing we need to build the project is hinges, which I made with 3/8" bolts, locking nuts, and washers. 2" bolts will get through the two boards stacked on top of each other, a washer on either side, and the locking nut.

In total:

  • 2x Redwood fence pickets (avoid knots in the middle. At the ends are okay to cut around.)
  • 2x 3/8-16x2" bolts
  • 4x 3/8" washers
  • 2x 3/8"-16 nylon locking nut
  • 4 2" or so wood screws (drywall screws, whatever you've got).

You'll also need the following tools:

  • Power/palm sander
  • Power drill and ideally a countersink bit
  • Miter saw (ideally, not critical. A hand saw would do fine.)
  • Table saw
  • Jig saw (Again, can probably work around this.)
  • Compass (to draw circular ends on legs)

Redwood fence picket:

Step 3: Step 3: Make the Sticks for the Legs and Cross-bars

I sort of arbitrarily decided that 2 1/2" seemed like the right width for the legs, so we need to cut our 5.5" wide pickets down to that width. Set the gate on your table saw to 2.5" wide, and feed the pickets in lengthwise to cut those sticks. Take note of where any knots are in your boards - you will need to work your 37"x2.5" sticks around such imperfections, or else use an extra fence picket. Recall from the drawing, we'll need to make 4 sticks of 37" by 2.5", and then two shorter pieces for the cross-bars, 14.5" and 13". Cut the sticks to width with the table saw. We'll cut to length with the miter saw AFTER the next step, in case you mess up freehand cutting with the jigsaw. inSquare ends are ideal, though not especially critical.

Step 4: Step 4: Round Ends of Legs and Sand to Finish. Cut to Length

Since the ends of the legs will stand on the ground at an angle, it looks best to cut them. You could cut them straight at an angle, but then you have to figure out exactly what the perfect angel is with your laundry bag in place, or they won't be level. I decided it'd look best and be most flexible to round them off. To do that neatly, I drew a half circle on the end by setting a compass to a radius of 1.25", putting the point in the center of the leg and the tip touching the end, and drawing a circle to fit. I then cut it out carefully with a jigsaw. The jigsaw line doesn't have to be flawless, since you'll sand it smooth after anyway.

One thing I didn't do, but would doing this a second time: Once you've got all four legs roughly rounded with the jigsaw, clamp them all up so the square ends align then sand them all at once. For one, it'll give you a flatter, squarer surface to sand, so the edges will be cleaner, and for two, it'll give you four legs that are all identical length.

Once all legs are rounded, now's a good time to finish sand all the faces, if you haven't already. I just did this quickly with 60-grit, though you could progress to something finer if you want a really nice finish. I didn't care too much.

Finally, now that you've got nice finished and rounded-end legs, cut them to that 37" length from the round end. You can do each leg one at a time, or if you have room to maneuver, clamp them in a well-aligned stack and cut all at once.

Step 5: Step 5: Mark and Drill Hinge Holes

Now we want a 3/8" hole in the center of each leg to put our hinge bolt. I drilled two legs at a time, so the pairs would have identically centered holes and would fold perfectly flat. In retrospect, you should drill all four legs at once - any 3/8" bit should be long enough to get through all four, and that way there isn't any misalignment when opening the final product. Line up all four legs on the table and clamp them together. Mark the center point of the leg, 18.5" from the rounded end and 1.5" from the edge. It might help to center punch the hole before you start in with the 3/8" bit, since such a big bit will try to walk a bit on the way in. Since you're drilling all four legs at once, this doesn't ultimately matter, but it will be more aesthetically pleasing well-centered. You CAN drill farther than 18.5" from the floor end to have the feet open wider than the top (more stable), but then you'll shrink the distance-from-floor dimension also, for the same top opening dimensions.

When you're done, put the bolts through pairs of legs with the locking nut facing the inside (at least, that's my preference). Lay them out for the next step, where we'll fit up the cross pieces.

Step 6: Step 6: Cut Inner Clearances for Outer Cross-bar

In the final product, the outer cross bar will take up some of the same space that the closed inner-legs occupy. In order for it to fold flat, we'll need to cut away a clearance for that cross-bar. I did this by tracing the cross-bar cross section onto the inner leg of each pair, then clamped the legs up on the table and cut away the box free-hand with a jig saw. I could have cut them square, but decided it'd look better (and clear better while closing) to add a gentle S-curve to the end. So,

  1. Trace the cross-bar onto the inner leg so you can see what you must cut away
  2. Open the leg pair and clamp it to your workbench so you can cut stably with the jigsaw
  3. cut away the box so the legs will clear when closing.

If it doesn't quite make sense why you need to do this, have a look at the pictures in step 7 up next, and it should make more sense.

Step 7: Step 7: Fit and Secure the Cross-bars

At this point, you can lay your leg pairs on your work bench and put the longer outer cross-bar in place, resting on the cutouts you just made in step 6. Before you get to drilling anything, it's best to fit up the inner cross bar as well, in case you need to trim down the outer one so the inner one fits snugly. Case in point, in the second picture above, there's a bit of gap on the inner bar, so I trimmed the outer one down slightly so everything fit more snugly. This was probably because I calculated lengths on board thickness of 3/4", where it's actually slightly thinner at 11/16". Once you're comfortable that everything lines up right, you can hold the cross-bars in place and screw everything together. Since this wood is kind of fragile in its inconsistent grain and thinness, it's probably best to drill pilot holes, ideally with a countersink. In fact, I had a hard knot right under the screw location on one of my legs, which would have torn right apart without a countersunk pilot hole.

Step 8: Step 8: Finish Sand Sharp Corners

Finally, since we're going to be hanging a fabric bag on the open end, it'd be best not to have any sharp corners that might tear a full bag. Since I already had 60-grit paper on the sander, I just hit the corners with a rounding motion by hand, an they were quickly nice and dull. You could do the cross bars as well, but as long as there are no sharp points on the corners to puncture the bag, sharp edges shouldn't be a problem.

Congratulations on your new, super-cheap hamper!