Introduction: Simple Cheap Shoe Rack

About: We're two college guys who love to make things and want to bring you along for the journey. Instagram @lakecitiescraft

My sister and I recently moved into an apartment together, and as a trade I gave her the significantly larger room and she let me set up my lathe on the balcony. In an effort to conserve space, and maximize organization, I made this shoe rack. I decided to write an instructable to highlight two concepts: simplicity and customization.

Now, often when we think of something being customized, we think of 'tricked-out' or something that was altered to increase functionality, but that doesn't have to be the case. I want to encourage customization in the sense that you can make a project fit perfectly for your needs, kind of in the #BuiltNotBought mindset. In this project that meant simply making the shoe rack the exact width and height to fit a given number of men's size 8.5 shoes. You don't have to take someone's plans and make a replica. Take them and figure out how to make them your own. may be an oversimplification of the concept, but sometimes we just need a starting point.

The simplicity of the project is pretty evident. It is made from three pieces of wood, some glue, two finish nails, and cost less than $10. And it was only that expensive because I bought poplar instead of using scrap wood... because I'm in a tiny apartment and had no scrap wood of adequate length *tear.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

This is what I used, but there are some substitutions that could be made.


  • Miter Saw (anything that can cut up to a 1"x2")
  • Drill Press (or a hand drill and care)
  • Tape Measure (ruler, inch worm? jk)
  • Speed Square
  • Wooden or Rubber Mallet (or a piece of scrap wood)
  • 2 drill bits (1/2" and one slightly smaller than the finish nails)
  • Pencil


  • (1) 1"x2"x6' Poplar Board
  • (2) 1/2"x6' Poplar Dowel
  • Wood Glue (I used Elmer's Max because it's what I had on hand)
  • 2 Finish Nails
  • Wood Stain

Step 2: Measurements

As I mentioned, I tailored the dimensions of the shoe rack to my specific shoes. To determine the width of your shoe rack, I suggest laying the two dowels parallel to each other and setting down however many pairs of shoes you would like to have per row (I did 4 pairs and ended up just over 30"). Measure this length and add 1" (each end will be inserted 1/2" into the sides of the rack). Make sure the shoes fit on the dowels comfortably; they don't need to slide in like a dovetail joint. Making it too tight of a fit will cause issues removing and replacing the shoes. Side note: If you face one shoe forward, and the other backward, the curves fit together better and they take up less width.

Most of my shoes have a similar height, except for my hiking boots, so I put those on top and based the height on the rest of the shoes. All four corner posts are the same height. You will notice that each end of the shoe rack is an H frame. The length of the cross-piece for these is fairly arbitrary; it just needs to be wide enough so that the shoes do not fall off if the rack is bumped. After cutting the four posts I simply took the leftover from the 6' piece of poplar, and cut it in half.

Now that our pieces are cut, we need to drill a couple of holes. First, we need to mark the depth cuts we will drill for the dowels. I used the measuring tape and speed square to mark the center of each of the four posts, then marked where to drill at the top and halfway down the post (see pic). I measured the depth on the drill press with the speed square (1/2") and marked it with a piece of tape.

Finally, I drilled a small hole through the 2" direction of each of the 4 posts just above where the lower dowel would be inserted. This is for the finish nail to go through, and should be slightly smaller than the nail. Drilling this hole will make sure the finish nail goes in smooth and straight as well as put most of the tension on the head and second piece of wood, which will help pull the two pieces of wood together and create a snug fit.

Step 3: Assembly

As you can imagine, with only 10 pieces of wood assembly is a snap! The first thing I did was lay down one of the vertical posts with the pocket holes facing up. I then put some wood glue in the holes and tapped in the dowels with a wooden mallet. Next, I placed the other post on the ground and repeated the process.

Once I had the front and back sets together, I put some glue on the ends of the cross-pieces and used the finish nails to hold it together. This eliminates the need for clamping, and with the pre-drilled holes, everything snugged up quite nicely. If there is any glue squeeze out, you can clean this up with a damp rag.

If you decide to stain your piece, this will be your last step. I chose to stain mine because it matched the other stained furniture in my room. If you do stain it, be sure to let the wood dry first, if you wiped up glue with a damp rag. There you go, some closet organization! Hopefully you'll take the basic concepts used here and think about how to make and customize your own piece for your specific needs.

For more projects and adventures, follow @lakecitiescraft on Instagram.

Happy making!