Introduction: Simple Shelf for a Closet - TechShop

About: I'm Phil, a recent graduate from San Jose State University. Although I studied Electrical Engineering there that is not all I am interested in. I've worked on Steel Bridges, Concrete Canoes, and founded a Robo…

I decided that my closet needed to get cleaned. Every time I've cleaned my room in the last few years, my closet has gotten less clean. Well I'd had enough of that and decided that the only real way to clean the closet would be to go build a real shelf- unlike that chunk of plywood I had stacked on top of a couple of stacks of old textbooks. 

I made it at TechShop.

Only use tools that you have had the appropriate training for. Always wear eye protection when near tools. Understand and accept the inherent risks associated with any operation. 

Tools Used
Table Saw
Chop Saw
Vertical Belt Sander
Drill Press
Hand Drill
Impact Driver

Materials Used
1 - Birch Handy Panel 2'x4' plywood panel (17.97)
2 - 2x2 Furring Strip  (2@1.96)
1 - 1x2 Furring Strip (0.97)
7 - Screen Molding by the linear foot (7@0.56)
Wood Glue
1-5/8" Wood Screws
2-1/2" Wood Screws

Step 1: Design Shelf

I wanted this shelf to be a different; the design is inspired by tables found in elementary schools. Since the shelf will be hidden in a closet, and I did not want to spend more than one day procrastinating on my real task of cleaning my closet.  A rustic surface finish was deemed acceptable. Screws are plainly visible and no sealant applied. 

At about 18 dollars the plywood panel is an overwhelming portion of this projects cost. The design was chosen to maximize the utilization by using part of the same panel to resist lateral shear forces. I was happy to turn only about 5% of the material into waste. 

Cut List
1 - 34"x24" Plywood
2 - 7"x19" Plywood
2 - Remainder Rectangles from producing preceding item

4 - 20" 2x2
2 - 19" 2x2
1 - 29" 2x2
1 - 29" 1x2

Attached is a drawing of the shelf as well as a layout for the plywood cuts.

Step 2: Prep and Cut Panel

Before cutting the panel in half, it is a good idea to remove the staples. Check that there are not any hidden ones, this panel had a staple holding on the sticker, as well as two hidden ones (pictured). 

I made three cuts on the table saw: One to separate the top from the side panels, one to cut the first side panel, and one to trim the second to match the first.

I did not think of it at the time, but the 2x2's that are going to be used between the legs would look a little nicer if about a quarter inch was ripped off, then they would set in between the legs instead of laying flush. 

Step 3: Cut Legs, Braces, and Side Panels

Finish off the cut list on the chop saw. Whenever more than one piece has the same dimension one can be cut first and used as a template for the rest to ensure a snug fit.

Use a vertical belt sander to add a chamfer to the bottom of the legs. They will look more finished, become free of splinters, and resist splintering if the shelf is dragged across a floor. 

Step 4: Verify Parts

Lay out the parts on a table. Make sure they are all there and that this makes sense. If any parts are missing now would be a good time to make them.

Step 5: Drill and Countersink Holes

A wood scrap was taken from the trash and used to make a template for the leg screws. Since screws will be visible on the finished project placement is important to maximize the aesthetics. Three screws were placed into each of the three sides with a continuous skirt, the back (fourth side) only has screws where the blocks are.

Step 6: Assemble Sides

A small strip of scrap was cut from a trash can scrap to allow the side panel to be lifted to the correct height. Two clamps were used to clamp the assembly, a third was used just to keep the legs from falling before the clamps are tightened. Glue was applied, the clamps engaged, and the excess wiped with a damp towel. One clamp was then removed to allow the insertion of a screw.  Once the screws were placed the clamp was placed back on and the other removed to place the final screws. 

Step 7: Assemble Shelf

An impact driver was used to speed up assembly. Glue was added between parts and a screw added. Shorter ones when going through the plywood, longer when going through a 2x2. The three sides were joined together first, then the top attached. Pay attention to corners where screws could potentially intersect, place them at slight angles so the screws don't intersect. 

Step 8: Add Trim

Apply glue to the trim and tape in place. Once all trim pieces are added some sand paper or a file can be used to round off the sharp edges.

Step 9: Enjoy

Take home your new shelf and finish cleaning out a closet. The shelf has room underneath for things like tool bins, and space on top for the small clear plastic bins that  can be found inexpensively at places like Target or The Home Depot.