Making Shelf Dividers / Organizers From Junk Wood and Old Paneling.




Introduction: Making Shelf Dividers / Organizers From Junk Wood and Old Paneling.

About: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.

This is a small part of a very big project that I have been working on. Since so many of the side projects like this one have turned out so well I have decided to make them into individual instructables that will ultimately link back to the main project.

The main project, in a few brief words, is turning a trashed mobile home into a new shop/studio/maker space and a storage unit for all the stuff that is accumulating from the many projects.

This part of that project is reusing the scrap paneling that came from gutting the home and using it for shelving, sort of.

I just have to put a twist in everything.

I decided to try making the shelf dividers out of hexagons, like a bee hive. After all, it works for them.

Can you really call it shelving if its a hexagon?

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Step 1: A Source of Materials, Paneling

Paneling is generally not thought of as something that you use or reuse for anything other than what it was intended for, which is paneling. But a long time ago I tried taking some scraps that I had and glued them together, back to back, to make shelves for things like CD's. It worked really good but only so long as the paneling is real wood. The particle board or Masonite stuff does not work.

Anyway I came into a large surplus of what would normally be considered garbage. This stuff was/is in bad shape. And I am not just talking about the totally horrible colors that it was painted. The former RENTERS, not the owner, even painted one room violet purple, including the entire ceiling and the doors. One of the more creative things that someone did was to fill holes in the paneling with newspaper and then use calk to smooth it over and then cover it with paint. There were quite a number of holes. There were even what looked like slash marks from Wolverine, filled with calk and painted. Glad I wasn't planing on trying to fix any of it. Ripped it out and stacked it up. OK, now what do I do with this stuff. I know, I can make it into shelves!!

Well, maybe some of it. Who knows this might actually work out.

Step 2: The Goal

We ran into an annoyance with a set of heavy duty shelves we bought. They were made for big stuff and not small stuff. The units are great, have large weight limits (3 tons each) and are stable. We put down a layer of 3/4 inch tongue and groove plywood to reinforce the floor and patch the holes. We put the feet on 2X3 boards to distribute the load and lag bolted them down. We tied the tops together with 2 X 4. Rather than placing the shelves back to back we put a space that we could use for storing sheet goods like plywood in between them. It was all great. But we have a lot of small wood, like slats from pallets and cut slabs of trees. We could just stack it all up in one pile on the shelves but besides not being very stable we would never be able to easily get to all the different wood. So we needed to make a divider to make smaller spaces for the shelves. And that is when this project was born.

Step 3: Glueing


Before you can glue you need to prep the paneling. You need to pull out all the little staples and nails. Then you need to clean off any chunks of glue or other stuff stuck to the back. Once you get that done you can flip the board and cut it in half, assuming that is the size you need. I was going to make 22 inch long boards since my shelves are 24 inches wide. That should give me a good fit. So cutting a 48 inch piece of paneling in half will give me just what I need. I decided on a 7 inch width. My rough calculations said that should work for size.


I tried 2 different glues and 2 different ways to apply the wood glue.

First because the wood was so dry I tried wetting the wood first with a paint brush. Then using a rolling. I rolled on the glue. This did not work very good. The panels separated after they dried. I then tried Contact cement. This did work good but also turned out to be pretty expensive. I used more than 1/2 the can to do one 4 x 8 sheet (reduced to 2x8). At $7 or 8 a can that would mean it costing at least $4 to do a 2 by 8 piece. And then there is the little applicator brush cost also. So ultimately it could cost more than just buying new wood. Back to the wood glue.

What did work was to pour the glue onto the paneling, add a little water and then work it in with the roller. It needs to be wet with glue to work. You also need to provide some kind of pressure to help bond the pieces together, Leave it dry overnight. Buying the glue in a gallon jug is probably the most cost effective.

Step 4: Cutting

Cutting the glued paneling is pretty straight forward. Since you are dealing with a board that is close to 8 feet long I have found it easier to slice it down the middle first and then the left over pieces are easy to handle. Please note that it doesn't matter which way, direction, that you cut up the panel. Since it is layered plywood it has strength in both directions. Just make certain to cut everything the same size.

By gluing it back to back like this you actually strengthen the wood. It becomes a multi laminated board. This increase in strength is what makes this worth doing. It changes this from flimsy worthless paneling to useful strong plywood, although a bit weird colored.

Step 5: Wedgie Things

This whole entire project uses just 2 different pieces. The flat panels and the wedgie things. I called them that because I have no idea what they are called or if they even have an official name.

The one critical thing is that they have to be at a 30 degree angle.

I cut mine from used and left over pieces of 2 X4 .

Once again, junk wood to the rescue, I am cutting out the core of the 2 X 4 so the outside doesn't matter much.

It takes a lot of these pieces to do this assembly. Really, the pile goes down fast. Cut extra.

Make practice runs before you cut up all your wood. It will be very depressing to find that your angle was off, after you cut up everything. I stop with the first stick, cut 3 pieces and check them for alignment. It is the only way to be sure.

Many saws will not go to an angle of 30 degrees with the table so you have to set it to 60 degrees from the table and get your 30 from the fence side. It is a little more awkward this way but that is the limit of the equipment, at least mine.

Step 6: Assembly

The assembly is very straight forward. Just line up the blocks to the sheets and screw them together.


I have been using torx screws because they are a lot better. There is a slot cut in them that acts as a drill so they drill their way into the wood. Also they have a built in countersink so they plant themselves into the wood. Also they are much harder to break. I was popping the Philips ones like crazy but when I switched to the torx screws I never broke another one.

You might have to stop and think a little about your progress as you add sections of this. What is amazing is that as long as your angle is correct the parts will follow the hexagon pattern. Everything will match up, its amazing.

But it takes a lot of screwing.

Step 7: Yet More Screws

Working on this gives you a lot of time to think about other possibilities. Like for instance, apparently the cats like it a lot. Hmmm, I might have an idea for a condo for them. And then there are the other places you could use this shape. it is totally adaptable to odd spaces and can be expanded to fit with no trouble and still there are only 2 parts. Ever.

Another thing to remember is that this configuration is pretty strong. It naturally reinforces itself. I sat on the thing and even bounced up and down. It flexed a little but never showed any signs of stress.

Another extra thing to mention is that the cells can be easily divided. A
piece of paneling cut to the widest distance across the middle will act as a shelf and divide a cell into 2 sections. You don't even need brackets because it will rest on the lower panels as they taper inward. You could also divide it up and down. Just slip a piece of paneling in to be a divider.

Step 8: Conclusions

This will for certain work for what I want it for. I painted it with an oil base primer paint to help conceal those weird colors. When the paint dries hard I will load it up with wood and stuff. I am also going to build a second unit for the shelf above. But with a little smaller, narrower board. One of the really fun things with the construction of this is that you can change the overall size just by changing the width and or length of the flat boards. You can make it to fit anywhere.

I am definitely going to be using this format in other places also. Only with new wood and not junk stuff. I use the junk stuff where only structure and function matter. It saves on cost and nobody cares much if it is used wood.

I am happy. It was a learning process. We have some other ideas to work on now also. And the only thing that this project really cost me was for the screws. Maybe a little glue. Lots of time though. But I budgeted for that.

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    7 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I do not understand why the paper version gets 4000 more views and 140 more favorites on an inferior paper material ?

    Some people fear power tools..


    3 years ago

    Such a beautiful "helper"!


    3 years ago

    I wengt through your entire Future Shop tutorial then was hooked and had to go through this one. It's encouraging to see that someone is finding (and sharing) new ways to reuse materials instead of sending it to the landfills. THAN YOU!


    3 years ago

    These are amazing. Now just build a model of a rocket and you already have the thrusters. All this stuff would have gone into the dump or burned. Good for you keeping the landfills a little less filled!!


    3 years ago

    This is great!!!!!


    3 years ago

    Now if you could just attract some really big bees.....imagine the honey! Oh wait, maybe not - those would be some really big bees - SyFy channel sized!


    3 years ago

    I like it a lot! Seems ideal for storing all sorts of junk that would normally fall off normal shelves. I'll make one for storing and sorting my scrap wood pieces.