Step 1: Closet organizer planning: Money, materials and tools
A few months ago, I finally got the bug to organize
our closets. I got dizzy wading through Web sites
and visiting stores. There was a shelf for this, a
rack for that... So I put pencil to
paper and devised a simpler
system that was easy to
build, easy to customize
and a money-saver
besides. I was so
happy with it that I
used the same system
in my home office, too.
Materials for the closet organization system shown
cost about $250, and I spent an
additional $40 on closet hardware.
I used 3/4-in. birch plywood
because it’s strong and thick
enough to accept screws. It also
finishes well, and the simple grain
and warm color look good with
just about any décor.
A 4 x 8-ft. sheet costs about
$45. Here’s a rule of thumb for
estimating the plywood you’ll
need: One sheet will get you two
large boxes or four small boxes,
plus some leftover parts. If you
don’t have a pickup, have the
plywood ripped into roughly
16-in.-wide pieces at the home
center and then rip it to 15 in. at
Before you start cutting up box
parts, check the thickness of your
plywood. Most “3/4-in.” plywood
is actually 23/32 in. thick, and the
measurements given in Figs. B and C are based on that. If
your plywood is thicker or thinner,
you’ll have to adjust your box part
sizes. The measurements given
also account for the typical thickness
of iron-on edge band.
Closet organization system
Closet Organization: Endless Options!
Here’s the key to this whole closet organization system: The large box is twice as tall as the small box,
and the height of each box is equal to twice its width. That means you can combine
them in dozens of different configurations. For more versatility, you can drill holes
and add adjustable shelf supports to any of the boxes.
And it’s not just for closets!
This box system is also great for
laundry rooms, garages, entryways... You can even stack the
boxes to form furniture such as
bookshelves or nightstands.
Meet the Maker
David Radtke is a designer,
cabinetmaker, woodworker and
writer. A former Senior Editor for
The Family Handyman, David splits
his time between his table saw
and his computer.
Step 2: Build a simple jig for perfect crosscuts
1 of 1
Photo 1: Cut a bunch of box parts
This simple jig lets you
churn out precise,
identical box parts fast.
Raise the stop block on
a 1/4-in. spacer so
dust buildup doesn't
throw off the accuracy.
To make this closet system
work, you need to cut lots of
box parts to exact, identical
lengths. This plywood jig
makes that foolproof. Build
the jig and you’ll find lots of
other uses for it. I use mine
whenever I’m building bookcases,
cabinets or shelves.
If your saw is out of whack,
you won’t get accurate cuts. So
do a quick inspection: Measure
from the front and back of the
blade to the edge of the saw’s
shoe to make sure the blade
runs parallel to the shoe. Then
grab a square and make sure
the blade is set at 90 degrees
to the shoe. Install a 40-tooth
carbide blade for clean cuts.
Take your time when you
build and install the carriage
assembly. First, screw the
guide to the carriage. Then run
your saw along the guide; that
will trim the carriage to suit
your saw. When you mount
the carriage on the rails, use a
framing square to make sure
the carriage is perfectly perpendicular
to the rails. I added
a stick-on measuring tape to
my jig. One last note: Be sure
to set the saw depth so it just
grazes the jig’s base. If you set
the saw too deep, you’ll cut
your new jig in half.
Crosscut jig for closet organizer parts
Fig. A: Crosscut Jig for Closet Organizer Box Parts
Build this simple jig for
any project that requires
long, precise crosscuts.
You can download and enlarge Figure A in “Additional Information” below.
Step 3: Band, biscuit and assemble the boxes
1 of 3
Photo 2: Edge-band the parts
Cover the visible edges with iron-on
edge band. Band only the front
edges of the short parts (B, E). On the
long parts (A, D), band three edges.
2 of 3
Photo 3: Cut the biscuit slots
Clamp a support board flush
with the edge to keep the biscuit
joiner from rocking as you cut.
3 of 3
Photo 4: Assemble the boxes
A cheap disposable
paintbrush makes a good
spreader. Keep a damp rag
handy to wipe off excess glue.
If you haven’t edge-banded plywood before (photo 2),
don’t be intimidated; it’s a skill you can master in a
few minutes. For a crash course, type “edge band” in the search box above. You could glue
and screw the boxes together, but I used biscuits to
avoid exposed screw heads (photo 3). For a full article
on using a biscuit joiner, type “biscuit” in the search box above. Clamp each box together
(photo 4) with a clamp at each corner and check the
box with a framing square. It should automatically
square itself if you’ve made accurate square cuts. Let
the glue set for at least an hour before removing
Large closet organizer box dimensions
Figure B: Large Closet Organizer Box Details
|Key|| Qty.|| Dimensions|
|A|| 2|| 15" x 38-15/16"|
|B|| 2|| 15" x 18-1/16"|
|C|| 2|| 3-1/2" x 18-1/16"|
Outer dimensions: 19-1/2” x 39” x 15”
You can download and enlarge Figure B in “Additional Information” below. For the complete Materials List see “Additional Information” below.
Small closet organizer box
Figure C: Small Closet Organizer Box Details
|Key|| Qty.|| Dimensions|
|D|| 2|| 15" x 19-7/16"|
|E|| 2|| 15" x 8-5/16"|
|F|| 2|| 3-1/2" x 8-5/16"|
Outer dimensions: 9-3/4” x 19-1/2” x 15”
You can download and enlarge Figure C in “Additional Information” below. For the complete Materials List see “Additional Information” below.
Step 4: Apply finish and install the closet organizer system
1 of 3
Photo 5: Join the boxes
Gang the boxes
screws or special
at the front and
2 of 3
Photo 5A: Close-up of sleeve connectors
Sleeve connectors look better than exposed screws.
3 of 3
Photo 6: Support the units with a cleat
A level cleat screwed to studs makes
aligning and installing the box units a lot easier.
Assemble the cleat from leftover plywood scraps.
Finishing the boxes could be frustrating:
Birch tends to get blotchy
when stained, and brushing on a
clear finish inside boxes is slow, fussy
work. I sidestepped both problems by
applying two coats of Watco
Golden Oak finish. It’s a penetrating
oil that leaves only a
light film on the surface, so you
don’t have to worry about brush
marks. And the light color minimizes
Wipe-On Poly would work well
too. Use a brush to apply either
finish and then wipe it with a
Once the finish is dry, join
the boxes together (photo 5). I
used sleeve connectors (see
the Materials List in “Additional Information” below) because
they look a lot better than
exposed screws. Just remember
to use a Pozidriv screw tip
to tighten the connectors. It
may look like a Phillips, but
it’s slightly different. Pozidriv
screw tips are available at
home centers and hardware
stores. You’ll also need a
3/16-in. or 5mm drill bit.
To simplify mounting the
boxes to the closet wall, install
a ledger (photo 6) on the wall
studs about 8 in. from the
floor. The 8-in. elevation keeps
the boxes off the floor and
provides usable space below.
Make the support from long
plywood scraps. The elevated
ledge will support the assemblies
while you get them
placed and then screwed to
the wall studs. Drive 2-1/2-in.
screws through the box backs
and the studs. If a box doesn’t
land on studs, use drywall
anchors such as E-Z Ancors.
Once you have all the boxes
secured to the wall, you can
add closet rods (centered
about 11-1/2 in. from the back
wall) and other organizers like
tie racks and belt hangers and
screw them directly into the
3/4-in. plywood construction.