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How to Make Boat Cleat Towel Storage Shelves

This nautical-style towel storage unit is a fun and unique way to store your towels.

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towel shelfDeb Pike

Versatile Storage Shelf

This towel storage shelf is a cute and colorful way to display your towels. It’s constructed of select pine boards and trimmed with dock rope cleats. The rope cleats add an interesting touch and serve the purpose of holding the towels neatly on the shelf.

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dock lineDeb Pike

Materials Needed to Make This Towel Storage Shelf

  • One 1″ x 6″ x 8′ Select Pine board
  • One 1″ x 6″ x 4′ Select Pine board (We used Select Pine because it is very straight and knot free.)
  • Alternatives: You could use old barn wood* or cedar for a more rustic look or composite deck boards for weatherproof durability outdoors near a lake home, pool or hot tub.
  • 12 1-1/2″ Spax #14 construction screws (These have a head large enough to hold the cleat.)
  • Six 6″ dock rope cleats
  • One sheet of 220-grit sandpaper
  • Stain or paint (We used Minwax Wood Finish color: 218A puritan pine.)
  • Staining brush or rag
  • 18 #6 1-5/8″ drywall screws for connecting shelves to support board
  • Optional: 3/8″ x 15′ polypropylene dock line or other rope

* If you like the look of old barn wood, but don’t have access to it, here’s how to make new wood look old.

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cut woodDeb Pike

Tools Needed to Make This Towel Storage Shelf

  • Power Drill
  • 1/8″ wood bit
  • Phillips head bit
  • Compound miter saw
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Tape measure
  • 3 wood clamps (helpful!)
  • Sharpened pencil

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towelsDeb Pike

Before Making the Cuts

Before cutting your boards, determine what size towel you want to store on these shelves and if the towels will be rolled or folded. The towels shown are 30 inches wide x 54 inches long.

Note: The shelves should be approximately as wide as your towels. If you plan to use your storage shelves for large beach towels, you’ll need to adjust the dimensions.

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woodDeb Pike

Cut Six 15-Inch Storage Shelves

Cut the 8-foot board into six individual 15-inch boards. For a more finished look, we chose to angle the sides of these shelves. If you choose to do this, cut the sides at a 22-1/2-degree angle using a compound miter saw. Once all of the shelves are cut, lightly sand the edges with 220-grit sandpaper.

Tip: Save the leftover piece from the 8-foot board to use for spacing later. Here are 41 genius sanding tips you don’t want to miss.

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cut woodDeb Pike

Cut the Backboard

Using a compound miter saw, cut the backboard length to 37-11/16 inches. The 1 inch x 6 inch x 4-inch board used here was actually slightly wider and thicker than the typical 3/4-inch finished size, which resulted in this odd measurement.

This tutorial on miter saws includes basic techniques, tips and tricks.

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Deb Pike

Mark the Storage Shelf Locations

Mark the shelf locations on the backboard. To establish the location of the first shelf, utilize the leftover scrap piece from the 8-foot board. Clamp the scrap piece even with the top of the backboard, so there is no shifting. With a pencil, mark the base of the scrap piece (use the width of the scrap, not the length. It should measure 5-1/2 inches). This will be where the top of the first shelf lines up.

Note: The top right photo shows the scrap piece lined up, the clamp was removed for photo clarity.

Next, place a shelf perpendicular on the backboard next to the clamped scrap piece and again, draw a line at the base, with a pencil. The two lines will be the mark for the first shelf. Next, take another shelf and lay it flat underneath the perpendicular shelf. This is the spacing for the second shelf. Mark the bottom of the flat shelf then again, add another perpendicular shelf and mark it. Repeat this process until you have all six shelf locations marked on the backboard support piece. Don’t miss this collection of 14 clever measuring hints and tips.

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drillDeb Pike

Mark the Screw Locations on the Backboard

Using a carpenter’s square and a pencil, mark where the three drywall screws will go on each shelf. Draw a dot in the center of where each shelf will sit and then another dot 1 inch in from each side. These are the marks for the screws that will secure the shelves. Predrill 1/8-inch holes for 1-5/8-inch #6 drywall screws on each dot. There should be 12 holes total.

These are our 10 all-time favorite Speed Square hacks.

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Deb Pike

Drill the Cleat Holes

Mark where the rope cleats will go on each shelf. Center the cleat on the shelf, approximately 1/4 inch back from the front of the board and trace the two bolt holes with a pencil. Drill the two cleat holes on each shelf.

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stainDeb Pike

Stain the Storage Shelves and Backboard

Now it’s time to stain the shelves and backboard. We used Minwax Puritan Pine Wood Finish, color #218A. Another option would be to paint the shelves or leave them natural.

Here’s the best method for staining wood evenly, without dark blotches and spots.

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Deb Pike

Fasten the 12 Drywall Screws

Use a Phillips-head bit in your drill, and partially screw in each of the 12 #6 drywall screws from the back side of the backboard.

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nailsDeb Pike

Attach the Dock Rope Cleats

Using the same drill and bit setup, attach the dock rope cleats to the shelves with two 1-1/2-inch Spax #14 construction screws (two screws per board). Check out these 15 revolutionary techniques for driving screws.

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woodDeb Pike

Attach the Storage Shelves to the Backboard

Again, using the same drill setup, attach the storage shelves to the backboard. Center each shelf on the pencil marks and secure the shelf in place with two or three clamps. Install the three drywall screws through the back of each shelf.

Always find the right clamp when you need it with these ingenius clamp storage tips.

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towelsDeb Pike

Fill Up the Shelves!

Roll or fold your towels and display them on your new storage shelves.

Fun tip: Once the towels are in place, you can add dock line or rope to secure them and give the project a nautical touch. Interested in nautical knots? Here are five knots you need to know.

Deb Pike
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