September 28, 2022

How to build your own closet organizer

Everyone needs more space. But if you can’t add more square footage to your living space, you can at least add storage space by building a DIY closet organizer, a small plywood box with dividers. These work well for storing and cleaning items and clothing that are not easily snagged, such as gloves, sportswear, workwear, hats, and shoes.

We constructed the closet organizer you see here from ½-inch Baltic Birch plywood, but you can also use ¾-inch-thick plywood. We dressed its front edge by applying iron-on birch edgebanding. The design of the organizer is such that you can hang it on a wall horizontally or vertically (if the floor is smooth and flat, you can stand it upright). We applied one coat of cabinet undercoat for the primer and two coats of satin enamel paint for the top coat. There are no fancy joinery joints. We butted the pieces together and secured them with pocket screws. You can also join the pieces together with 6d or 8d finish nails and drive wood screws (or coarse-thread drywall screws) through the sides and into the ends of the dividers. Our plans provide size and spacing information, but feel free to make it any size you want. Based on these dimensions, you can build two organizers from a sheet of plywood.

Tom Messina

Below are some tools that will come in handy. As much as we love using the Ryobi PTS01 Chainsaw, you can live without it. If you’re careful, you can make the same cuts by carefully guiding a circular saw along a straightedge.

Keep scrolling through the step-by-step instructions that will guide you through construction: plywood processing, marking and assembly, and the finishing sequence (edge ​​banding, patching and painting).

Let’s start.

DIY closet organizer tools and supplies

  • Combination square: Empire E250
  • Pocket Screw Jig: Kreg KPHJ520PRO
  • Chainsaw: Ryobi PTS01
  • Paint Grade Pocket Screw Caps: Kreg P-Micro-PNT
  • Coarse Thread (1 inch) Pocket Screw for ½ inch Stock: Kreg SPS-C1

    Plywood processing

    It’s a simple matter of cutting the organizer pieces from a sheet of plywood. It boils down to this: Using the factory edges as a reference line, rip two pieces of plywood to 9 ¾ inches wide. That is, cut along the longitudinal axis of the sheet with a circular saw. Use a factory edge to make a longitudinal cut. Use the opposite factory edge to make the second rip cut. Then cut the pieces to the dimensions shown in the drawing.

    Here are the fine points. When cutting plywood to width using a circular saw, whether a chainsaw or a circular saw guided by a straight edge, pay attention to where the your sawhorses. Overhang the plywood on the sawhorses, start your cut, then stop and look underneath to see where you are in relation to the horse. Reposition the sawhorses to avoid cutting them, then advance the cut and repeat the procedure at the second sawhorse.

    Mark and assemble

    “Marking” means drawing lines (and sometimes symbols) on wood, metal, or masonry to indicate how and where pieces are joined. Construction projects such as a house, furniture, stairs or a boat require a marking sequence.

    Joiners, carpenters, masons, machinists and other trades people distinguish between marking (or markings) and marking. A mark can be anything from a defect or stain to a deliberate mark that conveys shipping (or other) information. The numbering process is deliberate and prepares the parts for assembly by indicating their position.

    In the case of our organizer, the marking sequence begins by measuring you along the factory edge (no matter how precisely you cut, that edge is always straighter and more accurate than the edge left by your saw) and drawing sharp lines to indicate the positions of the separators. The H-shaped divider is prepared as a sub-assembly and fixed by driving screws through the sides of part A (see diagram above).

    There are a few key concepts here:

    1. Mark carefully with a sharp pencil. Your assembly is as precise as your marks.
    2. Work from a reference surface, in this case the straight, very accurate factory edge.
    3. Recheck. Even when placing parts on your marks, a slight deviation in positioning during assembly can mess things up. Therefore, tighten stop blocks that prevent movement of parts during assembly and check the position of the part using a square held along your reference edge.
    4. Tighten in sequence. Screw a screw. Check the position of the part. Screw in a second screw but check the position of the part before fully tightening the screw. Screw in the remaining screws only after making sure everything is aligned. If you screw in the first screw and find that something has moved, remove the screw and start over. It is often best to drill a new screw hole.

        Here is the complete step-by-step marking and assembly sequence.

        Edge banding, capping, finishing

        You can apply edge banding and then plug the pocket screw holes, or vice versa. Once these two operations are completed, sand the organizer inside and out, wipe the dust with a rosin cloth or a lightly dampened cotton cloth and apply your finish.

        On our project, we used paint-grade wooden dowels specially adapted for pocket screws. Note that these plugs are sized to join ¾ inch thick stock. Thus, you need to shorten them by sawing off about ¼ inch from their length. This will result in an imperfect fit with some plugs. No matter; sand them flush if they’re slightly oversized or apply wood filler to them if they’re slightly undersized.

        To sand wood plugs flush quickly, you need a fairly coarse sandpaper. Use a random orbit oscillating sander and start with a 36 grit disc to make the plug flush with the adjacent surface. Then move on to 50, 80, 120, 150, and 220 grit discs. If the cap fits satisfactorily (flush to the surface), sand with 120, 150, and 220 grit discs. The same grit sequence (120, 150, 220) applies to all other surfaces that do not have caps, the interior and exterior surfaces of Part B and the uncapped surfaces of Part A.

        Here is the whole process.


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