DIY Closet Shelves

We moved to Vermont in March and bought a new house that has kept me really busy with tons of projects. One of the most immediate needs after moving in was to install some closet shelves and rods to hang our clothing. 

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I started this project by taking some measurements of the closet space and making a model in Fusion 360. I wanted to include as much closet rod space as I could, and fit in some square cubbies if possible. I ended up with this two tiered “L” shaped design with several cubbies. My goal was to build all the shelves out of one sheet of ¾” plywood. I cut down the full sheet into all the individual pieces using a circular saw. 

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Since I knew these shelves would have a lot of surface area, I thought it would be best to try to paint all the pieces in advance and then assemble them. I think it would have taken a lot longer to paint if I had waited until after assembly. Here you can clearly see the two tall sides, and several short horizontal pieces that will make up the cubbies, as well as the “L” shaped top shelf and two lower shelves.  

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I’d like to take a quick moment to talk about Patreon. If you don’t know what patreon is, it’s a way for you to show your support for content creators like me by directly donating money to support my efforts. In return you get exclusive rewards like extra behind the scenes content, free merchandise, and monthly video calls to chat about making things. Patreon support means a lot to me because it’s a way for me to connect directly with you. When you support me on Patreon you’re helping make these projects and videos happen. Thanks for letting me take the time to talk about Patreon, now it’s back to the shelves.

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The assembly of the shelves was pretty straight forward. I took one of the tall sides and started gluing and brad nailing the short cubby pieces into place. I learned something important at this point. It gets cold in Vermont! I ran into something that had never experienced before. It was so cold that my glue bottle actually started to turn to gel. I had heard about this problem from Jimmy Diresta on the podcast “making it”. He said he usually takes his glue bottles home with him at the end of the day so they don’t freeze.  I posted about this problem on Instagram and asked for people's advice. I ended up giving the glue bottle a little warm bath for about 30 minutes in a mason jar. This seemed to work so I went back to work and kept the glue bottle with me in my hoodie pouch like a little kangaroo. I thought about patenting this idea and calling it Kangaglue!® After finishing the first side of the cubbies, I attached the second side with some more glue and brad nails. The next task was to figure out how to hide the edge of the plywood. I bought some 1”x4” material and cut it down into thin strips that I could use for  trim. I had never used this method before, but it seemed to work okay. 


When I was done attaching all the trim I came back with some wood filler and filled in all of the holes where the brad nails were. After drying, I used my random orbital sander and knocked everything down so that it was smooth. I came in with some more paint and touched everything up before giving it one final sanding. 

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At this point I was ready to bring in the whole assembly and install it in my closet. I channeled my inner most  Paul Jackman and carried the pieces upstairs.

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I went ahead and put a level against the wall and found that the lower half of the wall was pretty close to being level. However the upper half of the wall had quite a bit of a bow in it. So I decided to use the lower half as a reference. I marked the location where the cubby will sit on the wall, and then attached a couple of mounting boards on the rear of the shelf. Next I pre-drilled some holes and screwed the cubbies to the wall. After that I struggled with the large L-shaped top shelf for a while until I finally got it to fit in place.  All the shelves were secured to their wall mounts using brad nails. Finally I installed the closet rod mounting hardware along with the rods.

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Here's a final shot of the closet shelf installation. This was a lot of work and a lot of learning but I'm really happy with how it turned out.  I have several more empty closets in the house that I need to build shelves for so I'll use everything I learned on these shelves when it comes to build those shelves.  

Zach HippsComment