Pantry closet shelves

With not enough cabinet space in our kitchen, Rachel started to use the broom closet to store food stuff. She used a plastic drawer unit, but to be able to open the drawers, it couldn't be placed against the closet wall, so it was not an ideal use of space.

I set out to build a shelf to go on the left side of the closet for holding food stuff. For the uprights, I used part of a 2x10, which seemed surprisingly light (more on that later). The shelves themselves are from some wood that came from the garbage.


I ran the construction lumber through my new thickness planer to get a smoother surface.


Then I got Rachel to mark where she wanted the shelves. She's using a cereal box as a reference to get the spacing about right.


I then cut dadoes where the shelves are to go.


Then ripped the piece of wood into three pieces each about 4 cm wide.


I cut four of the shelves out of a piece of wood that used to be part of a coffee table that someone painted black.

I don't like using painted wood, nor stripping paint off of wood. But for these shelves, the black paint didn't matter.

Two more shelves came from another piece of wood that used to be part of a dresser.


But one of the pieces was too short. So I cut a sort of mortise and tenon joint to add another piece of scrap to the end of it to bring it up to length.

This wasn't terribly accurate, and working from both sides, the mortise ended up being slightly narrower on one side than the other (that's why I don't advise working from both sides when cutting mortises or tenons).


But I made it fit, partly by making some part-length cuts on the tenon to make it correspondingly narrower on one end. It wasn't a perfect fit, but I managed to bang it in.


One corner of the shelves will be exposed, so I cut these round on the bandsaw.


A notch near the corner is for one of the uprights to fit into. This upright will be just behind the closet door frame (the closet door has trim on the outside and inside of the closet).


And two more notches on the other end of the shelves for two more uprights.


I needed to cut away parts of the uprights to fit around the baseboard. I captured the shape by tracing it, using a compass as a spacer to offset the contour onto a scrap of wood. I then cut out the baseboard shape, checked it against the original, and then used it to trace what needed to be cut away from the shelf uprights.


Now ready to assemble the shelf. It turned out, the dadoes were a bit tight, so it took some banging to get it together.


I put the shelf on the floor to get the uprights on the other side on. Again, it took some pounding, and then the wood just broke apart. I figured, no problem, I'll just glue that back together later.


But then, pounding it some more, the wood broke apart in another place where it wouldn't be so easy to glue.

At this point, I got frustrated and gave the wood a few more whacks than necessary, and it just disintegrated. This very light spruce breaks very easily!

That 2x10 felt unusually light when I cut it on the table saw. Being so light, it might be good material for a guitar sound board, but not for something where strength matters.


With the upright partly glued on and partly disintegrated, I made a maple part to replace the part I had obliterated. The maple is much harder and heavier. I joined it with a lap joint that I hand cut into the intact part that was already glued in place.

After assembly, I also added a few screws to make sure everything would stay together even if the glue were to fail.


Then adding a ledge to the side of each shelf. Some of the stuff to go on the shelves will be bags of rice, beans and lentils, and the ledge will be useful to keep those from falling off.


Installing the shelf. It fits. But it turns out, the bottom of the closet is a bit deeper than the top, so the shelf uprights are about a centimeter from the wall on the bottom back. You can never count on houses to be totally square. I guess an alternative would have been to screw the uprights against the wall, then cut each shelf to size as I install them.


I screwed the top of the shelf uprights into a piece of wood that holds the top shelf in the closet, and the bottom into the baseboard.

If it was a free-standing shelves, I'd be a bit worried about the uprights breaking, but with them screwed down on both ends, I think it will hold.


Half an hour later, already filled with stuff.

By making a custom shelf, it was possible to make something that optimally uses the available space, and with the shelves open on the front, it's also relatively easy to get at what's on them.


See also:


More Woodwork projects on my Woodworking website