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I'm building a closet and I'm trying to find a good way to store shoes. I discovered the following product for sale online:

enter image description here

But it's crazy expensive, something like US$35 per linear foot, and it only comes in two sizes.

So I was thinking to just make my own out of 1/2" plywood, which would be cheap and I could make it whatever length I want. Something like this (really bad) sketch:

enter image description here

The shelves needn't come too far away from the wall, maybe only 3 or 4 inches for the longer one, but I still can't think of a good way to join the plywood to the wall, or even to a backing board or French cleat that I could then mount to the wall. I could use glue, nails or screws from the back into the plywood, but I'm not sure if that will hold.

Can anyone suggest a good method here?

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    Had glue, nails or screws not occurred to you or am I missing something and they're not suitable for some reason?
    – Graphus
    Sep 5, 2023 at 7:33
  • @Graphus: Sorry, I should have said: I can think of many ways to join them, but I'm worried none of them will be strong enough to counter the downward force of the weight of the shoes. Sep 5, 2023 at 11:34
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    Just box in the ends, use a bit of glue and a couple of screws. It’ll hold up. Sep 5, 2023 at 18:22
  • Assuming good plywood (and a neat edge on the pieces that stick out) the glue joint alone would be super strong, probably enough by itself to withstand all the strain of this in use (remembering that well-made glue joints are literally stronger than wood, with only a minor doubt re. how strong the surface ply is). Assuming only decent plywood, the glue backed up by nails (or preferably screws) is going to do the job without question. If you have any doubts do a test using a couple of scraps of the ply you'll use, built exactly as planned and then deliberately see what it takes to break it.
    – Graphus
    Sep 5, 2023 at 21:19
  • You can of course greatly over-build or reinforce in any number of ways, including either a full-length glue block along the underside of the larger shelf or a succession of small blocks spaced across the width. Or of course you could house the edges in the vertical piece, same as you would for the fixed shelving in a well-built bookshelf.
    – Graphus
    Sep 5, 2023 at 21:25

1 Answer 1

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Throughout the following I'm imagining the 'ledge' piece is attached to the top edge of the back, leaving only the joint between 'shelf' and back to worry about.


Given the relatively low strength requirement here a glue-only butt joint might actually be sufficient for this, remembering that well-made glue joints are literally stronger than wood. With modern plywood there is unfortunately a potential doubt about how strong the surface veneer is and how well it's attached to the next ply1.

The glue-only option is easily testbedded using a couple of scraps of the ply you intend to use and seeing what it takes to break it apart. However, nails or screws, or dowels, through the back into the edge of the shelf add significant reinforcement and take little to no effort so I see no reason not to do one of these. Screws would be the strongest and most secure (since each one acts like a little clamp, pulling the second piece of wood into the first), but arguably the weakest (nails/brads) aren't exactly weak if done right2.

Another reinforcement option is a glue 'block' underneath, running the full width of the shelf.

If you wanted to overbuild the heck out of this, not for peace of mind (don't think it's necessary) but for practice, or the challenge of building it, you could house the edge of the bottom shelf into the vertical piece (option 1 here). Although the groove would most commonly be done using table saw or router these days, it could be done with handtools only if necessary. Alternatively if the back is built up from strips of thinner material the housings could be left behind in the construction; a very simple option for the TS owner.


1 Build from solid wood on the other hand and this worry goes away, and the security of the glue joint becomes a virtual certainty. Even white pine would be perfectly

2 Using more of them or dovetailing for mechanical advantage; but really, both. Since brads or nails are so cheap it makes no sense to skimp on them, and the only reason not to use dovetail nailing is if you want the pieces to be more easily separable.

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