I've knocked together some plywood to make a shoe rack and I've messed up the cuts.

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There's a gap that I thought I could live with but I'd like to try and fix if possible.

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Notice the slight bulge?

I thought I might get away with using clamps to pull it together but I'm worried I'll end up ripping the screws out when I release the clamps.

Short of replacing the top shelf or shortening the middle and bottom shelves, which I'd rather not do, is there something else I could try?

  • Can you provide details of how it's put together please? If it's only the screws holding this together then the simplest and fastest fix I think will work out to be the very thing you say you'd rather not do :-) Re. the bulging, did you drill pilot holes before sinking in the screws?
    – Graphus
    May 14, 2019 at 12:22
  • This looks like you did not use wood screws, and/or did not completely give what wood screws need to get a nice tight fit (i.e., pilot holes and countersinking). Can you show the fasteners?
    – user5572
    May 14, 2019 at 15:21
  • 2
    Also, I know this is a Q about a specific problem, but someone ought to tell you that this box is going to become more of a trapezoid over time. Screws just aren't good at handling racking forces. Some sort of supports in the corners or cross-bracing should be used to keep it from racking.Take a look how Ikea, et al, design their stuff. Often there is a strip of material across the top-back that braces at least two corners. Often this is duplicated at the bottom.
    – user5572
    May 14, 2019 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


This looks like a problem commonly encountered when the clearance hole in the first board (the one on the outside of the joint - in your case the vertical piece) is not wide enough. This hole should be at least as wide as the widest part of the screw threads. The true pilot hole in the second piece should be sized appropriately for the screw and type of wood.

The screw basically should not be grabbing into the first piece - the head of the screw should simply apply force sideways (in this case). All the grabbing should be to pull your horizontal piece against the vertical piece. Does that make sense?

You might be able to solve this problem by backing out the screws, clamping the pieces together tightly, and rescrewing. Otherwise, you'll have to widen the holes in the vertical piece somewhat. Be careful when you do this to keep the holes approximately centered.

  • 4
    An alternative solution is to use a traditional screw with an unthreaded section that is as long as the vertical plywood is thick. That way the screw is unable to hold into the vertical, and will just pull it in. May 14, 2019 at 13:58
  • 3
    Note that keeping the holes centred is very unlikely to be a problem. If you use an ordinary twist bit, it will naturally centre itself in my experience. May 14, 2019 at 13:59
  • 2
    It's also worth mentioning that with a tapered countersink bit you can simultaneously drill the pilot hole, clearance hole, and countersink. May 14, 2019 at 22:18
  • I think this is the best answer, but I'd like the OP to show us the fasteners used, as fully threaded screws would also demonstrate this problem. Your discussion of pilot holes still applies in this case.
    – user5572
    May 24, 2019 at 14:30

The issue is that the top shelf is shorter than the other two.

You have three choices (four if you count do nothing).

  1. Shorten the other two to match.

  2. Widen the top shelf with a shim cut to match the gap. If you don't have access to a saw that can cut that fine, go buy some veneer banding from Home Depot. Two or three layers should do it by the look of things.

  3. Get some thin washers to stack on the screws between the boards. Structurally ok but will look... not ok.

  • 3
    Your first sentence might be the problem - but I doubt it. Anyway, plywood that thick can easily bend to accommodate a couple of mm - and such a bend would be completely invisible to the eye. May 24, 2019 at 10:29
  • 1
    @MartinBonner this is exactly what I've been thinking. The problem looks more like the wrong fasteners pulling the faces apart. With real wood screws and any decent screwgun that plywood would be made to fit.
    – user5572
    May 24, 2019 at 14:28

Edge banding is nothing more than veneer sold in strips 1 or 2 in wide, preglued (usually).

Unscrew the offending shelf and layer one, two or three strips of banding over each other on the end until you get a snug fit between the uprights. Trim the excess with a sharp utility knife and use some leftover stain to match.

Screw back in place and keep it movin.

I'm sure that using a more aggressive screw and "pulling it in" may work.....for a while. The problem is that plywood only has good strength for fastener holding through the plys....not within (latitudinally). Building tension (stress) into a piece usually ends with that stress self-relieving in the weakest spot in wood.


Also....if you look carefully in your third photo....you can see that the middle or front screw is already pushing up some of the plys on the shelf...using a more aggressive screw is going to make that worse and possibly tear out a chunk of shelf. Ask me how I know....

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