Wooden Shoe Shelf Tutorial for Beginners

Last month we did a Closet Makeover Challenge here with a few other bloggers. It was great fun to see how we each based on our specific closets and goals for our space. One of the challenges I had for my closet was to do as much as I could with items I had around my house or at my disposal. That little stipulation I gave myself led to creating a variety of items including a shoe shelf salvaged from shelving at a rental home we’re working on. Each piece was fun in its own way, and I couldn’t pick a favorite even if a box of chocolates was riding on it .. Okay, maybe I could pick something if chocolate was involved. I really enjoyed this one mostly because it’s the first thing I’ve truly built by myself with my hubby, Steve, cheering me on. I promised I would share more details on these projects and today’s a good day for or first one – a wooden shoe shelf tutorial for beginners!

A basic wooden shoe shelf tutorial

Now before you decide you can’t do a wood project, please know that when I say beginner, I mean be-gin-ner. Like as a kid I enjoyed watching my dad do a variety of woodworking projects. I sanded. I fetched things. I approved design aspects. I fetched more things. I learned to love the smell of fresh-cut wood. Outside of refinishing furniture for I don’t even know how long now, I’ve never really built something out of wood by myself. Or, “All by my big girl self” as my husband had to listen to during this entire project. Personally, I think he endured it because he kind of liked my idea and wanted a better way to store shoes other than the pile system that he’s been using for years. 

Bottom line, if I could do this with Steve cheering me on and giving me a few tips here and there, then you can do it too! So here ya go …

The original plans I sketched out for our shelf. Complete with the final step to call Dad

Materials supply list

  • 1″ x 12″ Wood board – 14″ linear feet cut into the following pieces
    • 2 lengths @ 41″ for the top and bottom
    • 1 length @ 40 1/4″ for the middle shelf
    • 2 lengths @ 13″ for the ends
    • 2 lengths @ 6 1/8″ for the center support
  •  18 – 24 phillips head screws – 1 1/4″ long (or 1/2″ longer than the thickness of your board)
  • paint, optional

Tools supply list

  • circular saw
  • rafter square
  • drill with 2 bits – we used a 1/8″ for the pilot holes and a #2 size phillips head bit for the screws (it needs to be slightly smaller than the shank of the screw)
  • sandpaper in a variety of grits
  • hammer, flat head screwdriver, chisel or similar tool to remove small chunks of wood, as needed

Basic steps for assembly

Cutting and Sanding
Measure once

Measure and cut your wood to the lengths specified above. You don’t have to be a carpenter to have heard the classic rule – “Measure twice, Cut once”.

Measure twice

If you’re like me you’ll actually do that twice on each board, because you just can’t be too careful when you’re learning a new skill.

Cutting the boards to length with a circular saw

Sand off any rough surfaces until they reach your desired smoothness. I wanted mine to look a little rugged, so I sanded just enough to keep clothes from snagging on the edges since my shelf lives in our closet.

Before moving on, check your cuts by fitting the pieces together as best you can.

Cutting the Dado

Now the fun part, cutting the dado. Before I did this it was the part that made me the most nervous, but now that I’ve done it I kinda feel like a rock star. Seriously, it’s probably a kindergarten level skill in the woodworking world, but it’s all new to me, so it thought I was kind of a big deal. Again, poor Steve had to endure my little happy dance and chant about building something all by my big girl self. He’s a good man!

A dado (pronounced day – do) is simply a slot or ledge cut into the face of one board, in which to fix the edge of another board. It’s the technique we used to add our center shelf. We had considered using a type of wood cleat but decided on the dado to give us a slimmer design.

Marking and cutting the outside lines for the dado

Measure halfway down the 13″ side of each end piece. Measure just over 3/8″ on each side of the center and draw two lines all the way across the board 3/8″ out from this center line.

Cutting interior lines and chipping out wood for dado

Set your circular saw to cut a little less than half-way thru the board. Follow the outside lines and make 2 cuts across each end piece. Go back and cut two more parallel lines inside these two lines.

Setting the right depth for the circular saw

At this point you can chip out the narrow lengths of wood with either end of a hammer, a screwdriver or chisel to create a solid groove. You can also use your circular saw gently moving from one side to the other to smooth out the bottom of your dado. Don’t even ask me why, but that part was fun. If you have a router it seems to be a recommended way to create a dado.

Cleaning up the groove of the dado with the circular saw

Assemble you pieces again to make sure they fit together correctly and make adjustments as needed.

dado sneak peek
A sneak peek of how the dado will fit together with the center shelf.
Securing your Shoe Shelf Together

If you want to paint your shelf, now would be the best time. Otherwise, continue on with the final assembly steps.

Drilling pilot holes

Before you screw the entire shelf together, you’ll want to pre-drill some pilot holes to help ensure that you have straight angles when you screw the shelf together. We used three evenly spaced screws down the center of each dado on the end pieces. We also added three to each end of the top and bottom boards at about 3/8″ in from the edge.

Screwing the shelf together

One of the little tips Steve gave me is to use the level on the end of my drill. Ya’ll probably knew all about that, but it quickly became my friend to make sure I was perpendicular to the board when drilling.

shoe-shelf-almost-doneAlmost assembled.

We assembled the boards in this order

  • Center board secured and screwed into the end boards at the dados
  • Bottom  board secured to end boards
  • Top board secured to end boards

Slide center supports into place on each shelf. You can secure these with a few more screws through the top and bottom of your shelf if they do not fit snugly.

center supports
Center supports slid into place

And there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this very basic tutorial and, as always, I would love to see any pics if you decide to make a shoe shelf.

A basic wooden shoe shelf tutorial out of salvaged wood boards.

Like I said, it’s not complicated and I felt like it was a great beginner project. Steve is a little curious now as to what I’ll come up with next and I’m just thinking through which power tools to add to our collection first. What beginner woodworking projects would you recommend?




About Beth Moore

A Christ-follower, wife, mom to 4, lifestyle blogger, seamstress and seeker of daily glimpses of God's grace and redemption.

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