adjustable cubby storage

Quick and easy weekend project to create adjustable cubbies for storage. I use mine for shoes but you can use it for whatever you want!


measured drawing and cutlist for the 8 cubby cabinet

measured drawing and cutlist for the 12 cubby cabinet

completed project

build article

My material of choice of this one is1/2” baltic burch. I think it looks good with a clear finish and with the straight plys and no voids I also like the look without edge banding.

I will be building both cabinets, the 8 and 12 cubby. You can get all of the parts for the 8 cubby cabinet out of a single 5’x5’ sheet. The 12 cubbies requires a little extra spilling into two sheets of 5’x5’ but you can fit both cabinets out of two sheets as well. Refer to the measured drawing for more details.

I laid everything out ahead of time in SketchUp trying to optimize both material use and also cut setup. I was able to arrange everything in a manner that I could start by breaking the sheets down into 13” wide panels (the depth of the cabinets).

Next, I spent some time with the cut list and the 13” panels picking which panels would have which parts one them. Looking at grain, patches, defects, etc.

All of the cross cuts are done at the table saw using the cross cut sled with the fence and stop block to set the dimension. This helps to insure that all the parts are equal. I recommend cutting all of the parts of a given size at one time to avoid having to set this measurement up a second time.

I start by cutting out the 27” sides and center dividers. I want to leave the center dividers the same length as the side for now to make cutting the dado's a little easier.

Next, the 30” top and bottom for the larger cabinet.

Then, the 20” top and bottom for the smaller cabinet.

At the table saw a 1/2" wide by 1/4” deep rabbet gets cut into the tops of the side panels using a sacrificial fence and a dado set. This rabbet is actually just slightly bigger than ½” wide. This is done because it is a little easier to come back and flush the rabbet up with the top panel after glue up rather than trying to fit it exactly and risking it be to small.

Notice the sacrificial backer as well which helps to guard against chip out as the dado set exists the back of the panel.

Next, a 1/2” by 1/4” dado gets cut in the bottom of the side panels.

For the small cabinet a ½” dado gets cut in the middle (9-3/4” from the edge)

The larger cabinet gets two dados in the top and bottom (measuring 9-3/4” from each edge). The easiest way to cut this is to set the fence to 9-3/4” cut one dado flip the piece around and cut the second dado. If it’s a little of and the center space isn’t exactly 9-3/4” that’s ok you can adjust the shelve size later.

Now we can cut the dado’s for that will support the shelves. This is why I wanted to keep the center dividers and the side panels the same length for now. So that the layout and cutting of the dado’s would be the same.

All of these dados are 1/2” wide and 1/8” deep.

The first ones gets cut 7” from the bottom. Remember for the inside dividers the dado gets cut on both sides and for the side panels the dado gets cut only on the inside.

The next one, 13-1/2” from the bottom.

The final one is 6-1/2” from the top. I did this one from the top because I didn’t feel comfortable with the fence so far away from the blade. I was worried the panel was narrow enough that it could twist causing a kickback.

Time to assemble the main case. I’m using glue and brad nails. Shop maid corner clamps make the job a little bit easier.

Once I have it assembled I do a final check for square by measuring the diagonals. If you are out of square for some reason you can fix it by putting a clamp across the diagonal that is the longer measurement.

Now we can fit the center dividers. Since we kept them the same length as the sides setting them in front of the cabinet allows us to mark where we need to trim them top and bottom. Just make sure you have the panel oriented correctly (the bottom is actually at the bottom)

The cross cut sled at the table saw make quick and accurate work for trimming the panels to our mark.

The center dividers get installed with glue and brads as well.

Next, the shelves. This is the final milling operation. Here is where you probably don’t want to follow the exact dimension that is in the measured drawings. The distance between the two dados is more than likely slightly different then the plans say it should be due to variances in the dado depths and center divider spacing.

I cut mine just oversized and checked its fit, trimming a little at a time until I got a nice fit that was gap free.

I had a little bit of bow in the outside panels, to correct this I decided to fix the center shelves in permanently with brads.

On to the finishing process. I started by sanding all the edges with a sanding block and 220 grit paper.

Then the random orbit and 220 grit disk. I knew ahead of time that the sander would fit in these cubbies which I why I decided not to sand the panels before assembly.

For a finish I’m using a spray on satin lacquer. I don’t have a spray setup so I’m using cans of Deft satin lacquer. You could also use a wipe on polyurethane as well.

The last step to get a really nice smooth finish is a gentle wet sanding with 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper. I dip the sand paper in a cup of water and then gently sand the surface. You will actually hear the sound of the surface becoming smooth. Wipe away any water with a cloth.