Start from scratch storage unit

With so much going on in our busy lives, we strive to get order into our homes.

All our hobbies and crafts leave us bursting at the seams.

A great way to organise our rooms, is having the right storage for our needs.

Although there are loads of places to buy a unit for all sorts of things, they never seem to match our needs perfectly.

No problem!

Make your own.

Now this can be as simple or as complicated as you make it.

Most DIY stores nowadays will cut purchased wood to size for you.

If you calculate all your measurements beforehand, it will be easier than trying to work it out in the shop.

Please bear in mind though, they can’t guarantee exact measurements.

Having said that, our local store cut it and it fitted together perfectly.

If you get it pre-cut, all you then need to do is put the unit together.

Ok, ok, we get it, it may be a bit daunting for some, but how fab is it to say “I made that” when someone asks where it’s from.

We needed a unit that would hold papers, so ours is designed for that.

You could design yours around baskets or boxes.

For safety reasons, make sure that the unit is secured to a wall, so that it can’t fall over onto someone.

Before we get cracking with the unit, there are a few things to consider

The first thing you need to do is decide the size of your unit.

Ours needed to hold A4 paper so we took this into consideration with our design.

We wanted the section at the bottom to be larger, as we will be putting more into it.


The second thing you need to decide is the thickness of the wood.


MDF is great for making a unit, but you have to consider what you will be using the unit for.

It comes in various thicknesses, from 3mm up to 18mm and maybe thicker, depending on your DIY store.


We used 12mm for the top and sides.

Our unit will not have much weight in it so this thickness is perfect.

12mm is thick enough to use a decent size screw to fix it together.

If you go too thin, you will split the wood and it won’t be very stable.

We did however use 9mm for the shelves.

It is still fairly strong and will hold the weight of the items we will be putting in it.

It is cheaper too and that’s always a bonus.


For the supports, 12mm MDF was our option.

We felt 9mm was a bit too thin to hold the weight of the shelf.

As you will see on our design, the shelf supports are visible.

This was intentional as we wanted the shelf to have the maximum support and this design gives them that.

You can cut yours shorther to hide them, however the front of the shelf may wobble and not feel as secure.


The last thing to consider is where your unit will go.


Ours will stand on a counter top so we opted to add felt feet and a back.

This is a good idea if you don’t want things falling out the back of the unit.

You may decide that you want yours to be on wheels so you can move it freely around the office or room.


Please make sure that every care is taken to make the unit stable and not too high.

It is important that the unit is fixed securely to the wall so that it doesn’t topple over.


Now all the boring stuff is out the way, it’s time to make the unit.


When we calculated the measurements for the unit, we decided that we wanted the top and the bottom panels to be fixed onto the top of the sides.

We felt it would make the unit stronger if the sides took the weight of the top panel.

Work out how high and deep you want the unit and write the figure down.

A top tip is to work in millimetres as it is easier to calculate the shelf measurements.

For those that are unfamiliar with mm’s, each 1 cm on a tape measure is 10mm’s.


The figures for our unit are below


Sides 250mm wide by 500mm tall x 2 (1 panel for each side)

The top and bottom panels will need to be 250mm deep to match the width of the side panels. They were 400mm wide.

To recap measurements for the top and bottom panels are 250mm by 400mm.

As the top panel will fix on the top edges of the sides, when we calculate the width of the shelves we need to take this into account.

The shelves will measure the top panel minus the width of the two side panels.

The depth will be the same as the width of the sides.

So the measurements for the shelves are

400 (the width of the top panel) minus 24 (12 + 12 to allow for the 12mm side panels) 400-24 = 376.

Therefore each shelf measures 376mm by 250mm.

You can have as many shelves as you wish, but take care if you place them close together.

If you intend to do this, you may find it easier to paint or decorate the pieces before assembling them as they will be harder to reach.

The shelf supports are a personal choice as to how deep you make them.

As we said before, we wanted ours to be the full depth of the unit.

Ours shelf supports were cut 250mm long, and 25mm in height.

Now that’s the hard bit done. Once you have got all your measurements and decided what wood you want to use, you can get the pieces cut.


Now’s the fun bit – seeing your creation take shape.


Here’s what you will need


Pre-cut wood to your desired measurements which includes

sides X 2

top & bottom (1 of each, but they are the same size)

shelves (we had five, but this is personal choice)

shelf supports (2 for each shelf  X   the number of shelves you have)





drill bits and screwdriver attachment

If you don’t have an attachment you will need a screwdriver




If you are decorating your unit you will need






sponge or glue applicator


tape measure

pencil and rubber



If you don’t want to decorate your unit, you can leave it bare.

It is a good idea however to treat the wood with a stain or varnish to stop it getting grubby.


To assemble


Lay all your pieces out so that you know what the pieces are.

The first step is to fix the supports for the shelves. We do this prior to assembling the unit.

It will be easier as all the surface is exposed and easily accessible.

Decide what you want to use each shelf for.

That will help you work out how much space you need for each one.

You can make them all different heights within the unit.

The purpose of making your own is that you design it to your needs.


We now want to mark the position of the shelves.


This step needs a good level of accuracy.

If you don’t place the markers in the same place on both sides, the shelves will not be level.

Take one of the side panels and using a tape measure or rule, draw a line to mark the position of the top of the support.

Do this for all the supports down the side panel.

Ours were 3inches apart and we left a larger gap at the bottom.

If you use a pencil, it will be easier to rub out any visible lines.




Lay the two side panels together so you can see they match.

At this stage it will be easy to rectify any mistakes.




Using a strong wood glue, spread it evenly along one of the shelf supports.




Line the top of the support  right up to the pencil mark and clamp into place.


Leave it until the glue has set firm.


The shelves on our unit will not have much weight on them so just glue will be more than sufficient for our needs.

If your shelves will have a lot of weight on them, it is a good idea to strengthen the supports with screws.

When selecting a screw length make sure it is shorter than the width of the two pieces of wood when placed together.

You don’t want the screw to poke out of the side of the unit.

If you are unsure what screws you need, ask your local DIY store who will advise the best ones to use.


Do this for all the supports.

Make sure you place the supports the same on both sides, so it’s an idea to have them side by side.

This will allow you to check that they are in line with eachother.




We now want to add the top panel to the unit.

Run a line of glue along the top of one of the sides.




Using one of the other straight pieces, trap the top panel against the top of the side and hold in place with something heavy.

Make sure the side panel is positioned so that the supports can be seen as in the pic below.

Leave to dry completely.




Once dry, lay the unit down, taking care not to agitate the join.

To make the unit more stable we will add screws to join the pieces together.

We will be deccorating our unit and want the surface to be smooth with no visible screws.

You can get a special countersink screw bit, but these are pricy and not worth purchasing if you are only making this unit.

They are a great addition to your tool collection though if you decide to make more units.

For this tutorial though, we will show you how to use an ordinary wood drill bit.



It is always advisable to drill a pilot hole when working with screws.

If you were to drill straight into wood without one, the panel will most likely split and look most unproffesional.

A pilot hole (it must be slightly smaller that the screw width though, this is really important) will create a tunnel to start the screw on it’s way.

Think of it like you are trying to push your way through a crowd………… you will create havoc pushing people out of the way.

However if they part slightly, creating a gap, you will be able to walk through with ease.

The pilot hole needs to go all the way through the top panel and into the side panel.
Once inserted, we don’t want the screw to show.
We need to countersink it so that the head of the screw is below the surface of the top panel.

This is how we can get around having to buy a countersink bit.

Take a normal wood drill bit.

It will need to be big enough to create a hole that is slightly bigger than the head of your screw.

A good tip is to test it on a scrap bit of wood.

Make a hole and turn the screw upside down and test it to see if the head will go in the hole.

If it won’t you will need to up a drill bit size or perhaps two.




Once you have found the right size bit, drill into the pilot hole.

Be very gentle and take care when drilling, as you don’t want to drill too far.

You need to go down slightly further that the depth of the screw head.

Before you drill, make sure that the depth of the MDF is suitable.

You will be able to use this technique on 9mm thickness and upwards, but any less than that and you will lose strength in the join.




Using a screwdriver attachment on your drill, insert the screws into the pilot holes.

You can see in the pic below that once inserted, the screw heads are below the surface of the top panel.



Join the other side to the top panel in the same way.

Make sure it is the right way up or the self positions will be wrong.

We now want to add the shelves.

It is easier to do this before we attach the bottom panel.

Run an even layer of glue along the top of all the shelf supports.



Put the shelves in place.

While they are drying, wrap a strap close to bottom to hold them securely in place.

You could also use one of the straps that you wrap around suitcases, or a piece of rope or string.

It is important that you do hold it in place with something or you may find that the bottom panel will not fit as well as it should.




Once the glue is dry and the shelves are fixed firm, add the bottom panel to the unit.

This will be much easier to do as the unit is mostly assembled and sturdy.

The next step is a personal choice.

Our unit will be standing on a wooden surface and we don’t want it to get scratched.

We added some felt feet to ours.

You can pick these up from your local DIY store.

If you have decided to add wheels to your unit, add them after decorating or the unit will move about.


We covered the bottom screws with the feet but we needed to fill the holes on the top of the unit.

As our unit is being decorated it didn’t really matter what coloured filler we used.

If you are leaving your unit bare, try to match the filler to the colour of your wood.

Fill the holes and leave the filler to dry.

Once dry sand the top so that is smooth.

You may want to sand your unit once it has been assembled.

Please take extra care when sanding MDF.

A mask should be worn, as MDF creates a lot of dust that shouldn’t be inhaled.


You are now ready to decorate the unit.


We are decorating our unit with wallpaper.

Wallpaper is quick and easy to apply and there is a huge range out there to choose from.

For a heavy use item like this, it is best to choose a washable wallpaper as it will be more hardwearing.

As the unit has lots of nooks and crannies, it is better to use paint for the hard to reach areas.

That way you will get a professional look.

Although there are many paints on the market we absolutely love VALSPAR.

It comes in a huge and we mean HUGE range of colours and you can even colour match to one you  want.

The thing that really sells it to us here at The Crafty Co is you don’t have to fork out on a huge tin.

The tester pots are cheap and are a good size.

If you want to follow us and use wallpaper, first paint the areas of the unit that will be hard to get to.

The inner sides above the shelves, the shelf supports and the front and back edges.

To save paint, don’t paint all of the top and the sides as the wallpaper will cover most of it.


You may need to do a few coats, and once it is dry you can add the wallpaper.

To work out how much you need, measure the panels.

It is an idea to cut the wallpaper just short of the panel.

This way it is less likely to get torn with all the use it will have.




Once you have the measurments, decide the image you want to use.

Although it uses more wallpaper, we wanted to use specific sections of the design.

If you want to save money, use the wallpaper as it comes and don’t worry to much about matching the design.

Mark out the size you need, using a pencil as this can easily be rubbed out so it doesn’t show.

Check the direction of the design matches the orientation of the unit.




Cut out the design carefully.

The neater you can cut it, the more professional the unit will look.




Spread an even layer of pva glue on the back of the design.

Make sure you go over the edges and cover them completely or they will curl up.




Stick the wallpaper down on the top of the unit, try to get it as central as you can.

Working from the middle of the paper outwards, smooth it out making sure the finish is smooth and bubble free.

Be careful if you are wearing rings as they may scratch or rip the paper.




Do exactly the same for the sides.




We wanted the sides to be exactly the same design.

This is simple to do but does use more wallpaper as you need to search out the exact same image on the paper.

Cut out one of the sides with the chosen design.

Lay the cut out over the wallpaper and line it up with the same image underneath.

You will know it’s right if you lose the cut piece in the image.

Draw around the cut out and now you have a second piece that is exactly the same as the first.

Carefully cut out this piece.




Below you can see that the two sides are exactly the same.




Now the sides and top have been decorated, it’s time to do the shelves.




But first, we have decided to pick out the shelf support ends and paint them different colours.

We wanted lots of colours, but didn’t want to spend much on paint.

A cheeky money saver is to just buy the primary colours and white, and you will be able to mix any colour you want.

This is a fab way to get the kids involved and they will have lots of fun working out how to make different colours.




Now that we have painted the support ends, we can turn our attention to the shelves.



The bottom shelf is done slightly differently from the others.

We would usually wrap the wallpaper over the front  of the shelf.

When you put things in the shelves, this will stop the edge of the paper getting caught.

Over time this would curl up or even tare.

Just for the bottom shelf we offered the edge of the wallpaper to the front edge of the shelf as we like it better that way.

You of course can wrap it over the edge of the shelf if you want to, the choice is yours.




Glue the back of the sheet and stick it to the bottom shelf leaving the overhang at the back of the unit.

You can either fold it down over the back of the shelf edge, or cut it flush.

This won’t be seen as we are putting a back on.


For the other shelves we will wrap the front edge

When you measure the shelves, cut the width a mm or so less to ensure it fits.

As the unit has been painted it will disguise any imperfections.

When measuring the depth, add a couple of inches to allow for the overhang at the front and back if you want an overhang there too.




Once you have wallpapered all the shelves, turn the unit upside down.

You can see the overhang that has been left on the bottom of the shelf.



The next step is not essential but as our unit is eye height, the undersides of the shelves are visible.

To neaten the finish on the unit you can wallpaper underneath the shelves.

This is a great excuse to use up the odd bits of wallpaper as pattern matching isn’t important.

As we have got an overlap of paper on the underside we can get away with cutting a slightly smaller piece.

This means the edge of the paper is out of harms way and won’t get ruined.

Glue these pieces in place and turn the unit back the right way.




Now you can stand back and admire your work.




It looks fab and will be a lovely addition to our design room.

The thing that we love the most is this is a one off and completely unique.

Even if someone were to use the same dimensions and wallpaper, theirs would never be exactly the same.

You can choose any wallpaper design, the more funky and wacky, the better.




The final job that can be done although again it’s a personal choice, is to add a back to the unit.

If yours is going to be static and fixed against a wall you don’t really need to add a back.

Personally we think it adds stability and gives the unit that “finished look”.

We used 3mm thick wood and it is already white on one side.

This white side is placed against the unit so when you look through it from the front you will see the white side.

The back should be very slightly smaller than the unit.

This is so it won’t be seen.

Don’t cut it too small . Ideally the panel pins need to go through the centre of the back edge.

Lay the unit down and hammer the panels pins at intervals all around the edge.

We put one in each corner and  a few in between.




The back of the panel won’t be seen so it doesn’t matter what colour it is.




And here is the finished unit – how cool is this?




Here at The Crafty Co we love seeing your creations using our tutorials so please tag us so we can admire th


Happy Crafting

The Crafty Co










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