Closet System


I made the closet shelves out of maple, hickory and Brazilian cherry flooring, all solid. I used ¼" red oak plywood for panels and horizontal surfaces. Most of the flooring pieces were short. So I had to design around that. The result was more than 100 parts to track. When I started I thought I had an infinite supply of flooring but this project used almost all of it which is a good feeling.

All the wood was obtained off craigslist. Small batches of solid hardwood flooring comes up on craigslist often, but very hard to sort through all the spamming retailers. Sellers also often misspell "flooring" so you have to be creative in the search parameters. I'm not sure of the total cost here, $30-60 range would be about right.

You can see my miter saw stop gauage in the photo. With so many parts it was time to build a stop. Worked great.


You can see how the cabinets were built in a stack of 3 sections. Each section is also a different height, smallest on top. This was done to accommodate the short flooring pieces.

Building with found materials forced me into designing more interesting pieces. I had always been willing to design interesting objects, but without experience or training I didn't really have a concept of how far to go. In this case I had no choice but to get creative.

These would have looked much more like something from Walmart if I had just gone to the lumber yard and picked up exactly what I build a Walmart looking piece. So this really opened my eyes to design and what is possible, and why it is worth the extra effort.

Each section is joined together with copper strips. This ties into the copper strips in the floor.


Once again, hammered flat ¾" recycled copper water pipe. Between cabinet sections the copper holds adjacent sections together.

This photo shows the top of a cabinet where the strip covers the edge of the ¼" plywood on top. I just face nailed the plywood rather than cutting a rabbet.

Cutting rabbets and dados isn't that much fun for me. I use a simple bench table saw not a really nice cast iron top table saw. Just don't have the space, not even close. Couple that with using less than perfect recycled wood and I'm rarely happy with the results. Instead I design around this issue and hopefully add interest in the process. For example, instead of dados, I generally add wood blocking to support a shelf.

You can also see an "L" backet, made from copper pipe, screwed to the wall and the top of cabinet to secure. Partly a remnant of my days living in earthquake country but mostly this is a top heavy cabinet. Plus I don't want it moving around when bumped.

Clothes Rod

I had purchased standard clothes rods from Home Depot, about $100 worth. This was toward the end of the project and one starts looking for shortcuts. Once the cabinets were done I just couldn't bring myself to install these flimsy rods, even though I'd gotten their best. And their look, just so standard.

I take great joy in returning things to Home Depot. Even the ubiquitous rudeness of the employees can't keep the smile from my face.

I searched my cache for solutions. I had a lot of wood rods from the house. I like these, but a couple of problems. Too shabby chic for the cabinets. Not long or strong enough; I would need to add a wall mid span.

Steel. I stayed stuck on round, that's what closet rods are after all. Black gas pipe? Galvinized? Not smooth enough for sliding hangers. In the past I've been surprised how little weight ¾" steel pipe can hold without a lot of sag.

Finally, after a couple weeks, I spied some 1" square steel tubing I'd cut out of a gate when building the secret door bookcase (Plate 3). Pretty heavy gauge. The flat sides would provide more perpendicular strength than pipe of the same size. With a corner pointing upward, diamond shaped, very little of a hanger would be in contact, reducing drag.

I scrapped off the black paint and went with bare steel. I like the concept of patina, the look of use. Rust can look good when oiled from time to time.

63" clear span, about 1/16" of sag fully loaded. I like the openness the clear span affords. A closet can turn into a packed mess. This one has kept its open feeling even after moving in.

Bar Ends Support

To support the bar I was thinking the standard horizontal piece of wood. But I would have wanted a pretty wide board, which I didn't have. Then I thought how Gustave Eiffel would solve this? If he only had wood?

I like the result. Looks strong and mirrors the look of hangers.

One piece of the darker wood on top of the rod can swivel to release the bar.


It isn't often I feel compelled to sign a work. I'd rather hide my narcissism.

In this case my signature was personal. This project opened a new door for me in design. I know it isn't anything special, the craftsmanship far from great. But it did change me and that was worth noting on a personal level. Plus, the labels are positioned so they'd rarely be noticed, so my narcissism is still secured.

I shellacked these on to turn the standard white printer paper translucent. My goal here was not to make the labels appear old. To me that is fake, I want real.

However, I do want to build so patina will occur naturally. We hold 200 year old finishes in the highest esteem on antiques. A chair with an old untouched finish will sell for tens of thousands of dollars more than the same chair that has been refinished. Then why do we build things today so their plastic finish will look just as plastic in 200 years?

Age truely can't be reproduced, only faked.