Student Organiser Part 1: Design

I made this bookcase / organiser for my eldest daughter Juliet who really needed some extra shelves once she had brought all her files and books home from school when they had to clear literally everything out of the classrooms to take home for the lockdown. My wife and I had been thinking about this project for a while anyway but when the president announced the lockdown on the Monday night I immediately got organised to ensure that I had everything I needed by Thursday when lockdown commenced. The design was mostly based on the sizes and types of files and books that my daughter uses. My wife also gave really good input on the overall form and function that we wanted to achieve.

In the design we also considered her desk and the space along the wall on the right-hand side of it, making sure that the final design wasn’t too wide to cover the switches next to the door frame. One of the design considerations was also that the first shelf should be at the same height as her desk, just so that it looked like it went with the desk, and looked aesthetic, I strongly believe in how lines should be continuous and flowing when designing furniture. So I agonised for quite a while over the final design and its dimensions but more info and layouts are in the project plans section below. Needless to say my daughter also had some input to the design.

You can see how we fitted it in between the desk on the left and the switches on the right. Also note the heights of the top and bottom shelves designed to fit the lever arch files, and then the middle shelf just high enough to accommodate the plastic folders and notebooks they use at school. We also incorporated a drawer at the bottom for general storage which uses the full width. Also did a 30mm edge around the top so that she could safely put out some of the pottery figures that she has made.

I found a brilliant website for optimising the cutting list of a board, and changed a few aspects to maximise the use of a single 12mm plywood board, and because of this I managed to waste only 15%. At you can enter the quantity, width and length of your panels as well as the size of your stock sheet. The website will then optimise the cutting lines on the board for you and calculate the wasted area which you can then use to adjust your design to reduce wastage (although in a locked down workshop every scrap of wood gets used somehow!). You can also enter parameters such as blade thickness, grain direction and even if you need to consider edge banding. Once you have loaded in your first version, then you can keep changing your design to optimise for your requirements. My main requirement was to only use one stock sheet and I had to experiment with different sizes and numbers of shelves until I balanced the cutting list with the best possible design.

This is a picture of the website with all the information relevant to the organiser project in this competition entry. The panels and stock sheet information is on the left and the calculations (or output of the website) is on the right. In the middle is the cutting lines marked out on the specified board size which also shows each of the panels in a different colour. Every time you make a change to your entry data on the left, just click calculate and it will update the output. I will definitely be using this website again in the future!

Another important consideration was strength and I was particularly worried about whether the ledge above the drawer would bow once it had books in the shelves above. I included a contingency aspect in the design if this happened as I would only know during construction because this ledge is also supported by the vertical piece running up the middle. I also considered keeping the drawer out and just running that vertical piece all the way to the bottom but I’m glad we were able to keep the drawer as is a really useful feature. As it turned out the 12mm plywood and the construction was sturdy enough that there was hardly any flex. Actually there was a bit more flex in the very bottom ledge under the drawer but I managed to reduce this when I put the backing board on and that kept it in place quite well.

This is the proper sketch of the organiser with final measurements. I have used the drawing programme called Sketchup on previous projects but this time I thought I would go old school and just stick to good old pencil and paper. I decided to use 12mm plywood so that it didn’t look too bulky, and the join technique I decided on was a through dado to avoid too many fasteners and a through dado is maybe slightly quicker as you can assembly all in one go for a single glue-up. (this is true in theory but my glue-up turned out to be quite challenging). The design of the drawer is also shown in the bottom of the picture. I used 350mm full extension drawer slides from 4×4 Direct: The legs are 50mm high from Gelmar: