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Easy Adjustable DIY Desk Shelf [with plans]

Customize your storage with this DIY desk shelf! Expands from 12" to 24" long, or fits into a corner with the 90 degree configuration.

DIY desk shelf with images of shelves empty and filled with office supplies

The cabinet in our living room has become a magnet for clutter. I wanted a way to store school supplies and other essential items in a way that was easily accessible. This simple adjustable desktop shelf is just what our family needs to contain the chaos!

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Instead of shoving everything into a drawer where it would get lost, I wanted to organize everything on top of the cabinet with a multiple levels of small shelves. I did a bit of searching and came across this desktop organizer on Amazon.

DIY desk shelf inspiration piece

But the price tag was way too high for what is really just a few bucks worth of wood (if it's even real wood!) Why buy it when I can make it myself!

This is a great scrap wood project if you have extra plywood or 1x6 board end cuts laying around the workshop. Pair it with a DIY laptop stand for the ultimate workspace! Here's how to make your own!

Materials Needed for DIY Desktop Organizer

Don't forget your safety gear when woodworking! Here are my recommendations for safety glasses and ear protection. No excuses!

How to Make a Desk Shelf

Download the free woodworking plans

Before you begin, don't forget to download the free woodworking plans for this DIY desk shelf by signing up for my email newsletter below! I'll send you a PDF with all the instructions in a printable checklist format so you can keep track of your progress.

Cut the 1x6 board and drill the pocket holes

The best part about this little desk shelf is that it only requires one 1x6 board! Cut it down into the individual pieces you'll need according to the cut list in the plans. You can also customize the dimensions to fit your space perfectly!

Drill pocket holes into one end of each of the longer pieces. These will be the horizontal shelves.

pieces for DIY desk shelf

Assemble the first shelf

Attach one of the long pieces three inches up from the bottom of the side piece, using wood glue and 1 ¼" pocket hole screws.

first desk shelf piece attached to side piece

Attach one of the short pieces under the other end of the shelf with wood glue and brad nails. You could also use countersunk screws through the top if you don't have a brad nailer or finish nailer. The top of this shelf will mostly be hidden under the other shelf, but you could also cover the holes with wood filler if you plan to paint it.

first half of the DIY desk shelf complete

Assemble the second desk shelf

The other half of the organizer rests on top of the first, so getting the right height is crucial. Measure the height of the assembled shelf from the bottom of the short end to the top of the shelf.

Now attach the bottom of the second shelf to the side at that height. Mine was 3 ¾" up from the bottom, but yours can vary if you're using plywood instead of solid wood.

checking the height of the second desk shelf with a tape measure

Now use the short piece as a spacer to hold the next shelf at the proper height while you drive in the pocket hole screws. The space is pretty tight between the two shelves, so a right angle drill attachment comes in handy to insert the pocket hole screws.

using a right angle drill attachment to drive in the pocket hole screws on the desk shelf

Slide the spacer out and apply wood glue to both long edges. Slide it between the top and bottom shelf and nail it into place on both sides.

second desk shelf assembled

Paint or Stain the Desk Shelf

How easy was that! Now you can customize your new desk shelf with whatever stain or paint matches your decor.

I went with my favorite gray stain for most of the shelves, but brightened up the interior of the rectangular shelf with white paint. In retrospect, I should have applied wood conditioner first to prevent some of the blotchiness.

empty DIY desk shelf side view

This two-toned effect is the same one I used on my hexagon side table, so now the color scheme is repeated throughout the living room.

empty DIY desk shelf front view

Choose your desk shelf configuration!

The versatility of this desk shelf is perfect for our multi-purpose living room. I can stretch it out almost two feet long when we need lots of storage for school supplies.

DIY desk shelf extended to full length with school supplies

Or we can keep it compact to make room for other things on the desktop.

DIY desk shelf with school supplies in compact configuration

You can also rotate one side 90 degrees so it becomes a corner desk shelf instead!

DIY desk shelf with school supplies in corner configuration

It's been wonderful having all our supplies in one spot, instead of rummaging through multiple junk drawers to find what we need. I'm thinking of making another of these for the kitchen counter as a spice rack!

Don't forget to download the free woodworking plans to make your own!

Check out these other beginner woodworking projects!


Wednesday 13th of June 2018

Congratulations on the feature on To Grandma's House We Go. I love your website. There are so many projects there that I would have done when I was a little bit younger. Your website reminds me of me, (except that I would have had to put "thehandywomansdaughter". My mother was so adept at making anything and my dad could not put much of anything together. I grew up on a farm and my father was very good at tending to the livestock, but my mother ended up fixing most anything that my dad didn't hire out to get fixed. I do have an office and love the shelf. I am going to put one together. Thanks for sharing and I am going to point my nieces and nephews to your website.

Jann Olson

Tuesday 12th of June 2018

What a great desk! Thanks for sharing with SYC. hugs, Jann

Donna @ Modern on Monticello

Monday 11th of June 2018

This is a really good idea and awesome design. I have pinned it so I can show it to my husband for my desk. Thanks for sharing at #HomeMattersParty

Linda on Poinsettia Drive

Wednesday 6th of June 2018

You are so clever. I would like to invite you to come share on the NEW Classy Flamingos Blog Party . Wednesday thru Friday.

Marissa | Squirrels of a Feather

Monday 4th of June 2018

Wow, it rotates! Now that is a cool organizer!

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