Canadian Woodworking

Desk top organizer

Author: J. P. Rapattoni
Illustration: Ted Turner
Published: April May 2005

Keep your papers organized with this easy-to-build organizer.

I have a hard enough time keeping my own desk free of clutter. So at home, where I share my desk with my wife and daughter, I knew that I had to come up with something to help organize our messes.

This desk top organizer has turned out to be just the thing.

You can build the trays with or without a piece along the back. I stack mine against a wall, so I chose to put a back only on the top tray. I have included the instructions for the backing if that is your choice. If not, simply skip that part of the instructions and shorten the sides by 3/16″ making them 8 ¾”.

I used ⅜” x 1 ¾” tongue and groove oak hardwood flooring left over from a job. It turned out to be perfect for this project. The tongue and groove allows you to stack the trays fairly high without risk of them falling over. If you don’t have any tongue and groove flooring handy, you can often get off-cuts (shorts) from hardwood flooring companies at a discounted price.

Cut Bottoms

First, decide how many trays you need, I chose eight. Then, from 1/8″ plywood, cut the bottoms to 11 ⅝” x 8 ¾”. Mark an arch on one. Stack the bottoms, with the one you just marked on top, and tape them together. Stack saw them with your band saw.

Cut Slot for Bottom

Raise your table saw blade 3/16″ high, and set your fence ¼” from the blade. Cut all your stock with the groove against the fence and the good face facing up. Check to see that the bottom fits in the slot. It should slide in easily but not fall out. If the fit is too tight, run a piece of scrap through as a test piece.

Move the fence slightly away from the blade and make another cut on the test piece. Repeat this until you get a proper fit. Then, run all you pieces through again.

Cut Parts to Size

Cut two sides at 8 15/16″ and one back at 11 ¼” for each tray. Remove the tongue and groove from each of the back pieces. Sand everything before assembly.


Apply a small bead of glue in the slots of two of the sides, using just enough glue to ensure a good bond without any squeeze-out. Insert the bottom in the slot, lining up the front edges of the sides with the front edge of the bottom. Use masking tape around the perimeter to hold the sides in place. Glue all the sides and bottoms together. As you assemble the trays, stack them on the first one, ensuring they are standing straight and square. Once the glue has dried, glue the back pieces in place. You can secure the back in place with a single brad from each side. Finish as desired; I applied two coats of gloss varnish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Gifts/Crafts projects to consider
Username: Password: