DIY Wood Desk Organizer/Mail Sorter

by Dinah
4 Materials
2 Hours
Need a place to store and sort your mail? This rustic wood organizer is an easy fix for your paper clutter woes.
For this project we use reclaimed pallet wood, which we obtain for free from local businesses. Begin by dismantling the pallet (either with a sawzall, deck wrecker, or pry bar and hammer) and select your boards.
To begin, you will need the following pieces: • (2) 24" front boards that total 6.25" tall • (2) 24” back boards that total 9.25" tall For the (2) side pieces we use 4" wide boards. Measure up one side of the board to 9.25" and make a mark. Measuring from the same end of the board, measure up the opposite side 6.25" and make a mark. Using a straight edge between the two marks, score a line. With a miter saw (approximately 37 degrees) cut along this line. Repeat the process for the other side board. Cut and sand 6 pieces to prepare for assembly.
Lay the two side pieces about 24" apart from each other with the back edge down. Dribble a thin line of wood glue on the front edge of each side piece (the edge facing upwards). Lay the bottom front board in place on top of the two side boards and line up the lower corners. It may help to use bar clamps to hold the board in place. Drive a 1.25" finishing nail through the front board into the side boards near the lower corner of each. Make sure the side edges of the board are in correct placement and repeat with another nail near the top of the board, driving the nail into the side piece for both sides. Add the top front board and repeat the process for nailing it into place being sure the edges are in correct alignment with the side boards so the seam is nice and smooth. Wipe away any excess wood glue that may ooze out of the seam. The result will look like the picture above.
Turn the piece over so the front boards are now facing down and the back edges of the side boards are facing upwards. Place wood glue along the back edges of the side boards and lay the back boards in place, again, making sure the side edges are in correct placement. You may use two or three nails for each side of the back boards depending on the size of the board. As a rule of thumb, I would use three nails if the board is over 6". Once the back boards have been secured with nails on each side, wipe away any glue and clamp the piece using wood clamps and allow to set. (I allow about an hour before adding the next pieces.)
While the box is clamped and the glue is setting, begin to measure and cut the pieces that will be used for the base and the (2) inserts that divide the organizer into three compartments. For the base, measure the space on the bottom of the organizer between each side piece and between the front and back boards. This will give you a rectangle about 22-7/8" by 4", depending on the thickness of the boards you use for the side pieces. Using a saw, cut this base board and sand the surfaces smooth.
For the inserts, using 4" wide boards, measure 9.25" up one side of the board and subtract the thickness of the base board you just cut. In my piece I used 1/2" thick boards so the mark would be placed at 8.75". On the opposite side of the board, measure up 6.25" and subtract the thickness of the base board (1/2" for me) and make your next mark. Score a line between the two marks (it should be the same miter angle as before for the side pieces) and make your cut. Repeat this process for each insert and sand pieces until smooth.
You will want to stain or paint the organizer before final assembly, so now is the time to dress it up. I chose the Minwax stain Provincial for this piece as it a nice, rich brown color that isn't too dark. Stain or paint each surface of the organizer and the base board as well as the inserts and allow to dry. Place the base board in position on the bottom of the organizer and using a rubber mallet, tap the board until it fits snugly. Be sure the edges are flush with the bottom edges of the organizer and place the whole piece on its back. I place three 1.25" finishing nails along the front edge at 6", 12", and 18" measuring from one side. Turn the organizer over and repeat for the back side. For added strength, I also place two nails on each side board into the base.
The final step is to place the organizer bottom side down and place the inserts into position. I place mine 6.5" in from each side. Once they are in place I lay the organizer on its back and drive two nails through each front board into each insert for a total of four nails into the front of each insert. Flip the organizer over and repeat making sure your inserts are still at 6.5" from the side. After the nails are driven in from the back, you're ready to use!
Suggested materials:
  • Pallet wood   (local businesses)
  • Wood glue   (Lowe's)
  • 1.25" finishing nails   (Lowe's)
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2 of 15 comments
  • Elizabeth Fencl Elizabeth Fencl on Mar 19, 2017

    This is such a great idea, thanks for sharing!!

  • Linda Abate Linda Abate on Nov 15, 2017

    Totally love your mail/desk sorter. A great way of keeping track of bills to be paid, envelopes/note pads, etc. I can also see something like this in a craft room, or garage or for plants, etc. A wonderful idea and to think it is made from old pallets, which often times can be found on the side of the road from businesses that throw them out. Thanks for sharing.