Canadian Woodworking
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Build a makeup organizer

Author: Rob Brown
Photos: Rob Brown
Illustration: Len Churchill
Published: February 2024
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This simple makeup organizer is fun to make and will help store and keep makeup handy. It’s easily customized, too

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  • DIFFICULTY
    2/5
  • LENGTH/TIME
    2/5
  • COST
    2/5

My 14-year-old daughter has started to wear makeup. She’s also surprisingly organized, and it was obvious she needed a simple way to store her regularly used items that would be neat, tidy and easily accessible.

 

desktop makeup organizer

 

desktop makeup organizer

Drill Some Holes
Once the washer clearance holes are bored in the trays, drill pilot holes in their centres, followed by clearance holes for the threaded rod.

Drill Some Holes

A Nice Pattern
A random orbital sander will leave a nice pattern on copper pipe.

A Nice Pattern

Even Cuts
A piece of scrap with a groove in it will help keep the threaded rod in place while cutting it to length. Brown used the end of the scrap to reset his saw on while cutting so the lengths of these parts were cut accurately.

Even Cuts

Copper Pipe Length?
To calculate the length of the copper pipe, Brown measured the difference between the wood trays and threaded rod then subtracted an extra 1/16".

Copper Pipe Length?

Jig and Stop
Brown uses another simple jig, but this time with a stop, to help him cut the four pieces of copper pipe to equal length. The upper piece can be cut to the exact length you want the copper pipe to finish at, then used to clamp the stop in place so the end of the top piece is in line with the end of the lower portion of the jig. The grooves in the jig parts help keep the workpiece stationary while cutting, while the ends of the two jig parts allow you something to rest your blade against while making the cut.

Jig and Stop

Cut Some Bevels
Bevels can now be cut into the side pieces so they all wrap around the perimeter of the plywood trays nicely. Notice Brown labels the parts and plywood base so he can glue up the parts in the same location.

Cut Some Bevels

Mark the Curves
This is the front piece of the lower tray. After marking it, Brown cuts the waste off and sands it smooth.

Mark the Curves

Apply Some Pressure
Clamps and cauls will help bring the parts together snugly.

Apply Some Pressure

Wrap It Up
After applying glue, Brown wraps the four sides around the base.

Wrap It Up

Final Assembly
Nuts and washers are added to the threaded rod on the underside of the bottom tray to start bringing the parts together for good.

Final Assembly

Customize the design

Start off by taking a look at the items you want to store and think about the size the organizer needs to be in order to hold everything. If there’s a lot of makeup to deal with you might want to make this into a three-tier design or increase the width, length or both.

Also consider the height of the items and whether they will be stored upright or flat. Some of her items would be stored stand­ing up while others would likely be stored on their side.

During the design process my daugh­ter and I brainstormed a wide range of ideas. Not surprisingly, considering how often I wear makeup, not many of my ideas were that great. I mentioned making one of the trays removable and design­ing a lid for it to make it easy to take to sleepovers. She thought items would just get messed up en route and she also had a travel bag for these sorts of things, so this wasn’t needed. I thought of adding a few hooks to the sides so she could hang other items, but that didn’t sound appealing to her, either. I also floated the idea of build­ing a removable tray that would sit on top of the upper box with a series of holes in it for storing specific items like lipstick, lip gloss, brushes and other tall, thin items. According to my daughter, this wouldn’t make the most efficient use of space. She even discarded an idea for a small tray that would slide on top of the upper tray to keep some of her most-used items within reach. No thanks, Dad. She likes the K.I.S.S. theory and I respect that.

In terms of my approach to joining the two trays together with threaded rods, you could also use a threaded nut let into the underside of the upper tray to fix the threaded rods to. This would provide you with a cleaner-looking top tray, as there would be no nut, washer and threaded bolt protruding through it. She didn’t think our approach would be a problem, as most of her makeup would hide it.

Best of all my daughter helped me out with this build, which was a lot of fun.

Get your material

As always, purchasing your hardware is the first step in this project. We needed threaded rod and nuts that the copper pipe could fit over. After some testing at our local hardware store, we chose a 1/2″ cop­per pipe and 1/4-20 threaded rod and nuts. The copper pipe easily fits over the nuts. The length depends on how big you’d like your organizer to be. We bought two 36″ lengths of threaded rod and one 36″ length of copper pipe. I realized afterwards that making the height of this organizer about an inch shorter would have meant we could have used just one threaded rod, but since it was only a few dollars I’ll leave that deci­sion up to you. Also buy 16 nuts and eight washers.

If you prefer the look of aluminum or steel you might be able to find those materi­als at your local hardware store.
My daughter preferred the light look of maple, but if I had had my way, I would have used black walnut for the trays, as I think it pairs well with copper.

Start building

Begin by making the two wood trays. Cut the two plywood bases to size. Ours were 6″ by 9″. Mark the centre of the nut and washer clearance holes on both base pieces, 3/4″ away from both sides. A hole needs to be drilled in the underside of the bottom and the upper surface of the top to ensure the nuts and washers don’t protrude past the lower and upper surfaces, respectively. Use a piece of scrap the same thickness as the plywood bases to set the depth of the drill press. We used 3/4″ diameter wash­ers so we used a 3/4″ diameter drill for this. Bore four holes in the underside of the bot­tom and four holes in the upper side of the top.

We drilled smaller pilot holes through all eight corner locations, then drilled 1/4″ holes through all eight locations so the threaded rod would fit through it nicely. The first pilot holes were just to fur­ther ensure the 1/4″ diameter clearance holes were centred within the 3/4″ holes.

Working with metal

Working with metal is very similar to working with wood. The main differences are that it cuts more slowly and you need different types of blades to cut it.

To add patina to the copper pipe before cutting it to length, I used a random orbit sander to smooth its surface along its length. Play around with the pattern you get until you like the look. Alternatively, you could sand the pipe with straight passes for a more even appearance. Synthetically adding patina to the copper pipe with chemicals and household liquids will also look good.

To determine the length of the threaded rod, we worked backwards from the length the copper pipe would be cut to. When cut into equal pieces, the 36″ long piece of copper pipe gave us four pieces about 8-7/8″ long. This meant the threaded rod needed to be 8-7/8″ plus the thickness of the top and the bottom, minus about 1/16″ to ensure the threaded rod didn’t protrude beyond the lower surface of the lower shelf or the upper surface of the upper shelf. We cut our threaded rod to be 10-1/4″ long. In hindsight, I should have cut each section of copper pipe about 1/8″ shorter, so remov­ing the last little bit from the fourth piece would have been easier.

Before we cut the threaded rod, we put a nut on it so after we cut it, we could twist the nut off, helping to straighten out the threads. I used a simple jig with a groove down the centre to help hold the threaded rod while it was cut to 10-5/16″. Use a similar jig and a stop to cut the four pieces of copper pipe to length. Grind or sand the freshly cut threads so you can thread a nut on and off with ease. It’s also a good idea to ease the cut ends of the copper pipe so it’s not sharp.

Dry assembly

Do a rough assembly to make sure the lengths of the copper pipe and threaded rod fit. Start by securing the threaded rod to the base. Thread a nut on the threaded rod far enough so that when you insert the rod into the base tray the end of the rod is just shy of flush with the underside of the tray. Add a washer to the underside of the tray, then add a nut on top of the washer. Repeat that for all four corners.

Thread four more nuts onto the top ends of each rod. Adjust their position so that when the copper pipe is inserted over the threaded rods the nuts will be flush with the top edge of the copper pipe. Install the upper tray on the threaded rods, followed by a washer and nut in each corner. Hopefully, the threaded rod will sit just below the upper surface of the upper tray. If not, trim, sand or grind either the rods or pipes to the required length.

Wrap the plywood trays

Break out material for the side pieces of the two trays. Bevel the side pieces so they wrap around the two base pieces. Label the side pieces and trays so you’ll be able to assemble them in the same locations later.

Machine a recess into the front piece of the bottom panel, then sand the freshly cut edge smooth. This will allow the user to more easily access the contents of the bottom tray.

Ease the inner upper edge of all the pieces so it’s not sharp.

Lay out all the solid wood sides of the lower tray so their inner faces are down and their mating bevelled edges are side-by-side. Join them together with strips of masking tape. To test the fit, wrap them around one of the bases. Make cuts as needed to allow for a good fit. Repeat for the upper tray.

To glue them together, apply a bit of glue on the edge of the base and the bevel joints. Wrap the side pieces around the base. Use clamps to press the pieces onto the plywood base. Using cauls will stop the clamps from marking the bases and spread out the clamp pressure.

When dry, remove the tape, clamps and cauls. Remove the glue squeeze-out from the inside corners of the bevels. Repeat for the upper tray. Ease the sharp edges and sand the trays.

Drill 5mm holes for a rubber bumper in each of the four corners of the underside of the lower tray. This will ensure the makeup organizer doesn’t scratch the surface it rests on. You could also use simple self-adhesive bumpers.

Apply a finish

Prep for a finish and apply a finish of your choice. Choose a finish that will stand up to chemicals and stains because makeup will very likely come in contact with this organizer.
If you apply finish to the copper, it will keep it shiny. If you leave it as is, it will get a darker patina over time. After the finish is dry, re-assemble your organizer.


Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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