Basic instructions for building this scrap wood shoe rack – with the option to learn how to bend wood at the same time!

Good morning everyone!

Today I’m showing off a scrap wood shoe rack I built for a friend.  Not just any old shoe rack – no – this bad boy is made entirely of scrap wood and includes a fun element of learning to it… like how to bend wood!

I’m including measurements on how to make the same shoe rack without the bent wood detail so you have other options, but if you should decide to give bending wood a try, this is a great small project for it.

Scrap wood shoe rack

This shoe rack is 14″ tall, 12″ deep and just shy of 24″ long.  You can very easily make it taller or wider to hold more shoes, but the depth will remain the same if you use the bending technique below.

measurements for DIY shoe rack

Cut list


(4) ¾” thick by 1 ½” wide by 14″ long (for legs) PLUS (2) ¾” thick, 1 ½” wide by 10 ½” long (cross sections)

You will need:

I started by creating two MDF bending forms.  I marked out the depth that I wanted my scrap wood shoe rack to be and then used a bowl to draw rounded corners.  I cut the shape with a band saw (or you can use a jig saw), sanded it smooth and then wrapped the edges in tuck tape so that no moisture would get into the MDF.

MDF bending form

I attached the MDF to a piece of scrap melamine so that the oozing glue wouldn’t stick, but you can skip this step if necessary and just lay out wax paper beneath your bending form before glue up.

I was very fortunate in that I’m currently in cabinet-making school so I have access to an experienced and extremely knowledgeable teacher to help me through projects.  He loved the idea of teaching the class how to bend wood so he built a steam casing so this scrap wood shoe rack can be repeated easily by many students.

steam capsule for bending wood

He used sheet metal, sealed at the edges with metal tape, and a hole in the end to insert the hose from a wallpaper steamer.

Inside he ran metal wire to act as shelves to keep the wood from sitting in moisture.

steam capsule for bending wood

This is absolutely beautiful and I’m so grateful that he want to so much effort – but for those of you at home, you really don’t need anything as elaborate as this…  PVC pipe with one end cap will capture the steam just as well and you’ll have the same results.

I read online that you should steam your wood for 1 hour for every inch of thickness.  Because this was my first attempt at wood bending, I decided to work with 1/8″ strips of poplar (ripped down on the table saw) to make the bending easier.  Five strips glued together will make a board approximately ¾” thick.  I cut 15 strips at 48″ long and 1 ¾” wide just to be safe in case any cracked in bending.

Place your wood strips in your steamer and let the steam run for at least an hour and a half.  Be very careful – the wood, the water that leaks out and the PVC pipe will all be very hot.

Once the wood has steamed and is soft and malleable, take 5 strips together, centre them on the top of your bending form and then slowly bring the sides in to the sides of the form.  Clamp immediately.

bending wood

You will want to leave the wood strips in the form overnight so that they lose excess moisture before gluing.

The following day you will glue the strips together with wood glue and again clamp up overnight for the glue to thoroughly set.

bending wood


Don’t worry too much if your ends are uneven.  We cut the strips longer than needed so we have some wiggle room in cutting the bent wood to the proper length.

While the bent boards were drying, I started milling up the slat shelves for the scrap wood shoe rack.

slat shelf for shoe rack

I used a table saw (and planer) to mill my scrap wood to ¾” thick dowels.

These were attached to the ¾” dowel braces with wood glue and then tacked in place with finishing nails.  Alternatively you could just glue and clamp until dry.

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

When your bent wood has set, cut it to length on the mitre saw.

You’ll find the sides are likely to be uneven and will dried glue oozing out of the seams – we cut the strips at 1 ¾” wide so that they have room to be planed down to 1 ½”.

Use a hand plane to smooth everything out before sanding.

hand planing

Mark on your (bent wood) legs where your shelves will be placed.  I chose to have the lower shelf hold boots, so it is spaced 1″ from the bottom of each leg.  

The higher shelf should be marked out at least 8″ higher than the first – or more depending on the height of your boots/shoes.

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

Mark out where the brace for your slat shelves will sit.  Mine sit flush with the inside edge of the legs so that there is room to trim out the sides later.

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

Set your slat shelves at the marked heights and clamp them in place to hold them firm.  Using a ¼” drill bit, drill a hole through the front of the scrap wood shoe rack legs and into the brace itself.  Fill with wood glue and insert your ¼” dowel so that both pieces are firmly set together.  

Repeat on both ends and on both sides of your shoe rack.

dowel joint

Cut the excess dowel off with a flush cut saw.

dowel joint

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack


Then sand your scrap wood shoe rack smooth.

You can stop here if you like, but I went a step further and added trim to the front, back, and sides to “finish” it off.

Your 1 ½” boards will cover the ends so that you don’t see the ¾” end grain of your slats or the brace holding them in place.

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

I used wood glue and finishing nails to hold the trim pieces in place.

After a couple of coats of clear lacquer, you will be left with this beauty:

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

Did you know that wood glue is stronger than screws?

I didn’t either, I assumed the metal would be stronger, but in actuality screws can shear off if they are banged around a lot (over time of course) and that’s why they don’t use them in framing up homes.  This scrap wood shoe rack is held together entirely by wood glue (and a few dowels), so this piece will last for years and years to come.

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack


Beautiful, functional and the best part – we learned something new!!  
Oh, and the fact that this can be made entirely from scrap wood so it costs very little to make.

That’s a win all around!

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

I’d like to send out a huge thank you to Kyran and the North American Trade School for adding bending wood to the cabinet-making program and especially for building this amazing steamer to help me complete this project.

scrap wood shoe rack, bent wood shoe rack, DIY shoe rack

Have a great one everyone!


3 Responses

  1. I love this so much and I think I could find a place for one of these. Well done to a super star.