Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

December 1, 2014

DIY Plywood Magazine Files

UPDATED: Exciting news!!! This project was chosen for the January 2015 edition of Bob Vila's "Thumbs Up" Competition.  I'd really appreciate it if you could hop over there and vote for me, no registration or anything required - just click "Vote" (over my project, preferably).  Click here :)  Thank you so much!!

I have ignored our home office for so long, that a few readers have actually asked if we even have one!  So far you've only seen the closet turned into an aqua nook and my Ikea Expedit Hack 2.0.  I recently unearthed my desk and spent a good long time making the office moderately presentable, only to have the Etsy shop explode in it and make it messy once again.  I'll clean it up (again), snap some pictures and share our plans soon - we have an ambitious idea for matching DIY desks sketched out (there's woodworking and welding involved).

In the meantime, we turned our attention back to the Expedit to wrap up one last project.  Last time you saw it, I was mooning over my colour-coded books (which traumatize my colour-blind Dad).  Hubby and I had made a simpler version of my Expedit hack so the bottom row - full of photo albums and ugly binders - was successfully hidden.  With it's jumble of painted/unpainted magazine files and coil bound course packs, the fourth row was the last hold out in my pursuit of orderliness:

I decided I wanted fifteen identical magazine files and spent a long time searching for the perfect ones.   What caught my eye was either really spendy (I ogled some $20 a piece Lucite ones) or seemed really flimsy (Ikea, looking at you).  We decided to just make some out of plywood.  At the last minute I decided that making five larger versions would be easier, faster and look cleaner - and solved my worry about staggering heights if we accidentally made some taller.  Here is the finished product:

I'm so pleased with how they turned out!  We started with the same kind of doodly sketch that precedes most of our projects:

We used 1/4" Carribea pine plywood (the same plywood as the top for the floating Ikea credenza, but thinner).  Once we had an idea of what we wanted - and what size - Hubby used this online cut list tool that he really likes (we used it for our DIY plywood pantry as well).  It helps figure out how much material we need, and helps us efficiently cut up a sheet of plywood.  We worked on another project at the same time so we can't remember exactly how much plywood we used for these, but we think it was about a sheet and a half.  Here are all of the pieces cut out for one magazine file:

For anyone looking to make the exact box with the same dimensions (which are completely customizable), I've updated this post with more detailed information on the cut list - thanks to a reader's suggestion:

Hubby used a table saw to cut all of the square/rectangular shapes:

And a bandsaw for triangular cuts:

He edge glued and clamped the boxes together (applying wood glue to both sides of each joint).  Once dry, he glued the internal dividers into place. Without dividers, these would make great storage bins for the Expedit.

We made these in Hubby's Dad's wordworking shop, where Szuka tormented the local pups. She's adorable, no doubt, but when she's with other dogs she can turn into a real jerk.

Back to the files!

Once the glue dried, we sanded the finished magazine files smooth.  I was definitely tempted to paint them aqua (everything turquoise!), but for some reason I'm really smitten with the Carribea grain.  I decided to paint the inside the same turquoise as the closet nook and hanging canvases (semi-gloss in this colour).  To help insure no paint bled onto the fronts, I didn't paint the edge - only the insides.  While I love the Carribea grain, I don't love the natural colour of pine.  Three coats of my favorite white stain helped tone down the yellowness.  Here they are painted, but un-stained:

Once the stain was dry, I applied two coats of low lustre varnish, lightly scuff sanding in between coats.  You already saw my pretty, vintage hardware given a makeover with rub 'n buff, which we installed - centred - with the help of a small metric bolt and washer.

Finally, we added some felt feet to the bottom of each file to keep it from scratching the Expedit - they're smooth on the bottom, but I find the white scuffs easier than the espresso finish I had before, so I try to be extra careful with it.  I actually think that adding two strips of adhesive-backed felt to either edge will be a better solution, but I have yet to pick some up. 

When you make something yourself, there's always a chance it won't turn out/hold up.  So far, so good, but there's always a chance the construction won't bear the weight of the magazines, so I'll keep you posted on how these wear.  When they're packed full, they're a bit heavy but it's nothing I can't manage.  Truthfully, I don't look at back issues of my magazines that often, but I just can't bear to get rid of my old Domino issues or Style at Home.  Hubby also hoards his favorites.  When I'm home sick or planning I project, I'll take them all out and leaf through, but ordinarily they stay put.  If you're someone who is constantly referencing magazines, you might not enjoy one mega file.

The magazine files are wider and taller than the canvases I used for the Expedit hack and the balance bugs me a bit.  When I have a chance, I might re-do the Hack with plywood pieces as large as the new files, or I might get used to the change. 



  1. So.......turquoise rehab will be held every Tuesday at my house. Haha, yeah right! I'm going to do the opposite. I think I'm going to start #turquoisetuesdays on Instagram and share a favorite turquoise find. Anyways.....these are super cute. If the difference in space around the canvases bothers you you could always just trim them with some 1/4 inch molding with mitered corners.....and maybe stain them your fave white to get a little matchy with the boxes.

    1. I would partake in turquoise Tuesdays!! I like your ideas for the hack alterations!

  2. The bookcase looks so tidy and symmetrical. I love the mega filers but never thought about the weight- good point. Even my single may files can be weighty. I also save my old style at home magazines and hubby saves his Cycle Canada (both excellent canadian mags). He doesn't save anything (including instruction manuals, warranties and receipts) but he can't toss his motorcycle magazines.
    We have a smaller sized cube bookcase in our playroom- I may have to build some boxes like this to store the messier play items- my kids are bigger so the box would be fine for them- also the items wouldn't be nearly as heavy nor packed tightly to weigh so much. I love this look.

    1. I'm a huge fan if anything that hides stuff and bins are great for that. If something has a spot, I'll put it away. It's the stuff without a home that makes my space messy. Sadly, that's a lot of my stuff, but I'm working on that...I think a version of these would be perfect for play things.

  3. Would you please share the measurements for each wood piece with us?

    1. Absolutely! I've added a picture to the post - below the photo with the cut pieces lying on a surface, with all of the measurements written on the pieces.


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