Mail Sorter

If you’re anything like us, you get a lot of mail. Some is for you, some is for your spouse, some is for someone who owned the house 20 years ago, etc. In our house, all of this mail got piled up in a few different places until the actual important things were buried, never to be seen again.

To try to curb our problem, my wife asked that I make her a mail sorter. She found some pictures of some online that she liked so I combined a few of those together into this week’s project.

The Build

Since I was working from a picture and not really a plan I had to guess on what the dimensions would be. I have since seen a smaller version of this that looks like it would work just fine. The first thing I did was cut some boards to length for the sides. I knew that all of the mail slots sat at an angle so I decided to make that angle 45 degrees. I measured on one side the length that a board would need to be at 45 degrees, again just guessing how deep to make the slots, and marked it on the side. It is important to know that the markings on each of the sides will be opposite, because the boards are facing each other. Essentially, the lines will be mirrored from one side board to he other. I decided to make three mail slots and one small shelf at the bottom. Under the shelf would be a few little hooks for car keys and things.

Once I had the three slot locations marked, I made the actual slots. I wasn’t sure yet how thick I was going to make them but I had decided to try to get to a quarter inch and see how it looked. I had some pine boards left over from a previous project so I decided to resaw those and then plane them down to thickness. This resawing is very easy with a band saw and a good blade. Unfortunate I do not have the best of blades on my band saw so it just wasn’t cutting it (pun absolutely intended). I ended up sawing it by hand with a panel saw. It was not terribly difficult but it was very slow. The hardest part was keeping the board straight while sawing. After they were resawn I planed them all to the same thickness.

Once I had the three slots cut and planed the way I wanted them I used the location marks I had made on the side boards and held the slots against the lines to trace the exact thickness of each slot board. I marked in pencil which board I was putting in which spot so that the thicknesses would match. I should mention that at this point, I had resawn two pine boards into 4 thinner boards. I had also gone ahead and planed the fourth board down like the others because that would be my shelf. I did not mark it’s location on the sides yet though because I wanted to be sure of everything fitting before adding the bottom shelf.

With the thicknesses and locations of each slot board marked, it was time to cut grooves for the boards to sit in. These grooves would run from the back of the mail sorter to the front so that I could slide the slot boards in from the back and not have ugly groove holes on the front of the finished product. To help me with this I made a jig to hold the board still from side to side. The jig also has two thin pieces that are at a 45 degree angle to the edge. My handheld edge router sits between those two pieces and slides across the side boards to make a perfect 45 degree groove that matches every time. For the other side board, I had to flip the jig to make the grooves run the right way. During this step, make sure not to rout a groove all the way across the side board. Stop the groove at a certain length to give the board a way to lock in place rather than slide out through the front. Use a file or sand paper to clean up any rough edges.

When when all of the angles grooves were cut I decided on a good spot for the bottom shelf groove, marked it and routed it as well (without the jig of course because this one was just a flat line parallel to the bottom of the board).

Next I put all of the slots and the shelf into the sides and clamped it all lightly together. I left it loose enough that I could slide the shelves in and out to adjust them. When I had the shelves pushed into the grooves as far as they would go, I used a pencil to mark any part of the board sticking out past the back of the side boards. I took the slot boards back out, set my table saw to 45 degrees, and cut them at an angle at the pencil marks. Since the slots sat at 45 degrees, cutting the same angle into the back of the slots would make them sit flush with the plywood back that I would put on next.

I put the slots back into the grooves, this time with some wood glue to hold them in place, and then clamped the piece together around the sides. When it was dry, I measured a the length and width of the entire back and cut a piece of 1/4″ plywood to fit it. I used the pneumatic nail gun to put the back in place.

Once the back was in place, it was time to install the key pegs on the bottom. I had intentionally made the plywood back go all the way to the bottom of the mail sorter so that gave me a small section to glue a thicker board to. The plywood was too thin to put the pegs in so I needed to add something thicker to drill into. I used a scrap piece of the same wood I had used for the sides and cut it to fit the gap. I glued it in from the back and sides to hold securely. Then I marked out where I wanted the pegs to be and drilled the holes before gluing the pegs in tightly. Throughout all the gluing, it’s important to get any squeezed out glue off the piece completely. If it dries and you stain it it will often be a different color than the rest of the piece – if it takes the stain at all.

When all the glue was dry I put a coat of Minwax pre-stain treatment on the entire piece followed by Minwax Chestnut colored stain. If you’re like me and you don’t really enjoy staining, you could leave the piece unstained and just seal it with a coat of shellac or clear finish.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this project. It was fun to make and gave me an excuse to make another jig, which is always fun. As always if you got value out of this post please share it with your friends. If you have any ideas for projects or questions about my work, let me know.

Thanks for reading!

-S.A.

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