Every home needs shelves: shelf systems to store clothes and linens, wall-mounted shelves to display accessories, bookshelves for personal libraries; the list goes on. However, inexpensive shelving is often unimaginative at best, and plain, bland and cheap-looking at worst. Make your own shelving from construction site cast-offs or thrift store bargain bins, and your homemade shelves will not only be original and handmade, but inexpensive as well. Paint or stain your shelves in colours coordinated with other objects or architectural elements in the room for a custom look.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Wooden fruit crates
- Measuring tape
- Drill with bit
- Stud finder
- Long straight edge
- 2-inch wood screws
- 1-inch wood screws
- 3/8-inch diameter, 2½-inch bolts
- Lock washers
- Two long drawers
- One short drawer
- Aluminium angle
- Latex paint
Stack all the fruit crates on top of and next to each other on their longest side, deciding on a configuration of rows and columns; rows and columns of equal numbers of boxes make strong, symmetrical-looking shelves.
Starting at the top row of crates, drill a 3/8-inch hole through the bottom centre of each box and through the top centre of the box below it; do this for all of the crates until you reach the bottom row.
Measure the length of your bottom row. Find a horizontal stud in the wall where you want to hang the shelves. Using a straight edge, draw a long, straight line which matches your row measurement down the length of the stud. Check that the line is level and adjust if necessary.
Measure the longest edge of a crate. Mark down the length of stud line where each crate edge would be. Using your wood screws, attach an L-bracket on the either side of each mark, and on the very inside of either end of the line; there should be twice as many brackets as there are crates in your planned bottom row.
Lay a crate to each set of two brackets, along the line, and mark the screw holes where the brackets hit the underside of the crate. Drill the appropriate diameter pilot hole for your bracket’s screws in these spots. Attach the crates to the brackets using the screws which were included with your brackets.
Lay another layer of crates directly over those, matching all edges and top and bottom holes. Attach the boxes to each other with your bolts, securing them with your washers and nuts. Repeat this process until you have assembled your box shelves.
Secure the backs of each box to the wall with a molly anchor or a 2-inch wood screw in the centre of the box, depending on whether you are drilling into a stud or drywall.
Make all sides of your drawers even by sawing off any lips or moulding on the face of your drawer. Remove any knobs, pulls or handles. Sand the drawer, preparing it for paint.
Paint the entire drawer. Allow the paint to dry.
Position your drawers in a bookcase arrangement, with the open tops of the drawers facing outward and the two longer drawers on the top and bottom of the shorter drawer; the left edges of all drawers should be even.
Measure your arrangement’s height. Cut four pieces of aluminium angle to that measurement, plus 5 more inches. Sand off any rough edges.
Drill a 1/8-inch diameter pilot hole through each side of the aluminium angle at 7/8 inches from the angle’s edge and 3½ inches from the top. Drill into each hole again, just barely, with a 1/4-inch bit; this will allow the screw’s head to rest flush with the aluminium angle’s surface.
Lay the top drawer out, lengthwise and open side up. Arrange the angles around the front and back edges of both of the drawer’s sides; their tops should also be flush with the drawer’s top. Attach the angles to the drawer with ¾-inch screws.
Drill more pilot holes in each side of the left two angles, 3½ inches from the bottom of the drawer. Attach the left side of the smaller drawer to these two angles. Drill pilot holes down on the right side angles at the small drawer’s height plus 3½ inches down from the top drawer and inside the edges at 7/8 inches.
Drill four more holes on the left side angles 3½ inches down from the small drawer and 7/8 inches from the angle’s edges. Attach the third drawer to the angles beneath the smaller drawer, using the ¾-inch screws; there should be 5-inch long legs extending below the bottom drawer.
Screw the drawers together with appropriate-sized wood screws to strengthen the shelf and complete the project.
Tips and warnings
- Use a laser level to simplify the shelf hanging process.
- Test your fruit crates for weaknesses by shaking and loading them with weight before using them as shelves.
- Paint in a well-ventilated area. Always wear protective eyewear and a dust mask when sanding.
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