Storage shelves are intended more for function than for visual appeal, but with a little care and the right materials, you can have both. Build them directly onto the wall for strength, while investing in some knot-free fir or redwood for the frame and veneered plywood shelving for the sake of appearance. In addition, using wooden dowels to connect the frame to the shelving will give the unit a crafted, handmade feel.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 2-by-2 clear fir or redwood
- 5/8-inch veneered plywood
- Tape measure
- Circular saw
- 1.5- and 3-inch wood screws
- No. 2 Phillips bit
- 3/8-by-2 inch wooden dowels
- 1/2-inch drill bit
- Wood glue
- Hand saw
Measure the length and height of wall space available for shelving. Cut 2-by-2 boards to the length measured to act as horizontal wall supports for the shelving. Cut one wall support for each shelf you plan to install.
Cut the number of 12- to 14-inch-wide shelves you need from 5/8-inch veneered plywood. Cut these to the same length as the wall supports. Sand the shelves with 120-grit sandpaper to avoid having to do it when the unit is installed. Pay attention to the front and side edges of the plywood, rounding them off to give the shelving an appealing, finished look.
Cut enough vertical supports out of 2-by-2 lumber so they can be placed at 2-foot intervals on the front of the shelves, with a support at either end. The length of these supports should be equal to the height of the top shelf unit plus 2 inches.
Hold the first wall support in position on the wall at the height of the top shelf. Use a level to make sure it is exactly horizontal and screw it to the wall studs with 3-inch screws. Attach the rest of the wall supports in the same way, making sure they are all level. Use one of the vertical supports and a level to check that the ends are square.
Set one of the vertical supports against the wall supports and draw lines marking the tops of the wall supports. Draw lines 5/8 inch below each of the original lines to mark notches for holding the shelves. Cut out the 5/8-inch notches by setting the blade of the circular saw to a depth of 3/4 inch and passing the blade repeatedly through the wood from line to line.
Set the shelves in place on the wall supports and brace them temporarily in place by hooking the notches of the vertical supports into position on the front of the shelves. Make sure both ends of the shelves are flush with the ends of the wall supports, then screw them into the wall supports with 1.5-inch screws.
Use a level to make sure the vertical supports are plumb and to check that they are correctly spaced, then drill 3/8-inch holes from the front of the supports through the middle of each notch and into the shelving. The depth of these holes should be 1.75 inches. Wrap a piece of electrical tape around the drill bit and use it as a depth gauge.
Spread wood glue on the sides of 3/8-by-2-inch dowels and tap them into the holes with a hammer. When the glue dries, cut the ends of the dowels flush to the supports with a handsaw. Sand the faces of the supports to flatten the dowel heads and integrate them with the wooden surface of the supports.
Touch up the shelves and supports with sandpaper, then apply an oil finish or spray on some urethane.
Tips and warnings
- Typical shelf spacing is between 14 to 18 inches, but this can be adjusted according to your taste and what you need to store on the shelves.
- If you're careful when making the notches and they fit tightly around the shelving, you may not need to attach the vertical supports to all of the shelves. Use screws instead of dowels if the shelf unit is meant to be temporary.
- Wear goggles when using a circular saw to avoid getting splinters in your eyes. Keep your hands out of the path of the blade at all times.
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