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DIY Leaning Photo Display Stand

Organize your photos and artwork with a DIY photo display stand.

Photo Display

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools and Materials


  • Circular saw or miter saw
  • Drill with 1/8-in bit
  • Random-orbit sander with abrasive discs
  • Carpenter's square
  • Clamps
  • Stud finder
  • Wood glue
  • Paintbrush and rags
  • 220-grit and 320-grit sanding sponges


  • See Cutting List & Diagram for lumber
  • 3/4-in x 1/2-in zinc angle braces, #31574
  • 1/2-in x 2-5/8-in felt pads, #54112
  • #8 x 2-in flathead wood screws
  • Wall anchors if not mounting to wall studs
  • #8 trim washers

For a painted photo display:

  • Valspar primer, quart
  • Valspar Signature, quart of satin Polar White, #7003-16

For a stained finish:

  • Rust-Oleum Kona stain
  • Rust-Oleum semigloss polyurethane

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

Missing anything? Shop Online

Project Resources


With all the parts cut from common boards, you can customize this project to fit any room or photo collection. Build it using poplar for a great painted project, or make it from oak for a stained finish. Either way, the project is built using the same steps and assembly tips. And whether you rent or own, you will have a great place to show off your style.

The project can be further customized by making the project from wider boards to create deeper shelves. Replace the 2-1/2-in wide legs with 3-1/2-in wide boards, and replace the 1-1/2-in wide shelves with 2-1/2-in boards, giving the shelves an extra 1 inch of depth.


Legs and Shelves

Step 1

At Lowes, select the materials needed (Photo Display Project Diagram & Cutting List) and have a store associate cut the back (A) to size. This makes the pieces easier to handle, and saves cutting large plywood pieces at home. You can make two displays from one sheet, so make a pair for your home.

Step 2

Lay out the shelf locations on both legs

Cut two 3/4-in x 2-1/2-in boards to length for the legs (B). To ensure the parts are cut evenly, place three small pieces of double-faced tape between the boards, put them together, and trim both boards at the same time. Cut one end at 90 degrees and the other end at 8 degrees (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Before separating the legs, draw lines indicating the positions of the shelves across the back edge of both legs (Photo 1). This will provide reference when constructing the shelves so they are evenly placed.

Step 3

There are six shelves (C) with edging (D). On the top shelf, the top of the shelf and the edging are flush (Project Diagram, Drawing 1a). For the remaining shelves there is a 1/4-in offset on the bottom edge (Project Diagram, Drawing 1b). Cut the shelves and edging 1-in longer than needed and glue the edging to the shelves.

Good to Know

When you need to get into tight spaces, sand the parts before you put them together. You might still need to do a little detail sanding, but it will be much easier and faster. Make sure you sand with the grain. Even if you use a power sander, do a final sanding by hand. This is especially important when applying a dark stained finish. Otherwise, tiny circular marks left by the sander will show up when you apply the stain.

Step 4

A spacer will put the shelf in the proper position

Spacers perfectly align the shelf edging that keeps photos from slipping off the completed shelves (Photo 2). For the five shelves with the offset edging, place the shelf on a scrap of 1/4-in-thick material and glue and clamp the edging in place. When gluing the parts, just get the ends close -- they don't have to be perfect. You'll cut the shelves to final length in a later step.

Step 5

For the top of the display, glue the edging to the shelf with the top of the edging flush with the top face of the shelf (no spacer required).

Step 6

Trim the shelf and spacer flush

Trim less than 1/2-in from one end of each assembled shelf using a miter saw. A spacer placed behind the shelf reduces splinters when you cut the parts (Photo 3).

Step 7

Use the back to mark the length of the shelves

Set the shelf on the back (A) with the trimmed end against one edge of the back, mark the exact length of the shelves (Photo 4). Trim the shelves to length and sand all surfaces.

Final Assembly

Step 1

A spacer creates the front shelf offsets

Place the legs (B) face down on the bench and set the shelves (C/D) in position where you marked on the backside of the legs. Use that 1/4-in scrap again to get the proper setback from the front of the legs (Project Diagram, Drawing 1 and Photo 5). Apply glue to the ends of the shelves, clamp the parts, and drill a 1/8-in pilot hole for the wood screws through the sides into the shelves. Drive the flathead screws into the holes and add finish washers to dress up the appearance (Project Diagram, Drawing 2).

Step 2

Place the back between the legs, resting it on the shelves, and attach with screws. Do not glue the back in place; it will be easier to finish the parts separately. Draw lines across the back using the screws through the sides as a guide. This will give you a location to drill the holes without accidentally drilling a hole through the back in the wrong spot.

Step 3

Mask off the cleat (E) location on the legs (Project Diagram, Drawing 3), but do not glue it in place yet. Remove the back and cut 1/4-in square dowels to length for the back cleats (E).

Apply the Finish

Step 1

Mask off the legs (B) where the back (A) and back cleats (E) contact one another. You'll glue the final pieces together after applying the finish.

Step 2

After you hand-sand all the parts with the grain, wipe the wood down with a tack cloth. For a painted finish, apply a primer and allow to dry. Sand the surface with a 220-grit sanding sponge and then apply the first coat of paint. Add a second coat as needed.

Alternate finish: If you want to show the natural look of the wood, first apply a coat of stain and allow it to dry following the instructions on the can. Then apply a second coat. To get a darker finish, wipe off only part of stain. After the stain dries overnight, you're ready for the finish coat. An aerosol finish is great for projects like this -- it dries fast and it goes on easily. Hold the can an even distance from the project, start spraying just to the right or left of the piece, and let go of the trigger after you are past the end of the part. Spray the next pass with the pattern overlapping a third of the previous spray. Even passes equal good results. Apply no stain or finish to the back of the plywood or to the cleats. Lightly sand the previous coat with 320-grit sandpaper to remove any bumps, wipe with a tack cloth, and apply a final coat of finish.

Step 3

Back cleat glued into position

Remove the masking tape from the legs (B). Reinstall the back and glue the cleats to the back and legs to reinforce the connection (Photo 6).

Step 4

Before adding the pads to the bottom of the feet, bend two angle braces to match the bottom of the legs (A) using a pair of pliers. If you plan to stand the display on a hard-surface floor, add the pads to the bottom of the legs.

Step 5

finished stand

With the display temporarily in position against a wall, draw a line on the wall across the top of the display and locate wall studs with a stud finder. Mount the angle braces to the wall (Project Diagram, Drawing 4) with 2-in screws, or use hollow wall anchors and screws. Slip the shelf under the brackets and drive 3/4-in screws through the braces into the top shelf (C).