Customize these display shelves to fit any room -- even wrapped around bump-outs and fireplaces. Then hang them in minutes using a simple wall-mounting system.
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Measure to determine the total length of the shelf you’ll build. (The sample shelf here measures 24 inches long.) This dimension will be the same as the front trim piece you’ll cut later.
You’ll cut the panels for the shelf from oak plywood, so the longest convenient length for any shelf will be just under 8 feet (after trimming the ends).
Determine the total depth of the shelf (Floating Wall Shelf Project Diagram), including the front trim piece. A magazine rack measures only 3-3/4 inches deep, while the display shelves shown measure about 12 inches deep, allowing them to wrap around the fireplace.
If you plan to make the shelves wrap around a bump-out in the wall, determine the depth of the bump-out and decide how far you want the shelf to go on both sides of the bump-out.
From a 1 x 4 red oak board, cut the front trim to the total length of your shelf. From the same type of lumber, cut the side trim to the total depth of the shelf minus 3/4-inch.
Cut the upper and lower shelf panels 1-1/2 inches shorter than the front trim and as wide as the length of the side trim.
From 2 x 2 pine lumber, cut the wall-mounting cleat 1/4 inch shorter than the length of the shelf panels.
When shopping for this lumber, look for the straightest piece available and wait a couple days before installing it to allow moisture in the wood to adapt to the humidity in your house.
Rest one shelf panel on edge. You can keep it from tipping by holding it in a workbench vise or attaching clamps to the bottom. Glue the panel end and place the end trim along the length of the panel end, leaving a 1/4-inch inset. Repeat for the opposite end.
To simplify assembly, cut 1/4-in-thick spacers from scrap to use when offsetting the trim edges from the shelf panels.
Add the second shelf panel, attaching it as before. Double-check that you allowed a full 1-1/2-inch space between the panels for the wall cleat.
To make sure you leave enough space, use the wall cleat itself to help space the panels apart.
Glue and nail the front trim to the shelf panels and end trim. Set the heads of all the finishing nails just below the surface of the trim boards and fill the holes with putty.
Sand the shelf first with 120-grit sandpaper and then with 180-grit sandpaper. Vacuum and wipe the surface clean before staining and allow the stain to dry overnight. Then apply two coats of clear finish.
Determine where you want the shelves and use painter’s tape and a level to mark the position of the shelf-mounting cleat. Then use an electronic stud finder to locate the studs behind the drywall and mark those locations.
Hold the mounting cleat against the wall where you want the shelves and transfer the wall stud locations to the mounting cleat. Drill pilot holes at the marks and screw the mounting cleat to the wall.
On the top of the shelf about 3/4 inch from the back edge, drill 1/16-inch pilot holes roughly every 8 inches. Tap finishing nails about 1/2 inch into the pilot holes and place the shelf over the mounting cleat. Press it firmly against the wall and drive the finishing screws into the mounting cleat.
Sink the finishing nail heads below the wood surface and cover the holes with wood filler. You won’t cover these holes with finish, so wipe away excess filler with a clean rag and you’re done.
To customize a shelf to wrap around a bump-out in the wall, first measure the depth of the bump-out and decide how far you want the shelf to extend out from the wall beyond the depth of the bump-out.
Cut equal notches on one end of the plywood panels to accommodate the bump-out. Then shorten the length of the end trim to equal the shortened end of the panels. Assemble these shelves as you would the others. Divide the wall cleat to mount part of it on the wall and part on the bump-out to fit the notched shelf. Then install the shelf.
Cut the shelf panels narrower than the regular shelves (Floating Wall Shelf Project Diagram). On the top panel, drill 1/4-in holes to accept the 1/4-in x 1-in threaded rods.
Assemble, stain, and finish the shelf as described earlier. Thread a nut and washer onto a rod and insert it into a shelf hole until you can add a second washer and nut to the rod from inside the shelf. Adjust and tighten the nuts so the bottom of the rod rests snug against the inside surface of the bottom panel.
Fasten a level mounting cleat to the wall and install the shelf using finishing nails.