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Adjustable-Peg Shelf

When Christmas approaches, this shelf will help make your decorations festive. Afterward, rearrange the pegs and shelves to suit other display needs.

Nordic Tree Shelf

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools & Materials


  • Miter box and handsaw
  • Drill press
  • Cordless drill and driver bit
  • 1/4-in and 1-1/4-in drill bits
  • Orbital sander and 120-grit sanding discs
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint supplies
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter’s square


  • See Cutting Diagram for lumber
  • 6 - 1-1/4 x 48 round poplar dowels
  • 1/4 x 48 round poplar dowel
  • #8 x 1-1/4-in flathead wood screws
  • 6d finish nails
  • Paste wood filler
  • Valspar spray paint, Classic Red
  • Valspar semigloss white latex paint, quart
  • 18-in Hangman photo-hanging system, #56378

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.

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Brace the Slats

Step 1

Cut the upper braces (A), lower braces (B), slats (C), narrow slats (D), and cleats (E) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List & Cutting Diagram) from pine boards, and sand the parts with 180-grit sandpaper.

Step 2

Locate the braces on the back face of the slats.

Center the braces (A) and (B) on the width of the back face of a slat 9 inches from the top and bottom ends (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Glue the braces to the slat, drill 1/8-inch pilot holes for each screw, and drive 1-1/4-inch flathead screws. (Avoid driving screws where you’ll later drill the peg holes.) Repeat for the remaining slats.

Good to Know

When drilling pilot holes in soft material like pine or cedar, you don’t always need a separate countersink. The screw head will compress the fibers as it is driven flush. If drilling near the end of a board, or in harder species of wood or plywood, a countersunk hole is best and requires a special drill bit to prevent the wedge shape of the underside of the screw head from splitting the board.

Drill the Holes

Step 1

To drill the holes in the slats you will need a drill press to bore the holes consistently. For a better work surface than the adjustable-drill press table, cut a scrap of plywood about 4 feet long and slightly wider than the depth of the drill-press table. Center the plywood on the drill-press table. Using the holes in the table, drive panhead sheet-metal screws up from the table underside and into the bottom face of this plywood outfeed table to hold it in place. If the table holes are larger than the screw heads, add washers to grip the underside of the table.

Step 2

Transfer the hole locations from the story pole to the slats.

Mark hole locations on the six slats (C) (Project Diagram, Drawing 1).

Good to Know

To mark the hole locations on all six slats, a scrap board called a story pole can be used to transfer the marks from one part to another, a 1 x 4 is perfect for this. Mark the bottom of the story pole and measure up the length of the board and mark the hole locations. Align the story pole with the bottom end of each slat and transfer the locations to the six slats.

Step 3

At each hole location mark on the slats, use a square to draw a line across the face of the boards to create a reference for use on a drill press later.

Step 4

To quickly position the hole locations at the center of each slat, add a fence to the drill-press outfeed table. To make a fence, clamp or screw a 1 x 3 on edge to the table 2-3/4 inches (half the width of a 1 x 6) away from the center point of a 1-1/4-inch drill bit.

Step 5

Clamp the slat to the fence aligning the center of the bit with the layout line.

Place the first slat on the drill press table against the fence board. Lower the drill bit and adjust the slat until the center point of the bit touches the layout line. Clamp the slat to the fence, transfer the layout line onto the fence, and remove the clamp.

Step 6

Move the layout line to the indicator on the fence and drill the holes.

Drill the 1-1/4-inch (Project Diagram, Drawing 1) holes 1-1/4-inches deep through the slat and into the brace.  Shift the slat to align the remaining marks, one by one, with the reference point on the fence and drill the holes. Repeat for the remaining five slats.

Good to Know

If your drill press has a built-in depth stop, set the depth stop according to the tools instructions to drill all of the holes at the exact same depth.

Assemble the Back

Step 1

Line up the top edges of the slats

Place the narrow slats (D) and the slat assemblies face down on a large work surface (Project Diagram, Drawing 4). Use a carpenter’s square to align the bottom edges of the boards.

Step 2

Add the cleats to the back of the slats.

Fasten three cleats (E) to the back of the narrow slats and slats (Project Diagram, Drawings 2 and 4) with 1-1/4-inch flathead wood screws and glue – don’t apply glue between the slats.

Parts that Need Painting

Step 1

Cut the shelf pins (F) from 1-1/4-inch-diameter dowel rods and cut the retainer pegs (G) from a 1/4-inch dowel (Project Diagram, Cutting List). Mark the shelf pins 1/2 inch from one end.

Step 2

A clamp is used stabilize the shelf pin for safe drilling.

Drill the holes in the shelf pins to receive the shelf pegs (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). For added safety, clamp one end of the shelf pins to keep them from rolling while you drill the peg holes. Mark out the location of the holes and drill a 1/4-inch hole, 1/2 inch deep, 1/2 inch from the end of each pin.

Step 3

Glue the pegs into the holes and sand the assembly. Nineteen more shelf pin/peg assemblies are needed.

Step 4

Cut the frame sides (H) and the frame top and bottom (I) to fit around the slats (Project Diagram, Drawing 4).

Step 5

Cut the shelves (J, K, L, M, and N) from 1 x 10 pine boards. Sand smooth and remove any sharp edges with sandpaper.

Step 6

Holes in a scrap make painting the shelf pegs easier.

Tape the ends of the pegs you’ll insert into the shelf. Apply two coats of red spray paint to the shelf pin assemblies and two coats of white paint to the shelf boards and frame boards. Sand between coats with a fine-grit sanding sponge. Drive drywall screws through the underside of a scrap board and into the bottom ends of the shelf pegs to hold them upright for faster painting.

Final Assembly

Step 1

Tape the frame pieces together.

Nail the frame sides (H) to edges of the narrow slats (D) (Project Diagram, Drawing 4) using 6d finish nails. Then add the frame top and bottom (I). Use painter’s tape to hold parts in position while you nail the pieces together.

Step 2

Fill any nail holes in the frame boards with paste wood filler. Allow the filler to dry, sand the frame smooth, and touch up the paint.

Step 3

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, secure half of the Hangman bracket system to the wall where the shelf will be located. Screw it into a wall stud or use hollow-wall anchors.

Step 4

Install the pegs in the slats of the shelf.

Screw the other Hangman bracket centered on the top cleat (Project Diagram, Drawing 4). Flip the unit over and press the shelf pins into the holes according to how you’ll arrange the shelves.

Step 5

Shelves in the shape of a Christmas tree.

To arrange the shelves in the shape of a Christmas tree for the holidays, start with the shortest shelf centered at the top and finish with the widest shelf at the bottom.