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Leaning Shelf

Use this simple-to-build hardwood shelf to display books, magazines, and decorative items.

Leaning Shelf

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools and Materials


  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill and driver bits
  • Countersink for #8 screws
  • Right-angle cutting guide or sliding compound miter saw
  • Tape measure
  • Random-orbit sander and 120-grit sanding discs
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Fine-grit sanding sponge
  • Painter’s tape


  • See Project Diagram for lumber required
  • 6-in Hangman picture-hanging system, #56156
  • 1-1/4-in drywall screws
  • 1-1/2-in drywall screws
  • 1/2-in-diameter rubber bumpers, #55659
  • Wood shims
  • Wood glue
  • Rust-Oleum wood stain, Ebony

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


Laminate the Shelves

Step 1

On one 1 x 12, mark the length of the five shelves (A) with 1-inch spaces between them (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Cutting Diagram) that you’ll cut away later.

Step 2

Laminate the shelf material using glue and screws

Stack the marked board on a second 1 x 12 and clamp (but not glue) them with the edges and ends flush. Drill countersunk pilot holes centered in the 1-inch spaces, and screw the boards together.

Step 3

Separate the boards and sand the mating surfaces to remove any debris around the screw holes that will prevent the surfaces from touching when glued.

Step 4

Apply wood glue to the face of one 1 x 12. Stack the two 1 x 12’s so the screw holes align, and drive the screws. The screws will hold the boards flat while the glue dries.

Step 5

Cut the shelves to length using a right angle cutting guide and a circular saw

After letting the glue cure for at least three hours, remove the screws and cut the shelves to length -- eliminating the spaces with screw holes in the process. You can use a wide-capacity miter saw, or a right-angle guide and circular saw to make the cuts.

Good to Know

Keep two blades around for your circular saw -- one for cutting rough boards, and a fine-tooth blade for cutting project parts.

Step 6

Sand with 120-grit sandpaper until the shelf edges, faces, and ends are smooth.

Assemble the Shelf

Step 1

You can use an entire 1 x 12 for the back (B). From another 1 x 12, cut to length the top/bottom spacers (C) and middle spacers (D) (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Cutting Diagram) using the same cutting method as for the shelves. Sand the parts smooth.

Step 2

Glue and screw the top spacer to the back with the top ends and the edges flush (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Drive 1-1/4-inch-long screws from the back side so you won’t see them.

Step 3

Drive screws through the back to secure the spacers and shelves.

Install a shelf and the next spacer using glue, 1-1/2-inch-long screws, and clamps to secure the shelves. Repeat for the remaining shelves and spacers.

Step 4

After screwing the bottom spacer to the back, check that the ends are flush. If variations in your cuts and the thickness of wood leave the bottom ends uneven, trim the bottom using a circular saw and guide. Sand the entire project and soften any sharp edges.

Step 5

Cut the shelves to length using a right angle cutting guide and a circular saw

Near the top of the back, add two sets of wooden shims about 4 inches apart and 1 inch down from the top (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). Glue three shims in each spot and then secure one half of the wall hanger to the shims. The shims will create the correct angle for the shelf to lean against the wall. The hanger system will keep the shelf from tipping forward.

Install the Shelf

Step 1

Prime and paint the shelf per the manufacturer’s instructions. Lightly sanding between coats with a fine-grit sanding sponge will improve the feel of the painted finish when you are done.

Step 2

Add rubber bumpers to the bottom of the leaning shelf, near the back edge. Attach the remaining wall hanger hardware to the wall (Project Diagram, Drawing 2) with the top of the hanger approximately 59 inches above the floor. Test the height by leaning the shelf against the wall. (Variations in flooring material will cause the final height to vary.) Use hollow-wall anchors or secure to a stud.

Step 3

Lean the shelf against the wall and engage the hanger.

Use this leaning shelf to store books, magazines, linens, or decor favorites. It’s easy to move where you need it.


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