April 24, 2013

DIY Chunky Wooden Floating Shelves: Round 2

Who's excited for today's tutorial?!

I'm typing this post out with one hand (I burned my other one - long story, no biggie) so if it's alright with you, I'm going skip the small talk so we can get the building started :)

Head's up: this tutorial is super long but the pictures are pretty self-explanatory! Also, the lighting changes throughout the photos because we worked on the shelves during the week at night after work with no natural light and then on the weekend when there was natural light.

Before you start your shelves, you'll need to gather your supplies. We used:

Don't let this list scare you! It looks like a lot but it includes info on the cuts you'll need to make :)


• Front pieces: 1, 1 x 6 x 6 whitewood board
We cut our boards into 2, 36" long pieces (the length of our shelves) and then we ripped each board down down to 4" (the height/thickness of our shelves).

• Top and bottom pieces: 2, 1 x 10 x 6 whitewood board (or you can buy a 1 x 10 x 12 piece)
We cut our boards into 4, 34 1/2" pieces (2 for each shelf). Note: the top and bottom pieces are cut smaller than 36" (the total length of our shelves) to account for the 3/4" thickness of each side piece. 34.5" (top/bottom piece) + .75" (left side) + .75" (right side) = 36".

• Actual side pieces: 1, 1 x 6 x 6 whitewood board (we had 1/2 of it leftover)
We cut our board into 4, 9.25" pieces (2 sides for each shelf). The total depth of our shelves is 10" so we cut the sides .75" shy of 10" to account for the thickness of the front piece.

• Hidden inner frame, back pieces: 2, 1/2" x 3" x 36" piece of craft wood (furring strips work too)
We cut our boards down into 34 1/2" pieces (2 for each shelf). See top/bottom piece note for reasoning.

• Hidden inner frame, side pieces: 2 1/2, 1/2" x 3" x 36" piece of craft wood (furring strips work too)
We cut our boards down into 4, 9.25" pieces (2 sides for each shelf).

• Hidden inner frame, middle support pieces: 2 1/2, 1/2" x 3" x 36" piece of craft wood (furring strips work too)
We cut our boards down into 10, 9.25" pieces (5 supports for each shelf - feel free to do more or less).


Miter saw
 Table saw

Stop here. If you don't have any saws at home or access to some at a friend's house, both Lowe's and Home Depot will cut and rip your wood down to size. Some stores charge a small fee like 50 cents/cut but some don't so it could be free!

Now continue :)

 Tape measure
 Stud finder
 Nail gun -- if you don't have a nail gun, regular old nails and a hammer work just as well, it'll just take you a bit longer :)
 Nails for nail gun
 Wood screws
 Wood filler


 Some good music :)

We started the shelves by building two hidden inner support frames out of the 2 1/2, 1/2" x 3" x 36" pieces of craft wood we had leftover from another project. If you don't have wood scraps, furring strips work well too!

After we had the sides and center support attached to the back piece, we started attaching the rest of the middle pieces:

We screwed each piece into the back of the back piece like so:

We repeated the same steps to make the second hidden inner frame support:

After the frames were built, we did a dry fit of all of the pieces to make sure everything matched up:

Here's a color-coated diagram to help you understand how each piece fits together:

Red: Actual side supports
Blue: Front piece
Green: Hidden inner frame
Orange: Bottom piece
White overlay: Top piece

After we found our studs (3 to be exact), we started to mount the bottom hidden inner frame:

Since we could only find 3 studs, we decided to use some extra metal anchors that can hold 50 lbs each - the four silver holes at the top of the photo.

To get the perfect anchor placement on the wall, we held the frame in the location we wanted it and then screwed a screw through the back piece and into the wall. We did this 4 times, once for each anchor. Then we took the frame down and screwed the anchors into the screw holes we just made in the wall.

Once the anchors were in, we put the frame back in place and screwed the screw that came with the anchors back through the back piece of the frame and into the anchor in the wall.

I'm sure 4 anchors was overkill but I didn't want to risk having the shelves rip out of the wall when I loaded them up with accessories.

Anyway, after we got the first frame up, we repeated the same process on the second one:

Notice those big holes?

That my friends is what happens when you decide last minute to lower the bottom shelf so you'll have an extra 2" of space in between them:

Double check your distances! It's easier to adjust the placement of the hidden inner frame than it is to move the finished shelf :)

Anyway, after both frames were up, I stained my top, bottom, front, and side pieces dark walnut:

Then I spray lacquered everything. FYI: skip this step. You'll find out why in a little bit.

Once the spray lacquer had dried, we began boxing in the hidden inner frames:

We nailed the top piece in place with our nail gun and we screwed the bottom piece in place with wood screws cause gravity hates nails apparently...

After we had the top and bottom pieces secured, we started on the side pieces:

In case you're wondering, the actual side piece on the top left isn't stained because we had to cut it down just a hair since it was a tad too long.

We used our nail gun to nail the sides directly into the side pieces of our hidden inner frame:

Our hidden inner frame side piece was a little warped so I pinched it close to the actual side piece while my boyfriend nailed it in place.

Next came the front piece:

Again, we used our nail gun to attach it:

We moved onto the second shelf when the first shelf was finished:

We boxed it in the same way as the first one:

After everything was all said and done, I filled the holes and marks our nail gun made with some wood filler:

When it dried, I wiped the shelves down and used a stain pen (in dark walnut) to cover up the wood filler marks. I'll be honest and say it didn't look very good :(

Since I had previously used spray lacquer on the wood, the shelves were glossy in some parts (where we didn't nail) and flat in others (where I used the stain pen).

To fix this, I covered the carpet and taped off the walls before I broke out my can of polyurethane and applied a thin and even coat of it to every side of the shelves except the bottoms since they won't be seen unless you're lying on the floor:

I let everything dry for 24 hours before I touched up the marks we made on the walls, hung the art above the shelves and added all of my accessories:

What do you think of this new version of our chunky wooden floating shelves?

Disclaimer: I can't guarantee that your shelves will turn out just like mine. Differences in materials and tools used, and your skill level, will yield different results. I cannot be held responsible for a failed project or an injury of any kind so proceed with caution and build at your own risk. Remember: always use caution when working with power tools and read any instructions before beginning any project.

I'm sharing this project on House of Hepworths and Home Stories A to Z!

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  1. These look great! Filing away this tutorial for the future. I'm really glad you didn't have to sand down the shelves to deal with the non-glossy spots!

  2. Thanks Sarah! I'm happy I didn't have to sand them down either! I hope you build some of your own :)

  3. You guys are experts at those now! I'm thinking they'd make great modern perches for my kitties.

  4. Thanks Crystal! Kitty perches are a great idea! I'm sure you and your amazing sewing skills could whip up a little pillow to put on the shelves for them to lay on too :)

  5. You rock, I love how detailed your tutorials always are!

  6. All I could think once you showed the picture of them hanging up with the little compartments in there still uncovered was what a great place it would be to hide, like, your secret jewel collection in. Probably you already thought of that and did it, but of course you didn't want to tell everyone ;)

  7. I plead the fifth on answering that question ;)

  8. Wow! Great tutorial! I love these!!! Now I need to talk my husband into helping me :)


  9. I love this tutorial. And again, those shelves are fantastic! Pinned!

  10. Thanks Christine! Good luck convincing your husband!

    Thanks Katja! :)

  11. So pretty! Great tute :) Pinning these for later!

  12. I just found your blog and I love it! Thanks so much - will be using this tutorial very soon for our foyer (if you can even call it that, it's so small).

    Any ideas on making this more easily removable in case we wanted to take them with us if we ever move?

  13. The Nest Test - You could build all of the parts for the shelves but skip mounting the hidden inner frame to the wall. Instead, you'd attach all of the pieces to the frame (top/bottom, sides, front piece) off the wall like you're making a big sandwich. Does that make sense? Imagine the shelves already built but not hanging on the wall. Or imagine that I ripped them off the wall and they stayed in one piece haha

    Got that visual? Ok so once you have your shelf sandwich, you could attach one part of a French cleat (http://www.homedepot.com/p/OOK-Hangman-60-lb-French-Cleat-Picture-Hanger-with-Wall-Dog-Mounting-Screws-7-Pack-55310/202341623#.UbDqbpWv1J0) to the wall and the other to the back of the hidden inner frame - the piece that I screwed into the studs of my wall. Then you'd slip the shelf onto the French cleat that's mounted to the wall and voila! Removable floating shelves :)

    I don't know if that will work but it's the only solution I could think of. Also, the shelves might not sit flush with the wall just because of how the cleat is made. Also, you may need to use two (or more) French cleats per shelf depending on their length and how much weight you're planning on putting on them. Hope that helps!

    1. Great shelves, Caitlin! Just wanted to mention that Julia over on MerryPad.com tried that with french cleats and it didn't work well. She had to do some cut-ins to allow for the width of the cleat and it still didn't sit flush and so looked rather saggy. I wouldn't recommend it.

      Notjustahousewife.net built some similar shelves but without attaching the outer to the inner shelves - so you mount the inner shelves to the wall and then slide the outer shelf over the inner shelf. If your cuts are right and your screws secure, it makes a stable and removable floating shelf :)

  14. OMG, I'm gonna make these for my bathroom :D I LOVE the piggy <3

  15. These are gorgeous! Thanks for the tutorial!

  16. I NEEEEEEEED that little piggie! Can I get the details on him?

    I'm totally making these shelves for my bathroom this weekend!

  17. Thanks Tonje!

    Thanks Chrissy!

    Katie – I got him from HomeGoods about 2 years ago and spray painted him orange. Good luck building your shelves! Come back and share them with me when you're done :)

  18. Are there any modifications you would suggest for making long shelves? I want to make some that are 3.5' long x 10" deep and 4" thick, and mount them in a corner in my kitchen. I bought poplar wood. My bf and I did a test install in the garage and it is slanting down, so anything on the shelf would slide off. We're trying to figure out how to make them level before we mount in the house. I want to put dishes (like pretty glasses) on them so it has to be really stable.

    Any suggestions? Did you have this problem at all?

  19. We made them! So far the shelves are holding up. We used a cleat and torsion box style instead of the way they are designed here. Here is a pic. :) http://www.pinterest.com/pin/74098356343072172/
    Thanks for the inspiration, Caitlin!

  20. This is fantastic!!! Thank you (:

  21. I'm almost convinced I could build these myself - love love love your style and blog

  22. What I really wish for is someone to make and hang these for me! I am SO not a DIYer! Where can I buy something like this?

    1. Kleibowitz They sell floating shelves at Ikea

  23. Great detailed instructions Ty for sharing

  24. Crap. I just printed out a different tutorial on how to make easy floating shelves. Then I spent a solid half hour copying and pasting the picture instructions into word to try and make it all fit on as little paper as possible (I hate printing multiple sheets of paper if I can help it) and then I found you linked in the comments on that project to this project, and this one is way easier looking and more suitable for what I want! Augh! Guess I've wasted some paper and ink anyway... Lol.

  25. So I love this tutorial but I had one issue. I ripped the front piece to 4 in but now it's too short to cover the front since the sides are 6 in. Did you keep your sides 6 in or rip those pieces too 4 in? I just want my shelves to look big and chunky like yours. Thanks.


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