With my sticky note list system and lots of measuring I decided that 30 inch floating shelves would work perfectly downstairs in between the kitchen and living room area. After lots of trips to Home Depot, Lowes, and many hours online, I learned that shelves just don’t come 2.5 feet long. Then I tried to adjust to having longer or shorter shelves but shorter shelves did not provide enough room for our things and longer shelves looked funny in our living room. I decided to build shelves. After a week of research I brought a plan to Andrew. He took a look at it, made it even better, and we got to work.
We decided to use a 4’x8′ sheet of maple plywood. We were able to make six 9″x30″ and one 9″x60″ shelves, which expanded the project to not only having two shelves downstairs but also a five foot one above our desk and four in the corner of the office for a bookshelf.
If you have a place already set up to work, have more than forty minutes to work at a time, and don’t have a toddler running around, this project could probably be completed in a few hours. It took us a number of weeks because we had to drag our kitchen table outside for every step and work after Emily went to bed at night or while she cried on the other side of the sliding glass door. Weather was also very much not on our side and we worked with umbrellas and headlamps.
- 96″x48″ Sheet of Plywood
- Wood Glue
- 1/2″ Metal Rods (need 16 that are 6.5″ long)
- Router and 1/4″ radius Router Bit
- Metal Hacksaw
1. Cut the plywood. Cut the plywood into 12 9″x30″ and 2 9″x60″ boards. The nice people at Home Depot did all the cutting for us. Each shelf is made of two boards glued together. Save the scrap wood; we used it in the routing process.
2. Cut the rods. Cut the rods into 16 6.5″ segments. Andrew did this by placing the rods into a vice and cutting them with a hacksaw. He also filed the ends.
3. Drill holes into the studs and insert the rods. Locate the studs in the wall and drill .5″ holes directly into the center of the studs, 1.5″ deep. We used two rods per shelf (four for the long shelf), and used a level to make sure the holes were aligned as close to perfectly as we could. Put the rods into the holes and give them a few taps to make sure they are secure.
4. Match up two boards for each shelf. Match up all your boards and decide which pieces you want to go together and which edges you want against the wall and those you want visible. We marked big shapes (like a triangle and star) on the inside of each pair on what would be the outside or visible edge so that we would be able to keep track of our pairs.
5. Mark the boards. Figure out where you want the edge of your shelf to hit and mark 5″ deep lines on the board where the metal rods are located. The two lines should be about 16″ apart to line up with the studs. I put the two boards next to each other, putting the outside edges in the center (what will be visible) and marking the edges that will be touching the wall when the two pieces are placed together. We also drew arrows going the same direction on each board so we would know which direction to move the router. Triple check this step because there is no going back.
6. Route 1/4″ deep grooves into each board. Drag the kitchen table outside (I hope this isn’t a step for you). Clamp the board onto the table. Clamp an extra piece of wood that has a perfect straight edge to the board to act as a guide/fence for the router to push against. This took some measuring; we measured from the bit to the edge of the router and placed the fence using the t-square. After doing two passes with the router to achieve the 1/4″ depth, we nudged the router just slightly in the direction of the arrows we drew in the previous step. This made it so the width of the holes was just barely greater than 1/2″ so they would slide more smoothly onto the 1/2″ diameter rods.
This is what each shelf looked like after routing.
We put the boards together and made sure that they matched up with each other and the rods before moving onto the gluing step. Some we had to make slight adjustments to and took another pass or two on the router.
7. Glue the boards together. We laid down a bunch of old campaign signs Andrew grabbed from his office (thank you Rick Cornstubble for your generous donation). We used six clamps for each short shelf and ten for our long shelf. It was a two person job – one of spread us the glue all over the board, making sure not to get any in the holes, the other quickly put the two boards together and lined up the edges while the other began clamping. We let each shelf dry for at least an hour in the clamps and for twenty-four hours before putting them on the wall.
We skipped the steps of sanding and staining because it was going to be another three weeks before we would have time to start and I was very ready to unpack our boxes. But you could carefully sand and stain each shelf and I’m sure it would be lovely. I just decided to fall in love with the natural look.
8. Put the shelves on the wall! We slid them on and they were ready to go. We’ve been using them for almost two months and they are perfect. I love that they are above Emily’s reach and we don’t have to worry about her climbing bookshelves or pulling books off the wall.