Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Living Room Shelf

Dad's note: This awesome easy to make rustic wall shelf is strong enough to hold anything you can store on it.  Cool by itself or purchase corbels for a fancier look, either way your family room will be looking good with this addition.

Material list                            Material Cost = $43.00 not including corbels
2 – 2” x 12” 8 feet long
1 – 2” x 8” 10 feet long
1 – 2” x 4” 8 feet long
4 – 4” long 5/16 lag screws
4 - 5/16 washers
one small box of deck screws

We start by determining the desired length of the shelf.  For example I want my shelf to be 8 feet long when it is finished.  To accomplish this I cut both of the 2” x 12” to a length of 8 feet.  I also cut the 2” x 8” to a length of 8 feet.  Now don’t throw away that remaining 2 feet of 2” x 8”.  We are going to use it on the sides of the shelf.  Cut two pieces at 9 ¾” long from the remaining 2” x 8” piece.  As long as we are cutting wood lets get that 2” x 4” done too.  Cut it at 7 foot 8 ½ inches, this will be our wall anchor when we install the shelf.  Yes that is just a little short of 8 feet, but it will allow a little adjustment during installation.

Chose the best sides of your lumber to face outward when assembling your shelf.  Make sure everything is square and neat as you screw the boards together.  I like to pre-drill my holes so I don’t split any of the wood, that obviously detracts from the finished project.  Side Note; If you want to display items that may slip off your shelf like plates, you can cut a groove in the top board to act as a stop for those plates.  Just make sure you stop the groove before the end of the board, otherwise it will show from the side.  Sand the completed shelf and finish it with paint or stain and a few coats of clear polyurethane as you like.

To install the shelf position the shelf on the floor where you would like to have it installed.  Next take the 2” x 4” and position it on the shelf on the floor so that it matches up with the shelf (the 2” x 4” is a little shorter than the shelf for fine tuning).  Using a stud finder to locate the studs behind the drywall in your home.  Raise the 2” x 4” to the height you like for your shelf (minus 1 ½ inches) and screw it to the wall with the lag screws with washers.  It works best if you can predrill these holes in the 2” x 4” by marking on the 2” x 4” where the studs are located.

To mount the shelf to the wall drill about 4 holes in back of the shelf about 3/4 of an inch from the back edge (remember my shelf is 8 feet long, yours may be shorter, if so, you may not need 4 screws).  Now, with someone's help, lift the shelf into place by putting it on top of the 2 x 4 you mounted to the wall.  Secure it to the 2 x 4 with 4 deck screws and your shelf is ready to accessorize.

The corbels (wooden brackets under the shelf) were purchased from a hobby store and are fastened to the bottom of the shelf with screws.  They do not provide any support for the shelf so use your imagination.

A little tip for selecting the right size drill.  Hold the screw up next to the drill bit.  If you can still see the drill beyond the threads of the screw the drill is too large.  If you can see the threads of the screw without seeing any portion of the drill you’ve picked the right size drill to act as a pilot hole.  The drill removes only the wood that the shaft of the screw will occupy in the wood.  The threads have the full amount of wood they need to grab hold and secure whatever your putting together.

Still another drill tip.  If you are putting two pieces of wood together and you want them cinched up tight to each other.  Drill a pilot hole as described above in both pieces of the wood.  Next take a drill bit that is the same size as the screw and drill it through the piece of wood you want to cinch up tight to the other.  By making one hole the same size of the screw the screw will slip through the first piece of wood and take hold of only the second and it will pull the two pieces of wood together.  If you want to make it “killer” secure add a little wood glue just before you cinch them together.

A little tip for using a stud finder.  As you bring it across the wall it will beep.  This is the side of the stud mark it in pencil.  Move the stud finder to the opposite side of the mark and find the other side of the stud, mark that in pencil.  Mark the board you are going to anchor to the wall so the hole you drill in it is in the center of the stud.


  1. Love it! Beautiful! One Question...that front piece is 8"? That seems like a pretty tall shelf, no?

    1. Yes it is that big to give a beam feeling!

  2. Any hints for attaching a shelf like this to a plaster wall? I'm not sure if we even have studs in our walls (I may be showing my ignorance here, but I've never been able to find them, even with a stud finder). Any advice?

    1. There absolutely are studs in the wall but because of the thickness of the plaster a regular stud finder will not always work. You will need to purchase a "deep sweep" stud finder.

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