HOW TO: Building Floating Shelves

Floating shelves is one of the most popular forms of shelving lately because they look really nice and open up spaces from feeling closed off. The problem is they can be super expensive for nice ones and still pricey for cheap ones.

I made these in the Bridgerland Applied Technology College Cabinet Making night class. They have an amazing assortment of equipment and tools, not to mention an amazing instructor to help whenever you need.

The way I’m going to show how to make these can be done at home using a table saw, miter saw, drill, glue and nail gun.

• First, you need to make braces to go on the wall. Use two by fours cut on a table saw to the thickness you want. I wanted my shelves to be two inches thick, so I cut them down to one and a half inches to make up for the cover making them bigger.

Place braces about every 10 inches on wall support; mine were 40 inches long so I have four. The best way to do this I found is to screw in through the back of the wall support into each brace with two screws each using three-inch screws. I tried using pocket screws done through the supports to the back but you can’t use as long of screws.

• Next, you need to make the cases to go over the braces. I chose to do mine in walnut because It is pretty and I’m kind of obsessed with it.

What I did was use quarter inch walnut MDF or medium-density fibreboard, which is basically nice particle board with a thin sheet of wood on it to get the look of wood without warping, it’s also cheaper. I used the MDF on the top and bottom of the shelf and quarter inch walnut wood on the sides to hide the edges of the MDF.

You will need to make the front piece a half inch wider and a half inch longer, and the sides a half inch wider. You want the sides to be flush with the front of the brace and sitting quarter inch above and below the brace to accommodate the top and bottom pieces. And the front piece will cover the edges of all sides.

• Make sure everything was cut to the right size and fits over the braces before putting it together.

Note: If you have the option you can cut an eighth-inch rabbet into the appropriate pieces and adjust measurements, it will make assembly a little easier but it isn’t necessary.

• Using glue and a nail gun build the case, separately from the braces. Place the bottom on the table, glue and nail the sides first then the front. Let sit for a little while before adding the top piece so the glue can dry, but make sure it won’t be glued to your workbench. When you do add the top piece, run glue along the sides and place it on the table then place the box on top, make sure it’s flush, then nail it together.

• After the glue has dried for about an hour, scrape off any drips and sand with a high grit sandpaper; 150 or 180 is great. While doing this you can use the sander to round the edges to give it a more finished look.

• Paint or spray the first coat of lacquer and let dry, then use a wood putty to fill in nail holes and any spaces at the seams, wipe off excess putty and sand lightly with a very fine foam sanding sponge to remove bumps. Then do a second coat.

While your shelves are drying you can hang your braces, though you will want your shelves to dry for about a day before you hang them.

• To hang your braces, measure where you want them, make sure they’re level, and put three inch screws into the studs. My shelf only had two studs behind it so I put two in each so I had four screws holding it up.

• And finally, slide your covers over the braces. I did have to pound mine a bit to get them on, which is fine. Then use your nail gun to secure the shelf to the braces, or some screws if you plan on removing them in the future.

And there you go! Beautiful, sturdy shelves. If you aren’t comfortable using these tools I suggest finding someone who is to help you or taking the class at Bridgerland to learn.

I have added some building plans to the photos that you can print out and adjust the measurements to the sizes you plan on building, best of luck!

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