how to build a floating shelf

how to build a floating shelf

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Hey!  Happy Monday.  How was your weekend?  Mine was particularly wonderful. Celebrating a birthday was the perfect way for me to end ‘this week ‘.  And the beginning of the Olympics … just awesome.  Here are a couple of my favorite gals and their gifts for me on my special day. #bestbirthdayever

And for today, we’re starting this week with a bang.  I’m combining a little Blogging without Borders update and ‘Crazy for Color’ project together in the form of a how to build a floating shelf tutorial to gear up for our big link party tomorrow.

Yes, yes … I did tell a few of you I started work on the coffee table.  And I did.  Promise.  I just didn’t finish it yet.  I hate it when that happens.  

Update:  The coffee table is complete and has shot to the top our favorite DIY furniture pieces list, check it out here .

To be honest, I was kind of nervous about this project (you can read all about my procrastinating here ), and it was so much easier than I ever would have thought.  Seriously.  You can do it.  

I’ll give you the secret first thing … wood glue.  Ask any woodworker, the glue is the conduit to long-term success, the screws work as the clamps to hold it all together until the glue cures.  This shelf hasn’t budged one little millimeter.  Scouts honor. (My husband’s an eagle scout so that totally counts!)

BUT, this is where I toss in the ‘don’t take my word for it’ and ‘this shelf has not been tested for weight or safety’ and the space between blog is not responsible for any loss, damage or injury as a result of this post’.

With that said, let’s get started!

First step, cleaning and measuring my wall to determine how long I wanted my shelf. Have you guys ever used a Magic Eraser sponge.  They really work magic at getting off all kinds of marks and stains.  Just watch what you’re doing so you don’t scrub so hard you remove the paint, too.

(I’m realizing now it would have made sense to take an after shot. #notthebrightestbulb)

With my measurement (about 60 inches – why limit myself by an exact number) I cut my wood for the wall ‘cleat’ and the short pieces that would serve as ‘cleat extensions’ if you will.

I was actually able to use all scrap wood that I had recently accumulated from dumpster diving.  Do you guys snag perfectly good construction material out of the dumpster?  It has probably saved us thousands of dollars over the years.  In using the scrap wood, I decided that my shelf supports didn’t need to extend the entire length of the shelf. Personal opinion here, if I were to buy wood I would buy enough to make the ‘cleat’ the entire length of the shelf.

This ‘cleat’ and ‘extensions’ piece is the same wood that was used as the pole that hung the entire one screw gallery wall .

I glued and screwed my cleat into the wall and then glued and screwed the extensions into the cleat.  In hindsight, I would have glued and screwed the cleat extensions into the cleat first and then attach the entire thing to the wall.  Not that it affects the end result, I just think it would have been easier… and I might not have broken a drill bit while screwing my pilot holes in the extensions at the angle to use the screws to attach the extensions to the cleat.

NOTE.  We have concrete walls, eliminating my need to find studs.  For standard drywall and wood walls you will need to attach your cleat to the wall directly into your studs.

Once the innards are complete, it’s time for the actual shelf.  I had two perfectly good pieces of 3/4 inch plywood to use.  You could definitely

use a thinner piece of wood if you had it or needed to buy it.  Thinner is cheaper.  

Using my jigsaw, I cut the length of the shelf.

Tip. Use clamps and a straight edge to help cut a straight line with a jigsaw.

For the depth of the shelf (how far it comes out from the wall), the measurements needed to be more exact to ensure that the top and bottom were the same width.  You could definitely not add a bottom, but I wanted a box look without being able to peek up at the cleat.  Personal opinion.

So, I measured the distance from my jigsaw blade to the edge of the jigsaw guard.  And on my wood, I measured the depth I wanted (9 1/2 inches, based on a professional opinion found here ) and added the allowance for the jigsaw guard to determine where to clamp my straight edge to help this unsteady sawer (… not a word?).

(The third picture shows how to get creative if your straight edge isn’t as long as the cut you need.)

Now, this straight edge technique is not fool-proof.  I am one fool who knows that.  

 My jigsaw’s guard also swivels and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the darn thing straight.  But that’s what wood putty and/or caulk is for.  

OK, you have the top and bottom of your shelf cut, now onto the edges.  For the sides I used the same scrap piece of plywood.  Just measure the height of your cleat and add in the width of the wood you used for the top and bottom of your shelf.

Height of cleat (1 inch) + (Width of wood for shelf top and bottom (3/4 of an inch) X 2) = Height of shelf (2 1/2 inches)

I have to admit, that was a bit mathy for me.  But I hope it makes sense.  I cut two end pieces 9 1/2 inches long and 2 1/2 inches high.

Which only leaves the front.  Oh, the front.  I was really leery of my ability to cut enough straight lines in a row to make a front that would look good out of the same plywood.

I sifted through my driftwood collection to see if I had anything that would work.  Nope. But I found this piece of scrap wood I had lying around.

This type of wood is often used as a decorative ceiling in homes around here.  Check out the ceilings in many of the rooms here to see it all painted and beautiful.  I had snagged a few of these triangle pieces from the trash pile of a friend who is building a house.

I figured the additional detail of the dado would help distract from any straight line cutting sins I was about to make.  Fingers crossed … and feeling impressed with myself all at the same time that I can actually use the word dado in context.  

After I had the pieces for the front cut, I attached the top, bottom and sides using drywall screws screwed into the sides so they wouldn’t be seen from the front.

I think having the front open made it easier to hoist the shelf unit over the braces.

I did paint my shelf before I attached it to the wall, two coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White … then some distressing.

Which only left the last steps of adding the front using a few small nails and screwing the shelf into the cleat.

After a little touch up paint the job was done.  Start to finish it took me about six hours. Thankfully I was able to get all caught up on the Kardashians during the process.

What do you think?  I really believe anyone can do this project.

And you can find all the details of how I decorated the mantel for fall with upcycled and repurposed finds here .

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