Build Stuff, the book: Floating shelves

Here’s another sneak preview from my upcoming book, tentatively titled, “Build Stuff With Wood.” It’s due out from the Taunton Press in fall 2017. Stay tuned for updates!

My favorite thing about building stuff is the engineering. Sure, I like the deep satisfaction that comes after each major stage of a project, and the show-and-tell at the end, but the best thing is how making things tickles the problem-solving part of my brain. We’ve been building stuff for a millennia, and so we are designed to love it. Our survival depended on it.

One of the best bits of DIY engineering I know is the floating shelf. You build a box from thin plywood or MDF with solid-wood strips at the edges. It’s like an airplane wing: strong in all the right directions but still feather-light.

The real trick comes when you leave out the wood strip at the back edge, and screw it to the wall, creating a mounting cleat. Then the box slides over that strip, and you screw down through the top layer of plywood into the cleat.

Rock-solid, with no visible means of support!

You can make the shelves as long and thick as you want. With thicker skins and wider sticks inside, a floating shelf can probably hold a whole row of books without a problem (or your collection of My Little Pony figurines). You can do a clear finish like I did on this project, or paint the shelves for a more seamless look. I would make painted shelves thicker, for a blockier look, and probably use MDF skins instead of plywood.

Floating shelves are a conversation starter for sure, but they also offer a clean, modern look that puts special attention on the items you place there.

seq1
You make a hollow box using thin plywood with thin solid-wood sticks sandwiched in at the edges. Yellow glue holds it all together.
seq2
You screw one of those same sticks to the wall studs and slide on the box.
seq4
Before I even drive a screw, it already stays put!
drill
To lock the shelf onto its cleat, you drill clearance holes through the plywood skin (but no further) and pilot holes down into the cleat within …
attach
… and then drive a row of screws down into the cleat. If you sink them a hair below the surface, no one will notice them. Then you load them up with action figures.

 

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