Floating Shelves


As a husband I’m called to make sure all of my wife’s most essential needs are met. You know, provide food and shelter; care for her spiritually, emotionally and physically; and, most essentially, make sure each and every one of her books has adequate shelf space and is categorized and alphabetized.

You’re probably rolling your eyes right now but you should have seen the look of comfort and security on the Missus’ face when she clicked on her reading lamp and sunk into her recliner, East of Eden cradled in her arms like a child. Each of her books finally rested safely on its own and proper shelving. They had been in boxes in the corner of our office floor since the month before we moved the our lovely Canary House almost a year ago.

So comfortable, so safe, so smart.

So comfortable, so safe, so smart.

I mean she took her fingertips and gently grazed the spine of each book on our new bookshelves, the ones that have sat in her parents’ home for years, and then she moved to our new floating shelves, commenting on our rudimentary categorization and how we can reorganize in the weeks to come.

I could take this time to really dig into the way essential needs – beyond our most basic needs – are different for every person, and just as important to meet if a relationship is to work. But, instead we’ll just talk about how to build sweet floating shelves.

The cut list:
Note: This will work totally different based on how you want your shelves to fit on your wall. I had a 99-inch gap to fill so I made two 37-inch shelves that would fit about 5-inch off each of my standing bookshelves and leave room for a lamp in the middle. On the second row I wanted to offset the design, since that is more aesthetically pleasing. I made the middle shelf 37 inches and then the two outside shelves 20-something inches (whatever distance it takes to fill the gaps). We’ll just go over making one shelf and you can adjust the length boards as much as you want to suit your needs.

2-2×4 at six inches
2-2×4 at 34 inches (this is the length board so if you want a shorter or longer shelf, this is the cut to change to suit your project)
1- 1/4-inch sheet of plywood at least 34×6
5- 1×2 at just over six inches

– Wood stain
– 4 1/4-inchx2-inch lag screws
– clamps
– small trim nails and/or wood glue
– 2-inch wood screws

1. Once you’ve made your cuts, before drilling any screws, pick the side that will be facing out and mark even drill points with a sharpie on the corners. This is where you will drill the decorative lag screws. I positioned mine 3/4-inches from the top and bottom and about 1/3-inch from the side on each side of the outward facing board.
Mark holes

2. Once you’ve mede your marks, assemble your two 6-inch boards and two 34-inch boards in to a box using 2-inch wood screws. Make sure the corners are tight and flush. I used clamps to help me.
3.  The 1×2 boards will act as supports for the top of the shelf. Since you don’t want to have unsightly screws showing on the outward-facing side of the shelf we’ll rely on tension to hold one side of these boards in place. I cut my 1x2s at 6 and 1/8 inches and then tried fitting it into the center of the shelf. If the board was too long to squeeze into the box, I shaved a little off with my table saw and tried again and so on. You want the middle support to fit very snuggly in the box, leaving 1/4 inch space between the top of the support and the top of the box plywood top.
Once you fit the middle support, cut two more supports to o on either side of the middle support. They will likely be just a tiny bit shorter than the middle support but a tiny bit longer than six inches. Make sure they boards are snugly fit into the box but don’t drill any screws yet.

This photo was clearly taken after the fact because I forgot to photograph portions of the build.

This photo was clearly taken after the fact because I forgot to photograph portions of the build.

4. Once the supports are in place and 1/4-inch from the top of the shelf, measure the space in the middle of the box frame. It should be about 34×6. Cut your plywood to fit the space. I found a table saw works best for cutting down large sheets of plywood. I enlisted help from my father-in-law and wife throughout the project but their assistance was most appreciated on this step. Once cut, fit the plywood over the supports. It should be a fairly snug fit. With the plywood fit on top, flip the shelf on a flat surface and make sure the supports are flush with the bottom of the plywood. Now drill a screw through the back of the shelf into the supports, adding two more supports (that don’t have to be as snug) to the very edges. I drilled screws through the length sides of these supports into the inside of the shelve’s width boards.

5. Take off the plywood and sand and stain your shelf. I used a dark stain for the shelf and a layer of polyurethane for the plywood, giving my shelves a neat two-tone look.

6. Once everything is dry, and I mean very dry (or you’ll have smudge stains on your wall), find your studs and hang your shelves.Floating Shelf


Floating Shelves 7. Alphabetize

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s