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Other Shelf Mounting Options

Anything that supports a board and keeps it level and perpendicular to a wall is a shelf support. When using flexible materials like cable or rope as shelf supports, the challenge is to get the spacing between shelves even. (It’s very difficult to get knots in a rope evenly spaced.) Chain links are easier to work with. You can finely tune cable brackets by loosening a setscrew. When hanging a suspended shelf unit, be sure the hook or bracket is strong enough. And always attach it to a framing member (for example, a stud), not just to the wall material. Sometimes a specialty shelf can be used for other purposes. In the kitchen department of a home center you can find a number of small shelves designed for the back of cabinet doors; these may be suitable for a workshop or in a child’s room.

Chains and bolts. Buy chain with at least 1-inch-long links, and bolts that fit snugly into the links. Drill holes 2 inches in from each shelf edge. Fasten the threaded hooks into studs so each hook is 2 inches from the wall. Insert bolts into links to support the shelves.

Coated cable and glass. Sleek plastic covered cables make a modern-style support for a glass shelf. Cable crimps form the loops that attach to a threaded hook. Adhesive clips on the cable hold the shelf horizontal. Glass can be cut to size and edges smoothed at a glass shop.

Sawtooth standards. This traditional support system will take time and much cutting. Make standards by cutting thirty 60-degree triangles in 1x2s as shown. A professional-quality saber saw will help. Make four standards, and attach two to each side piece. Cut two movable cleats for each shelf. Notch the corners of each shelf so it fits between the standards. Install a plywood back for the unit, and attach a fixed shelf near the middle for rigidity.

Glass Shelves - Sleek and transparent, glass shelves ease the difficulty of lighting knickknacks and collections. Here are some installation tips:

Have a glass company cut pieces of extra-thick plate glass. Automobile-type safety glass has a plastic layer laminated in the center to prevent splintering and add strength. The edges must be sanded so they are not sharp; you may choose to pay extra for rounded corners.

Supports for glass should have a soft surface. Glue strips of felt wherever the glass will rest on a support.

Making Shelves for Children

Flexibility and durability are the key for children’s shelving and storage structures. Kids grow fast; a shelving system that can adjust in height and function gives the longest service. When possible, make units that can be easily changed, such as the shelf boxes at right. This way, children can make it their own by rearranging it to suit their needs. Pine 1x is ideal for these shelves. Give it a very durable coat of paint, or stain and finish it so that the inevitable scratches will not be glaring.

Sports organizer. This keeps sports equipment from cluttering a room. The pegs are handy for hanging gloves, hats, and baseball bats. Large balls go in the lower bin.

Modular shelving. Make a variety of sizes—not only different widths and heights, but different depths as well. The spaces between boxes also can be used for storage, so it is not necessary to plan a system precisely. Construct a box with simple butt joints, then reinforce the corners with 3-inch angle brackets. Cut a piece of 1/4 inch plywood for the back, and use it to help square up the box.

Cut and assemble. Cut side pieces as shown, and cut 5/15-inch-deep dadoes for the shelves. Cut the shelves and fasten them in the dadoes with 1 5/8 inch trimhead screws. Attach the plywood back with 4d box nails. Use a guide to drill 3/4 holes, 3 inches deep, into the 2x8; insert the dowels. Attach the 2x8 so it overhangs evenly on both sides.

Building a Classic Shelf Unit

This handsome unit looks elaborate, yet it does not call for extraordinary skills or tools. The shelves are designed for strength: Reinforced with 1x2s on edge, the shelves can span 4 feet even when loaded with a full set of encyclopedias. Use birch plywood to make the sides and the shelves, and pine moldings if you want to paint the unit. If you choose instead to stain, use hardwood 1x10 for the shelves. Select decorative trim along the top and bottom to suit your decor.

1. Prepare for construction. The laminated standards are very rigid, so they won’t bow out under the pressure of long shelves full of books. To make them, rip-cut pieces of plywood to 11 1/8 inches, or use 1x12s. Cut them to the total height of the unit, or cut them a little short and install moldings that increase the height an inch or so. If the unit will run all the way to the ceiling, attach 1x2 nailers on the ceiling; you’ll attach the standards to these. You can then install crown molding or cove molding at the joint between the shelf and the ceiling.

If the unit will not reach to the ceiling, consider installing a piece of plywood or 1-by lumber fitted into the space between the standards, the top face piece, and the wall. Attach a piece of 1/2-inch plywood to the back of the unit, or attach the standards directly to the wall.

2. Make standards. Lay the outside piece of each standard on a flat surface, then the 1x2s, then the inside piece. Drill pilot holes, using a depth guide so you don’t drill through, and drive 2-inch trim head screws spaced about 4 inches apart. Use perforated hardboard as a template to drill holes for bracket pins

3. Build the face. Cut the top, bottom, and two side pieces. Draw a long curve along the bottom edge of the top piece, beginning and ending 3 1/2 inches from each end. Cut with a saber saw. Working on a large, flat surface, join the side pieces to the top and bottom with blind dowels.

4. Install standards, face, and trim. Have a helper hold the standards upright while you attach the face. The outside edges of the face should be flush with the outside faces of the standards. Drill pilot holes and drive 1 5/8-inch trim head screws every 6 inches. Attach a back piece and anchor the back to the wall, or anchor the standards to the wall with angle brackets. Install trim above and below.

5. Make shelves. Measure the distance between the standards, and cut 9 1/2-inch-wide pieces of plywood or 1x10s for shelves. For each shelf, cut two 1x2 edging pieces as long as the shelf. Attach them to the front and back edges of the shelf with white glue and 6d finish nails. Insert shelving pins into the holes in the standard, and place the shelves in position.

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