Picture of Amazing Cardboard Shelf!
In this Instructable, I'll be showing you how to make a small, useful cardboard shelf. It'll probably cost you next to nothing if you have some cardboard lying around the house, but it will provide a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Let's begin!

Step 1: Choose/Create Your Design

When making a cardboard shelf, the first thing to do is to design the shelf. This may require drawing up a few simple sketches, or even making a few rough drafts first. For me, the inspiration came from a design which I found on this site:


I thought this design would provide a challenge, while still maintaining an easy enough build. It also provides and interesting look and feel to the shelf.
Great instructable and also the first one I completed! I kind of improvised with the hanging part which included nailing some leftover cardboard cutouts and then gluing them to the shelf itself. I know it would be a mess removing it from the wall, but oh well :)
Loshanagan (author)  korikorikori4 years ago
Cool! Would you mind posting some pictures in the comments?
Ward_Nox4 years ago
this gives me an awesome idea thanks
TekoMuto4 years ago
brilliant! I can't wait to start mine!!
Loshanagan (author)  TekoMuto4 years ago
Good luck! Be sure to post pictures. Have fun!
ck.luis.95 months ago

I don't know why everyone thinks the instruction is great. I can take a look at this and can make something similar without reading anything... which makes the project pretty easy... THE ONE PART AND THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS INSTRUCTABLE IS MISSING...

HOW DID YOU PUT YOUR NAILS IN TO SECURE THIS? You've taken pictures of every detail of the model, but nothing when it comes the finishing touches...corners doesn't explain anything. how many layers of cardboard am i suppose to puncture?

Sorry but, "To hang my shelf, I used a highly sophisticated method of epicness, by which I mean, "I have no former experience in hanging a shelf of any kind, and thus used a system of nailing around one dozen finishing nails (without large nail heads) to securely hold that puppy to the wall." So essentially what I did was to place a nail in every strategic place I could come up with, mostly including the corners of the shelf. This method turned out to be quite useful. In fact, the shelf felt as sturdy as any ordinary shelf would if it was held to the wall with only a few nails."..... is not an instruction.

What's the point of making a wall shelf...If you can't secure it on the wall?

iTixle2 years ago
Just a tip to anyone doing this: a great alternative to Elmer's glue or hot glue is spray adhesive. It easily forms strong, durable bonds. :)
drabinowitz4 years ago
Notice the skinny piece of cardboard resting over the crack. Notice the skinny piece of cardboard resting over the crack. Notice the skinny piece of cardboard resting over the crack. Notice the skinny piece of cardboard resting over the crack.
Noah9724 years ago
One last question, do you think Command velcro picture hanging strips could hold the shelf, since I don't want to put holes in my wall? (I think they're supposed to hold at least 2 pounds, but I don't remember exactly)
Loshanagan (author)  Noah9724 years ago
Hmm... Well I bet they can hold a bit of weight, however, I think the shelf might fall since it is out from the wall more... That might not make sense because I don't really know how to put it...
Thanks a lot!
Noah972 Noah9724 years ago
Okay, so velcro strips don't work... and I had put a piece of cardboard on the back of my shelf to make it level, but it wasn't stable, so I tore it off, meaning my shelf edges come out almost a full inch from the back of the shelf, and I can't trim them. I also can't use long nails or brackets because they would damage the wall. Can anybody think of a simple, cheap, easy way to hang this without damaging anything that actually works?
You could use two wooden battens about 1" wide that reach the floor, attach your shelf to the battens and velcro the top of the battens to the wall. To make it look good paint the battens gloss black or white - hope this helps or gives you some other ideas.
Thanks! Say, what exactly is a wooden batten?
It's just a thin strip of wood approx 1/2" by 1 1/2" wide, the length will be determined by the height you want the shelf. Just another name for a small plank, on board ships they say "batten" down the hatches, which basically means cover any holes with small planks
Noah9724 years ago
Phew! I finished my shelf on Saturday and it looks great! It's a little wonky, since I'm not too good with an X-acto knife, but it only took 2 Saturdays to make and it's very sturdy. I haven't hung it yet, and I'm still debating how I should do it, but I'm really excited to. My desktop computer is down and I'm on my laptop, so I can't post a picture, but as soon as I can, I will. Very great instructable and really well thought out. Thanks for the idea, and I hope to see more great ones in the future!
Loshanagan (author)  Noah9724 years ago
Wonderful! Yeah please do post pictures when possible!
zpwn064 years ago
would recommend using angle brackets to hang your shelf. These can be purchased from a hardware store, or, of course made from cardboard
Loshanagan (author)  zpwn064 years ago
Yeah, those probably would have been better, but the finishing nails worked well enough, plus I was getting impatient. haha
angle brackets are a nice idea. Your nails are good too - and cheaper!! ;-)
You could also use a french cleat. It's 2 pieces of wood (or cardboard) that are cut at an angle on the long edge. One piece is attached to the wall and the other in the design of the shelf. It will allow the shelf to be moved slightly left and right for aesthetic positioning. If you attach one on the top and bottom edge, it may allow the shelf to hold more weight.

I attached a diagram but a quick Google search will give you more info.

Great job. I'm thinking of building one for next to my desk.
Loshanagan (author)  technofossil4 years ago
I like it...
Since posting it I have been giving it some thought. I don;t think the french cleat will work with a floating shelf. It may pull off the wall. However, you are holding it on with just finishing nails. It may be worth a shot but I think it will need vertical braces coming down to steady it.

Blue Mark4 years ago
For a stronger shelf, just stack together layers of cut-out corrugated cardboard together. They can be glued together with contact cement or spray adhesive into a super lamination. Leave the surface uncovered to celebrate the cardboardness of the material. Laminated corrugated cardboard is incredibly strong - you can make furniture with it. http://www.igreenspot.com/gruff-an-eco-friendly-furniture/
Loshanagan (author)  Blue Mark4 years ago
That is neat, but I didn't have enough cardboard for that type of construction.
pop884 years ago
Hello '
How to stick on the wall
thank you
Loshanagan (author)  pop884 years ago
Check out Step 9
thank you
Loshanagan (author)  pop884 years ago
No problem.
uukay4 years ago
yay i just got an ipod touch 4 days ago
Loshanagan (author)  uukay4 years ago
Good choice!
yeah it is Ipod Touch 4th Generation!
Icalasari4 years ago
How large can you scale one of these before the cardboard couldn't support things?

Because it would be neat to make one large enough to act as a bookshelf, but I highly doubt that that would work
Loshanagan (author)  Icalasari4 years ago
Well if you made a shelf that rested on the floor, like a book case, then you would make it a little differently than my method. The way you hang it is important too. If you hang it with only nails, it won't support weight further out. However, if you use L braces or something different, it'll probably support more further out. (Assuming that the shelf is bigger)
Noah9724 years ago
If you had to give a rough guess, what would be the dimensions of the cardboard you used?
Loshanagan (author)  Noah9724 years ago
As in the total cardboard? Hmm... Maybe about 16" X 16", I'm not quite sure.
Thanks! Great instructable, btw!
Noah972 Noah9724 years ago
I have a cardboard box that was holding a 16" X 20" portrait, so it'll work perfectly!
I was thinking "wait a minute..." until I saw the iPod. :P nice build!
Loshanagan (author)  willrandship4 years ago
Sorry, I don't follow....
Probably was confused the way I was, I thought it was huge at first, until you just said the dimensions of your cardboard. (I actually thought that must be an ipad in my delusions, didn't check it very well)
Loshanagan (author)  willrandship4 years ago
Oh okay I got it now.
devalpha_14 years ago
Simply great! It brought my idle brain out of slumber. Thanks.
roland9854 years ago
How about using paper mache to give it a smooth finish and a slightly higher durability?
Loshanagan (author)  roland9854 years ago
I did only cardboard because I thought it would be cool :)
Sorry, I didn't explain properly. I meant doing the cardboard, and then a paper mache coating over it. But yes the coolness factor will be reduced somewhat....
Oh ! I *like* that idea - and one could also use it to alter finish - not necessarily "smooth" but maybe a "hand carved" look, or a "bark wood" or some other faux material surface, especially if painted or used with colored papers etc.
WriterInLA4 years ago
I'm thinking the shelf can be covered in papier-mâché. The images of the paper would create the look of the finish. Then varnish. No one would even know it was cardboard!

This cardboard shelf may be the solution I was looking for to cover the ugly, mostly unused heat controllers in the middle of my walls. I can pull the shelf off on those rare days I need to turn the heat on.

Thank you.
Loshanagan (author)  WriterInLA4 years ago
Sure thing! The reason I didn't go with papier-mâché was because I thought just cardboard would be cool
It is!
joerice014 years ago
This is cool, I like the design of it.
I think it would work well with acrylic.
Loshanagan (author)  joerice014 years ago
You can actually get triple layer cardboard, from those giant watermelon holders at Grocery stores. It's quite durable and lightweight! and free :P
Loshanagan (author)  willrandship4 years ago
True, I could use that for the innards. Thanks!
Really Cool Idea, I am going to have to try this, but I am wondering How much Weight you think it could support?
Loshanagan (author)  glitched97004 years ago
I would say about three to three and a half pounds. I put three pounds worth of water bottles on it and it held. The shelf itself is very sturdy, the real trick is hanging well.
Marinus844 years ago
I don't know anyone that owns a diskette anymore.. That just got me thinking..
I think i'll make my shelf out of wood, but i'll follow your design as a base/motivation.

Nice one :)
Loshanagan (author)  Marinus844 years ago
Amylfw4 years ago
This is really nice. I'd like to show my middle school art students.
Maybe you could make a couple of hanging holes in the back vertical cardboard piece. Just an idea. If it doesn't seem strong enough, laminate a couple of small pieces of cardboard to reinforce, (or thin plywood from craft store, if you don't mind straying from the all cardboard theme)
In any case, very nice!!
Loshanagan (author)  Amylfw4 years ago
danbaatar4 years ago
Can you be a bit more specific about your nail technique?

Did you actually nail part of the shelf to the wall, or is the shelf resting on the nails?

Loshanagan (author)  danbaatar4 years ago
So no, the shelf isn't nailed to the wall, it's simply attached by resting on the finishing nails.
Loshanagan (author)  danbaatar4 years ago
Well what I did was I sort of traced the outer edge lightly onto my wall with a pencil, then put nails so that they would support the top and bottom.
MakeItSo4 years ago
A couple of suggestions for the next version:

1) Make the top of the shelf a little wider than the finished shelf and fold it over to cover the front edge.

2) To hang the shelf, create blocks that fit in the empty space in the back of the shelf. Hang these on the wall and place the shelf on top of these. A cleverly placed lip on the underside of the shelf and a lip on the block will keep the shelf from sliding off. Magic floating shelf!!!
Loshanagan (author)  MakeItSo4 years ago
I like your suggestions, the block is a brilliant idea.
bettbee4 years ago
Very Cool.

The only weak link is the point of attachment, and I look forward to hearing more ideas on that subject. Am thinking about it as well and will hopefully come up with helpful suggestions also.
Loshanagan (author)  bettbee4 years ago
Yeah, I was just getting a bit impatient, but the nails hold it just fine.
utahowl4 years ago
MakeItSo's "floating Shelf" mount suggestion is really great - you should try it. There's an awesome floating shelf 'ible somewhere on this site that shows more about how this attachment method works. You can make the blocks out of cardboard,too.
Loshanagan (author)  utahowl4 years ago
Yeah it is a good idea indeed.
DragonDon4 years ago
Pretty cool indeed. I just need to find a way to make a full-sized shelf that'll hold some serious weight (i.e. microwave and such...).
Loshanagan (author)  DragonDon4 years ago
Go for it :)
Wow, I didn't look at the picture close enough before going on to the comments. At first I thought it was a full sized shelf/desk. I looked again and realized it was a small shelf for pocket sized items. Man do I feel silly.
This is great, problem is, will it take the weight of a fat cat (or three?) This would be irresistible to them :)
No reason why it couldn't. Just make it a deeper / wider shelf... or get some of that triple thickness watermelon box like @willrandship just mentioned. Also might need to make it longer, depending on how long your Fat Cats are. Not sure if they'd be diggin' the iPod angle-notch though. Or make one for each cat, so they could each have their Pad. Which is actually a good idea, as I have a skinny cat who is very fluffy and long-haired and I bet she'd like something like this as an extension to the skinny ledge in front of our hall window - that way she can plunk herself in front of it and gaze out upon her territory below and outdoors...
Loshanagan (author)  scraptopower4 years ago
It would probably fall... But if you hung it away from a place your cats could get to it, you wouldn't have any trouble :)
Korvus4 years ago
"Highy Sophistocated System Of Epicness" HSSE. I'm totally stealing this. My hats off to you and great work on the shelf. Best chuckle I've had all day.
Loshanagan (author)  Korvus4 years ago
Well thank you very much sir. Feel free to use HSSE!
Owenthecool4 years ago
Hey nice shelf you should come over and make one for me haha.......
Loshanagan (author)  Owenthecool4 years ago
Well thanks Owen. Or I could just make one for you and you could hang it yourself...

(btw to other people who are reading this comment, Owen is a friend of mine, which is why he said "come over and make me one" lol yup)
My name is Matt. I like pteradactyls. now that you know everything about me I consider you a friend. When can you come over and make me a shelf?
Talk to you later pal,
I really like the design of the shelf. It looks so clean! :D

I like building things out of cardboard too - but I've yet to try furniture of any kind,
Loshanagan (author)  jessyratfink4 years ago
Well thank you very much. I, too, like cardboard and paper as a material for making things. Keep building!
NatNoBrains4 years ago
I'll go hang my self...

In heaven: Hey wait, that said hang your SHELF...

(Sad face)
Loshanagan (author)  NatNoBrains4 years ago
Haha nice
l8nite4 years ago
now thats a LOT better than just a slide show and a very nicely done "ible" as well !
Loshanagan (author)  l8nite4 years ago
Thanks sir!
sclocher4 years ago
Very nice build, my friend. I love Building things with cardboard (Mainly helmets and weapons for my nephew), but i have not done anything this nice or impressive ;), great job!
Loshanagan (author)  sclocher4 years ago
Thanks very much. I, too, enjoy building weapons and other props from cardboard, paper, etc. Keep building!