I needed to get my studio organized, so I designed and built a corner storage shelf for my paintings.
Most painting storage designs involve building expensive cabinets or cheap clunky looking 2x4 boxes. I wanted my storage solution to look minimal, be functional and not cost a bunch. I'm not a carpenter, but I am resourceful. I love wandering around hardware stores and thinking of design solutions using off-the-shelf materials.
I custom built this shelf to fit within a unique space in the corner of my studio. If you'll notice in the picture, the wall on the small side of the shelf comes out about 8". This allowed me to match the shelf to the depth of the protruding wall, and add some extra support under the shelf on that side.
This shelf has a rack system designed to separate each painting so they don't touch each other, utilizing storage above and below the shelf. If you're an artist, you know keeping the paintings from touching is really important. Acrylic tends to fuse together over time if left touching.
Tools you'll need:
a circular saw with a palm sander or possibly a jig saw with a belt sander, a hack saw, a drill with bits, a hammer, an awl, a stud finder, two saw horses, a pencil, and a compass or just a small block of wood, 7mm wrench or needle nose pliers, electric staple gun with 3/8" staples, rubber mallet, scissors and/or knife, clamps
Materials you'll need:
3/4" plywood large enough to build your shelf, an aluminum C-channel, two aluminum L-angle rails, 1/4" x 2" lag bolts, several 1/8" x 48" steel round rods, several #8-32 x 1/4" T-nuts 4-pack (dividers), stain/polly combo, cheap paint brush, #6 1/2" inset wood screws, #8 1/2" round top wood screws, plastic coated 3/32 cable, 2 turnbuckles, 2 spring links (carabiners), 2 - 1/4" eyelet lag bolts, 4 - 3/32" - 1/8" clamp sets, 2 - 5"x5" t-plates, carpet, E6000 glue
Step 1: Triangulate Your Thoughts
First, pick a corner for your storage shelf.
Second, decide how high to set the shelf in order to maximize your storage potential.
I work with large canvases that are 60 x 40 so I set my shelf at 63" at it's lowest point. (my floor slops a bit so the height ranges between 63-64")
Third, decide how large you want your shelf to be, based on the size of the work you want to store on it, and under it, as well as how the scale looks in the room. My shelf is 36" deep and almost 54" wide. It sits a little more than halfway from floor to ceiling. You'll be storing your largest pieces on the side at the shelf's deepest and stepping down in sizes as you move to the other side. Each slot is for one painting and is divided by steel round rods which go through the shelf, and keep the paintings from touching.
Because my shelf is so large, I added steel cables for support. Attached to wall studs, the cables keep the shelf level so the paintings won't lean on each other.
Step 2: Support the Shelf
I used thick aluminum L-angle rails as the support for my shelf. I found them at the big box hardware store and bought a 36" and 48" length to use as supports.
I also, used cables connected to studs high above the shelf down the front of the shelf in order to support the weight where there is no wall bracket.
And, on that little 8" side, I used 2 standard L-brackets.
Let's get started.
Draw a level straight line where you want the rails to go.
Find your studs. Start in the corner (there's got to be a stud there) and move out 16" for approximate location. Use a stud finder to confirm the location. Mark the studs on the wall and match to each aluminum rail.
Drill 1/4" holes on the aluminum rail where you've marked your studs. I mounted each rail to three different studs for lots of support. I don't suggest ever using a drywall anchor for this type of shelf.
Drill small holes (about 1/8") in the top of your rails in order to secure your shelf to the rails later.
Drill pilot holes in the wall where your marked your studs. Place your rail on the line and double check your holes and rail level.
Install the rails onto the wall using 1/4" x 2" lag bolts. Your rails should sit next to each other in the corner and they should be straight and level.
Step 3: Pythagorean What?
This shelf is made out of 3/4" plywood. Since the shelf is rather large, I purchased a 4'x8' sheet. It was about $40. I had the store cut it down to a manageable size. Make sure your initial cut is bigger than you need, so you have wiggle room. You'll need it. I had mine cut down to 39 x 60" because that size is the largest that will fit in my car.
How to measure, mark and cut the shelf.
Refresher, pythagorean theorem: a2 + b2 = c2 - meaning if you know two out of three lengths of your right angle triangle you can find the missing length.
Wait a minute! Like most structures, my studio doesn't have true right angles. It was built atop an existing foundation so my corners are a little off, the walls are a little wiggly and as I said earlier, and the floor slopes a bit. That corner is actually about 92.5 degrees. That adds up quick on a large shelf.
So forget about the pythagorean. It only works on right angles.
Here's a trick: Get two pieces of foam core or cardboard and tape them together where they are flush against adjoining walls while sitting level. Look for waves in the drywall. Measure the angle in the corner with an angle measuring tool (pictured above) and compare that measurement to the angle of the taped foam core. See if both measurements are equal. If not, using a straight edge to lengthen the angle might correct your results. Mark your length and width on the taped foam core and use it as a template to cut your plywood.
However, if you have some waves in the drywall, you might want to scribe your shelf for a tighter fit. Scribing is when you mark the shelf (hold it diagonally so it will fit in the space) on one side using a compass or little block of wood to follow the contour of the wall. If you're not sure what that is, then you'll need to search it and read a little about 'scribing to an uneven wall'.
Use the information you've collected to measure, mark and cut your plywood with a circular saw for straight lines or a jigsaw in combination with a belt sander for custom work on wavy walls.
Huge tip: If you are cutting your shelf with a circular saw, angle the blade slightly inward by a degree or two so the shelf seats snuggly against the wall and onto the brackets. The top of the shelf should be slightly larger than the bottom.
Place your shelf onto the brackets and doublecheck the fit. If you've done your homework, you should be good to move to the next step.
Step 4: Drill Some Holes
Now that your shelf is cut, and it fits snugly, it's time to measure, mark and drill the holes for the dividers.
My canvases use heavy-duty stretcher frames that are 1 1/2" wide. I want them to stand straight up and not lean against each other, so I'm placing the dividers every 1 3/4". There will be two rows of holes set 7" apart.
Draw a straight line across the length of the shelf starting 2" from the back and sides. Then draw another parallel line 7" in front of the first line.
Mark an "x" at the 2" start of each line on the deep side of the triangle, then every 1 3/4" along both lines. I ended up with two rows of 30 holes that needed to be drilled. 60 holes means you're going to need 15 #8-32 x 1/4" t-nut 4-pack from the big box hardware store.
Also, count which holes line up with the back wall studs. See where they divide the shelf and decide whether to add one or two cables to support the front of the shelf. My studs divided the shelf into thirds, so I attached two cables. Mark an "x" - 2" in front of the shelf, to drill holes in alignment with the two matching holes in the back.
Find a drill bit that is just a hair smaller than the metric size of the t-nuts.
Drill your holes as straight as possible all the way through the shelf.
Step 5: Sand and Stain
Sand off those pencil lines as well as any rough edges. I used 100 grit paper on a palm sander.
Remove all sawdust.
Stain your shelf with a combo stain and polyurethane to save time. You'll need at least two coats. Follow the stain manufacturer's instructions.
Step 6: Hammer Time
Glue and hammer a #8-32 x 1/4" t-nut into each hole on the top of the shelf. I used E-6000 glue because it says it works on wood and metal.
When the glue dries, make a paper template of the holes in your shelf for later use. I taped together a bunch of 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper with masking tape, and aligned it with the back corners of the shelf. Then I used an awl to make the holes in the paper. If you are not adding carpet, you can skip this part.
Step 7: Add Carpet
This step is optional. It isn't necessary, but worth it.
Keep your paintings from getting scuffed by adding carpet to the top of the shelf. Keep any seams running parallel with the painting divider rods. Trim, glue and staple the carpet to the top of the shelf.
Step 8: Put on a Good Face
Strengthen the shelf, and make it look cool, by adding aluminum c-channel along the front. The c-channel will cover the carpet's edge and put a minimal face on the shelf.
The c-channel I used is only 3/4" thick. I really needed one a little bigger because of the added 1/4" of carpet. Before the c-channel will fit over the front edge and contain the carpet, you'll have to remove about 1/8" off the shelf's bottom edge with a sander and 40-60 grit paper. However, If you can find a slightly larger aluminum c-channel, you can skip that chore. The thickness depends on your carpet's depth.
Customize the c-channel to fit the space by notchingaround the angle bracket. Also, miter each end to match the shelf angles. Drill 3-6mm holes on the bottom of the channel, one in the middle and one on each side.
Once it fits, position the c-channel over the carpeted top edge and with a rubber mallet, pound the c-channel over the bottom lip of the shelf, into place. Attach at bottom using 1/2" round top wood screws.
Step 9: Get Bent
Create dividers using 3/16" x 48" steel rods that will loosely sandwich each painting at the back of the shelf. The paintings fit between and lean against them against the stretcher frame, not on unsupported canvas. You'll quickly notice that you need to wipe the steel down to remove the oily residue used to keep rust away.
Bend the rods around a sturdy radius. I used a post in my basement. It's about a 4" diameter and creates a nice curve for the top of the dividers. Bend them evenly so the bottoms match up.
Step 10: Adding Dividers
Use the paper template you made earlier and match the holes already in the shelf by aligning the back corners of your template to the shelf. Mark the holes onto the carpet with a white charcoal pencil or something that you can easily see. Next, use a hammer and an awl to continue the holes through the carpet. Don't use a drill, as this will unravel the carpet. Trim any obtrusive carpet fibers with scissors or a knife.
Forcefully, push the rods through the holes in the carpet and shelf, until it's about 60/40 top to bottom (higher above the shelf and shorter underneath).
Only install a few more than what you need. You can add them as you need them, over time.
Also, find the holes that the cables will attach to, at the front of the shelf with an awl. Continue to punch through the carpet there as well.
Step 11: Attach Cables
Attach the shelf from the bottom of the bracket rails where you drilled your small holes using #8 x 1/2" round head wood screws.
Attach cables to the front of your shelf so that they are aligned to the dividers and run up towards where the wall meets the ceiling. Screw eye lag bolts into the studs, making sure your measurements are accurate and aligned with the divider below.
Now measure the length of cable, add extra, and attach it to the front of the shelf first, by using t-brackets or large washers and looping cable clamps. Tighten the clamps and use wire cutters to trim any extra wire.
Next, open the turnbuckles and attach carabiner and cable clamps so the cable is slightly taught. Monitor your level and turn the turnbuckles the opposite direction, to tighten the cable.
Step 12: Finish
Carefully, load the shelf with all your completed work by sliding your largest paintings in first. Do this one at a time from largest to smallest. Slightly bend and reposition the divider rods, if needed, to support the back of the painting without pressing into the canvas. Have all your paintings facing out, so you can see them.
You may remove the divider rod that aligns with the cable(s). The painting will lean against the cable.
Also, make sure that the ends of the rods don't poke the paintings underneath the shelf, as you slide them into position. Reposition the rods by bending them slightly if necessary.
Now clean up and celebrate. You now have plenty of room to make more art and fill up this shelf.
Thanks and don't forget to LookAtMyPaintings.com.