DIY Shelving Unit





Introduction: DIY Shelving Unit

About: Maker, Youtuber, Software Developer

In this instructable I show you how you can build a heavy duty rack with 2x4s, particle boards and wooden dowels. All you need is a saw, a cordless drill and some clamps. But you can speed up the process a lot if you have some power tools available.

Step 1: Cut Everything to Size

The rack is made from 25 mm waterfproof particle board and 50x50 spruce beams. If you live in the US you can use 2x4s and rip them in half.

I bought the particle boards pre-cut, which saves a lot of work. The beams are cut by setting a stop block and cutting all pieces witht he same length at once. You can als use a miter saw or even do this by hand.

Step 2: Connecting the Beams and Posts With Wooden Dowels

The beams are glued to the posts with wooden dowels. This gives a very strong connection which is almost as strong as real mortise and tenon joint. The chalange with this kind of connnections is to drill two holes for every connection which must match excactly.

Step 3: Drilling the Holes Into the Beams

You can mark and drill the holes into the beams by hand. To speed this up, I built a horizontal boring machine. Once set-up I can drill a lot of holes fast and precise.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes Into the Posts

If you drill the holes into the beams by hand you have to transfer them to the posts with dowel center finders. Make sure to mark every connection with a number to make sure you find the matching beams after drilling.

I found this process to speed this up:

  1. Mark one hole on all posts at the same time.
  2. Then drill the first hole.
  3. Put a dowel into this hole.
  4. Move it to a stop block.
  5. Drill the second hole.

This procedure allows you to drill many holes fast and precise.

Step 5: Glue Up

Now it's time for the glup up. Make sure you find a glue strategy that works fast enough. With normal wood glue you get ~10 minutes before the glue starts to set. Normaly I solve this problem by switching to ludicrous speed ;-).

Step 6: Prepare the Boards

While the glue is drying you can prepare the boards. The size of the posts is marked on every corner and notched out with the jig saw. Doing this on four corners of all boards takes some time.

This is actually one of the tasks I did not find something to speed up the process. If you have an idea let me know in the comments.

Step 7: Sanding, Painting, Beautifying

Depending on where your rack is going to be used, you want to sand, paint, varnish it. Since mine is used in the basement I'm happy with sanding.

Step 8: Add Angles

For the assembly I used my shop made anlge clamps from my last instructable. And to make the rack even more sturdy I added a number of them as a permanent solution.

Step 9: Finished!

And that's it. What you get is a sturdy heavy duty rack. I've built a bigger version of this rack for my garage as wood storage, which caries more 1000 kg of wood.



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    22 Discussions

    I would clamp a group of 5-10 boards together, then cut the group along the short edges of the boards using a circular saw set to the proper depth. That way you can reduce the number of cuts from 80 with your jig saw to 8 with the circular. Thanks for the detailed and well written instructable !

    1 reply

    Very nice idea! Unfortunately my circular saw only cuts 40 mm and the posts ar 50 mm. But it's a good argument to buy a bigger one ;-).

    From my experience almost all shelves sag over time when exposed to weight and moisture. Particle board is especially vulnerable to moisture (you may luck out with waterproof PB). One can either flip the shelves regularly or install horizontal support under the front and back of the shelf. You could probably use and thinner piece of plywood if you have horizontal support. I used leftover 2x4s and exterior siding from a scrap pile in a nearby house build.

    2 replies

    Adding horizontal supports is indeed a good and also the most economical option to reinforce the boards. Thanks for mentioning this.

    The first racks are now 1.5 years old. Up to 1 board there's no visible sag. This one board carries ~300 kg. I think I'm going to add a 50x50mm beam to fix this (as there's no such thing as a 2x4 in Europe :-( ).

    I'm seeing a lot of instructables without a materials list lately and would suggest everyone add a materials list; though this project is simple, it would have been just as simple to include a materials list, including instructions to leave out 1 or 2 2x4's when building an extension. Just saying: It would be nice to know how many 2x4 & 4x8 sheets of particle board are needed from the get go, plus misc parts like dowels or other whatnots. For some, like me, also having an instructable on building your dowel alignment sled, or a mod for a hand drill, or drill press would be nice.

    Also, I'm thinking for those drilling by hand the holes for wooden dowels, if you don't mind having dowels poking out (they can easily be cut off, you can get perfect alignment by drilling holes for both, if you have a bit long enough, just drill through the shorter into the longer piece of wood. I've never heard of dowel center finders, but I suppose they're available at Lowe's; I'll remember to ask. A cost estimate would also be nice to know. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the Instructable concept and thinking more DIY woodshop video; every extra small bit of information goes a long way; and since it's being duplicated online, even better, it can save a lot of time and heartache from bad math.

    2 replies

    Drilling through is an option, if you have sheet good. You can even make the dowel a decorative element. That makes the process definitely a lot easier.

    In this project the dowel is 40 mm and the beam is 50 mm. You could put 2 Dowels into the whole or cut longer ones yourself. This leaves you with the problem to find a 8 mm drill bit that can go as deep as 70 mm. I'm not sure if that exists.

    About the material list: Guess nobody will build a rack with dimensions I did. the idea is to build the rack sized to your needs. So a detailed material list would be of little use.

    Also, particle board can tend to sag over time, especially if something heavy is stored on it, I'd think about adding support on the long side to ensure this doesn't happen. I've bought steel shelving and seen them buckle over time, and have seen many a buckled wooden shelf. I've learned to add extra support. I had a 35lb (16kg) Printer on a wooden shelf for a couple of year, and yeah, it's buckled, never thought that would be enough. But, then I do live in a high humidity area during the summer.

    I agree with you about never having enough storage space.

    Well done!

    thats so awesome, i love it...... i realize i really want to create some furniture in my house.

    Yes of course! I'm nut used to dimensional lumber in inches, since this does not exist in Switzerland. I just tried to give some hints for non European readers.

    Pine shelving, NOT particleboard! They aha and aren't strong enough. And forget the dowels, just nail or screw 2x3's on either side, much stronger....

    1 reply

    Pine looks better and sags much less and looks nicer, no question. But it's 3 times more expensive than particle board.

    About screws or nails: A very big NO! They all come loose over time. Professional heavy duty racks do not have any screws in the critical parts. This could easily lead to tons of of goods falling down on the workers.

    Also wood glue is strong and durable, in my design it's the hard wood dowels that carry the load. Even if some part of the glue gets loose, the dowel would still carry the load.

    Well done! Since I like to keep my 'stuff' out of sight, I would add some doors to your design. The way you have constructed them - if I am seeing this correctly - you could easily make some doors out of the same particle board or just use 1/2" (~12.5mm) material. I like to use plywood if the price is right - it's more forgiving of my mistakes. ;o) All the same well designed and executed right down to the video instructions.

    Great build! Any chance you could add a close-up image of the added support angles? I'd love for my students to be able to build one for our classroom.

    1 reply

    They are simply srewed into the corners. I made an instructable about the temporary ones: