As part of my continuing effort to spruce up my current living quarters I decided to address one of the uglier, plainer walls in my kitchen with a fun and function Modern DIY Peg Board Wall Shelf. This is a great project that really adds interest to any space, and best of all, it can be rearranged and reorganized to meet any of your shelving/storage needs.
As an added bonus this project is chalked full of some of my favorite wood-working tricks. From easily removing layout lines using rubbing alcohol, to hiding unsightly plywood edges, to making and using French Cleats I've included no less than 20 awesome tips to help you improve your wood working and save some time in the shop.
If you enjoy this project please consider voting for it in the WoodCraft Shelving Contest!
Step 1: Here's What You're Going to Need
One of the best things about this project is that you can buy everything you need from your local home improvement store. The total cost of this project should be right around $60 dollars if you're starting with absolutely no materials, but a large part of that cost is things like wood finish, glue, and screws, so if you've already got a back log of basic wood working supplies you can expect to pay $30 - $35 to make this puppy! Below I've listed all the materials and tools that I used for this project along with prices and links where applicable.
- 4' X 4' Sheet of 3/4" Plywood (I used birch veneered plywood for my peg board, but sanded pine and oak are equally good options.)
- 1" Dowel Rod
- Wood for shelving - I used extra 3/4" birch plywood that I had on hand but you could use pine or any other wood. Just make sure that what you use is at least 5" wide so that the shelves fit on the peg board properly.
- Six 1/4" X 2.5" Lag Screws and Washers
- Polyurethane (or whatever wood finish you prefer to use.)
- 1 1/4" Screws
- Wood Glue
- Edge Banding (Optional) (Edge banding is a thin adhesive backed veneer of wood that is used to cover the layered edges of plywood. It comes in various widths but for this project I used 3/4" banding which matched the 3/4" thickness of the plywood.)
- Some type of sacrificial backer board to keep the plywood from blowing out when you drill through it. I used an old sheet of plywood.
You'll need basic wood working tools to complete this project.
- Table Saw or Circular Saw
- Chop Saw (I just used it because I had it, the table saw equipped with the mitre gauge would accomplish the same thing for the purpose of this project.)
- Drill Guide (You could technically make do without this but I HIGHLY recommend picking one up. This tool attaches to your Hand drill and holds it upright so that you can drill perfect 90 degree holes which is very important if your want your pegs to sit straight in the peg board.)
- 1" Spade or Forstner Drill Bit
- 1/4" Drill Bit
- 7/16 Socket and Ratchet/Driver Attachment
- Stud Finder
- Sander with 220 grit paper
- Paint Roller
- Cloths Iron (Only needed if you plan to apply edge banding to cover the edges of the plywood.)
- Tape Measure
- Straight Edge
- Pneumatic Nailer (Not 100% necessary to have, but very handy.)
Step 2: Making the First Cut
Start this project by breaking down a 4'X4' sheet of 3/4" plywood so that you have one piece that is 48" X 36" and another that is 48" by 12" The larger piece will become the peg board and the smaller piece will be used later on to make the French Cleat that mounts the peg board to the wall, and the aprons that will be used to conceal the gap between the peg board and the wall.
Step 3: Layout Baby!
Everyone's favorite part of wood working, tedious precision measuring! In all honesty it's not that bad, you're going to be creating a grid so that you know where to drill the holes that the pegs will fit into. To start, measure and mark a 4" wide boarder around the edges of the larger plywood sheet. This will leave you with an inner area that measures 28" wide by 40" long. Next measure and mark lines every 5 inches vertically and every 4 inches horizontally as shown. With the grid complete you're now ready to start drilling a whole bunch of holes, 144 to be exact.
Pro Tip: Save your future self some time and effort and don't push hard when you draw on the layout lines for drilling the holes. If you push hard when you draw the lines then the tip of your pencil actually indents the wood leaving a pencil line that sits below the surface. If you draw lightly then there will be less graphite to remove and the graphite that is there will be above the surface of the wood where a few passes with a sander will take it away.
Pro Tip: After you layout the grid in pencil, mark all of the intersections where the holes will be drilled with a center punch. The one I show in the picture is a spring loaded center punch which is really handy for tasks like this. The indentations left by the punch will allow you to index your drill bit to the hole location quickly and accurately.
Step 4: Drilling the Holes!
The peg board has 8 lines of holes across and 9 lines of holes down, which makes for a grand total of 72 holes. For these holes to look nice and function properly they need to be drilled as straight as possible, you can try to do this free hand, but you'd have to be pretty awesome to drill 72 perfectly straight holes, so I suggest you save yourself the trouble and invest in the drill guide that I linked to in the materials section.
Before you jump right into drilling the 1" holes for the pegs, you should drill small pilot holes for every large hole that will be drilled. These pilot holes should be drilled using the drill guide to ensure that they are as straight as possible. The purpose of the pilot holes is to keep the center spur of your Forstner or Spade drill bit aligned as it bores through the wood which will help to keep your holes straight. (72 pilot holes + 72 1" holes = 144 holes total)
You'll be using a 1" Forstner or spade bit to drill the peg holes and I suggest drilling a few practice holes in scrap wood first so that you can test the fit of your 1" dowel. you want a fit that is just barely snug. If the pegs fit to tight then then they will be impossible to fit into place once finish is applied to the holes, and if they are too loose then the pegs will look sloppy and run the risk of falling out or drooping.
As you begin drilling remember to place a backer board behind the area where you are drilling to prevent blow out when the bit breaks through the back of the plywood.
Pro Tip: Considering you're drilling so many holes, you might have to contend with a dull drill bit at some point through the process or you may want to sharpen up your bits before you begin to ensure the cleanest possible holes. Below are links to two great tutorials, the first will teach you how to sharpen forstner style drill bits and the second will teach you how to sharpen spade style bits.
Step 5: Sanding
Alrighty, wipe the sweat from your brow and marvel and the many many perfect holes you've drilled. Now grab that sander and get to work cleaning up the front of your peg board, removing the pencils lines from the grid and any small bits of tear out from the drilling process. While you're sanding go ahead and sand the back of the peg board too. You don't have to go crazy sanding, just sand enough to remove any tear out or major blemishes. I only used 220 grit when sanding, you shouldn't need anything more or less aggressive than that.
Pro Tip: If you're planning to apply edge banding to hide the edges of the plywood be careful to not round over the edges of the plywood as you sand, doing so will leave ugly gaps when you apply the banding.
Pro Tip: Pencil marks can be hard to sand away, especially if you pressed hard when drawing your lines. To make things easier dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol and use it to wipe away the lines.
Step 6: Edge Banding (Optional)
If you're not a fan of exposed plywood edges then edge banding is just the tool for you. As I mentioned in the materials step, edge banding is an adhesive backed wood veneer that can be applied to the edges of plywood to conceal the layers, giving your project the appearance of finished wood. You can make your own edge banding but for the sake of ease I opted to buy the commercial version which comes preloaded with a heat activated adhesive backing. All you have to do to apply it is to hold the banding in place with the adhesive side against the edge of the plywood and use a clothes iron to activate the adhesive bonding the banding to the wood. If you misalign the banding you can trim off the error using a hand plane or just a sharp utility knife.
Step 7: Cutting and Attaching the Aprons
The Aprons fill the gap between the peg board and the wall that is created by the thickness of the French cleat on the back of the peg board. To make them simply rip two 1" wide lengths from the 48" X 12" piece of plywood that you cut in step 3 and glue/nail them in place on the back sides of the peg board as shown.
Step 8: Applying Finish
The next step is to apply a finish. Use the finish of your choice, but be mindful about applying too much finish to the holes as the thickness of the finish could make the holes to small to fit the pegs properly. To finish my peg board I used a semi-gloss polyurethane for it's ease of use and high quality finish. Don't worry about finishing the back of the peg board, no one will see it anyway, (Leaving the back unfinished also allows you to glue the French Cleat that holds the peg board to the wall in place.)
Step 9: Cutting and Attaching the French Cleat
French cleats are one of the simplest, cheapest, and most secure methods of attaching shelving and other furniture to the wall. The basic concept is pretty simple, a board is ripped in half at a 30-40 degree angle. One half of the board is mounted to the back of the shelf or cabinet so that the acute angle of the 30-40 degree cut is facing away from the cabinet. the other half of the board is mounted to the wall so that it's acute angle from the 30-40 degree cut is away from the wall. The cleat on the shelf/cabinet is then placed against the wall above the other cleat and is lowered down until the cleats meet and wedge against one another. It's a very simple concept that is a little difficult to explain in words, so just check out the pictures and it'll click instantly.
The cleat is made from the board that we just cut the aprons from. It should now measure approximately 10" by 48". Start by cutting the board down to a length of 34.5" so that it'll fit between the aprons. Next adjust your table saw blade to a 30-40 degree angle and use the rip fence to cut the board in half lengthwise leaving you with the two parts of the French cleat.
Set one of the pieces aside for now and mount the other one to the top of the pegboard as shown. Pay attention to the angle of the cleat while your mounting it to the back of the peg board. If you mount it backwards it won't work properly. To attach the cleat I used a combination of pneumatic nails and wood glue, and then I added extra strength by driving 1 1/4" screws down the middle of the cleat ensuring a bomb proof bond between it and the peg board.
Step 10: Making the Pegs
This step is one of the fun ones! To make the pegs first cut your 1" dowel rod into sections using a chop saw. The length of the pegs is based on what you plan to use them for, for example, a 6.5" peg would support a 5" wide shelf. I made a variety of pegs ranging from 3" long to 6.5" long. Next set up your router table with a 1/2" cove router bit with the bearing positioned about 1/2" up from the table surface and so that it is approximately .5" back from the router fence. Next clamp a board to the table to act as a secondary fence. Position this board 1" away from the previously installed fence. This creates a channel for the 1" dowel to sit in with the cove router bit directly in the middle. Lastly, clamp a final board onto the original fence so that it sits 1" above the surface of the table, this will ensure that the dowel won't jump out of the channel once it engages the router bit. turn on your router and position a peg in the channel and Feed it into the router bit until the end of the peg makes contact with the router bit bearing. Once it engages the bearing slowly turn the pegs keeping in mind the rotation direction of the router bit, while also maintaining downward pressure to keep the peg against the router table in in the channel.. If done correctly this will create a perfect round over on the end of each peg with very little tear out or need for sanding.
Once the pegs are shaped you can coat them with finish or you can leave them natural. I prefer to leave them natural as I think the rougher natural surface keeps them from slipping from the holes in the peg board.
Pro Tip: If you're experiencing tear out with this method try adjusting the fences so that the router bit is positioned slightly closer to the front or back fence instead of directly in the middle of the 1" channel. Doing this will adjust the angle of the router bit blades in relation to where they begin to cut the dowel and should reduce tear out.
Step 11: Making Shelves
If you'd like to add some extra utility to your peg board, you can build simple shelves that stretch across two or more pegs. The style and dimensions of the shelves will depend largely on your personal style and anticipated uses for the peg board shelving system. For my shelves I opted for a basic design using some extra 3/4" birch plywood cut to a width of 5". I faced the front of the shelves with edge banding just as I did with the sides of the peg board to hide the layers of the plywood.
Tip for Measuring the Shelves:
I wanted my shelves to overhang the pegs by 1" on each side so counted the number of pegs I wanted the shelf to span, took that number and multiplied it by 4 (because the pegs are 4" apart horizontally), and then added 3. Adding 3 accounts for the 1" of overhang on each side and makes up for the fact that the pegs are 1" in diameter on 4" centers (so it's actually 5" from the far sides of two pegs that are next to each other horizontally). If you don't care about keeping things precise (or if math isn't your strong suit) you can always just chop the shelves to the size you want and then see how they fit on the peg board mixing and matching peg placement and shelf location until everything works.
If you're worried about the fact that the shelves balance on the pegs there are several two things you can do to sturdy them up.
- You can add stop blocks to the undersides of the shelves that will keep them from sliding off the pegs sideways.
- You can air nail the shelves to the pegs they rest on (my favorite option). This will limit your ability to mix and match the pegs and shelves but will create a firm shelf that will never slip off of the pegs it sits upon.
Step 12: Installation
Home Stretch! Thanks to the use of the French cleat mounting system installing the peg board wall shelf is a snap. Measure up from the floor roughly 60" and then use a level to mark a straight horizontal line. Run a stud finder along the line and mark the two or three studs that will work best for where you'd like to install the peg board. Use a 3/16" drill bit to drill pilot holes into the wall for the 1/4" X 2.5" lags that will be used to mount the French Cleat. Now drill holes into the French cleat that align with the pilot holes you drilled into the wall making sure to first drill a recess into the cleat so that the head of the lag screw and washer sit below the cleat's face, otherwise the lag head will protrude against the backside of the peg board which will keep the cleat from properly seating. Screw the cleat to the wall using the 2.5" lag screws, making sure that the "cleat" is facing upward. Now all you should have to do is position the shelf over top the cleat and then slowly lower it until you feel the cleat on the back of the peg board register to the cleat mounted to the wall.
Step 13: Add the Pegs, Add the Shelves, and Add the Stuff!
With the peg board securely mounted to the wall you can start to add and arrange the pegs and shelves. Play around with it a bit and mix and match the pegs, shelves, and stuff you want to store/display until you find a combination that looks good and works for your needs.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my Instructable on how to build a Modern Peg Board Shelving System. This is a really fun and simple to build project that adds a lot of interest to any space and makes for a great conversation piece. This idea can also be scaled up or down to suit your needs, potentially to the point where you might have an entire wall of Peg Board awesomeness.
If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave them in the comments section and I will do my best to get back to you asap.
And... if you enjoyed this project please consider throwing a vote my direction for the WoodCraft Shelving Contest.