Introduction: Oak MDF Display Shelves.

Picture of Oak MDF Display Shelves.

The amount of material required for this project depends on the size and quantity of the shelves you want to build, But this complete unit was made from approx 1/3 and full sheet of Oak Face MDF.

It could quite easily be made from Ply, MDF or solid boards.

Cut the material to the size you want for your build. If you are using veneered boards as I did, make sure the orientation of the veneer is longways along the shelf though.

I cut all my parts on the table saw, but you could use a circular saw or track saw if you have one available.

If you don't have access to the tools to cut the sheets, MOST suppliers of sheet goods will have a cutting facility, not only will it save you time, but also makes things easier transporting the parts to your work space!

Step 1: Edge Band the Boards.

Picture of Edge Band the Boards.

I used Iron-on edge banding, mainly for speed on this.

Using this kind of banding is very simple and quick. Using a HOT iron and leaving it time to heat up between sides is important.

Many people struggle with iron on edging, but it's really simple. Put the iron on hot and give it time to heat up. It comes on a roll and I find it helps to cut strips about 1 - 2" longer than the part I'm edging. Put the strip on the board with the bulk of the over hang on the side you start to heat. You'll find as you melt the glue on the back of the edging it has a tendency to slide along the board as you put pressure on it.

The strips need to be slightly wider than the thickness of the board. The edging used here is 22mm wide on 19mm boards. keep an over hang on all 4 sides of the edge you're covering for trimming later.

Once the strip is stuck to the board, run the iron back over it and follow up with a scrap of wood and push down hard to get a good bond. The wood will also help remove the heat from the iron and cool the glue to help it bond.

The aim is to get a solid bond between the two.

If you have areas that don't bond too well, heat the area back up with the iron and go over it again with the scrap to press it down.

See video!

Step 2: Trimming the Edging Flush.

Picture of Trimming the Edging Flush.

Once all you sides have been edged it's time to trim of all the over hangs.

This can be pretty tedious to be honest, but It's very easy to do. There are a few options depending on the tools you have:

A hand plane: A small hand plane can be used, make sure it's sharp, and the blade can only make shallow cuts, I like to leave a tiny overhang and go over the last bit with sandpaper, as you can plane off the face veneer if you're too eager to get the waste taken off.

Wide chisel: This is actually a quick and rather satisfying method! Use a nice heavy wide chisel 1 1/2"+ and use the side of it in a chopping motion to shear the overhang off. make sure you keep the chisel flat to the face of the board when doing this so as not put marks in the board!

Veneer trimmer: Definitely the quickest option this little gizmo flush cuts the edging on both sides at the same time and is a bit like a sharp knife. It's not something that everyone would have, but if you use this kind of edging a lot, it's a must have investment!

Once all the boards are trimmed, go over the corners with some 120 grit sand paper and remove any glue residue an take off the sharp corners.

Step 3: Markout and Cut the Slots for the Shelves.

Picture of Markout and Cut the Slots for the Shelves.

Again this is really easy and no real marking out is required.

To ensure the slots for the supports line up perfectly we will cut them together in one go, here's the trick....

  1. Take the two selves that will be connected by the supports/dividers and set them out as they will be on the finished unit.
  2. Mark where you want the supports to be.
  3. Remove the dividers and stack the shelves together (top of the lowest meets bottom of the upper shelf)
  4. now open the two up as if they were a book, the two sides that require slots in them are now face up at you.
  5. line the ends of the boards up, and calm the two together to make a wider board.
  6. now use a straight edge and a router to cut the slots across both boards in one pass
  7. Repeat for the second (or even third) shelf support locations.

For this operation to be really effective, use a router bit that is the same diameter as the thickness of the boards - if you don't have one the correct diameter, use a smaller one, and move the straight edge to make a second pass to widen your initial cut enough to fit the dividers.

Step 4: Test Fit and Mark Out for the Next Shelf.

Picture of Test Fit and Mark Out for the Next Shelf.

I always test fit the shelf slots before i remove any clamps - this ensures everything stays aligned incase i need to make any adjustments.

Once you're happy with your fit, move on to the next pair of shelves.

I preffer to work in sequence, normally from bottom to top, so set one shelf aside and work on the next shelf, either the one above or bellow the pair you just cut.

Mark them out and cut them in the same way as before. marking, aligning, clamping, cutting, testing and so on until all the slots in all the shelves are cut.

If you are using MDF, make sure you have a dust mask (rated for MDF dust!!), and an extractor (if you have one)

Mdf is great to work with but the dust is hazardous if you fail to protect yourself adequately!

Step 5: Sand All the Parts Before Assembly.

Picture of Sand All the Parts Before Assembly.

Giving all the parts a good sand now is WAY easier than waiting until its all assembled! The finish you choose will dictate how fine to sand, I went to 240g on this for the final finish.

Step 6: Assembly.

Picture of Assembly.

I glue and brad nail the joints until the unit is assembled.

check each support is square in the slot as you go.

If you joints are square and aligned the unit should fit together perfectly at each level really easily.

once it's all assembled, check everything for square one last time and leave overnight for the glue to set.

Step 7: Cut and Fit Wall Mounts.

Picture of Cut and Fit Wall Mounts.

cut some strips to use as wall mounts from the same material as the shelves. i made them about 3" wide.

These need to be edged in the same way as the shelves

Pocket hole the back of them and screw to the underside of a the shelves, the size of your unit will dictate how many to use, I went with three, top, middle and bottom for maximum support.

These strips also help keep the unit rigid as well so fit them snuggly between any vertical dividers.

Step 8: Apply the Finish.

Picture of Apply the Finish.

I went with an old finish, my preference for oak, but you can literally go wild here if you want.

After the old dried, i applied a wax finish on top.

Step 9: Fix to the Wall.

Picture of Fix to the Wall.

The method and type of fixings you use will depend on the construction of your wall.

This wall has timber studs in it, so I made sure to locate the studs and fix directly into them.

Block/brick walls will need plugs and screws, but at least you don't have to worry about where any studs are! :0)

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Bio: Woodworker, maker, youtube creator, podcaster, brand advocate, router instructor and Father. I post regularly on my youtube channel, and teach router courses regularly in the ... More »
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