Floating shelves are awesome. Functional. Minimalist. My kind of thing for sure.
With one problem. Generally speaking, they aren't very strong. Often times they either can't hold much weight, or they have support brackets that have to be somehow hidden or disguised.
But thats not going to work for me. I want a beefy shelf. A shelf of strength, and possibly even valor. The kind of shelf that I could climb up on and scream in terror if I see a spider on the carpet. A testimony to arachnophobic manliness. And also, it needs to hold a ton of books.
We have a small house. We have LOTS of books. We really need a beefy shelf to maximize our space.
And we need an iPad Air. So feel free to vote for this instructable in the "living without closets" contest. :)
Here is how I made it...
The plan-- find a cool board, then figure out a way to bolt it to the wall in a really sturdy way.
Step 1: Destroy an Old Picnic Table.
So I had this old wooden picnic table that somebody gave me. But after years of dragging it around my yard so it wouldn't kill the grass, then dragging it around the yard to mow the grass under it that it didn't kill, I was finally done with it. Nobody wanted it, so it was time for the dump.
But wait... If you know me, then you know that I'm a guy who has way more fun bringing things HOME from the dump than I do taking things TO the dump. And as much as I wanted to get rid of this table, it was made from some really cool looking wood. Very weathered redwood, as it turned out. So I cut out the middle sections of the table and benches with a saw, and just took the feet and edges to the dump.
So now I've got like 8 sticks of cool 2 x 6 lumber, each about 4 feet long or so.
So when I decided to build a floating shelf, this was my go to "barn wood."
(note-- no actual barns were harmed in the making of this instructable.)
Step 2: Make a Guide.
If this is going to work, I'm thinking i'm going to need some square and straight holes drilled in the wall and in the side of my board. I whipped up this guide to help me drill straight holes.
Step 3: Find Some Studs. Eventually.
So I know where I want the shelf. Its going to sit above two dressers. This shelf needs to do the work of a small bookshelf while only taking up previously unused wall space. And it has to look awesome.
I've held up a level and drawn a line. Now I'm ready to find the studs.
Now, a note to those of you who live in newer houses with dry-walled walls-- Take a moment, locate and hug one of those walls. Kiss if you must. If ever you need to find a stud, be very thankful that you live in a house with dry-walled walls. In such a house, you can use any number of methods of stud location, including a stud finder.
But not me. Nope. My walls are plaster and lathe. Among other things, this means that finding a stud is like finding a light saber at a Star Trek convention. You might, but only after a lot of searching. And it is guaranteed to be out of place. After much research, I unsuccessfully tried a method that involved a string and a magnet. Then I just measured from the end of the wall and started guessing.
But its cool. As long as I stay on this line, then all of my mess ups will be covered by the shelf. Nonetheless, use a small drill bit as you search.
Eventually, I found the three studs that held up the pertinent section of wall.
Step 4: Take a Minute to Plan.
Ok, you have a good idea and some unnecessary holes drilled in your wall. Now its time to plan.
Specifically, its time to figure out how to get this magnificent board steadfastly connected to your wall.
After some thinking and wandering through the hardware store, my answer came in two words-- sucker rod. Also called threaded rod, these rods are like long bolts without heads. These are the secret weapons that will make this hidden shelf STRONG. I chose 3/8 inch sucker rod.
IF I drill holes into my studs that are SLIGHTLY less than the diameter of my rod, and IF I drill holes into my shelf board that are EQUAL to the diameter of my rod, then I should be able to screw the rods into my studs, and then hammer the board onto my rods.
This might actually work!
Step 5: Prep the Sucker Rods.
Next question-- How long should my sucker rod be? They came in one-foot lengths, which is way too long for this project, so I will have to cut them. But how long?
Answer-- as long as possible, I suppose. The length of my sucker rod sections should be the depth of my stud, PLUS the depth of my plaster and lathe, PLUS the depth of most of my shelf board, right?
Two problems with that--
1. In case you're wondering what the average depth of a plaster and lathe wall is, the correct answer is "AAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
2. I'm not going to go out and buy extra long drill bits for this project.
So here is the solution I came up with. I measured the depth of the shortest drill bit that I would use, then DOUBLED that distance, then SUBTRACTED a tiny bit. Thats how I decided how long I should cut my sucker rod. In my case, I figured out that I could drill a hole that was 3 5/8 inches deep. So I cut my sucker rod to 7 inch lengths. make sense? 3 1/2 PLUS 3 1/2.
Well, I say I CUT my sucker rod. Thats not entirely true. I got out my hacksaw to cut the rod after I had measured and marked it, but then I remembered something. I OWN A GRINDER! So a few gloriously spark-filled seconds later, I was done.
(note-- if you can't find sucker rod, you could also use a bolt with the head cut off, if the bolt is long enough.)
Step 6: Drill Holes in the Wall.
Remember those studs you found? Now it's time to drill perfectly straight holes into them. :)
These holes need to be slightly smaller than the diameter of your sucker rod. Specifically, they need to be the the size that your sucker rod would be if it had no threads. That way the threads get a good bite into the stud as you screw them in. In my case, my sucker rod was 3/8 inch, so I used a 5/16 inch bit. And, I used my guide from step 2 to try to keep the holes straight.
Step 7: Screw in the Rods.
Now, to screw in the rods. In order to do this, you need two nuts tightened into each other to use like the head of a bolt. It's best to mark the center of your rod and make sure that your nuts do not impede that mark from going flush with the wall.
As you screw the rod into the wall, be careful not to strip the "threads" you are creating in the wood by trying to screw the rod in deeper than the hole.
When you are done, remove both nuts by untightening them from each other.
BE CERTAIN to remove the nuts before you try to put on the shelf!
Step 8: Make Some "manual" Adjustments.
So my three rods are now screwed into the studs. YAY! But they aren't level.
Apparently my drill guide pushed up against a rough plaster wall was a less than adequate solution... No worries, though. I have a tool that is ALWAYS an adequate solution. Hammer Time.
A few whacks with a sledge hammer guided by my speedy square, and those rods are bent perfectly into shape. Also, I went ahead and gave them a TINY upward incline to offset the weight of a loaded shelf. Just tiny.
Then, I set the shelf on top of the rods to make sure everything looked level and ready for the next step.
Step 9: Prep the Shelf.
Now that the wall and the rods are all set, its time to get to work on that beautiful piece of scrap picnic table. All I need on this end are three perfectly measured and squarely drilled holes.
So first, set the board on top of the rods in the wall. Then, I adjusted the board left to right to exactly where I wanted it to be. Then, I marked the location of the rods on the board.
Now to the garage for some drilling!!
Step 10: Hillbilly Clamp It.
Get it??? Hillbilly "clamp it" ?? Hillbilly Clampett?? As in, Jed Clampett?? anyway...
If I'm gonna drill perfect holes, then I need some sort of clamp that I, of course, do not have. Solution-- Table saw! I just cranked up my table saw blade, then pinched the board between the blade and the fence. (note-- even Hillbillies unplug their table saw for this step)
Step 11: Drill Shelf Holes.
Using my marks from inside, I drilled holes along the midline of what will be the BACK of the shelf to line up with the rods in the wall.
A few things--
1. These holes must be the same size as the rod so that the shelf can be tapped on with a hammer. In this case, 3/8 inch.
2. wood bits are flat, and, therefore, DO NOT WORK with a drill bit guide. My 3/8 bit is a wood bit.
3. I drilled the holes using my round 5/16 bit and drill guide, then re-drilled the holes with my 3/8 wood bit.
Step 12: Hammer on the Shelf.
Now its time to hold your breath, grab a hammer, and see if everything lines up...
First, I lined up the rods and got them started into the holes in the back of the shelf. Perfect fit!!! But way to tight to just push on.
Second, I grabbed a piece of scrap lumber to hold against the front of the shelf to protect then shelf from hammer damage.
Third, I went back and forth from left to right and right to left somewhat gently and somewhat evenly tapping the shelf onto the rods.
When the shelf meets the wall, you are done!
(added bonus-- if you ever want to repaint, you can probably pry the shelf off and then hammer it back on)
Step 13: Behold.
Behold, a floating shelf. What was previously unused space above some dressers is now a LOT of heavy-duty shelf space.
"But wait," you say. "You've got like three books and a picture frame on that shelf. I thought you said it was TOUGH???"
Patience, my friend. One last step.
Step 14: Load It Up.
Now THAT is a serious book shelf, and it has been a great small-space storage solution for us. Its been loaded down like that and on the wall for several months, and is still perfectly square. This morning I counted 75 books on it. And no spiders.
Beefy floating book shelf, welcome to reality.
Materials-- one old scrap of 2 x 6, three 3/8 inch sucker rods, a few nuts (nuts are NOT a part of the finished product.)
tools-- level, drill, bits, grinder. (drill guide and hillbilly clamp optional)
Build on, my space-challenged compatriots. Build on. :)