Introduction: Suspended Shelves With Invisible Stops
We have been renovating our house for more than a year now. We are almost done with all the major refurbishing, and we reach the stage when shelves are needed. For this project, we wanted more than plain shelves. We wanted them to have a nice design, yet be sturdy enough to bear heavier items.
There are quite a few projects for suspended shelves out there, but most of the time the system used to hold the shelves is quite bulky and not always esthetically pleasing.
Those shelves were aimed at being placed to the side of a desk, and therefore the lower side of the shelves (and fixations) would be visible when seating at the desk. We wanted a fixation that would stay flush with the boards.
As we were not able to find an affordable part at the hardware store nor on the Internet, we decided to create our own invisible stops.
For this project we used:
- Boards (18 mm oak)
- Steel cable (3mm diameter)
- Aluminum sleeves (for 3mm cable)
- Steel thimble (for 3mm cable)
- 19.5 mm aluminium round bar
- M5x6 DIN913 screws
- Taps in 3 different styles (taper, plug and bottoming) M5x80
- Hand file
- Hand file cleaner
- Usual power tools: circular saw, eccentric sander, drill.
Step 1: Cutting the Stops
I used 18 mm thick boards to get shelves that are both streamlined and robust. I went for stops that would be half the thickness of the boards. The main difficulty of this project lies in the cutting and grinding of those stops, using a simple aluminum round bar as the base material.
In order to safely cut 'slices' in the bar, I used a V-shaped piece of wood to hold it. I first used a hand saw, which provided me with cleaner cuts but was time-consuming and labour-intensive. With 24 pieces to cut, I finally decided to use a cutting disk.
Caution: when using a power grinder, the beam becomes very hot. Use appropriate safety equipement (gloves and goggles) and a pair of pliers to grab the freshly cut piece and plunge it into water.
Unfortunately, the cutting disk provides a poor quality cut. In order to improve the finishing, I bore a 7 mm hole in a piece of wood to hold my stops, then I used a hand file to smooth the surface of the stop and round the edges. Aluminum is very soft and will stick to the file. You will have to use a file cleaner regularly to get a satisfactory result. I cleaned it 5 to 6 times per stop.
Step 2: Drilling and Finishing the Stops
The stops are 19.5 mm in diameter and about 9 mm thick. I bore a 3.5 milimeters hole in the center of the stops (in which the cable will be inserted) and a 4.2 milimeters hole on the side for the M5 screw. I tapped the 4.2 milimeter hole using 3 styles of taps sequentially (tapper, plug and bottoming).
I first used regular screws from my local hardware shop, but the head of the screws was too large. So I ordered DIN 913 screws online (M5x6). Those snug perfectly inside the hole and therefore do not bulge outside the stop.
Tip: use a bench vise to hold the stops firmly. Place a piece of wood of the same dimension as your stop which will keep the jaws parallel. It will not only make your life easier for this project, but also keep the vise in good working order for years.
Step 3: Preparing the Shelves
To make sure the holes and therefore the cables are properly aligned, I first traced the holes on the bottom shelve of the set, then transfered the measurements to the other shelves. I double-checked all the distances before boring.
Because the cutting equipment I used is not very precise, my stops do not have the exact same thickness (varying between 7 mm and 10 mm). Therefore, each hole in the shelves has to be of the exact same size as the stop.
All the boards were sanded for perfect finishing.
Step 4: Installing the Shelves
The shelves are mounted on 4 steel cables. They are attached to the wall with a hook. I would have prefered to attach the cable to the ceilling, but we live in an older house and the ceiling would not resist the weight.
Be sure to use a bubble or laser level to properly sit your shelves.
I am very pleased with the final result. The shelves look very elegant. The invisible stops and fine cables contribute to the wooden shelves being the main focus.