My son asked me to help him create some shelves for his garage that would incorporate space at the bottom to park strollers (they have three kids under four years old). The design I came up with consists of three "tables" that are identical except for the length of the legs. When the units are stacked and then secured to each other and to the wall they are rock solid, but as three separate pieces they are easily moved around by two people. One potential advantage of the setup is that the separate units could be used as tables by taking out the anchoring screws and unstacking them.
The shelves are seriously over-built. I wanted them not to sag in the middle, so I opted for two by sixes for the front rails. After we were finished, it was obvious that two by fours for the front and one by fours at the back would have been adequate. Oh well, if my son ever wants to store a weight set or a small car on them they won't fall down.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
The most important tool for any project is a plan. Drawing what you intend to build helps spot potential mistakes and reduces the return trips to Home Depot by letting you develop a complete material list and the exact dimensions needed for each piece. (The space in the garage was 71" wide and Zak (my son) wanted the shelves to protrude only 32" into the room, so that plus the ten foot ceiling of the garage set the overall size of the shelves).
This project required:
Three pieces of 5/8" oriented strand board (OSB) 69 1/2 by 30 1/2. (Home Depot happily cut these to size for us from 4 x 8 sheets. The scraps came in handy later when we set the finished tables on them outside for staining).
Three 2x6s x 71"
Twenty-one 2x4s x 8' (actually "stud-length" which is a bit short of eight feet)
deck screws, 3" (about one hundred twenty of these, more over-building.)
deck screws 1 1/2" (about 60)
eight 2" angle brackets
adhesive (the kind you apply with a caulking gun)
Paint or stain
The tools we used were:
Table saw (with rip fence)
Cordless variable speed reversing drill (with pilot hole drill and screwdriver bit)
Carpenter's square (Actually, I forgot to bring along my square so we made do with a level, but a square would have made it a lot easier.
Step 2: Ripping the Grooves for the Inset Top
I wanted the tops inset into the supporting frames to hide the raw edges of the OSB and keep them from chipping and splintering when putting things on the shelf. We first set the saw blade height to 3/4 of an inch and the rip fence to the same dimension (including kerf). The first cut was made in each board (all 3 2x6s and 6 of the 2x4s) with the 2" dimension vertical. The rip fence was then reset to the thickness of the OSB and the boards ripped again with the 2" dimension horizontal. This created a ledge half the width of the 2 bys that would support the OSB all the way around.
WARNING! Table saws don't Play! They have no ability to tell the difference between wood and flesh. If you haven't used one for ripping, get someone to show you how.
Step 3: Assembling the Frame
Place one of the OSB pieces on the floor finished side down then put the first 2x6 into rough position on it. Set one of the 2x4s on an adjacent side and one opposite the 2x6. (Putting the pieces in place and then marking them for the cuts to length takes care of any variation from the plan dimensions. Cut the first side piece to length and then put it into place between the front and back rails to check fit up. If it looks good, mark it as the master (You have just created a masterpiece!) and use it for measuring the rest of the side pieces (you will need 12 total). Place two side rails and the 2x4 back rail in place. The front and back rails will need one end trimmed to be flush with the sides. When all four sides are fitted, apply adhesive to the ends of the side rails, line everything up, then drill pilot holes and run two 3" screws through the front and back rails into the side rails.
Step 4: Legs
The legs are made of three pieces of 2x4 as shown. We made the four foot version first so if it wasn't right we could cut it down. The first piece of the leg is set into a corner with the four inch dimension against the side rail. Use adhesive between the leg and the rails. Make sure the leg is perpendicular to the frame using the carpenters square and then drill and screw through the leg piece into the side rail using 3" screws. Next set a 2x4 in place on the side rail and mark it to cut off flush with the piece already in place. Cut it to length, apply adhesive to the side that will face the inner leg piece and drill and screw it into place. Repeat the process with a third leg piece resting on the front rail, then do the same thing for the other three legs. The other two tables will be assembled the same way except the leg measurements will be two feet instead of four feet.
Step 5: Install the Top
Turn the frame over and set it on its legs. If the OSB didn't stay in the frame, replace it with the smooth side up. Now is the time to make sure the frame is square. Measure the table diagonally, from the upper left corner to the lower right and from upper right to lower left. The two diagonal measurements will be the same if the table is square. If they aren't, bump the two corners on the longer dimension toward one another until they are. Once everything is square, drill pilot holes and install 1 1/2 inch screws through the OSB into the rails. I used one at each corner, two on each long side and one on each short side.
Step 6: Painting
We decided to use stain instead of paint because it is easy to apply (if a bit sloppy) dries quickly, and doesn't show wear as quickly as paint.
Step 7: Final Assembly
Once the stain is dry enough, all that remains is to stack the units one on top of the other. They are fairly heavy, but no problem for two men. We used the steps that are in the picture and a step ladder to get up high enough for the third piece. Each piece was anchored to the wall as it was put in place using 3" deck screws going into the wall studs. We added the diagonal brace at the left end both to anchor the front leg and as a handrail for Zak's small children. The legs of the second and third shelves were fastened to the one below using 2" hardware angles. If the unit ever needs to be removed, there are only a few screws holding it in place. At the same time, it is so solid that if his kids decide to use it for a jungle gym there is no chance that they could pull it down.