Introduction: Awesome Floating Shelves

My wife and I wanted an entertainment center that went with our new wall mounted TV. We have a young child, so the entertainment center must be able to withstand the abuse. Store bought shelves were too expensive given the sizes I wanted. Other D.I.Y. plans were flimsy and had no provisions for non destructive removal. You basically have to destroy them during removal. This design inflicts minimal damage to the shelves. The screws holding them to the wall anchor boards are countersunk and painted over to hide them. All that is needed for removal is a magnet and a screwdriver. Please read the entire Instructable before beginning.

Warning: Build at your own risk. Use good judgment around power tools. If you don’t feel comfortable around power tools, ask for help from someone who is. Take all necessary precautions when working around electricity in your home. I assume no responsibility for any accidents that result from attempts at my project. Also, while these shelves can support a fair amount of weight, climb on them at your own risk. That being said, have fun and enjoy this project.

Step 1: Tools & Parts Needed

Tools Needed:
Table Saw w/ 80 tooth carbide blade
Miter Saw w/ 80 tooth carbide blade
Drill Press, hand drill, & right angle drill (the drill press and the right angle drill aren’t required but it made things easier)
Palm Sander & sandpaper (220, 440, and 1000 grit worked for me)
Level (I used a digital style, but if you are comfortable with bubble styles then go for it)
¾” Spade bit
¼” and ½”Drill bits
Chisel or metal scraper
Measuring Tape

Parts Needed: (To make three 80” shelves)
Note: The parts you need will depend on which type of installation you are doing.
Choose Installation 1 if you are installing to heavy-duty gypsum board of at least ¾” thick.
Choose Installation 2 if you are installing to drywall or lightweight gypsum board.
You may also choose Installation 2 if you are able to accurately locate your wall studs through the heavy-duty gypsum board.
Installation 1

Qty        Description
2            Flat faced hollow core interior doors.
2            2”x3”x8’ framing lumber, as straight as possible.
18          ¼” Toggle bolts 6” long                                      
18          ¼” Flat Washers
18          ¼” Lock Washers
18          ¼” Nuts
21          ¼” Flat Head Screws 1 ½” long
21          ¼” Tee Nuts
6            Plastic Hollow Wall Anchors with Screws

Installation 2
Qty        Description
2            Flat faced hollow core interior doors.
3            2”x3”x8’ framing lumber, as straight as possible.
21          ¼” Course thread bolts 5” long
              (note: The length will have to be determined by depth of your wall coverings. 5” assumes you have ½” thick wall coverings.)
21          ¼” Flat Washers
21          ¼” Flat Head Screws 1 ½” long
21          ¼” Tee Nuts
6            Plastic Hollow Wall Anchors with Screws

Step 2: Plan Your Design

This is the most important step in any project. A good plan most often results in a fine finished project. A floating shelf consists primarily of two parts, a hidden wall anchor and the shelf that hides it. I spent the better part of a month working on planning this project in my spare time. Initially, I wanted them to be about 6 feet long, which would make them just a little bit longer than the TV itself. However, most hollow core doors come in standard lengths of approximately 80 inches. So, rather than cut them shorter and fill the ends with a new piece of wood, I left them the standard length. To help me visualize the shelves, I made several drawings to play with the placement of the shelves in relation to the TV, floor, ceiling, and outlets.

I have ¾” gypsum board for wall covering and found it incredibly difficult to accurately locate the wall studs behind the gypsum board. My stud finder couldn’t locate them. A professional grade stud finder should have no difficulties. Failing to locate the studs, I decided to mount directly to the gypsum board. Thick (¾”) gypsum board is sturdy and can easily support the weight of these shelves. Toggle bolts would provide the necessary anchor strength.
Note: If you have drywall, there should be no reason why you can’t locate the studs and anchor directly to them. This is the method I would have preferred, as it would be far sturdier than gypsum board alone.

Notes on using recycled doors versus new doors. The recycled doors that I used had heavy duty wooden ribs placed every couple of feet that ran from the latch side of the door to the hinge side. I could not remove these without destroying the door. This required me to use short anchor boards that fit between these ribs rather than one anchor board that runs the entire length. Using recycled doors means that they might not be square and they will have holes left over from the knob, latch, and hinge pockets. These will need to be filled and sanded before they can be used as a shelf. A new generic hollow core door will not have any holes and will therefore be much easier to use

I tried several ways to mount the shelves to the anchor boards before I found a way that works. I tried wood screws and drywall screws first. Both striped out the holes in the anchor boards. Neither of these worked. What I found that worked great were Tee nuts and flat head screws. These hold the shelves securely with no worry about stripping out the hole in the anchor boards. They also support both the top and bottom sides of the shelf to prevent slipping and they can be easily removed.

Step 3: Wall Anchor Boards

Each shelf has three anchor boards. Two 12” long anchor boards located at each end and one 18” long anchor board located in the middle. These were the lengths that would fit between the ribs in my doors and still give me some room to make adjustments to the alignment of the shelves. I wanted to allow at least an inch between the ends of the anchor boards and the ribs in the shelves. To build the wall anchor boards, I first started with 2”x3” framing lumber. I cut the 2”x3”s into 6 pieces 12” long and 3 pieces 18” long. Then I carefully cut them down to 1 3/8” wide so they would fit inside my doors. The dimensions of the anchor boards are 1 3/8” thick by 2 3/4" deep by either 12” or 18” long. Use the table saw, set to 0 degrees to square the anchor boards with the wall by trimming a little off the side that will face the wall. I also tapered the side that would be on the bottom of the shelf to make installing the shelves over them easier. The taper was as small as I could manage on my table saw (just a tenth of a degree off 0 degrees). Next I used a ¼” drill bit chucked up in my drill press to drill two holes near the ends parallel to the 2 3/4" face on each piece. This is where the toggle bolts (or anchor bolts) go.

At this point, I found it useful to build a template to help keep everything lined up when mounting to the wall. I’m only using three shelves, so when I sliced the doors in half length wise, I had enough to make four shelves. I used this extra shelf to make the template by slicing a piece two inches wide off the now exposed interior section of this door. After I began using it I found that it sagged in the middle and had to be reinforced with a straight piece of wood across the bottom from end to end. The picture shows a piece that wasn’t quite as long as the template, but it was sufficient to keep the template stiff and straight. Just use screws placed at the ribs in the doors to anchor the board.

Caution: Before proceeding further, ensure that electricity to the area you are working in is off.
Note: Before drilling any holes in your wall, make sure you have everything lined up right where you want it. To mount the template to the wall, I drilled a hole in the center of the face of the solid wood insert in each end. Here you’re going to need to enlist some help to hold the template in place while you mark the holes you just drilled in the template on the wall. I used the same drill bit I used on the template to mark its holes on the wall. Remove the template from the wall and insert some plastic wall anchors designed for hollow walls then mount the template to the wall. Don’t worry about removing the plastic wall anchors. They will be covered up once the shelves are installed.

Now, I can temporarily install my wall anchor boards in the template and mark the template for drilling. It is important to mark both the template and the wall to maintain consistency between the shelves. In order for the toggle bolts to fit into the wall you have to drill a much larger hole than the bolt itself requires. Read the package for your toggle bolts to see for sure. My toggle bolts required a ¾” hole. I drilled this using a ¾” masonry bit. Large masonry bits tend to wander so it may be helpful to start the hole first with a ¼” bit.
Note : If you are using installation 2, then you only need to drill holes the size of your anchor bolts. It is also vitally important to be on center when you drill into the stud.

Once, you have finished drilling all the holes for one shelf, I suggest moving onto the next shelf and so on till you have finished drilling all the holes for all the shelves. I don’t recommend installing the toggle bolts until you are ready to secure the wall anchor boards with them. During the drilling process it is possible for these toggle bolts to fall down inside the wall and become irretrievable. When I was ready to install the wall anchor boards, I first reversed the head of the toggle bolts so that the head would go inside the wall with the toggle. This allowed me to install the wall anchor boards over the toggle bolts and fasten them to the wall with a flat washer, lock washer, and nut. One each for each toggle bolt you use. I used a total of 18 toggle bolts on three shelves. Two toggle bolts per anchor board

If you are using installation 2, make sure you get anchor bolts long enough to accommodate the depth of your wall anchor board, wall thickness and at least 2/3rds of the way thru your stud. I would also anchor at every stud as well. Don’t forget to install a flat washer over the anchor bolt before you install it in the anchor board. Because I did not use this installation method, I am using my best guess about the quantity of anchor bolts you will need. Locate your studs then use your template to determine how many stud anchor bolts you will need.

At this point, you should have all of your wall anchor boards securely mounted to the wall. Before moving on, check the angle between the wall anchor boards and the wall (should be 89.5 to 90 degrees). I did this by checking the levelness of the wall anchor boards. They should be perfectly level, or at least pointed up a few tenths of a degree. If this is off, then either the holes for the toggle bolts were drilled incorrectly, or the wall anchor board was not properly squared. If the former is the case, then you will probably have to scrap that wall anchor board and make a new one. I wanted them pointed up a little bit to hopefully account for any sagging the shelves might do when settling over time.

Step 4: The Shelves Themselves

I decided to make my top two shelves 10” deep and the bottom shelf 14” deep. I chose these measurements because of what I planned to display on them. To cut the shelves down to size, I first used my table saw, with an 80-tooth carbide blade, to trim off the hinge pockets completely. This gave me a smooth straight edge to measure and cut the shelves to the correct depth. Note: When cutting large items on a table saw it is helpful to have an assistant to support the work piece while you make the cut. I also had to square up all the remaining sides of the shelves and fill in the latch and doorknob holes. I filled the holes with a two-part epoxy type wood filler material that could be sanded and painted once it was dry.

Also, the inside of my doors had solid wood ribs that run horizontally across the face of the upright door and cardboard spacers that were glued in place. I had no good means of removing the wooden ribs, so I left them in place as structural support. I did, however, remove the cardboard spacers as far inside the door as I could reach. This was necessary to provide enough clearance for the wall anchor boards to fit completely inside the door. Test fits of each wall anchor board in its respective locations were also necessary.

I sanded the doors with 220, 440, and 1000 grit sandpaper to guarantee a smooth finish. I don’t recommend painting the shelves until after they are mounted to the wall because they are going to have holes drilled in them to support the mounting hardware.

Step 5: Mounting the Shelves

For this step you will need an assistant to help you hold the shelves in place while you level them and then again while you drill the holes to mount them. Without anyone supporting the shelves, they should sit against the wall and not fall off the anchor boards. If not, then the wall anchor boards probably don’t fit snug enough. This may not seem like a big problem, but it might cause the shelves to warp or appear wavy when they are secured to the wall anchor boards.

I wanted the angle between the shelves and the wall to be slightly less than 90 degrees to account for any sag from the weight of the objects placed on them. This would help prevent things from sliding off the shelves. Using my assistant and a digital level, I set the angle to approximately 89.8 degrees. While my assistant was still holding the shelves in position, I pre-drilled all the holes through the shelves and the wall anchor boards using my right-angle drill. Next, I used a countersink bit to countersink the pan head screws and a spade bit slightly larger than the diameter of the Tee nuts to countersink them. Don’t drill to deep or you will drill right through the shelf and it won’t anchor it to the anchor board anymore. Too many of these goofs and the shelves won’t hold to the wall very effectively and you will have to pick new anchor points or make a new shelf. Also, I sized the pan head screws so that they would not stick out of the other side of the shelf. They only need to be long enough to contact about half the threads of the Tee nut in order to anchor securely. Mine were 1 ½” long, but check the depth of your doors and size them accordingly.

Once you have all the shelves secured to the wall, it’s time to step back and admire your handy work. All that left is to fill the screws with spackling compound and paint. If you ever want to remove them, simply use a magnet to locate the screws and a screwdriver to dig out the spackle.

One final note: Because I didn’t use the second installation method, I haven’t included as much detail. I did my best to think through it and provide the necessary information. Therefore, the parts list for installation 2 may not be entirely accurate.

Step 6: My Uses for a Laser Cutter

I have many hobbies. The oldest of which is a fondness for paper craft. I have always enjoyed building things from paper including engines, robots, space ships, and anything else that strikes my fancy. In many cases they models require thousands of tiny pieces that need to be cut and scored. This is a very tedious time consuming process that could be nearly eliminated with a laser cutter. Pictured is a paper model that I built from plans i found on the internet at Ed Bertschy's page.

I enjoy building things out of wood such as clocks, gears, sprockets and toys for my daughter. I would also use it to cut things out of other materials such as metal and fiberglass. I could custom etch glass, wood, metal, toys, electronics. These are the things that I would probably use a laser cutter for, but mostly what I would use it for are the things that I haven’t thought of yet. Maybe another Instructable.

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