Introduction: Branch Shaped Display Shelf

About: I started a wood shop during the Summer of 2009, and have been teaching myself techniques and skills through the project's I've built, both for myself and for others. Since then, I've added leatherworking, 3D…

I have had a wood shop for about a year, and this is my first instructable of my first paid project. I hope you enjoy it!

This is a display shelf I saw in West Elm that went for $100.  My version costs about $10-20 to build, depending on wood and stain prices.

Step 1: Drawing It Out

I traced the picture of the original shelf in AutoCAD, scaled it, and gave it approximate measurements that are in the pdf.  

Using those measurements I drew out the shelf outline on a 1/2" piece of plywood, about 2'x4'. (3/4" would work too, to make it more sturdy).  You can get this at any Home Depot or Lowes.

Step 2: Cutting It Out and Sanding It Down

After drawing it, I carefully cut out the branch.  I used a handheld jigsaw, which sped up the process immensely.  I sanded down the entire branch with 120 grit and then 220 grit sandpaper, to make it smooth to the touch, not forgetting to sand the edges.

Step 3: Cutting the Shelves Out

The smaller shelves are 4" square, and the larger ones are 5" square.  It doesn't really matter how they are arranged on the branch, I just tried to imitate the original, and ended up adding an extra shelf for aesthetics.  Each shelf is two 1/2" thick plywood pieces clamped and glued together. (I used just one piece of ply for the whole project)

After they are glued, I sanded each down same as the body, especially the edges.

Step 4: Attaching the Shelves to the Body.

Once the shelf layers were glued together, I screwed the shelves to the body using two 1-1/4" screws per shelf, spaced approximately two inches apart, and in addition used wood glue for added strength.

In terms of attaching it to the wall, do whatever is most comfortable.  Because this was early on in my woodworking experience, I didn't know how to route hanging holes directly into the wood, so I used triangular hooks (from Home Depot), which hang from nails hammered into the wall.  

I recommend hanging holes as opposed to hooks because hooks are less stable, especially with such an oddly shaped shelf.

Step 5: Staining It

I used Dark Walnut stain, because the friend I was making it for didn't want it to be the satin black that West Elm sold it as.  Again, stain as per preference.

A technique I picked up from a coworker: instead of a brush, I used an old rag to dip in the stain and spread it.  This way, there is a smooth distribution with no lines that brushes tend to leave.

Wear rubber gloves and a mask, stain is very hard to wash out (trust me, I know)!

I applied to coats, as per the directions on the stain container, and let it dry for 24hrs.

Step 6: Applying Polyurethane (optional)

The polyurethane gives the wood a shiny finish, and protects the wood and stain (but its unlikely that any liquids would be placed here).  The finish is purely aesthetic and optional.

I bought a spray can at Home Depot (generic brand) , so I sprayed the shelf outside, still with my safety glasses and a mask.

Again, I think I applied two coats, and let it dry for three or four hours before handling it.

Step 7: Hung and Decorated!

This is the shelf hung in my friend's apartment (using 1-3/4" wood nails to hang the hooks on)

It's good for holding knick knacks and all sorts of small goodies.

If you so desire, you can install screw hooks into the  body between the shelves to hang keys, necklaces, rings, pendants (you can tell a girl asked for this, right?).  

Definitely an attractive project, makes any bare wall look attractive.  Try to chose the stain that most contrasts with the wall on which the shelf will be hung.

Have fun!