Introduction: Corner Shelves

About: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs founder and manager for Autodesk and just finished building out…

These shelves are custom designed to be mounted in the corner of a room and hang on two adjacent walls.  The shelves are medium duty, as they are supported by minimal amounts of blind hardware in order to give the appearance of being truly floating cantilevered shelves.

The shelves are made of maple and have two different kinds of inlays.  The first inlay is made of walnut and is a corner inlay itself.  Figuring out a way to do an inlay on the corner of a post was a first for me, but nothing to write home about.  

The second inlay is actually made from knitting yarn.  It just so happens that many yarns fit perfectly inside the 1/8" saw kerf from a table saw blade.  The yarn is easy to inlay, flexible around corners and curves, and is limitless in terms of color and texture options.  This was something new that I wanted to try and share.

In short - yarn inlays in wood - it's the future!

Step 1: Materials

  • 4" x 4" douglas fir wood post (from Home Depot)
  • maple 3/4" wooded boards (from the local hardwood lumberyard)
  • keyhole hangers
  • drywall plugs
  • strip of walnut
  • pretty yarn
  • wood glue
  • white glue
  • danish oil
  • screws

This project uses standard woodworking tools along with a Kreg Pocket Hole Drill Guide.

Step 2: Create Faux Maple Post

At the core of these shelves is a Home Depot 4 x 4 that's been clad with maple 3/4" boards in order to look like a solid piece of maple.  Sourcing a solid maple post of this dimension would be significantly more costly, and to be honest, a waste of good maple.

Cut two lengths of maple the length of your 4 x 4 and miter the adjoining the edge.

Apply glue to the back of both of the boards and glue and clamp or brad nail them into position.  

Cut two square caps that fit the top and bottom of the post, glue and clamp those in place as well. 

I first glued one maple panel on, then the other as positioning two pieces of maple simultaneously seemed like a challenge.  

The 4 x 4 needs only two of it's faces to be covered with maple, the other two sides are up against the wall.

Step 3: Build Sled

In order to create the cut for the inlay in the maple corner post, I first had to build a sled that would hold the maple post in the correct position.

Cut a piece of scrap wood in half on the table saw with the blade set at 45 degrees.  The scrap wood's length should be 4" longer then the corner post.

Head over to the chop saw and cut two triangular pieces of 2 x 4 (pictured above) with the saw set at 45 degrees as well.

Use a brad gun to assemble the sled as pictured above.

Step 4: Cut Groove for Inlay

The sled should hold the corner post exactly on it's edge above the table saw blade.

Push the corner post and sled through the table saw cutting a 1/8" wide inlay grove that runs vertically along the entire post.

The depth of cut is not very important - I cut mine to 1/4" or so.

Note - I had to turn my table saw fence 90 degrees into it's "low" position so that it would clear the top of the sled which extends further to the side then the base of the sled does.  If your table saw fence doesn't have a "low" setting, simply cut these protruding pieces off when designing your sled.

Step 5: Create Inlay and Glue

I sent a long strip of walnut scrap through the planer several times to mill it down the correct thickness so that it fit tightly in the grove that I just cut on the table saw.

The height of the inlay does not matter as much as the width.  Any excess material will get trimmed off in the following steps.

Take the inlay and lightly tap it into position and glue it into place.

Step 6: Plane and Trim

While there are many different ways to trim the inlay to size, I decided to send the entire post through the planer in order to flatten everything out and make the inlay perfectly flush with the adjacent maple boards.  A hand planer would be a good tool to use here, much more appropriate and scaled to the task, but alas, I do not own a hand planer so I made do with what I have.

Send the post through the planer on one side, then rotate 90 degrees, and send it through some more to dimension the inlay.

I trimmed the inlay to length using a flush cut pull saw. 

Step 7: Build Drill Guide

The shelves are attached to the corner post using wooden dowel pins.  The holes that hold the pins need to be drilled in the exact same position and spacing on the shelves as on the post.  That means making another jig that will help me consistently drill the holes on all 5 shelves, and all 5 locations where they meet the post.

To construct the jig cut a piece of maple that's the same width as your post (this also the same as the depth of your shelf) and drill two holes into it that are the same diameter as your wooden pins.  Drill these holes on the drill press to ensure that they are straight and perpendicular to the piece of wood.

Glue two pieces of scrap MDF onto the sides of this piece of maple that will hold it in place on the shelves and corner post.

Their size does not matter.

Mark the drill bit used to drill the holes for the wooden dowel pins with tape that correctly shows the depth to which it should be inserted into the jig so that you end up with holes that aren't too deep for the pins.

I didn't put my two holes exactly in the middle of my shelves in either their x, or y locations.  So, I made sure to mark the front of my jig with an arrow so that I could align it to the shelves and post in the correct way making sure not to flip anything.

Step 8: Drill Holes for Dowel Pins

Mark the locations of where you want the shelves to go (I spaced the shelves evenly along the post in an alternating pattern with two long shelves on one side, and 3 shorter shelves on the other) and clamp the jig into position and drill the holes that will accept the wooden dowel pins.

Test fit a few dowels to make sure everything lines up.

Step 9: Drill Pocket Holes

While one end of the shelf is held in place by the dowel pins and corner post that I just fabricated, the other cantilevered side is held in place using a pocket hole created with a Kreg Pocket Hold Drill Guide.   These pocket holes will receive screws that go into plastic anchors which I will later set into my plaster wall.

Drill one pocket hole in the end of each shelf, and another pocket hole facing towards the corner post that can be used to lock the dowel pin connection into place.

Step 10: Cut Inlay for Yarn

Cut a 1/8" grove using the kerf of the table saw blade all along the front face, outward facing side of the shelves and even a few inches along the back of the shelf that faces the wall so the yarn end has a place to terminate.  

The width of the table saw blade perfectly fits most normal gauged types of yarn.  I chose a varying colored green yarn that I thought matched the maple and walnut nicely.

It references that whole tree thing that this shelf has going on...

Step 11: Glue in Yarn

Lay the yarn into the grove cut by the table saw placing little dots of white glue along the way to hold it in.  Wrap the yarn around the corner tightly and terminate it in the grove on the back of the shelf.

Step 12: Route Grove for Future Lighting

I routed a grove into the back of the corner post with the expectation that one day after it was hung on the wall I'd want to add some kind of lighting into that corner of the room.  The grove will allow the cord for the light to pass behind the bookshelf.

Grab a straight 1/2" or 3/4" router bit, set the router fence and remove the back corner of the post making several passes.

Step 13: Mount Hanging Hardware

I mounted two keyhole hangers on the adjacent corner sides of the post.  These keyhole hangers are blind mounting hardware that allow the post to be slipped onto a screw head that's driven into the wall that will hold it in place.

Trace the keyhole hanger, load a forstner bit into the drill press, set the depth so you don't remove too much material and drill holes to remove the wood inside the pencil line.

I cleaned things up with a chisel and mounted the keyhole hanger.

Step 14: Sand

Sand all surfaces with 120 and then 220 grit sanding discs and a random orbital sander.

Step 15: Apply Finish

Apply a finish of your choosing.  We're using Danish Oil on this project because it's a simple wipe on wipe off finish that will bring out the grain in the maple and walnut without yellowing things too much.

Step 16: Install - Corner Post

Translate the location of the keyhole hangers onto the wall carefully measuring their location with a tape measure or calipers, drill anchors into the wall and secure the corner post.

Step 17: Install - Shelf Dowel Pins

Knock the dowel pins into position on the shelf and lightly tap the shelf onto the corner post.  

Be careful not to let the unsupported end of the shelf hang and put undue stress on the dowel pins.  Getting someone to give you a hand in this install process helps a lot.

Step 18: Install - Level, Mark, and Drill Anchor Hole

Make sure the shelf is level.  Once it is, mark a point on the wall through the pocket hole at the end of the shelf.  A really skinny pencil would work for this, but I used a hammer and a nail and lightly tapped a little dent into wall where the anchor should go.

Remove the shelf and drill a hole into the plaster wall to fit the plastic anchor. 

I drilled the hole into the wall at a slight angle to simulate the angle of the pocket hole and screw that it will be soon be accepting.

Step 19: Install - Screw to Post and Wall

Align the pocket hole at the end of the shelf with the anchor (you can see through the pocket hole to the wall) and replace the dowel pins on the corner post.  

Take one Kreg screw and drive it through the pocket hole into the post.  I chose to screw this connection together rather then use glue in case I ever want to move this thing to a different wall.  Simply re-installing it requires this connection to be undone since the anchor for the shelf at the far end has to be put in with the shelf out of the way.

Take a second a second screw (I chose to use a non-self drilling screw here) and drive it into the anchor that's in the wall at the far end of the shelf.

Repeat this Install process for the remaining 4 shelves.

Put stuff on the shelves and you're done!  Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think of the yarn inlay.  It won't be the last you've heard of it from me.

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