Introduction: Updated - Lightweight Shelves for Legos - Cut With the Laser Engraver

About: Daddy-O...

LEGOs are wonderful!

Some might say LEGOs are TOO wonderful!

My son loves them and has developed great manual dexterity by building many of them. From Fire Engines to Trains to dinosaurs, he's been having a blast. Now it's hard to store them without eating-up lots of cabinet and bookshelf space...

So one night while watching How it's Made on TV, I started dinking-around, drawing an interlocking set of adjustable shelves using Corel Draw 5 (version 15 when you save the file).

I built these out of cheap 1/4" MDF.  Fortunately Legos do not weigh a whole bunch, so I felt comfortable using 1/4" MDF.

They feature Earthquake Lips, which help keep the vehicles from rolling onto the floor...

Luckily, I've got access to a 60-watt laser cutter/engraver as a member of TechShop in San Jose, California. Check 'em out at

I made a couple of sets of shelves that can hold the lightweight LEGOs.  This main photo shows only the bottom and middle shelf backboards - putting the top shelf backboard puts the shelves out of reach - too high for my son. All the shelves shown in the picture cost a total of maybe $20.

Step 1: Get the MDF

Somehow I've developed the Mr. MDF moniker at TechShop.  Maybe it's because of the fun stuff I've been building from Cub Scout neckerchief slides to toy cranes to toolboxes to a wide variety of boxes.  I first started using the MDF as a good prototyping material for its cost.

MDF: Medium Density Fiberboard

**** NOTE! Home Depot is no longer my supplier for MDF.  ***

Check out this Instructable for more info:

I pay about $5.25 per 2' by 4' sheet of 1/4" MDF at my local big home improvement store. Home Depot works well for this stuff. Last time I measured with a micrometer, the actual thickness of the Home Depot 1/4" MDF was .236 inches.

MDF quality varies. It's worth confirming you've got a dimension that will work well with 1/4" mortises and tenons. Do some test-burning on the laser cutter/engraver before buying lots of MDF and expecting the parts to interlock well.

Cut the MDF to 24" x 18" pieces or have them cut for you at the home improvement store.

The machine you use to make the cuts will need to accept a 24" by 18" piece of MDF. 

Step 2: Cut the Backboards...

Since the 3 backboard types are cut in the same manner, I will just show only one of them here.  It is the bottom backboard and has a straight bottom. 

The first photo shows a rear view of the bottom backboard with the standoffs to give room between the backboard and the wall. I mounted the backboards with 6 screws each using drywall anchors.

The second photo shows a rear view of the bottom backboard without the standoffs. This makes it easy to see how each shelf slides in and latches onto the backboard.

Each backboard is about 19" wide by 16" high - this is limited by the dimensions of the Laser's table.

The Corel Draw 5 (version 15) drawing that cuts this is called BottomBack.cdr and includes 3 standoffs. 

CenterBack.cdr is for the center backboard.  If you only want two interlocking backboards, it's easy to modify this drawing with a straight line at the top of the backboard.

TopBack.cdr is for the top backboard.

Step 3: Cut the Shelf Pieces... Same Procedure for Each Shelf You'll Build.

I'm providing a Corel Draw 5 (version 15) file for all the pieces needed for each shelf. This file is ShelfPieces.cdr.

The four pieces of each shelf are shown here together.

When assembling, put the Earthquake Lip in first, then the side supports.

I have used NO GLUE when putting these shelves together - the assemblies stay together well. There is a lot of surface area on the mortises/tenons which interlock.

A couple of extra shots of the shelves are here, too...

Step 4: Load 'em and Enjoy 'em...

Build as many shelves as will fit your needs. Slide them into the backboards and push them down to lock them in.

The danged laser makes it very easy to develop interlocking stuff quickly and precisely - NON-SAWDUST woodworking...

I'm finishing this Instructable up for now while relaxing with my popcorn and soda pop at TechShop San Jose.

Please forgive the snake!  It's a wannabe Lego!


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