Introduction: Interlocking Shelf

I am what you in Swedish would call a "prylkille". If one would directly translate the word it would be stuff guy, meaning that I like collecting lots of different things. To display some of my stuff, my mom and I made a big Massironi shelf a while back. However, this one is now full, which is why I decided to make another shelf.

I wanted the shelf to stand out and be able to store different things, which is why I designed the shelf in this particular way. Since I like symmetry, the shelf consists of two parts, out of which the second part of the is shifted by 25 percentage.

In this instructable, I will walk you through my process of making this particular shelf, as well as providing you with the necessary drawings and tools to redesign and make your own shelf.

Step 1: My Design

Here are the drawings for the design that I created. If you want to use this design, either print it or use the template to draw these onto the planks.

Step 2: Your Design?

Do you want a bigger shelf? Maybe you want to shift it more than 25 % as I did? If that is the case get your paper and pen or a CAD software and use the drawings that I will provide in the next step to do so.

One more thing to consider is if you want the two "compartments" of the shelf to be separable as this will affect the bindings in the centre of the piece. Since the shelf I created only is 60 x 40 cm, I decided to design it in such a way so that it cannot be taken apart. If one makes a larger shelf, it might be smart to design it in such a way that one can take it apart for transportation.

Lastly, the block bindings are not a necessity. However, I think it adds to the design and makes the shelf more exciting.

Step 3: Material & Tools

These are the following materials and tools that I used for creating the shelf,


  • Wood (1500 x 200 x 12 mm)
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Dust


  • Ruler
  • Plainer
  • Saw
  • Sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Wax
  • Brackets

Step 4: Tips & Tricks

Before we get started, I just want to share a few tips and tricks.

Firstly, if you like me are using glued together planks, avoid making the block bindings close to where the wood is glued since this might result in the wood cracking.

Secondly, I would recommend you to save the wood dust since this can be reused (as explained in step 13) to create nicer block bindings.

Step 5: Rough Cut the Plank

Start by cutting the planks into pieces of workable size. Initially, the plank I started with had the dimensions 2000 x 300 x 16 mm, I cut it into a plank of 1500 x 300 x 16 mm plank.

Sawing the plank will create some very fine wood dust, save this so that you can use it further on for filling up the socket bindings.

Step 6: Fine-tune the Plank

If the plank does not match the thickness and width that you need for the shelf, plain it and cut it in order to achieve the wanted width. My plank was 16 mm which is why I had to plain it down to 12 mm.

Step 7: Planks for the Shelf

Lastly, cut up the plank into smaller planks. If you are using my dimensions you should create 4 planks of the dimensions 260 x 90 mm and 4 planks of the dimensions 450 x 90. Be sure to get nice 90 degree cuts on the side of the planks.

Step 8: Preparation Manual Finger Joints

This step is optional, it will add to the complexity and effort required to make the shelf but also add to the looks and likeability of the shelf. I do not have a rig for creating the finger joints, and will, therefore, show you how they can be created manually.

I wanted 6 joints, resulting in a width of 90/6 = 15 mm for each joint. If you want wider/more narrow joints or if you are making the shelf with a different width, divide the width of the shelf with the number of joints you want in order to get the width of the sockets.

Once again, bring out your pencil, ruler and square. Mark the joints, and remember to mark which joint should be cut out and that on the attaching plank you should remove the neighbouring sockets.

Use a scroll saw, band saw or a regular saw to make a groove of 12 mm (or the thickness of your planks).

Step 9: Finishing Manual Finger Joints

After having cut the grooves, it is time to remove the wood in between the grooves. One way to do so is by using a chisel and a hammer. Avoid trying to beat out the wood at once, instead do it in layers of 1-2 mm each time. For the first layer, have the chisel angled perpendicular to the wood, then angle it slightly outwards as seen in picture 4, since this will remove slightly more material inwards to the joint, making it easier to attach the planks.

When you have worked your way half-way through the plank, turn it around and redo the same procedure until you have your gap.

Step 10: Continously Check Your Progress

As you move on, be sure to test your planks and see that you have marked the joints correctly on all planks to avoid having to redo a plank.

Step 11: Adjust Joints

When all the joints are done, test fit the two parts. Do not worry if the planks do not fit, this can be adjusted by filing and sanding the joints until they fit.

Step 12: Assemble the Shelf

When you are sure all the finger joints fit properly, it is time to create the joints that will keep the two parts of the shelf together. The procedure of this is the same as for creating the finger joints keeping the planks together, i.e. saw two grooves, and then use a chisel and hammer to remove the wood in between.

Having finished all joints, mount the shelf and adjust and finalize the joints if needed.

Step 13: Perfect Joints

After having fitted all the planks, there might be some crevices between the joints. Mix some glue and the wood dust you previously saved and push it into the crevices and cover the joint with it. After having let it dry, use a sander to remove the excess glue and wood dust.

Step 14: Fixing the Mounting Brackets

To mount the shelf I used keyhole brackets since these will not be visible from the front. Unfortunately, the ones I had at home were quite small, which is why I made the hole a bit bigger. To have the shelf hanging flat against the wall, immerse the hangers by drilling a few holes and then carve out a hole in the size of the hangers. Attach them with two screws. In total, I attached two keyhole hangers.

Step 15: Surface Finish

And at last, sand the shelf with some fine sandpaper, I used 400 grit and 600 grit. To get a surface that is easy to maintain, I decided to wax it. Personally, I like it when the oak looks a bit darker which is why I went with an orange type bee wax. One could also use a neutral type wax, or just pain or oil the surface.

Step 16: Fill and Enjoy

Shelving Contest

Runner Up in the
Shelving Contest