Introduction: Make a Crown Molding Shelf (Picture Ledge)

This instructable will help you make a nice picture ledge, or shelf, out of a piece of crown molding and a few small pieces of lumber.

I have probably made hundreds of these since I saw the first one at an arts and crafts show in Austin, Texas.  They are literally all over my house, my in-laws all have some, most of my neighbors have a few...... I have given them as gifts to lots and lots of people.  They are really popular.

This is a low cost project, but there is a bit of work involved.  Set aside a few hours and make a few of them, they look great if you make a few in different lengths and stagger them on a wall.

If you want a few, but don't want to make them you can of course visit my Etsy shop at

Step 1: Get Some Crown Molding and Cut It

There are several options for what crown molding to use.  It all depends on what you want your final shelf to look like, if you plan to stain it, lacquer it and leave it looking like wood then you have to go with a solid wood unfinished crown molding.  

If you intend to paint it, as I do this one then you can use crown molding that is already painted.... as in you can recycle some.

Ok this is the only slightly difficult part of this project, but hopefully I can explain in words and pictures a super easy way to cut this crown.  

You will start by cutting a 45 degree angle on each end of your crown molding, but you must do this with the crown held at an angle.

I use a cheap miter box, I suggest you do the same.  My miter box isn't quite tall enough for this piece of crown so i slid in a piece of plywood.  

Place the crown upside down in the box, as in the top edge is on the bottom.  make sure the vertical and horizontal edges sit flat on the bottom and side of the miter box.  

Now make a 45 degree cut on each end right at the end to avoid wasting your crown molding, once you have done that you are going to measure over 4" and cut a 90 degree cut at each end.......this is how far your shelf will stick out from the wall, make it longer if you want a deeper shelf.

Then it is back to to the miter box, make another 45 degree cut, measure 16 inches along the top edge (which is held at the bottom of the miter box) and cut your last 45 degree cut.  This is the length of your shelf, if you want a longer one cut it longer.

Step 2: Assemble the Crown

Disclaimer here, I normally use an air nailer to assemble the crown, however this time I am going to put together two shelves, one with a hammer and one with just glue, both options work fine.

Lay the crown upside down and put some tape on the ends sitcky side up, I used painters tape, but any masking tape will work fine.  If you only have the narrow tape use a few pieces per side.

Put some glue on the joint, I am painting these so I didn't mind if some glue squeezed out....

Pull the joints tight together, hold it in place and wrap the tape around it.  

Now set it aside, you will need to let this one set for a few hours, I have waited as little as 30 minutes and had no problems, but wait a few hours to be safe.

While you wait cut up some more crown to make some more shelves!

Step 3: Cut the Top and Sand It Smooth and Put It Together!

Cut the top from a piece of wood, but first go back and measure the crown you have just put together.

You want a little bit of overhang on the shelf, 1/4" - 1/2" looks good.

Cut the top piece for this size shelf about 16.5 " by 4.25".

Take a minute to sand it smooth, try to round over the sharp edges just a bit.

Make sure the back edges of the crown are lined up perfectly with the back edge of the shelf board, this will make sure you get a seamless fit against the wall.

Put a bead of glue on your assembled crown molding place it on the top, make sure the gap is even and attach with a few nails.

Step 4: Cap the Bottom, Do Some Sanding, Drilling and Painting

Measure the bottom for a cap piece, you could leave this gap open, or cut the board to fit inside, but I like the way it looks stacked.

Cut the bottom piece, add some glue and tack it on with a few nails... if you are having trouble with the nails and the small working area, the glue and tape technique works good here too.

Now go back and add some wood putty to the nail holes if you want too, it will look good if you fill them, but it will still look good even if you don't.  

Take a small piece of sand paper and clean up any glue and sharp edges on your crown.

Drill two holes near the back edge of the shelf, about 1/2" from the edge.  This is where you will screw the shelf to the cleat that we are going to hang on the wall

Add some paint.

Lots of options here, I suggest a flat latex paint, easy to clean up and will look good.  

I suggest do not use gloss spray paint.  It will be really easy to apply, but it will give this project a plastic look.  So instead of a quality piece of home decor, it will look like something you picked up in the made in china dollar bin......avoid the glossy spray paint.  

Step 5: Hang It on the Wall... Done

Take a small piece of wood that fits in the back of the shelf and hang it level on the wall.

Use nails or screws... if you are gonna put heavy stuff on this try to screw it to a stud.

Push the shelf over the cleat and put in the two screws from the top, hold it tight against the wall while you do this.

Voila! We are done son.   If you are old enough, now you may drink a beer and admire your handwork, and bask in the glory of your wife's admiration.  

Or look down in shame when she says "You have been in the shop all day and that's all you got done?"

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