Introduction: The Folding Shelf

Hi everyone!

In this ible I'm going to show you how to make a Folding Shelf.

It is basically made out of some slats of wood which usually stay horizontally like a normal shelf, and when you need, can be rotated 90° vertically. This for two reasons: first of all because each one of the pieces can be transformed into a bookend, and the second reason is the space (vertically they occupy less space so this is a perfect shelf for a small room).

Two days ago this was just one of the numerous ideas in my mind, so I decided to make it using two scrap pieces of laminated plywood that I cut from an old desk. Since it turned out very good, In the near future I'll make another one using another kind of wood. (suggestions are welcome)

Thanks for the support given me in the "Shelving Contest"! I won thanks to your votes!

Step 1: Materials & Tools


- laminated plywood

- the handle of a paint bucket
(or a threaded rod)

- 2x invisible wall plugs


- pencil and ruler

- jigsaw

- orbital sander

- drill

- mitre box

- clamps

- scrap (and straight) pieces of wood

Step 2: The Idea

This is the idea.

As soon as it come in my mind I took a scrap piece of cardboard, a nail and I made a "3D sketch".

The shelf is made by longer pieces (which work as shelves) alternated to shorter pieces (that work as pivot supports).

At the beginning of each longer piece there is a triangle; that is the stop block for the longer piece itself.
It is cut at 45° and it allows the shelve to fold up vertically (photo#2) and to stop horizontally (photo#3).

The stop blocks are alternated to the shorter pieces that work as pivot supports. Those supports allows to the longer pieces to rotate freely in their 90° movement, remaining in their place without being glued to other pieces.

Step 3: Cut All the Pieces

I used 2cm thick laminated plywood and I decided to make the shelf (26cm x 25cm) x 5cm.

So I needed 13 slats in total:

- 7x (26cm x 5cm) for the shelves and the stop blocks
- 6x (10cm x 5cm) for the pivot supports

In order to cut it as straight as I could, once I marked all the pieces, I clamped the laminated plywood to my workbench and then I clamped a straight piece of scrap wood to it.

To position the straight scrap wood piece correctly, I measured the distance between the blade of my jigsaw to the edge of its metal support (in my case 3,2cm), and then I clamped the scrap piece of wood 3,2cm away from the marked line. (In photo#4 you can see the cut test that I made before cutting the laminated plywood to be sure that the measurements taken were right)

Step 4: Make the Holes

The holes for the pivot are located at the half point of the height (2,5cm) and at 7,5cm from one side.

In order to mark it in the right place, I took one of the 13 pieces, I made two little marks at 5cm and 10cm on the top and on the bottom edges, and finally I connected those 4 marks in a cross finding the central spot.

I quickly set up a stop block (photo#2) and I used my homemade drill press to make the hole in one slat. Than I took another one, I drilled the hole, and I checked if the holes were matching correctly (photo#3).

Finally I took the remaining 11 slats and I drilled their holes.

NOTE: If you use a stop block, you will be able to quickly make lot of holes in the same place on different pieces measuring and marking just one of them.

P.S. Initially I thought to make a curved end on each pivot support (like in my cardboard sketch), but then I decided to make all of them rectangular as the longer pieces. In the next version I'm planning to make all the pieces curved.

Step 5: The Pivot

The pivot will allow us to connect the pivot supports to the longer slats keeping them able to rotate up and down in their 90° movement.

As pivot I decided to use the metal rod that used to be the handle of a paint bucket.
I simply removed it from the bucket, and then I straighten it using a vise.

Since the holes that I made were too small for the pivot, I enlarged all of them a little with a bigger drill bit.

(Obviously you could also use a threaded rod or anything else that you have laying around unused)

Step 6: Make the Stop Blocks

The stop blocks are the most important thing of this shelf because the longer slats are glued to anything.

In order to make them, I cut each one of the 7 longer pieces at 45° using a mitre box.

As you can see in photo#2 I clamped a scrap piece of wood to make a quick stop block that allowed me to place all the 7 pieces correctly cutting them in the same place.
In photo#3 you can see that I also used 2 wooden wedges to quickly keep in place the piece to cut.

NOTE: be sure to mark a number on both pieces (the shelf and the triangle) to quickly find the corresponding pieces later.

Step 7: Glue the Stop Blocks to the Pivot Supports

Now we need to glue the triangles alternating them to the shorter pieces.

Since I used laminated plywood I had to scratch a little the surface to make the glue stick better (photo#1).

I applied wood glue, and then I clamped the pieces in place covering the laminated surfaces with scotch tape.
Once I glued all the pieces, I let them dry overnight.

Step 8: (Re)test It and Peen the Rivet

Now we can insert the pivot in place and we can test if everything works as it should.

In photo#2 and #3 you can see the movement that each one of the 7 longer slats should do.
They should start flat with the stop block (with a small gap due to the 45° cut), and they should stop vertically against the triangle's edge.

Once the movement is perfect, you can peen the pivot. Cut the excess using a handsaw and then use a ball peen hammer to flatten the end.

Finally use an orbital sander to sand every surface removing any left imperfection.

Step 9: Drill the Hanging Holes

To hang it I decided to use two invisible wall plugs.

I measured the length of the hexagonal side (8cm), and I made a mark onto a pivot support. (photo#2)

Then I applied a piece of scotch tape to the drill bit to know where I had to stop drilling the hole.
(In order to make a perfect fit, you have to use a drill bit of the same dimension of the hexagonal side of the invisible wall plug photo#6)

Finally I marked the center on the side of the second and the fourth pivot support, and I drilled the holes.

As last thing I measured the distance from the two holes (11,5cm) in order to report it on the wall.

Step 10: Drill the Holes in the Wall

Take a wall drill bit of the same dimension of the rawlplug and make two holes in the wall spaced apart 11,5cm.

Insert the plastic rawlplugs in the wall using a hammer, and then screw in the hexagonal rods.

Finally push the Folding Shelf against the invisible wall plugs until they are entered all the way in the pivot supports. (You could add a strong glue like epoxy in the shelf's holes to make it sturdier, but if your holes are of the right dimension, it is not needed. Those wall plugs are very strong by themselves.)

Step 11: Fold It As You Need

Since you can fold each one of the longer slats, this shelf is very customisable.

In the 1st photo you can see that if you fold up all the pieces, this shelf will occupy less space (just 10cm), and it can still be used to store things.

I hope that you liked this idea. Also, thanks very much for voting for me in the "Shelving Contest". I really appreciated your support.

Thank you for reading my Instructable. ;)
Feel free to comment and ask if you need to know something!


Shelving Contest

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Shelving Contest