Vintage Style Distressed Display Shelf (easy Mode)




Introduction: Vintage Style Distressed Display Shelf (easy Mode)

My wife and I found this great vintage style shelf at a thrift store, and decided we needed another one to match. (The one with baby's first sword and shield is the copy.) It is very simply made using brad nails, 1x4 boards and a beaded plank back wall for a nice vintage look. The following are the steps I took to duplicate the vintage look of the original.

Makes 1 14.5" by 27.75" shelf (approximate outside dimensions, may vary with quality of wood).

You need:

2 pieces 8 ft 1x4 lumber

2 pieces 8 ft x 3.5" beaded backing

A way to cut your wood


Measuring tape

Glue/brad nails

flat black paint

"golden oak" and "red mahogany" stain

hanging hardware

Step 1: Make a Plan, and Go Buy Your Lumber

You don't always have to make a plan, but it will save you a lot of time measuring and re-cutting later. In this case, I was trying to copy an original. So, it was very important to have an accurate plan.

For this project, I needed 2 1x4 rounded off boards (came in 77" lengths), and 2 of the beaded
planks (came in package of 6 96" planks). In the picture you can see the end of a normal 1x4 compared to the wood I used. My wood was reclaimed from the previous home owners' wine rack, and I haven't been able to find any more in the local area. The rounded corners really add to the vintage look. If you can't find any rounded wood you could use a router or a lot of sanding on the exposed edges to get the same effect with standard 1x4s.

I made a simple sketch of the layout with internal and external dimensions, so I would know how long each piece is.

Then, I also made a sketch of how many pieces I could get out of each board. This is necessary if you will be going to go buy the wood. I needed 2 of my 77" boards, and 2 86" beaded planks. If you are dividing the total length by the length of the pieces you need, remember to drop any remainder.

NOTE: the beaded planks are 3.5" wide, so if you don't have a table saw or the patience to hand rip them you will need to tailor your design accordingly. My shelf frame was slightly wider and taller than the assembled backing planks, so they aren't easily visible when the shelf is hung.

Step 2: Cut Your Pieces Out

First, I cut off the rough ends (watch out for staples). Then, measure and mark each piece as you cut it. If you mark all the cuts ahead of time, your pieces will gradually get smaller as you go, because of the thickness of the blade.

I cut: 4 ea 13" boards, 2 ea 27 & 7/8" boards, 1 ea 8" board, and 4 ea 27 & 1/2" beaded planks.

Step 3: Layout and Assemble

layout your boards to make sure you didn't flub the cuts, then glue and fasten them together however you prefer. I used glue and brad nails for fastening. Also, you can see I tried to keep all the corners square from the start, and used a scrap 2x4 to make the corners flush.

For the bottom shelf, I didn't bother marking it and just used the vertical divider part to position the shelf for nailing. Make sure your shelves go in flat by using the square as shown.

Step 4: Stain, Paint, Distress! (the Fun Part)

I wasn't a huge fan of this type of finish when I started building things. But you can't argue with results, and it looks good in a variety of home decorating schemes. On top of that, a vintage/distressed look is very easy to pull off for beginners.

Staining: To get the sort of two-tone look on the wood grain, I used a 2 step staining process. First I coated the planks with "golden oak". After a few minutes I then used a partially thinned "red mahogany", and wiped off any excess right away. The areas of grain soak up more stain then the smooth parts. And, The first coat of light color will prevent the dark color from penetrating the smooth spots, while the grainy areas will thirstily continue to soak in the dark second coat. You can see in the first picture of the planks how the original "golden oak" colored planks compare to one (on the right) with a secondary dark stain treatment. The second picture is how they all look with the dark second coat.

(There is probably another easier way to do this, but I just happened to have a bunch of stain on hand that didn't quite match the original and this was my solution.)

Painting: For the frame I just used 1can of flat black spray paint to cover the frame and a scrap piece of wood while the stain was drying. Practice on the scrap piece first, to get the hang of it. Then, I used a power sander with 220 grit to "distress" the paint. In the pictures you can see how the sanded top shelf compares to the painted bottom shelves.

NOTE: Don't stay in one spot too long with the sander, and think about which areas of the item would be "worn" down over time (corners, sides, surfaces etc.). Really, just relax and have fun with it and it will turn out looking good. Just go visit Pier 1, refurbished vintage shops, or similar for examples of this type of finish.

Step 5: Attach Your Backing and Hangers

Assemble the backing planks and center them so there is even spacing all around, and so they are square with the frame. Also, check the square of your frame a final time. If it is a little out you can clamp the frame square while you nail in the backing. Nail in the first plank at the corners and edge where you can see the boards below, then remove the other planks so you can nail through into the shelves under the first one. Add the next plank and repeat. The planks are tongue and groove, so you really only need to nail one side of the remaining planks.

Measure and mark your hanger locations carefully. Make them an even number of inches apart, and narrow enough for your level to span them for ease of hanging. Make sure these are placed at the same height, or it will be very difficult to hang it level. I measured from the top, making sure to leave room for the head of a screw to hide behind the backing.

Check the length of your screw against the thickness of the wood to be sure it won't go through, because it will be visible unless you put them on the very edge of your backing, which I didn't do because I wanted a lot of material around them. I used masking tape to avoid drilling the pilot to deep, and a rivet backing washer to keep the screw from going too far.


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    7 years ago on Introduction

    very nice and useful tips. Thank you.