Branch Shaped Display Shelf




I started a wood shop during the Summer of 2009, and have been teaching myself techniques and ski...

I have had a wood shop for about a year, and this is my first instructable of my first paid project. I hope you enjoy it!

This is a display shelf I saw in West Elm that went for $100.  My version costs about $10-20 to build, depending on wood and stain prices.

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Step 1: Drawing It Out

I traced the picture of the original shelf in AutoCAD, scaled it, and gave it approximate measurements that are in the pdf.  

Using those measurements I drew out the shelf outline on a 1/2" piece of plywood, about 2'x4'. (3/4" would work too, to make it more sturdy).  You can get this at any Home Depot or Lowes.

Step 2: Cutting It Out and Sanding It Down

After drawing it, I carefully cut out the branch.  I used a handheld jigsaw, which sped up the process immensely.  I sanded down the entire branch with 120 grit and then 220 grit sandpaper, to make it smooth to the touch, not forgetting to sand the edges.

Step 3: Cutting the Shelves Out

The smaller shelves are 4" square, and the larger ones are 5" square.  It doesn't really matter how they are arranged on the branch, I just tried to imitate the original, and ended up adding an extra shelf for aesthetics.  Each shelf is two 1/2" thick plywood pieces clamped and glued together. (I used just one piece of ply for the whole project)

After they are glued, I sanded each down same as the body, especially the edges.

Step 4: Attaching the Shelves to the Body.

Once the shelf layers were glued together, I screwed the shelves to the body using two 1-1/4" screws per shelf, spaced approximately two inches apart, and in addition used wood glue for added strength.

In terms of attaching it to the wall, do whatever is most comfortable.  Because this was early on in my woodworking experience, I didn't know how to route hanging holes directly into the wood, so I used triangular hooks (from Home Depot), which hang from nails hammered into the wall.  

I recommend hanging holes as opposed to hooks because hooks are less stable, especially with such an oddly shaped shelf.

Step 5: Staining It

I used Dark Walnut stain, because the friend I was making it for didn't want it to be the satin black that West Elm sold it as.  Again, stain as per preference.

A technique I picked up from a coworker: instead of a brush, I used an old rag to dip in the stain and spread it.  This way, there is a smooth distribution with no lines that brushes tend to leave.

Wear rubber gloves and a mask, stain is very hard to wash out (trust me, I know)!

I applied to coats, as per the directions on the stain container, and let it dry for 24hrs.

Step 6: Applying Polyurethane (optional)

The polyurethane gives the wood a shiny finish, and protects the wood and stain (but its unlikely that any liquids would be placed here).  The finish is purely aesthetic and optional.

I bought a spray can at Home Depot (generic brand) , so I sprayed the shelf outside, still with my safety glasses and a mask.

Again, I think I applied two coats, and let it dry for three or four hours before handling it.

Step 7: Hung and Decorated!

This is the shelf hung in my friend's apartment (using 1-3/4" wood nails to hang the hooks on)

It's good for holding knick knacks and all sorts of small goodies.

If you so desire, you can install screw hooks into the  body between the shelves to hang keys, necklaces, rings, pendants (you can tell a girl asked for this, right?).  

Definitely an attractive project, makes any bare wall look attractive.  Try to chose the stain that most contrasts with the wall on which the shelf will be hung.

Have fun!



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    17 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm, this shelf looks familiar. If it's the one I think it is 0_o


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I might have to try this out! It matches the decor of my new bedroom and would be perfect. I may have to tweak the design a bit to add leaves that match with everything else in my room but this is awesome!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    They used to be sold at West Elm stores, but I haven't seen one in a while.

    If you wanted one badly, you could talk to me about potentially buying one that I can build in three weeks, after I'm done with school for the semester.


    9 years ago on Step 7

    nice shelf, very instructable and inspirational ... cool stuff buddy ...


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice. I like imaginative design. For support for heavier items, pottery etc, you should consider the shelf brackets that have a 1/2" steel rod projecting from a steel plate. Looking down on it, it would be like a T with the top screwed to the wall and the leg sliding into a hole drilled into the back of the shelf. tacking a piece of 1/8" mdf onto the back of the piece before you drill for the brackets would provide you with a template for fixing the brackets to the wall in the exact positions needed. Places like leevalley and Hafele have untold amounts of specialist hardware. One other tip for a more detailed finish would be to use iron-on maple or birch veneer edging before finishing, so that you don't see the layers in the plywood. Always do the sides first so that the front piece covers the small amount of end grain from the sides. As a cabinet and furniture maker of seventeen years, welcome to the business.

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome, I will try this someday. If using a whole sheet of plywood, I think it would look nice if you kept the negative cut-out, stained it, and hung it opposite of the shelf. Just a thought.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    That would be hard, since the angles of the branch make it difficult not to cut into the rest of the sheet. However, as a totally separate and much more detailed project, that sounds pretty awesome


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Build one shaped like a usb symbol for the usb contest. Just kidding, cool shelf.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Outstanding. Looks really good on the white wall. Will see what I've got to make one. Will


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice, I have a wall that could use a shelf like that.