Desk Shelf




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After months of propping up my monitor with books on a desk covered with clutter, I decided it was time for a solution.  Finally, I have storage for all that stuff on my desk, can actually access those books, and it's stylin' to boot!  My desk shelf measures roughly 32"x5", and has a 14" space underneath to accommodate the height of most books and magazines.

This is one of my first wood projects, so the construction is pretty basic.  I just used screws to create the frame, as I knew I they would be covered by the paper.  if you have any construction tips to add, please feel free to post in the comments.

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Step 1: What You Need

I used mostly scrap to construct this (as pictured here), but if you are purchasing lumber you will need the following:

• 8 feet 1x10 (this is pretty exact, you might want to get more just in case)
• 3 feet thin board (1/8"-1/4" thick) 10" wide (for drawer bottoms and backs)
• screws and brads
• black high gloss paint
• decorative paper/poster for accent color
• 2 drawer pulls

For equipment, I used a table saw, circular saw, and drill.  Also the belt sander for when I had to fudge things to fit, which happened more than I'd like to admit.  I built it at the San Francisco TechShop, which is an open-access workshop, so it has pretty much every kind of tool on hand.

Step 2: Cut Wood for Main Body

Cut pieces for the main body of the desk shelf. 

From your 1x10, cut:
32" wide for main shelf piece
x2  7.5" wide pieces for bottom of drawer containers
x4  4.5" wide pieces for sides of drawer containers

And from your thin board, cut:
x2  9"x4.5" pieces of thin board for backing of drawer containers

For the drawer container pieces from the 1x10, you will then want to shave off the width of your thin board from their 10" measurement, to accommodate the width of the backing. 

Step 3: Construct Main Body

Screw together drawer casings, with the 4.5" pieces on the outside.  When finished, hammer on backing with some brads.

When both drawer casings are finished, screw them to the main 32" piece.

Step 4: Cut Wood for Drawers

Cut wood for drawers. 

From your 1x10, you will be cutting pieces for the sides and front of the drawers.  If all your measurements have been accurate up to this point, your side pieces should measure roughly 3.75" high, and they will need to be trimmed around 1" (depending on the thickness of your thin board) to allow space for the front panel.  The front pieces should be roughly 3.75" x 7.5".  However for all of these pieces make sure to measure, as in mine I found slight differences between the two sides and cut accordingly.

You will also need to cut the wood for the bottom and back from your thin sheet of wood, but that will come later.

Step 5: Create Grooves for Drawer Bottom

To attach the bottoms of the drawers, make grooves lengthwise along the bottom of each side piece, which will fit around bottom pieces cut from the thin board.  This is to keep the drawers light and not waste any more space than necessary in an already small drawer space. 

To make the grooves, I used a crosscut sled for the table saw, which allowed me to make them more accurately and safely.  This picture is from a later step, but is to show what the setup looks like.  I made the grooves about 1/4" into the wood.  Because my thin wood was around 3/16" thick, I had to make two passes with the table saw to create the width of groove that I needed.  I made them around 1/4" up from the bottom of the drawer. 

After making the lengthwise grooves, measure and cut the pieces for the bottoms of your drawers.  It should be flush with the front and back of the side pieces.  Put the pieces together, and check that it fits into the space for the drawers! 

Step 6: Create Grooves for Drawer Back

Use the same technique to add a back to each drawer. 

Make the grooves along the backside of the side panels, making sure all your pieces match up (unlike mine- as you can see in this picture I messed up and added a channel on the front by accident!).

Once finished, measure and cut your back panel pieces to size. 

Step 7: Attach Drawer Pieces Together

Once all your drawer pieces are cut, and you are sure that they all fit together and slide easily into their drawer housing, it is time to glue everything together. 

Line the edges of the drawer bottom and back with wood glue, and fit all the drawer pieces together.  Clamp it together and allow to dry, making sure it doesn't warp.

When they are dry, screw on the front drawer panels. 

And voila, done with the woodworking and time to move on to decoration!

Step 8: Paint Shelf

Time for paint!  I knew I was going to cover the top, sides, and drawer faces with colored paper, so I only painted the surfaces that I knew would be exposed (front and back edges, inside and outside of drawers, under and inside of stand. 

I used high-gloss black oil based paint, to get a nice shiny finish.  Apply two coats, allowing it to thoroughly dry in between.

Step 9: Add Paper Accents

And now the fun part!  I had a great poster lying around which I thought would be perfect to contrast with the glossy black.  Because the length of the poster was limited, I had to be strategic about how I cut it apart.  I ended up needing to have a seam along the top of the stand.

Once you have measured and cut the pieces to attach, lay down glue and spread evenly across the wood surface with a piece of cardboard.  Carefully place your paper down and smooth out any wrinkles.  Add weight on top of the paper, and work your way across the top of the shelf this way, smoothing and weighting down the paper as you go.  I used a sheet of waxed paper to make sure no excess glue ended up on the books I used for weight.

I applied the paper first to the top, and then to the sides, drying it as shown in the last picture.

Also cut paper for the front of the drawers, and glue/weight those as well.

Step 10: Attach Drawer Pulls

When everything is dry, the last step is to attach the drawer pulls.  Drill a hole in the middle of the front of each drawer, and screw them in. 

And with that, you are FINISHED!  You are now ready to get to work in style!

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    29 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Love it. I am probably going to make it, most likely without the drawers though. That poster looks really good on it. Great job! Fave!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is brilliant im going to build this most definetely


    6 years ago on Introduction

    so simple but it looks so legit, you would never know!!!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I adjusted the dimensions so my laptop would fit underneath. Also, I made the supporting boxes big enough to hold sheets of paper, and did not build the drawers.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Is there any way to get the dimensions you used ? I am wanting to exactly what you did.

    Wonderful! Even tho i used half inch plywood ,a wobbly jigsaw, and some drawrs from an old desk.... It came out pretty good :D , Tho i'd have been better off with a table saw :C. I'll post pics when the paint drys tomorrow.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great Idea! love it. Already Made plans for one to fit my needs. I'm gonna turn the book area to fit my keyboard and turn the drawers into speaker cabinets. I'll be building tomorrow. I'll post some pictures when I'm done. thanks!

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Finished! Started today at about 10am and Just got it all hooked up and done around 8pm. thanks So much for the idea! The speakers turned out so much better then I thought they would and they sound even better then before in the wood cabinet. Looks great with my set up too I must say. Love it.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Note that Home Depot (and other such places) has a "cutoff bin", where smaller pieces of leftover lumber are for sale very cheap. At HD, the bits are painted with a color code that indicates pricing. For example, a piece with one end painted yellow might be 50 cents, and a red one might be 75 cents. The cutoff bin is a good place to look first, but always carry your tape measure.

    3 replies

    8 years ago on Step 10

    This is wonderful. I love that you did it yourself and shared the instructions. I would like to make one too....probably never will though because I'm terrible with working with wood. But I'm envious of yours ;)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Quite nice design. What do you hide in those drawers (it would be nice if the drawers are capable to carry CD)?

    one design question: keyboard looks wider than space between the drawers. doesn't the drawers always hit the keyboard?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah the drawers are large enough to fit a dvd/cd case. You're right that the space between the drawers isn't big enough for my keyboard, I prefer having my keyboard in front so it wasn't an issue for me, but you could easily add a few more inches in the middle if you want to use that space for it.