Floating Shelf




This time I decided to make a floating shelf as a display shelf. I wanted to make this because that way, we don't need brackets to support the shelf underneath. All the support we need is inside the shelf. Now we don't have to worry about the brackets getting in the way of everything, bumping into the brackets by accident, and if I had the shelf lower to the floor and decided to store something under it, it allows more space for storage without the brackets.

Step 1: Cut Your Wood to Size

This parts pretty easy. Just find out how big you want your shelf, and grab a piece of board for the inner bracing and thin plywood for the outer shell. Cut the thicker board a little shorter than the outer casing, and make a couple pieces of wood for extra support every few inches. For the thinner outer shell, cut 5 sides to the size you want, leaving the back end open to slide into the bracing and onto the wall. You can measure and cut appropriately to make 45 degree miter cuts each edge, giving it a more professional look, but I'm not good enough to do that cut well yet, so I let it be. If you want to try a miter cut, and need advice, this site is a good tool to look at... http://www.familyhandyman.com/carpentry/trim-carpentry/how-to-tips-for-tight-miters

Two things you'll have to keep in mind when cutting the wood...

1. If you want your shelf to be a certain size, keep in mind the thicknesses of the boards. For example, you don't want to make the inner bracing 24" long, and the plywood 24" long as well, because it would never fit around the bracing. You'd either have to make the plywood 25" (assuming the plywood is 1/2" thick, so you multiply 1/2" times 2), or you make the bracing 23" long).

2. If you want the make the shelf sturdy, you'll need to nail or screw it in the studs. Find out how far apart the studs are in the wall you want your shelf to be mounted on. Typically, most studs are either 16" or 24" apart, with a few exceptions. Use a stud finder or your own trick to figure this out, and make sure the inner bracing is at least a little longer than that. If the shelf you want to make is small enough, and you aren't going to put too much weight on it, then you can get by with mounting it on one stud, but don't put too much weight on it.

Step 2: Glue the Outer Casing

Another easy step. Since you have to wait for the glue to dry, I did this step first. Just glue the plywood pieces you cut together, clamp the pieces in place, and wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth. Another trick I learned while doing this project is that if you take the sawdust left over from your cutting, sprinkle the dust on the glue, and it comes right off. :)

Step 3: Assemble the Bracing

For the bracing, even though it's hard to see in the first picture, I marked 16" apart on the long piece of bracing, to mark where I'm going to nail/screw into the studs. Now when nailing all the pieces together, keep in mind to keep the stud marks you made open, so you can actually get to it with a hammer. Don't put one of the smaller pieces over the hole, or else you can't put the nail in the stud. However, if for example, you do want to put 2 of the smaller pieces over the marks, lets say because your shelf is 16 1/2" or something, you can glue two of the bracings on the two inside corners of the outer casing while it's drying, or you can leave it as is and move the inner bracket supports in a little more.

Also, since the inner bracket is a little on the thinner side for my shelf, it's very easy for the wood to crack while nailing everything together. There's two solutions to this if you want a thin shelf...

1. Take a drill bit a little smaller than the nail you're using, and drill pilot holes. Since the hole is already there, it shouldn't want to crack when you finally hammer the pieces in.

2. In the past, even with making pilot holes, wood still had a tendency of wanting to split on me, so I felt safer using screws instead. Same thing, make pilot holes a little smaller than the screw. However, make sure the screw head is flat against the wood, or a little inside, so it doesn't get in the way of the outer casing sliding around it or from keeping the bracing from being flat against the wall. A solution to that problem is to take another drill bit, about the same size or a little bigger as the screw head size, and drill down JUST A LITTLE BIT into the existing pilot holes. You want to go far enough for the screw head to into the bigger hole and be flat against the wood, or a little inside. If you drill to deep, there'll be nothing for the screw to hold onto.

After all that, just take a few more nails/screw, and while using a leveler, nail the bracing onto the wall over the marks you made, ensuring you're hitting the studs you measured earlier.

Step 4: Slide the Shelf in and You're Done

For the last step, slide the glued and dried shelf over the bracing, and you're done. The biggest problem I had with this step is when I tried to slide it on, the inner bracing supports weren't exactly straight, keeping the shelf from fitting. I chiseled the supports to size, not worrying too much about how it looked because you won't see it when the shelf is put together, and it fit snug after that.

Now that it's done, the casing will still have to be finished or painted, but the luxury to this type of shelf is I can wait until it warms up to open a window for better air circulation when doing that. I can just pull the shelf out when it comes time, finish it up, and slip it back on when it's dry. I don't have to pull nails out or unscrew anything to do that, or wait until conditions are good enough to finish before even starting the shelf in the first place.

Now I have a nice little display shelf for the things I want. This project, despite being a little more complex than the simple board and two bracket supports, was still really simple and easy to do, and it looks great when it's done =]



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    5 Discussions

    eric squat

    4 years ago

    Awesome. It could also serve as a secret stash spot with the addition of some minor internal components. Nice work and great instruction. Thanks.


    I like. Maybe another way would be to miter, not butt, the plywood joints so it would look like one big block. It would be tough to get all the joints cut and aligned perfect though.

    1 reply

    Thank you, and that's what I suggested too, but I'm not very good at those cuts. I thought it would've turned out better with these butt ends instead of the my sloppy miter cuts, so I just went with the less appealing way. You're right, it looks much more professional with the miter cuts, but one needs skill to pull it off perfect.


    The shelf looks sleek, what are you going to use to finish the plywood edges- screen trim is cheap and comes in 3/4" widths, both flat and fluted. In some of my painted work like this I simply troweled in joint compound, sanded flush, looked good too.

    1 reply