Simple Adjustable Shelves Between Wall Studs




About: Geek, Developer, Maker, Tinkerer, Dad

In an effort to make the best use of a small workspace, I converted the empty space between two wall studs into some shallow adjustable shelves running from floor to ceiling. With this design I can easily reconfigure my shelves as needed, without the need for any special tools or shelf hardware. Watch the video for more detail of the process.

Step 1: Marking Out Slot Locations

The sides of the shelving unit will be made from two 1x6's. The shelves will slide into slots that will be cut into each 1x6.

I cut slots every 2 inches, so I placed both boards next to each other, and made a mark every 2 inches across both boards.

Once each board is marked, switch the boards around, and the pencil marks will be on the outside edges. This will help line up the slot cutting jig in the next step.

Step 2: Making a Simple Router Jig

To cut a straight slot across both boards, we need a simple jig that can guide the router across both boards. I assembled this using four pieces of scrap pallet boards. Two pieces across the top of our boards, and two pieces along the outside edges of the boards. The top set will let the router slide between them, and the bottom two will slide along the length of our two boards.

Once assembled, cut a "start" and "end" slot in the jig. This will give you a starting and ending point for each slot, and you can line these up with the pencil marks on each board.

Step 3: Cutting & Sanding the Slots

Clamp the two shelf boards together, and place the router jig on top of the board.

Line up the slots on the jig with the pencil marks on each board. Clamp the jig in place, and run the router along to mill out a shelf slot across both boards. These slots are 3/4" wide and 3/8" deep in my design. You'll want to vacuum the excess dust as you go along, or it will likely interfere with the jig.

Repeat as necessary for the full height of your shelf boards.

In my case I made a shelf just under 7 feet tall. This worked out to about 40 slots to cut. While it was tedious, the jig made it easy, and it didn't take as long as I expected it would. I was able to cut and sand all the slots in about an hour.

Step 4: Installing the Sides

To attach them to the wall, I pre-drilled some screw hols in my boards, about 2 inches from the back edge, so they would be about centered on the studs. These holes were made about every 2 feet. They were then attached to the studs with 1 5/8" screws.

Step 5: Making Shelves

The slots I cut in the sides were 3/4" wide. To allow lots of clearance to slide the shelves in and out, I used 1/2" thick plywood salvaged from my scrap wood collection. I ripped them down to 5 1/2" wide (same as the 1x6 boards).

For the shelf width, measure the distance between the slots on the shelf sides, and subtract 1/8" to get the width of the shelves themselves. This allows some good clearance to make it easy to slide them in and out.

Step 6: Load Up the Shelves!

Load up the new shelves with any small, easy-access items you want. I had lots of small items and small containers that just never worked well on a regular 18" deep shelf, but having them easily accessible on these shallower shelves has been great for organization and ease-of-access to my regularly used supplies. Since my work area tends to change over time, being able to adjust them so easily works out great as I don't have to mess with any extra shelf hardware.



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    5 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Nice work. This is definitely something I will be doing in my store room.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Great instructable, Ben! Seriously considering this as an alternative to my 2x4 pallet shelving for the additional depth/flexibility.