Simple Custom Shelf

Introduction: Simple Custom Shelf


This was my weekend project. I didn’t just assemble these shelves; I built them with materiel we had kicking about in the loft.

Why should you care?

Well the main thing I got out of it was learning how to use Aluminium C-studs. It is a building material, that is cheaper than wood, and faster ones you know how to work it.

We have renovated our flat and in the future we will probably do another home renovation.  On this home renovation we were able to save money by taking down the old partition walls. Now I have built these shelves and understood this material I feel confident that I could erect partition walls. At some point this could save me loads of money, and help me add value to my property.

Also they fit exactly in the space. We solved a storage problem. Shopping for shelves would have been boring, were as making something is fun.

I have written this up so anyone who has a similar situation i.e. want to store their wine or cycle touring equipment can build a custom storage unit that fits perfectly in their property.

FYI:  These are not detailed instructions. It is my story. I tell it only to give you inspiration for your own projects. If you build shelves like this and they collapse under the weight of your prize bottles of wine, then I accept no responsibility! Your shoddy workmanship is your own. My shoddy workmanship is mine.  Also please feel free to wear gardening gloves, while building these shelves. Before I reached for my gloves I sliced my thumb and ring finger open. I imagine it would be perfectly possible to lose a finger doing this work. If you ever ripped a coke can open when you were a kid, then you will know what kind of material Aluminium is when it has been cut.

Before you start

You may want to use Google sketch up to make sure you understand what you have to build.

This will help you visualise your project in 3d and overcome any unique issues you may have e.g. an irregular shaped location for the shelving unit, non-level surfaces or any other issue that may cause your build to be asymmetrical.

You may also like to do something a bit more complicated than this. Drawing it in Google Sketch up feels more like building than drawing a diagram, It will let you make mistakes quickly in the computer and mean you will spend far less time making mistakes with your materials.

You can down load sketch up here:


Tin Snips, Dremel Multi tool, Saw, Drill, Screwdriver, Tape measure, spirit level, Pencil, White board marker pen, Leather gloves


Two floor boards, 3 Aluminium C stud (0.55x 50x2700mm), two longish screws

Step 1: Method


Measure hole for shelving unit

Start by creating the sides. Create two large “picture frame” like rectangular frames.

Use tin snips to cut walls of Aluminium C stud.

Make first cuts 4-5 inches from end of C-stud. This is to form a tab so you can join to bits of aluminium together.

Now make cuts along the length of the C stud so you can roll it up into a box frame.


diagram 1 wine or cycling kit shelves

Step 2:

One straight cut in the wall of the C stud will enable you to bend the C stud into shape. But cutting out an acute angle will remove more material from the fold. This means the bend will be neater, and when you have done all the folds and are attaching the corners together the will be less material and the frame will fit together better.

Once you have cut the tab you will need to make your bespoke cuts.

Bonus Tip:

(see diagramme)

diagram 2 wine or cycling kit shelves

I am guessing your cuts should have a pattern to them. You should have a short section, then a long section then a short section etc. The short bits will be the short side of your finished rectangle and the long bits will be the long sides of the rectangle. The pattern will continue until you have all four sides to your rectangle.

In my case one 2700mm length of C-stud was not enough material to create an entire rectangular frame. So I had to join another bit of C-stud on to make the 4th and final corner.

Step 3:

To do that, I created another long side with a 5 inch tab on each end. I then inserted the tabs inside the short sides of the other bit of folded C stud.

diagram 3 wine or cycling kit shelvesOnce these two elements have been joined together, you have built a frame. This frame is one side of the shelving unit.


One method of joining these bits of metal together would be to use a crimper. This would puncture both bits of aluminium and stick them together at the same time. Unfortunately, I have lost my crimper and couldn’t source a new one. So I decided to improvise a solution.

Using my Dremel’s disc cutting bit I cut two small parallel straight lines through both bits of metal I wished to join.

Then, using offcuts, I use the tin snips to create staples.

Step 4: Joining With Home Made Staples

Making staples:

Cut small pieces of scrap offcuts into 5 cm long pieces of metal that are roughly this shape:

diagram 4 wine or cycling kit shelves staples

The ends of these bits of metal are slightly pointy, so that they self-guide into the holes you have cut in the frame.

Once you have created these bits of metal fold them in half in the middle and put each of the points into the slots you have cut in your frame. Try and cut them to the width of the holes in the frame you have created. Then bang them in with a hammer.

Wine shelves staples

Note: They do need to be narrower than the holes you have cut in the frame. If they are not, the Staples will bend before they go in. If they are narrower the Staples should selfguide into the holes nicely.

Obviously if they are too narrow, there will be more movement in the frame. Don’t worry about a bit of wobble in these frames. They should be statically loaded when they are finished, so you can tolerate a bit of “play” or ricketyness in the finished product.

Step 5: The Support for the Lower Bracket

Using the C stud you’re going to create a horizontal platform in the middle of your rectangular frame. The horizontal platform needs to be this shape:

Cycle shelves bottom bracket

It’s a short section of C-stud, with a vertical tab at each end. Once you have created it slotted inside your metal frame.

Side complete Frame Cycle kit shelf

(This is a side)

In order to finish this you need to staple this horizontal support to the frame. If you have a crimper use that. Otherwise, use the same method above cut to parallel slots through the rectangular frame and the tab on the horizontal support. Then bang a home-made staple through both the frame and the tab of the horizontal support.

I only stapled one side of the horizontal support at each end. This is because the Dremel’s circular cutting bit is a grinding tool. So cutting the slots quickly wore down two of my circular Dremel bits. I also decided that I only wanted to cut the surfaces of my frames which would not be accessible when the shelving unit was installed and in use.  I don’t want anyone to get scratched when they are putting things on the shelves.

Tip: if you only want to work one side of your frame draw red X’s using the whiteboard marker on the side of the frame you want to work on. That should stop you accidentally making cuts on parts of the frame you didn’t want to.

You have now finished one side of your shelving unit. Repeat the process to build the other side of your shelving unit.

Note: When you install the horizontal platform in the other side of your shelving unit. It is really worth checking that it is at the same height as the horizontal platform on the other side of your shelving unit. I would put them in situ and check with a spirit level that they are actually at the same height before you commit and join the horizontal platform on your second side of your shelf. Doing it in situ will mean that these shelves are level, even if the surface you’re placing your shelving unit on is not exactly level.

FYI: Seriously, if you think you are going to load these with heavy, brittle or expensive items (Wine ticks all three) then think about your method of joining. My priority was to build this quickly and cheaply, so I used homemade staples, you may even want to explore welding.

Step 6: Building the Plat Form:

In this instance, my shelves are constrained on three sides. As a result, the sides of my shelves cannot fall over sideways or backwards. This means this build is relatively simple. The only thing I have to worry about is the two sides of the shelving unit falling in on themselves. Solving this issue was simple. I measured the distance between the two sides and cut a piece of floorboard to span the two sides of the shelving unit.

In situ, I drilled a pilot hole through the floorboard. When the drill bit passed through the floorboard, it scratched the top of my metal frame. The marque made by the drill bit showed me where I needed to grind a small hole in my frame. Once I had made a small hole in the metal frame the screw could pass through the floorboard and the frame.

To grind the small hole in the frame I used a Dremel wall tile cutting bit.

Dremel Bit

Tip: hold it near horizontal and press down. You will get a tear drop shaped hole but you can keep your hand steady like this. Don’t hold it vertically and try and “drill” a hole with the very tip of the bit. It will run all over the place. Also you only need a tiny hole, Just enough for the screw to go into. The bigger you make the hole the baggier it will be and the more the shelves will wobble.

Location of screw

Once you have screwed a plank onto the top of the frames the structure is stable.

If you are making a set of free standing shelves then you obviously have more work to do. You will need a bit more skill, and your will have to work to higher degree of accuracy. If they are totally free standing that, does kind of beg the question. Why don’t you just buy them? The materials alone may cost you more than a set of mass produced shelves. However, these could be made free standing by adding X-shaped cross members and vertical cross members and tensioning up the whole thing.

Like so:

diagram 6 wine or cycling kit shelves staples stabalising for free standing

Now all you have to do is cut more planks to create the rest of the platform.

Wooden platform for wine or cycling shelves

Step 7: Boom! Your Done. Whats Next ?

If you want these instructions as a PDF you can find them at our blog:

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