Simple Suspended Shelf

Introduction: Simple Suspended Shelf

About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

I'm heading to college soon, and one of my possessions that I absolutely insist on bringing is the delicate ceramic Haku (from Spirited Away) that I made as my free choice project for my school's ceramics class. The problem is that I've seen the cramped conditions of the dorm rooms, and while I may want to bring the dragon with me, it'll be hard to find a safe place where he won't get bumped by books, bodies, and whatnot.

BUT I REALLY WANT TO BRING HIM WITH ME. I'm really proud of him, especially because "a dragon" was my response on the first day of ceramics class when the teacher asked everyone what he/she wanted to make. The long, heavy coil of Haku's body kept falling and breaking in several places, especially toward the end (The legs were quite the nuisance.), and the whole process overall was a struggle (Yes, the struggle was oh too real.) But I persevered and succeeded, and I, again,


Fortunately, the entire wall on two sides of the rooms is bulletin board material for pinning paper, and I came up with the idea of building a small, personal shelf for Haku where he can regally look at me slaving away at my studies.

Oops. I think I incorrectly spelled "where he can safely reside away from books, bodies, and whatnot."

But I digress.

Step 1: Materials

  • object(s) in need of a shelf
  • cardstock (or other thick paper/material)
  • cardboard (savaged from boxes, etc.)
  • scissors
  • Adobe Photoshop (for my designing, at least)
  • pencil(s)
  • ruler
  • glue
  • 28 gauge silver-coated copper wire

NOTE: You can probably tell from these ingredients (fancy.. heh) that this shelf isn't bombproof. If you can't tell, allow me to inform you that this shelf isn't the sturdiest of all creations (fancier.. hehe). You probably won't want to balance a stack of books on this--just light objects, probably 1 pound max depending on your shelf's dimensions and any material substitutions.

Step 2: Measurements

Using a ruler, I measured out my desired length and width for the shelf's platform that Haku will be balancing on. Then I measured height for the back of the shelf.

length: 8.5"
width: 6.5"
height: 5"

Afterward, I used a scrap piece of paper with the platform's (just length and width) dimensions to make sure that Haku would fit on it with room to spare (just in case, you know? *wink*).

Step 3: Designing

See the pictures above for the dimensions for my pieces of paper (and below for an Adobe Photoshop file with layers for the different pieces). The basic design is like a shoebox, attached to the wall by the box's bottom (lid not used), with one long rectangular side cut off and two adjacent sides turned into triangles rather than rectangles.

You'll notice that I have gray- and black-colored designs; this is because I want to enfold cardboard with the gray pieces for stability and use the black pieces to cover up any cardboard that's showing and be the background of the shelf.

NOTE: I suggest that you read through the whole tutorial (pictures' notes included) before attempting it because I had some minor pitfalls in my version that you could avoid if you see what went wrong for me and fix the problems before they go wrong for you.

Step 4: Cutting and Folding

Now transfer the designs to paper. There's no real trick for this. Well, except that you should pretend that the trapezoids are actually rectangles instead; draw out the design that way and you'll see the design in grid-like formation. Then just clip the corners of the rectangles-that-should-be-trapezoids to get trapezoids.

For example, for the gray mainly-rectangular piece, mark a dot along the top and bottom edges at 0.5", 9+", and 9.5++". Connect corresponding dots on the top and bottom (so 0.5" dot on top with 0.5" dot on bottom, etc.) to get vertical lines. Along the left and right edges, mark a dot at 0.25", 6.75+", and 11.75++". Connect corresponding dots on the left and right edges to get horizontal lines. That should make up a grid, and now all you have to do is determine which rectangles you need and cut along their outlines before chopping of corners to get some trapezoidal flaps.

Next just fold along the lines that you should have transferred onto the paper in the grid.

To make folding thick paper easier, drag the tip of your scissors along the fold that you want to make (so put a ruler next to the fold and drag your scissors down) before pushing the paper up and against the ruler for a nice, even fold. That's called scoring before folding.

Step 5: Cardboard Inserts

Savage some cardboard from cereal boxes, pasta boxes, etc. for extra support. Chipboard would be best, but scavenging works too. :)

triangles (you need two mirror images): 6.5" by 5", cut along a diagonal to get two triangles
rectangle: 6.5" by 8"

My cardboard was thin so I glued three pieces together per triangle. The rectangular piece is the platform so I wanted it sturdier than the triangles. For that I used thicker cardboard from the backing of my cardstock paper pad. I just cut two rectangles out and glued them together: much thicker, much more reliable.

Now, I only have one rectangular cardboard insert, only for the bottom section/platform, because I need to use pins to pin the back of the shelf to the wall, and cardboard would prevent pins from going through. You can add extra cardboard if you want though; just be conscious of the possible pinning problems and/or change the hanging mechanism to that of a string-type method (so add a string loop to the back or something similar).

Step 6: Gluing Inserts

Apply glue on the inside of the gray pieces and place the corresponding pieces of cardboard on the glue-applied area. Don't fold down and glue the flaps yet. The cardboard (at least for me) is thick enough that the flaps won't fold over nicely so glue down the cardboard and make sure that it's secure before folding flaps down and gluing.

Once you've put cardboard on a glued region, put pressure on the whole piece with a book or two.

Step 7: Gluing Flaps

Now that the cardboard is securely attached, apply glue on the underside of the flaps and fold them over the cardboard.

Again, use a book or two to keep constant pressure on the pieces.

For the gray rectangular piece, fold down the flaps of the top part that doesn't have a cardboard insert and just use glue to keep them down. This is just to have a nice, folded edge for the backing.

Step 8: Adding Black Triangular Pieces

Apply glue on the underside of the black triangles and press them down on the corresponding gray triangular pieces. Make sure that the two sides of the black triangle with trapezoidal flaps are flush with the correct sides of the gray pieces (see the pictures above for what I mean).

Once the glue has dried, put glue on the underside of the large black trapezoidal tab that's on top of the large gray trapezoidal tab. Press the black flap onto the gray flap AND MAKE SURE THAT THESE FLAPS ARE AT A RIGHT ANGLE TO THE ADJACENT CARDBOARD INSERT (aka perpendicular). To make sure that the glue dries this way, sandwich the glued flaps between the pages of a book and prop up the cardboard part so it's perpendicular to the book (see the last picture above). Do this process for both triangular pieces.

Step 9: Wiring Down Haku

While waiting for drying, I worked on adding extra security so that Haku wouldn't easily get knocked off his august pedestal. This basically means tying down Haku, and you can do this too if the object you're putting on this shelf needs it.

To fasten down Haku, I used string for preliminary stringing as a stabilizer (You won't believe how HARD beginning with wire was -- it was difficult to maneuver around his limbs without risking damage to his majestic head and the natural kinks in the wire--GAAAHHHH.) before going in with wire.

I first put Haku on the black rectangular paper (the 6.5" by 8.5" bottom part) and marked out dots around his legs where I'd have loops tying down his toes. Then I grabbed a needle to make string loops for fastening his hind legs. Next I used my 28 gauge silver coated copper wire and went through the same holes to make wire loops -- much stronger than and sturdier than string. To finish off the ends, I twisted the two ends of the wire together before cutting it off my wire supply. With the hind legs wired down, I switched over and repeated the basic process for the forelegs. No string was required for the forelegs because the hind legs were secured, stabilizing everything.

To make the process easier, I balanced half of Haku on a windowsill so that I had access to the top and bottom of the paper below a pair of legs, making it easier to poke through holes.

Step 10: Connecting Triangular Pieces to Gray Rectangular Piece

My original plan was to put the flaps of the triangular pieces sandwiched between the gray and black rectangular pieces, but then I realized that the addition of cardboard inserts would throw the heights off (the bottom rectangular cardboard is thick enough that the triangular piece sticks out on the top of the shelf). I would suggest, when cutting out your triangles, that you make the height of 5" a bit smaller to account for this, because that original plan for sandwiching is more secure that what I did in the end.

To address that problem, I glued the lower trapezoidal tabs of the triangular pieces underneath the bottom rectangular cardboard and then the top trapezoidal flaps would go in front of the gray rectangular piece's top part.

Step 11: Adjustments to the Black Rectangular Piece

I purposely made the dimensions of the black rectangular piece in the jpg diagrams larger than you'll probably need so you'll need to do some minor readjustments.

The thing is, I made mine a bit too small (0.25", to be more precise..) because I forgot to account for the fact that the black rectangle is a continuous piece rather than two separate pieces glued to the top and bottom sections of the gray rectangular piece. For you, following my diagram, you'll probably have excess paper, and you can just put the black rectangular piece on the gray piece and trim to your heart's desire. For me, I had a section of cardboard that was clearly visible even with the black rectangle covering as much as possible. To work around that mistake, I added a bit of black lace that my aunt had (She has a dry cleaning and alterations business that I occasionally help out with, so I'm thankfully welcome to scraps.) before gluing on the bottom portion (with your object wired down if you did that) of the black rectangle.

Step 12: Finishing the Gluing

Apply glue on the backside of the shelf and press the last portion of the black rectangle against it. Be sure to brush out any air bubbles trapped between the layers; I idiotically forgot this and was left with a bumpy terrain on the backside of the shelf.

That's it! You can attach some string on the back and hang this shelf, but for my purposes I need to pierce through the back part of the shelf with tacks and attach it to the walls of my new home. In due time; I'll update the picture later to show you the completed, hanging result. ;)

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