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Building A Wooden Shelf: Step-by-Step Guide

Building A Wooden Shelf

Choose your shelving board. Select a shelving board according to personal preference, your budget and the way in which the shelving complements your décor. There are a wide variety of potential boards to use. 

  • Softwood boards: These are easy to have cut to the desired length and can hold many items, including heavy books.
  • Plywood boards: This is made up of layered flat boards. The surface is often made to imitate a wood finish or it can be laminated.
  • Particleboard or chipboard shelves: Made from wood chips glued together under pressure, these are common shelving boards that are lightweight, affordable and easy to find. It is best to get these cut professionally, as the makeup of the boards can blunt cutting tools.
  • Blockboard shelves: These are stronger than chipboard and are suitable for heavy duty items, like tools and appliances kept in the garage.
  • Pre-made and pre-sized shelving boards: These are traditionally part of a kit and will often be made for adjustable shelves. The instructions for putting these together should always be included; if not, call the retailer or manufacturer.

Select the shelf support according to the style of shelf. In some cases supports are hidden but a shelf will always require a support of some type. 

  • Wood strips: Simple but effective, wood strips or blocks can be used to keep shelves in place. A strip of wood used at both ends of shelving is known as a cleat support. It can be neatened by nailing a piece of wood across the front shelf to hide the side cleats.
  • Metal strips: Available from hardware stores, these can be used as shelf supports. They aren't that pretty, so they may be best for hardware storage in the garage or cupboards.
  • Brackets: Typically L-shaped, these can be fancy or plain. They are simple to use and are usually good for a variety of shelves. Some brackets are so fancy that they can enhance your décor but they will usually cost a lot more than plainer

Choose a shelf board. Cut it to the length required if it's not already done 

Hold a bracket against the wall where you want the shelf to sit. Mark the position with a pencil. Use a tape measure to mark the position of the other bracket at the opposite side. 

Drill the first bracket's hole (or holes) into the wall over the marks you've made. Always check for electrical wiring or plumbing before drilling. It's also wise to place a drop sheet on the floor to make it easier to collect the drill dust. 

  • Use a masonry drill bit.
  • Drill to the depth that the screw requires to penetrate the wall sufficiently.
  • Insert a wall plug.

Hold the bracket in place. Attach the screw (or screws) by screwing them in as far as they will go 

Place the shelf board onto the brackets. Hold the board in place with one hand. Then, using a spirit level, hold the board across to the other mark you made earlier to check that the board will be sitting evenly. If the mark appears accurate, it's ready, if not, make adjustments as required. 

Drill the second bracket hole (or holes). Follow the directions given for the first bracket. 

Attach the shelf board to the brackets. Lay the board across the brackets and screw it to them from the underside. Be sure to use screws that will not penetrate through to the other side of the board; they must remain wholly inside the shelf board. 

Pick up the drop sheet and discard the drilling dust. Gently press on the shelf to check that it is firmly attached to the wall. 

Add your ornaments, books or other display objects to the new shelf. Make sure that your shelf can bear the weight of heavier objects and don't put something valuable on your home-made shelf until you know that it's secure. 

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