As we mentioned before, the shelves we decided to go with in the living room are similar to Pottery Barn’s picture ledge shelves. After taking a quick look at these, we decided that it wouldn’t take much to pull them together and after making several of them, I’m convinced anyone with some lumber and a few tools can do the same.
We chose to make 4 shelves, hanging them in pairs on either side of the television. All of our shelves needed to be 4′ wide, and about 4″ deep. Based on that, we were able to piece them together using 1×4’s (back and bottom) and 1×2’s (front lip).
1 – Plan Your Project
With any project, it’s always a good idea to do some up front planning before doing any of the actual cutting and building. Some projects can be sketched out with pencil and paper, but even better than that is SketchUp. SketchUp is a free modeling tool that is great for architectural diagrams and woodworking. Here are the quick models we created in less than 10 minutes using SketchUp.
Once we had our plans drawn up, we created our list of what we needed, and then it was off to Home Depot before heading down to the workshop to knock these out.
- 4 – 1×4, 8ft
- 2 – 1×2, 8ft
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws (used for attaching back to bottom)
- 1″ Finishing Nails (used for attaching lip)
- Wood Glue
- Kreg Jig
- Miter Saw
2 – Selecting Good Lumber
Projects go much smoother if you start with good lumber. Not all boards are created equal, so taking the time to carefully examine each one is important. Before we load any lumber onto our cart, we hold it up, look down the the length of the board and ask ourselves:
- Is this board bowed? A bowed board will rock from end to end when placed on its face.
- Is the board cupped? A cupped board will rock from edge to edge when placed on its face.
- Is the board crooked? A crooked board will rock from end to tend when placed on its edge.
Check out this article for more on dealing with wood defects.
Other things to consider when picking through the lumber are the number of knots (especially if using a lot of pine) and the color and/or grain of the wood (if you’re planning to stain it).
3 – Cutting the Boards
Once we made it home with our materials, the next step was making the cuts. For this project, all of our cuts were made with a miter saw. If you do not have a miter saw or another saw handy, Home Depot does a great job cutting your wood for you.
To make our four 4′ shelves, we took the 8′ 1×4’s and cut them in half. Then we did the same thing with the 1×2’s. At the end, you should have 12 pieces of material:
- 4 back panels (48″ 1×4)
- 4 bottom panels (48″ 1×4)
- 4 front lips (48″ 1×2)
I always double check at this point to make sure every piece is the same length. If there are any variations, trim the longer pieces to match the shorter one, otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time sanding the edges later, or the edges won’t be as clean as you’d like.
4 – Preparing for Assembly
There are numerous ways you can assemble your shelves, but I’ve come to prefer using Kreg Jig more often than not. Its quick, easy, and holds stuff together pretty well.
I chose to put the pocket holes in the back panel pieces so that any imperfections with the shelves would be against the wall and hidden. I drilled 4 pairs of pocket holes in each 48″ back panel.
Now, to attach the front lip, I could have drilled more pocket holes in the bottom panel, but that would have meant filling and sanding 8 more holes. Instead, I opted for attaching the front lip with the nail gun and finishing nails. Seeing as how the lip of the shelf isn’t going to be under any pressure, the nail gun seemed to be the easiest option.
5 – Putting It All Together
With all the panels cut and pocket holes drilled, the hardest part of this project is complete. You can choose to attach the panels in any order, it shouldn’t really matter. Whichever you decide, be sure to apply wood glue to each panel before joining. I am a big fan of using clamps, and the more you have available, the easier these types of projects will be.
I use my corner clamps all the time, and it made nailing the front lip to the bottom panel a cinch.
The other clamps that I don’t go too many days without using are my Irwin Quick Grips. You can usually find these, or sets of clamps similar to these on sale pretty regularly. Considering you can use them for just about everything, there’s no reason not to have a few. I used them here, in addition to the corner clamps, for ensuring a tight fit between the back and bottom panels.
You can check out Brianne’s post in you’re interested in how we finished our shelves.