The Easiest Way To Build Wooden Shelves

The Easiest Way To Build Wooden Shelves

. 5 min read

Throughout recorded history, shelves have proven to be the best way of storing many things. By looking at the ancient village of Skara Brae, we can see that people have been building shelves since the dawn of civilization. Of course, those shelves were made of stacked rocks, but a wooden shelf is good enough for us. It may not last thousands of years, but it will last long enough for our needs.

The following is a simple DIY method for building wooden floating shelves by iirnTree. Feel free to modify the measurements if you want something a little bigger or smaller, but make sure you keep the proportions intact. This method is meant to produce a simple and functional shelf-nothing fancy, nothing complex.

Step One: Gather Your Materials

Obviously, you will need to gather some wood. You probably expected that, but bear in mind that it has to be the right kind of wood. You could throw a shelf together from standard plywood or thin particle board, but don't expect it to last very long! Many stores sell low-quality shelves made of low-quality pressed board, and most of them are ruined within a year or two.

For this project, we will assume you want a shelf that is worth the effort. That means solid wooden boards or high-quality particle boards. Although most particle boards are weak, some types are more than strong enough for a wooden shelf. When making this choice, you have to consider the pros and cons.

Particle Board:


  • Lighter material
  • Lighter boards can be thicker
  • Cheaper
  • Easier to drill, screw, or hammer
  • Less risk of injury if it collapses
  • Visual ugliness can be fixed with paint


  • Very vulnerable to moisture damage
  • Much easier to break in general
  • Shelves tend to warp over time
  • Can't handle as much weight

Solid Wood:


  • Much stronger
  • Much more visually attractive
  • Can hold a lot more weight
  • Not as prone to warping
  • Easier to disassemble and reassemble without problems
  • Will last a lot longer


  • Much heavier
  • Heavier boards can't be as thick
  • More expensive
  • Requires sealing/clear coat for best results
  • Harder to drill, screw, or hammer

You are going to need 4-5 large flat pieces of wood. Two of those pieces must be 6-7 feet long. Each of the long pieces will need to have a width of at least 1.5 feet. For reference, our shelf is going to have a height of six feet, a width of 3 feet, a depth of 1.5 feet, and three shelves. The backing piece will be a thinner piece of wood (6 ft X 3 ft). Plan and buy accordingly. You will also need 12 shelf pegs as well as some small and medium wood screws. If you want this shelf to hold a lot of weight, you should get 8 steel L-brackets to brace the corners. Glue is another option if you want added strength. Paint, clear coat, and/or wood sealer must also be acquired.

As for tools, you will need a good saw (preferably an electric circular saw), a drill, a screwdriver, measuring tape, a small wood rasp (or some sandpaper), and brushes for the paint and other coatings.

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Step Two: Cut your Pieces to Size

Using a circular power saw, cut your wood into the following pieces:

  • Piece 1: 6 feet long, 1.5 feet wide (long side right)
  • Piece 2: 6 feet long, 1.5 feet wide (long side left)
  • Piece 3: 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide (top)
  • Piece 4: 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide (bottom)
  • Piece 5: 6 feet wide, 3 feet long (thin wood) (back)
  • Pieces 6, 7, and 8: 3 feet long, 1.5 feet wide (shelves)

Once you're done, take your wood rasp and/or sandpaper and remove any rough edges or splinters that may be present. Get everything nice and smooth.

The last part of this step is to trim the shelves and bottom down. They have to fit inside the "box," so you need to trim a little bit from the edges of each one. How much? That depends on how thick your sideboards might be. For instance, if your sideboards are 1/2-inch thick, you will need to trim 1 inch from the short sides of all your shelves and your bottom piece. The numbers are doubled so that you can make one cut instead of two.

Step Three: Assemble the "Box"

Start by taking your long side pieces and laying them lengthwise on the ground. Put your top and bottom planks in place to create a simple "box" shape. Now use your wood screws and/or the steel brackets to put it all together. The top should sit on the side planks like a cap, while the bottom should be sandwiched between the side planks. If you are using the brackets, use two for each corner and space them evenly. Put the medium wood screws through the top and into the side planks, using two for each side. Put two more screws through each side plank and into the bottom (four screws total).

Step Four: Complete the Build

Now that your "box" is prepared, you must secure it in place by adding the back piece. Lay it over your structure and use some small screws to fasten it in place. Take your time and make sure to aim correctly. It helps if you get the corners first.

When that's done, you can stand the whole thing up. Shake it just a little to confirm that it is strong enough, then you can drill the holes for your shelf pegs. Use your measuring tape to plot the holes before you drill, or your shelf will end up looking like Swiss cheese. Also, remember that you are not drilling all the way through here. These are very shallow holes, so wrap a bunch of electrical tape around your drill bit to keep yourself from going too deep. This will also keep the holes at a uniform depth. When that's done, simply insert your shelf pegs and add the shelf pieces.

Conclusion: The Finishing Touches

All that is left to do is add paint, coatings, and any decorations you might want to add. Since you've gone this far, you might as well get creative and make it even nicer. We hope this article has given you all the knowledge you need to build a true masterpiece.


Part of the expertEasy writing team, Laura is from the UK and has a keen interest in Business, interior design and decor, home improvement and thriftiness in all things around the house and garden.

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