Here are tips and suggestions on how to build attractive shelving
that's also functional. Read them carefully to help save you time, money and effort.
Inside this document you will find information about:
- Adjustable and Non-adjustable Wood Shelving
- Designing Adjustable Wood Shelves
- Metal and Wood Brackets for Adjustable Shelves
FIG. 1 - You can make
basic, non-adjustable shelving from solid boards of many sizes and widths.
FIG. 2 - Small cleats
make supports for non-adjustable shelves.
FIG. 3 - The way the
nails are driven affects the strength of a shelf bracket.
FIG. 4 - Larger cleats
provide stronger supports for shelves that must carry heavy loads.
ADJUSTABLE AND NON-ADJUSTABLE
- Additional shelving is useful in almost every home and can be added quickly
and easily. And it need not be expensive.
- Consider adding shelves in your basement, attic, kitchen and other
areas to help keep stored materials much neater and to save time when
looking for stored items.
- You can make basic, non-adjustable shelving from solid boards of almost
any size or width (Fig. 1). Such shelving is easy to make and provides
adequate support for normal storage and shelving needs.
- The disadvantage of non-adjustable shelving is that some stored objects
may be too tall or short, thus wasting space on the shelving you construct.
- You can overcome this problem by making shelves for tall objects and other
shelves for short objects. Give a little thought to the materials you
plan to store so you can design the shelves to minimize wasted space.
- Non-adjustable shelving is normally used in closets, attics, basements,
work areas, etc., where appearance and adjustability are not very important.
These shelves can be nailed together with support pieces to provide
the structural strength required.
- Small cleats can provide the needed support for other types of non-adjustable
shelves (Fig. 2). These shelves can be made as wide or as long as necessary.
- Wood shelving of this type should have supports every 3'. If the shelving
will hold extremely heavy loads, use supports as frequently as every
- Use extreme care when nailing the cleats onto the side boards. Use a T-square
or a level to make sure the shelves are in the proper position and are
evenly spaced at all points.
- The way in which you drive the nails will increase or decrease the ability
of the shelves to carry heavy loads (Fig. 3).
- For example, nails driven at an upward angle are likely to pull out when
a heavy load is placed on them.
- If the nails are driven straight into the supporting wall, the cleat has
a fair supporting strength. However, nails driven at a downward angle
greatly increase the ability of the cleat to carry a heavy load. Keep
this in mind when nailing cleats for supporting shelves.
- Wider cleats, as shown in Fig. 4, provide a great deal of structural strength.
They also make it possible for the shelves to be moved in and out as
- If you are designing shelves to carry extremely heavy loads, use wide cleats and nail them firmly into position.
FIG. 5 - Dado cuts
can be inserted at any desired spacing.
FIG. 6 - A concealed
dado cut makes a neater joint.
FIG. 7 - A pinned
joint adds strength to a shelf support.
FIG. 8 - Cuts made
at 90-degree and 45-degree angles provide a nice arrangement for simple
FIG. 9 - You can cut
notches continuously to provide a shelf adjustment about every 1".
FIG. 10 - A 1x4 board
can be bored and split to form a bracket for adjustable shelving.
FIG. 11 - A split
1x4 forms brackets that can be attached to the wall for shelf support.
FIG. 12 - You can
use the same brackets for deep-set, sliding shelves in closets.
- Use a simple dado cut in the side support for adjustable wood shelves.
Dado cuts can be inserted at any desired spacing to provide as many
adjustments as you need.
- You can also use dado cuts for permanent non-adjustable shelving.
For adjustable shelving, the dado cuts must be relatively deep. For
permanent shelving, the cuts can be shallow.
- The dado cut shown in Fig. 5 is visible from the front of the shelf.
If this is objectionable, make a concealed dado cut for a neater, less
conspicuous shelf joint (Fig. 6).
- Again, use a dado cut for either adjustable or non-adjustable shelving.
An adjustable shelf requires a deeper concealed dado cut. The shelf
is notched in the front for concealing the dado cut.
- A pinned joint provides structural strength for long lengths of shelving
(Fig. 7). The supporting piece can be inserted or removed as required.
- You can create another type of adjustable shelving by making cuts at 90-degree
and 45-degree angles (Fig. 8). The shelf can then be cut to the same
45-degree angle and fitted into the sawed slots.
- This type of shelving is not designed to carry extremely heavy loads. The
45-degree cut in the end of the shelf slightly weakens the supporting
strength of the shelf.
- Fig. 9 shows a modified version of the 90-degree and 45-degree angle cuts
for adjustable shelving. Cut the notches continuously to provide a shelf
adjustment about every 1".
- If the shelving notches are carefully cut, they create quite a pleasing
effect. You can insert box units to improve both the appearance and
the function of the adjustable shelves.
- Another design for adjustable shelves requires a 1x4 board of the
desired length for the base (Fig. 10).
- First, drill holes at the desired intervals. You can usually use holes
of 3/4" bored at 3/4" intervals.
- When all holes are drilled into the 1x4 piece of wood, split the wood
down the middle and mount it to provide end supports for the shelves
- Each 1x4, when drilled and split, makes two shelf supports or adequate
supports for one end of the shelf.
- You must drill two identical 1x4s to make supports for both ends of
each shelf. Be sure to drill the holes in exactly the same positions
and at the same spacing intervals so they match when affixed at each
end of the shelf.
- Once the 1x4 has been drilled and split, carefully sand and finish
it for a neat appearance.
- Use this same treatment for making deep, sliding shelves for linens or
other storage in closets (Fig. 12). These shelves are inserted with
the long measurement going into the closet rather than spanning the
- The end of each shelf must be rounded and sanded to fit into the curved areas of the shelf supports.
FIG. 13 - Special
brackets that fit into drilled holes make good supports for light shelves.
FIG. 14 - Dowels can
also be used as light shelf supports.
FIG. 15 - A special
flush-type shelf bracket fits into grooves to provide neatness and flexibility.
FIG. 16 - Shelf brackets
and standards are the most widely used for wall shelves.
METAL AND WOOD BRACKETS FOR
- Most adjustable shelves are supported by metal brackets. These brackets
are inexpensive and much easier to use than most wooden supports.
- Special brackets that fit into drilled holes make good supports for light
shelving (Fig. 13).
- Drill holes into the supporting walls of the shelf at the desired spacing
intervals. Then, slip the bracket into the hole and lay the shelf on
the two supporting brackets.
- These brackets can be adjusted upward or downward to make room for large
or small items. Although easy to handle, use these brackets only for
supporting light storage loads.
- You can use simple dowel pins instead of metal brackets to make adjustable shelves (Fig. 14).
- Insert the dowel pins in the drilled holes. They can be inserted or removed
to adjust the shelving up or down quickly and easily.
- Dowel pins are easy to use, but they do not support heavy loads and
they tend to wear or give way under extended use. Metal shelf brackets
- A special flush-type shelf bracket is fitted into grooves for extreme neatness
and flexibility (Fig. 15).
- This shelving bracket provides more than sufficient structural strength
for normal storage purposes. It is inexpensive, very effective and easy
- For mounting grooved shelving brackets of this type, use a dado cut for
each bracket in the supporting end of the shelf.
- The regular shelf bracket and standard is perhaps the most widely used
shelf support (Fig. 16). Readily available from many sources, it is
easy to install and neat in appearance.
- The shelf standard and bracket makes it easy to build shelves quickly and to remove them when they are no longer needed.
Check your state and local codes before starting any project.
Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished
by the National Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors.
Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor
nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from
the use of the information in this document.