Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Building Wall Mounted Shelving

I came by a pair of simple wall mounted Shelves for Coughlin's room a few years ago. They were given to me by my sister when they redecorated the room of one of my nephews. We repainted them and mounted them on the wall, finding them to be very useful and reasonably attractive.

When we had Ilana, we found ourselves looking at similar shelves, but being shocked by the exorbitant price for shelves that were already built. Normally this is the time when we would turn to second hand stores in the area, but this type of shelf is not particularly common, unlike your run-of-the-mill bookcase made of particle board and veneer.

After shopping around and pricing out materials, we decided to build them instead. The list of materials are available at any hardware store and offers extreme simplicity.

Here are the materials I used to build two shelves:
- 4 Pine shelf brackets
- 2 Stair Risers (can be any rectangular peice of lumber)
- 1 smooth cut, 8' 1x3
- 1 Box #6 x 1-3/4" wood screws
- 1 Tube wood filler

The tool list is pretty short as well:
- Drill
- Countersink drill bit
- Screw driver
- Sandpaper or Sanding Block

You start by cutting the one peice of 1x3 into two sections. There is no set width or depth on the shelves, you can make them as big as you want, depending on what your local hardware store carries for supplies. In my case, I cut the 1x3's into 3' lengths, no other cutting was necessary since the stair risers were already 12x48 and the shelf brackets are pre-made.

Next, measure out and mark the locations that you need to drill pilot holes for your screws. All of these need to be drilled with a countersink bit so that your screw heads sink below the surface of the wood for filling and painting or staining. You can make them with the exposed screw heads, but they won't be smooth or as finished looking when you are done.

These are the screws that I used for this project:

It helps to have large C-clamps to hold the peices in place while you drill the initial pilot holes and put in the first screws. I attached the brackets to the 1x3 on my bench first, then I clamped the 1x3 (and newly attached brackets) vertically to the top of the shelf and attached it with wood screws. I used a little bit of wood glue with each screw to help hold it in place since there is no reason I would ever dismantle the shelves.

One screw through the top of what would become the shelf surface:

And the other through the side of the bracket into the 1x3 backing and mounting point:

You will notice in the picture of the top that I not only measured out the points of interest, but etched them on with pencil. When drilling pilot holes it is best to avoid guessing when you can be precise. If you are finishing these with stain, the pencil will easily sand off before you put the stain on.

Also, make a note of the saw-horses holding the shelf in place. The odd shape of these shelves makes them hard to build accurately on a bench alone. You will want something to hold the shelf up while you attach various parts.

Now that the shelf structure is built with approximately 8 screws (4 through the top into the 1x3 and another two for the bracket), it is time to drill the mounting holes through the 1x3 so that this can be mounted to the wall.

Here is one of the pilot holes, make sure you plan your structure pilot holes so that they won't interfere with your mounting pilot holes. I chose to use four mounting holes for added strength, but only two are truly necessary:

If you remember to drill the holes for wall-mounting at a measured spacing, it will make marking and mounting to the wall MUCH easier. I set them at 28" apart overall, with the inner holes at 10" from the outer holes. This means that when I mounted the shelves, all I had to do was take a yard stick and level, then mark off 0", 10", 18" and 28" on the wall.

Here is a shot of the mounting holes and the complete shelf:

Now that all of the pilot holes have been drilled, the screws have been put in and the structure has been finished, we need to put wood filler in to cover the exposed heads and make the countersink holes flush for painting or staining. DO NOT put wood filler in the wall-mount holes, unless you liked drilling them so much the first time that you thought you would do it again.

Here is the wood filler I used for this project, it's the same color as the wood so if stained it would not stand out. I planned on painting my shelves, however, so it only needed to fill in the holes.

You want to push the wood filler in with your finger to make sure it gets all the way into the space. The more surface area it holds to, the more even it will look. You also want to mound it up on top of the hole you are filling so that you can sand it down to a flush level, as I've shown in the picture below:

I used a sanding block to make the wood filler flush:

After sanding off the wood filler and rounding out some of the rough spots, I painted the shelves with  pints of mistint paint that we picked up. We had some leftover primer that we used first, then put a few top-coats on before hanging them on the wall.

Mounting them is fairly straight forward, you can either find a stud or use sheetrock anchors, or some mixture of both. In some cases a stud might not be available in a convenient location for mounting. You can take these things into consideration when you are choosing the spacing for your mounting holes, but I find that sheetrock anchors, installed properly, can hold plenty of weight.

Part of the reason that they can hold the weigh so well is that the brackets rest against the wall and give added support.

Here are the finished shelves, mounted on the wall and fully painted:


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