Quick Shelf

Long time no see. This week has been really weird with a Monday holiday, Wednesday snow day, sick Thursday, etc. So I needed a little recovering from everything and, thus, a late post has happened. Let’s get to business.

What’s better than table? A shelf; just a whole lot more horizontal space to clutter. I recently moved my room around and, somehow, I ended up with less shelf space than I had before. That and I added the last four boxes of things I kept at my parents house to my immediate collection. I needed something quick, cheap, and fairly easy to put together. With a little elbow grease and foot splinters, a shelf was born. The shelf we’re making is partially modular. I wanted the option to add on to the shelf later down the line by adding another on top of this one and adding sliding doors to the front. You can do whatever other mods you’d like to this. The base shelf is 45″ tall, about 2′ wide, and the shelves are 15″ deep.

The most important thing to know about any type of furniture/shelving/woodworking projects is that you need to make the object to your space. If you want the depth of a shelf to be smaller or there to be more shelves, then do it! All of my projects are made for me. Likewise, all of your projects should be made for you. Feel free to experiment!


Four 96″ 2×4″ studs
Two 96″ 1×2″ pine strips
One 7/8″ 2×4′ pine ply (you can use any thickness ply, but this shelf needed the potential to hold a fair amount of weight)
Kregg jig (optional)
A bunch of screws (I’ll let you decide which ones to use.)
Some nails
Circular saw
Speed square

First Cuts

It’s been hella cold recently, in the 10s, so I spent about 3 hours cutting all my wood outside before bringing it inside for assembly. I highly suggest you measure all your cuts out on the wood before cutting so you can limit the amount of scrap leftover. There’s nothing worse than realizing if you had switched two or three cuts, you wouldn’t have to make another trip to the wood store. The final cuts you need are as follows:

(2×4″ studs) = four 45″, legs
(2×4″ studs) = six 8″, side legs bracing
(2×4″ studs) = one 23 3/8″, front legs bracing
(2×4″ studs) = one 26″, rear legs bracing

(plywood) = three 15″ x 24″, shelf tops

(1×2″ pine strips) = twelve 12″, shelving bottoms
(1×2″ pine strips) = six 24″, shelving bottoms

Once you get that wood cut, stack and measure the thickness of a piece of plywood and one 1×2″ pine strip piece, wide side down. This measurement will the the height of a completed shelf and will inform the height of your shelf dados.

The blue line is where you will add the front bracing later (it really only applies to two of the legs). The red is where you make the dado cuts. If you wanted, you could add marks for your leg side leg bracing right now. That would ensure an easier alignment down the road.

Line up all of your legs, widest side down, so that the ends line up perfectly. Clamp them together, or at the very least make sure they aren’t going anywhere. Measure out the vertical spacing of everything on your legs, taking into consideration the width of your wood and the width of the shelves.

Measure twice, cut once. I wanted four inches of space from the bottom of the legs to the bottom of the first shelf. I did not take into consideration the bracing I needed to add just under the first shelf to tie the two sides of the self together. Now I only have two inches to the bottom of the shelf.

The image can explain better, but measure four inches from the bottom to the bracing. Mark the width of a 2×4″ stud. Mark the completed height of a shelf. Mark 13″ from the top of the first shelf to the bottom of the second shelf. Mark the completed height of a shelf. Mark 13″ from the top of the second shelf to the bottom of the third shelf. Use your speed square to transfer those marks across all your legs.

Set the depth of your circular saw to .5″. Using your circular saw, cut the inside of the left and right side of the dado. This will insure that your dados are all the same height. Then use your circular saw to remove the inside of the dado with thin cuts. Use a chisel and hammer to clean up the dados.

Shelf Tops

This is the support for the shelf. The red lines indicate a screw connection.

Take two long pine strips and three shorter pine strips. These will give support to the plywood. Butt the end grain of two short ones to the ends of the face of the two long pine strips. Using the Kregg jig–or just some screws, up to you–join the short and long pieces together. The third piece of pine strip can be inserted and screwed in the middle of the box we just made to keep the middle of the long pieces from flexing too much. Now, butt the long side of the box we just made to the long end of the plywood. Make sure the sides of both pieces line up. There should be an overhang of the plywood. Remember, the plywood is about 15″ and the box we just made is about 14″. Screw, nail, or glue the plywood to the box. Now repeat for the other two shelves.

NOTE: You might need to bevel the short edges of the shelves after construction to slide them into the dados, especially if you don’t make your dados all the same size or are building on carpet, like I was.

Shelf structure

This was tricky for me because I did my construction on uneven, plush carpet. Do your best to make sure the ends of your legs are inline with each other and you shouldn’t have too many problems in the end. Measure an inch above the tops of all the dados and make a mark, using your speed square to make sure it is straight and perpendicular to the edge of the legs. This is the bottom mark for the 8″ 2×4 leg bracing. Using the Kregg jig, regular screws toenailed in, or screws all the way through the legs, join the bracing to two legs at a time.

Slide in two shelves to the top and bottom dados and lay the shelving unit wide and long side down. This will help you make sure you are fairly square when tying the left and right leg sets together. Again, make sure the ends of the legs are as aligned as possible. Then take the 26″ rear bracing piece and attach it to the back, right on top of the middle dado.

Flip the shelf over carefully and screw the 23 3/8″ front bracing directly under the bottom shelf.


Slide the middle shelf into place. You’re all done with what I’ve done. Now, some thoughts on additions.

ASAP, I want to add more bracing to the back. One piece is fine if you’re not moving it, but it really doesn’t have a lot of racking strength.

I’m going to, at some point, use some thin, 5mm plywood to make sliding doors for the shelves. I’ll cut channels into the overhang of the shelf plywood to nestle the thin plywood into and use some wax to help the sliding.

I might want to add another one of these on top of the existing one. I would just drill a hole into the middle of the legs about 2″ down (top of the bottom unit and bottom of the top unit) and some metal dowels to secure them in place.

I hope that made sense and you’ve got some great ideas to what your end use scenario is. Building is so variable! Experiment, have fun, and make things you want, need, and will use. Peace.

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