Floating shelves are a great way to add visually interesting storage to your wall. They have a clean and simple design and can be kicked up a notch with interesting wood tones and grain patterns. Keep reading below and I’ll show you step by step how to build floating shelves as well as how to build the support brackets and install them. Come on!
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|Materials & Supplies*||Tools*|
|3/4″ Hardwood Limber (or 3/4″ plywood)||Parallel Clamps|
|Wood Glue||One Handed Clamps|
|4” Wood Screws||Dado Stack|
|Acid Brush (for glue)||Miter Saw|
|Cheap Glue Bottle||Table Saw|
|Black CA Glue||Laser Level|
|CA Glue Activator Spray|
*I use affiliate links, please see details on my disclaimer.
How to Build Floating Shelves
Floating shelves are really pretty easy. You can use plywood, pine or in my case solid walnut to suit whatever look and feel you’re going for. I’m starting with walnut boards that are S2R1, which means they are already surfaced flat on both sides and have one edge ripped straight. So no need for a planer or jointer!
At the table saw I need to rip down the boards that will make up the front face of the shelves as well as the top and bottom faces
Then I went ahead and trimmed everything to final length before moving on to cutting the joinery
I decided to use tongue and groove joinery for these shelves and the first thing I needed to do was cut a ¼” rabbet along each side of the boards that would become the top and bottom of the shelves. I threw my dado stack in the table saw to make these cuts in one pass. I set my fence so it was almost touching the blade and I could use the fence to reference off of.
Then I grabbed my miter gauge and continued the rabbet on to the two short sides so that I ended up with three edges that could fit into grooves.
After I cut all the rabbets on the top and bottom faces I just needed to cut the grooves in the front face of the shelf. I cut a groove along one edge and then flipped the board around and cut a matching groove on the other edge.
This will make it so the top and bottom of each shelf will sit in the grooves but still sit flush with the outside edge.
I actually made it so the outside edge is slightly proud and I can go back and plane it flush after the shelves are built.
Next I mark the center of each board and line them up in the grooves.
This allows me to mark where the edge of the top and bottom will be so I can cut the miters in the right place.
This for sure is the most nerve wracking part of the build. I always make sure to cut my miters long and then nibble away at them until They are exactly the right length because you cant put the material back if you cut them short.
Once I line everything back up in the grooves and check the fit I can take the two cutoffs and place the miter side up on my sled and cut a miter going the opposite way. If you line it up so the blade cuts right at the edge of the first miter then you’ll achieve that nice waterfall look.
Then I check the fit of each end to see how the miter turned out. Luckily, I got a tight fit and a nice looking miter.
Assembly was pretty easy, I just added a bead of glue to each groove and then added some glue to the miter joint.
I set the top and bottom in the grooves.
I then added the two ends and lined up the miters as best I could before adding the clamps.
The miters always move but using the tongue and groove joinery really limits this and allows me to get good clamping pressure and work the joints closed. I first work on clamping the two ends before going back and adding clamping pressure to make sure the top and bottom seat fully and flush with the front edge.
You can see how this draws the edge tight.
I just repeated that process for all four shelves and waited for the glue to dry.
Once out of the clamps my first focus is cleaning up the miters. The dried glue always gets in the way of being able to see the joint clearly and I want to know how tight those miters turned out! A few passes with 120 grit sandpaper will clean up all the mill marks from the face and take care of any dried glue stains.
Next I went over the top and bottom edges with a hand plane to get them flush with the surface.
After some hand planning fun I could move on to dealing with the final details.
I clip off the excess from the ends to make them flush with the back using the table saw.
I hit each shelf with 150 grit sandpaper and stop there because I’ll be finishing these with Rubio Monocoat pure.
Here’s another look at those sexy waterfall miters… mmmmmm yummy.
Before I applied finish I wanted to cut the brackets that will mount these to the wall.
Each one is made from a 2×4 cut to length with three shelf supports screwed into place.
You can see here how the support will nest into the shelf where it will be screwed into place once I install them.
OK now to finish these off I wanted to just break the edges with a hand plane. Not really create a chamfer, just enough so edges wouldn’t cut you or to remove any rough spots. I didn’t touch the waterfall edges though. I want those to stay crisp for the effect.
Then I wiped each shelf down with a microfiber cloth to remove any dust or debris before applying the finish.
And for these shelves I’m going to use Rubio Monocoat which is an oil/wax finish that is super easy to apply.
It comes in two parts that need to be mixed together in a 3 to 1 ratio and it doesn’t take very much at all to finish these shelves.
Just stir the two parts together and you’re ready to go.
To apply it I’m using a white applicator pad similar to a scotchbrite pad. I just load the pad with a little finish and work it into the wood going with the grain.
I take it section by section making sure to cover everything thoroughly.
After about 5 minutes I wipe off all the excess oil . You want to make sure all the excess is removed.
After locating three studs in the wall I install the first bracket using 3.5” screws with washers.
I then level the bracket and install the second and third screws
The laser level helps me visually keep everything in line.
It also allows me to visually see where the stud is that I marked.
Next I slide the floating shelf onto the bracket and drill two pilot holes into the bracket where I put two screws to hold the shelf in place.
One final check for level before we fasten the shelf to the bracket.
Drilling pilot holes is a great way to prevent splitting the wood!
I’m putting these screws on bottom because they wont be visible from above.
I just repeated that process for each of my four shelves and they’re all installed and looking great!