How to build a floating shelf




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Floating shelves are easy to assemble, and by attaching directly to the wall, they provide a clean, professional look that can be versatile in any space.

Our design (shown below) is easy to build and install. He also forgives small inaccuracies in construction and installation. Unlike other methods, like drilling holes in wall studs and using metal bars or dowels to install shelves, this design requires less precision, but still provides a professional-looking result.

These tools will help you

    Plans and materials

    floating shelving plans

    Gabriel Silveira

    💡 Before you start: This shelf is basically a hollow box mounted on a bracket screwed into the wall. The sides are 2×4, while the top and bottom are ¼ “plywood. A standard 2×4 is about 3 ½” wide, so this shelf ends up being 3 ½ “thick. If you want a shelf thinner, you can rip your 2×4 to whatever thickness you prefer.

    Cut your 2×4

    You can customize the length and depth of your shelving unit to suit your needs to suit your space. However, this design works best for shelves under 24 inches. long and 6 inches. Deep. My shelf is 22 inches. long and 6 inches. deep, so I needed two 6 inch side pieces. long and 22 ” front. long. This adds about 34 inches. of plank length. I cut a 40 inch. disassemble my 2×4 to give me leeway to make exact cuts later.

    Cut rebates in your 2×4

    Before cutting the shelf pieces to their exact length, cut a notch or rebate in the top and bottom of the 2×4 to accommodate your plywood, i.e. 1⁄4 ”. for 1⁄4-in. plywood.

    You can do this using a router with a rabbet cutter, or you can make two cuts on a table saw like I did: Set the height of the blade to the thickness of the plywood you use. In this case, it was 1in4-in. Then set the rip fence to about 3 about 4 in. of the blade.

    Pass the 2×4 board through to make the first cut at the top and bottom. Check that your cut is the same depth as the thickness of your plywood and adjust as needed.

    Next, lay your 2×4 flat on the table and adjust the height of the table saw blade to about 3⁄4 inches. so that it reaches the cut on the edge of the board. Adjust the rip fence so the blade runs all the way down the bottom of the first cut.

    ⚠️ Stand slightly to the left of the blade, so that if the chute is pinched, it does not hit you.

    Pass the board on each side to create the rabbet at the top and bottom. Check that your plywood fits this rebate and repeat any cuts necessary to adjust it.

    Cut and assemble the frame

    After the rebates are cut, adjust the miter angle of your miter saw to 45 degrees. Cut two pieces for the sides of the 6 ” shelf. long (or whatever depth you determined for your shelf) with a square end and a mitered end. Make sure the rabbets are on the shorter side for all of these miter cuts.

    Next, cut a front piece with 45-degree mitered ends not parallel to each other at 22 inches. long (or the length of your shelf).

    I put the pieces together with wood glue and painter’s tape at the mitered corners. For more support, you can also use wood screws or pull a few nails. Let the glue dry completely.

    Cut and fix the plywood

    Measure the inside of the rebate notches and cut two pieces of plywood to fit. In this case, my plywood was 5¼-in. x 20½ in.

    Apply wood glue along the rebates and place the plywood inside. Secure the plywood until the glue dries with a few finishing nails.

    Putty and sand as needed, and apply a finish as desired. I primed and painted this shelving unit in satin black (color: SW Black Magic), but an oil-based wood stain would also be perfect for this.

    Cut and install the bracket

    Measure the opening on the inside of the back of the hollow shelving box. Cut a piece of 2×4 to 1⁄8-in. smaller in width and depth than the opening to allow some leeway so that the box can slide over this part when installed in the wall.

    Screw this piece into two wall studs – or at least one stud and one wall anchor – with 2 ½ ”. to 3 inches. wood screws, checking alignment with a level.

    Install the shelf

    Slide the shelf onto the installed bracket and use a 2 ½ ”torque. wood screws on each side to secure it in place.

    Then add your favorite items to display.



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