How to Build a Simple Shelf

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  September 20, 2011 — 5 Comments

It’s amazing that when I go googling around for this sort of thing, I can’t find a tutorial for building a plain, simple shelf. I guess maybe it’s just one of those things you should be able to figure out on your own. Well, let me just tell you people, it took me about six months to figure it out. But I’m here to make sure that the next person who googles “how to build simple shelf” doesn’t come up empty-handed.

I got myself some of these shelf brackets at Lowe’s (about $6 each for the 9×11 variety).


Then some boards–a 1″x10″x4′ and a 1×12″x4. Actually this is what I would have done in a perfect world, but I was trying to make use of some boards I already had lying around so the dimensions are slightly different. Ignore that.

My brackets had some little holes on the back for hanging. If you want to you can just use one board, attach it to the top of your brackets, and hang the whole operation on the wall using those little holes. But I wanted my shelf to double as a place to mount hooks, so I used two boards (one behind the brackets and one on top of them).

I started by tracing in pencil where the brackets would go and marking what I thought would be the best spots for screws (I had to avoid the metal hanging apparatus and the skinny areas near the tips of the brackets). Then I used my drill to make some pilot holes on the boards. Ignore that pilot hole all the way in the top left. That one would’ve gone straight into the hangy-thing.

I used a clamp to hold the bracket in place on the board, then drilled a hole through the board and into the bracket.

I got fancy here and tried something I’d never done before–countersinking my screws. All that means is that after I drilled my pilot hole, I broke out the big ol’ 1/4″ drill bit and used it to drill just a little ways into the hole, making room for the head of the screw to sit down in the wood instead of sticking out of the top.

I repeated the process at the other end of the board, then flipped things over to attach the second board, the one that would actually work as a shelf, to the tops of the brackets in the same way.

I’m not really so great with attention to detail and am not skilled in the finer points of craftsladyship, so this shelf is sorely lacking in departments like having edges that line up nicely. If I didn’t hate using a saw more than pulling my own teeth out with a pair of pliers I would have just trimmed things down to line up properly. And if I had a power sander I would have spent however long it took to get everything nice and flush. But, hating saws and lacking a power sander, I settled for what seemed like a reasonable solution: spackle.

I used some spackle to create (irregular) curves where there had been harsh corners, and to give the illusion of solid wood where there were glaring gaps. While I was at it, I covered up those screws sitting in their cozy little holes. God bless spackle.

And with that, this lady is ready for paint. So, party people, who’s been reading closely lately? Can you guess where this soon-to-be-lovely shelf is going to go? It may not look like much now, but you just wait. I’ve got a vision.

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


5 responses to How to Build a Simple Shelf

  1. Thanks :) Can’t wait to try this

  2. TheNewMrsNorton April 26, 2013 at 6:56 am

    This is a life saver! I’ve been looking here across the water in the UK for a beautiful white unit for my small hallway and cannot find anything for less than £120.00 (What a rip off!)I’m off to the DIY shops this weekend. Great article! Cant wait to have some storage finally! Thanks again, Mrs N

  3. Thank you for posting this! I have been searching for DIY instructions but couldn’t find one as helpful as this! My approach is similar to yours too — use spackle instead of a saw.

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