How to Build a Wall Shelf

Build it before lunch—spray on the finish after dinner

This versatile cherry shelf goes together in a few hours, and with a quick-drying finish you can have it on the wall in a day. The extra-wide top makes it perfect for vases, antiques and collectibles.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

TIME

One day

COMPLEXITY

Simple

COST

$20 - $100

Building the shelf

Sure, you can buy a shelf similar to this one at a discount store, but you won’t be able to choose the size or finish. We designed ours with a wider top to hold vases and other collectibles, but you can make yours bigger or smaller. Plus, you can finish it to match your room. The shelf is versatile and goes together fast—it would make a great gift. We made our shelf from cherry, but you can also make it from oak or pine for about half the cost.

Tips for building the shelf

  • You’ll need a miter saw and a table saw for this project. A finish nailer isn’t necessary but is very helpful.
  • If you don’t have a finish nailer, drill pilot holes for the finish nails to avoid splitting the wood.
  • You can use scraps of less expensive lumber for the base (E) and cleats since these aren’t visible.
  • Glue the parts together. Because you can use fewer nails, you’ll have fewer nail holes to fill.

We finished this cherry shelf with a coat of American Walnut stain (test the color on a scrap) and three coats of spray satin lacquer. Photo 5 shows how to mount the cleat that supports the shelf. Then you just drop the shelf over the cleat to hang it on the wall.

Figure A: Shelf Details

The Cutting List gives finished lengths for the top, front, sides, cleats and bottom. You can cut these to the exact width and length listed and nail them together. The lengths listed for the 3/4-in. x 1-in. bands and the 3/4-in. cove moldings are oversized. You’ll mark these pieces in place for an exact fit (Photo 1).

A complete Cutting List and a Materials List are available in pdf format in Additional Information below.

Figure A: Shelf details
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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Miter saw
  • Air compressor
  • Air hose
  • Brad nail gun
  • Cordless drill
  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Countersink drill bit
  • Level
  • Orbital sander
  • Rags
  • Table saw
  • Wood glue

See Additional Information at the end of the Step-by-Step section.