How to build a Live Edge Floating Shelf with Hand Cut Bow Tie Inlays

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Blog entry by BenhamDesign posted 01-13-2018 08:06 PM 616 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

For this project I take a walnut slab that has a rotten end, a ugly squared off chainsaw cut and a few large cracks, and sculpt it with some power carving, and and cut some bowtie inlays to turn it into a live edge floating shelf. I think it is some of the cooler woodworking art I have don in awhile

Read about how I created it below or watch it be built

A list of specialty tools I used in this build can be found on my personal blog

A Recount of the Video

So I had this slab of walnut laying around the shop for a while now and I finally decided I would make it into a floating shelf.

But it has a few challenges, this straight chainsaw cut from where a branch was cut off, and the end is fairly rotten. But is does have a few nice cracks that I’m going to feature with some hand inlayed ebony bow ties.

Of course the slab has a bit of a twist to it and it is too wide for my jointer so I am going to jig up and flatten it out with my router sled

Once I got it flat I sent it through the planer to flatten out the other side, then flipped it over to plane off the marks left from the router.

Once I got it flat I started to power carve off the straight chainsaw cut. To get an organic shape, I tried to think of it as water running off the edge eroding away the slab like it was stone.

My power carving method worked out pretty well to get a cool organic shape that I refined with a sander

For the end that had all the rotten wood I decided to just use a wire brush to remove any lose material, and then I would seal it up with finish when I got to that point

For the bowtie inlays I drew out a few different sizes on a piece of paper , then once I decided which ones I liked I glued the paper to the ebony and cut it out on the ban saw.

I used a chisel to clean off any saw marks left by the band saw and put a slight bevel on the back to help keep the fit tight when I inlay it.

I put some double stick tape on the back of the bowtie to help hold it in place while I trace around it with a razorblade. Then after that it is time to relax with a few sharp chisels and start chopping out the mortise for the bowtie.

I came in from both corners of the bow tie so I would overcut into the surrounding wood with the razor blade.

Once I got all the inlays done, it was time to cut it to size. I decided to cut it on an angle to make the end with the rotted wood a focal point, as if it was coming out of the wallvvc

So now the last thing left to do is apply a finish and install it. But of course the wall is not square

Since the shelf is going in a stairwell and I will be working off a ladder I decided it would be easier to scribe the shape of the wall onto template and then transfer the scribe to the walnut slab.

So I started using a compass to transfer the shape of the wall to the plywood.

Then used a belt sander to sand to my pencil line.

Did a test fit

Transferred the template to the walnut, and then back to the belt sander to sand it to fit to the shape of the wall.

Then checked it for square and used my block plane to square it up as needed

Now the hardware I am using needs to be installed pretty accurately so I taped some craft paper to the wall to mark the stud locations, then used the paper to transfer those locations to the slab.

Then I used a block of wood as a guide to be sure I was drill straight into the slab I wanted to be sure it would hang level

Then I chiseled out a space for mounting hardware

Then I created a story stick to help me locate the mounting hardware in the exact spots they need to be on the wall.

The final thing I did before hanging the shelf was to put a few counter sunk screws along the bottom edge. This will give me some lateral adjustment to level the shelf. If the shelf is tipping I can back the screw out to push the shelf level.

To locate the mounting hardware on the wall I tacked up my story stick using just a few brads so it would be easy to pull down with minimal holes in the wall to fill.

The story stick made it really easy to locate the mounting hardware on the wall, so all I had to do was add screws.

-- What I do in and out of the shop at

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