Supporting "floating" shelves

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Forum topic by TravHale posted 02-14-2014 05:15 AM 4073 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 1585 days

02-14-2014 05:15 AM

I’m new here, and more importantly, new to wood working. As such I’ve started this hobby using reclaimed wood. I want to build a rustic shelf to display some older tools and such (it may also double as a bourbon/scotch bar). I’ve already got the back of the shelf assembled, but i’m struggling with the best way to attach the shelves.

I’ve decided that I want them (the shelves) to look free and floating, however, if they are going to sit on supports, I want those supports to be very minimalistic and fit the rustic/simple theme. Some other options i’ve considered are large screws/bolts and wooden pegs to support the shelves.

Here is a pic of it held entirely together by clamps, what do you guys suggest?

Looks like the image gets cut off when posting here.

here is a link:

6 replies so far

View Buckeyes85's profile


125 posts in 1710 days

#1 posted 02-14-2014 12:51 PM

a couple thoughts.
1) you could run long screws into the shelves from the back.
2) use kreg jig and screw in pocket holes from the underside.
3) take more of the material that is the “spine” holding the shelves and stack it in between the shelves so it forms something like a dado.
4) some combination of the above.
as long as you are not putting a lot of weight on them you shouldnt need this to be bomb-proof.
hope this helps.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15366 posts in 2640 days

#2 posted 02-14-2014 12:57 PM

I think you ought to take that right-most block plane off the shelf, sharpen it, and put it back to work.

Notching out the shelf boards to ‘surround’ the stiles will give you more glue surface and, if the joinery is tight, will also lend support for screws or dowels or whatever mechanical fasteners are added from the back.

It’s a good looking unit!

(Just save that block plane from oblivion, okay? :-) )

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View TravHale's profile


7 posts in 1585 days

#3 posted 02-15-2014 04:41 PM

Thank you for the suggestions. I believe I decided on using supports under the shelves, something like a few old files (cut down) or weathered drill bits/large nails. The reason being that there is 1/2in of space between the shelf boards and the back caused by the vertical boards, and i want the supports to extend from these boards. I also have some nice oak pallet wood that I could carve the supports from.

And about the block planes… I found these in my grandfathers shed, and I have been putting them to use. The one of the far right that you speak of has some rust damage to the “thoat” that the blade sits on, however, it doesn’t seem to effect its performance—I just need to learn how to sharpen them correctly.

View a1Jim's profile


117114 posts in 3599 days

#4 posted 02-15-2014 04:55 PM

You can use french cleats.

or floating shelf brackets

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View bigblockyeti's profile


5134 posts in 1743 days

#5 posted 02-15-2014 05:03 PM

I struggled with this extensively with some that I made. I ended up using a 1 1/8” x 3/16” steel bar with 1/2” holes drilled and steel dowels pressed and welded in. This base was attached to the wall with #12×3” wood screws into the studs. My main concern was as any weight was added, the steel would be forced into the drywall as the compressive strength isn’t that high compared to wood as you have shown. The shelves themselves had corresponding holes in the back to receive the steel dowels into a recessed mortise that covered the rectangular steel plate. It worked fairly well as the wall was flat. Had it not been flat I would need to recess the mortise deeper and scribe the back edge of the wall.

View TravHale's profile


7 posts in 1585 days

#6 posted 02-19-2014 05:00 AM


Well, I ended up buying a box of 3.5in screws, pre drilling, and sinking 2 screws in each end of the shelf boards (4 per board). They seem to do a good job in this application.

Now…. the unit is pretty heavy, and I have to figure out the best way to mount the thing on the wall—ideas???

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