Shelf Pins or Cleats?

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Forum topic by Scottlj posted 06-14-2014 02:26 AM 1336 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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87 posts in 1719 days

06-14-2014 02:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hutch dining room hutch shelf pins vs cleats sag shelf sag

So I’m about to build a hutch, (just the top part), something like this…

or this…

Planning on using good pine to try to match the long ago purchased bottom part. Going to use 4/4 for all the parts, but was thinking 5/4 for the shelves. The span will be 54” This will be mostly for display items; probably no more than 20lbs, maximum of 40 per shelf.

Any ideas on if shelf pins alone and 5/4 pine will be ok for that span? Or are cleats best? or is that really too long a span and I need to put in a center divider? It looks like others have gone that far without a center piece.

According to this sag calculator… seems like it should be fine either way. In fact, it looks like I could go to a couple hundred pounds according to this calculator, which seems excessive, but anyway, just for some plates and display pieces I’m hoping shelf pins are fine.

Any thoughts?


10 replies so far

View Oldtool's profile


2624 posts in 2191 days

#1 posted 06-14-2014 12:25 PM

I would think that the sag calculator is accurate, however if possible to add support, it can’t hurt.
I just made a 48” wide tv cabinet for my daughter, with two shelves, red pine, and added supports the full length of the shelf.

The top shelf has support from the face frame glued to it, and a 1X3 glued and screwed to the back edge. ( can be seen in photo 4 )
The shelf in the lower cabinet is similar, has the 1X3 in the back, and another in the front – but flat up against the bottom 1” back from the front, with a molded front edge for a decorative effect.

Hope this helps.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View waho6o9's profile


8191 posts in 2578 days

#2 posted 06-14-2014 12:43 PM


View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4219 days

#3 posted 06-14-2014 01:13 PM

If it was a bookshelf, I’d tell you to use support in the center, but I think you’re fine for knick-knacks and such. You’re more likely, IMO, to have problems with a solid wood shelf twisting, warping, or cupping than you are with it sagging.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View ChefHDAN's profile


1062 posts in 2850 days

#4 posted 06-14-2014 01:38 PM

I’d go 3/4 ply with a 1” front edge trim to cover the edge and give extra strength to the shelf

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 1949 days

#5 posted 06-14-2014 07:21 PM

Heres where I am. If the unit is 54” wide then the back panel is going to be in 2 pieces. I personally have always used pins for the adjustability.
I have never had any problems with weight. Since you will have a 2 piece back make the batten strip solid 3/4” material and put pins in the back center. I have never used anything but 3/4” plywood with a facer. The pins in the back will support the back and the facer will keep the front from sagging.

View Scottlj's profile


87 posts in 1719 days

#6 posted 06-15-2014 01:46 AM

The back panel is going to be joined boards. Hoping to use all solid word boards, except maybe for the totally unseen top to close off the open top. Was originally going to use dowels to join the back boards, (because I’ve already got a doweling jig), but thinking it may be hard to cinch those up quickly and clamp. (So maybe an excuse to buy a biscuit joiner! : )

I suppose I could use ply for the shelves with a face frame strip, but again, was hoping to use all solid wood boards. Hence considering a 5/4 board for the shelf as that’s going to be fairly solid. I suppose I can just do that, and if over time it ends up being a problem, I can replace with ply and face frame.

This piece is going on top of an existing piece. So I’m trying to do the whole thing with similar pine and my best shot and matching the stain. It likely won’t be perfect, but with typical medium “dinner” light in the room, goal is to be close enough that most wont notice.

Will have to talk to the “boss” again about shelf sizes. If she’s SURE about two heights, I’ll cleat them then as that seems more secure.

Good tips! Thanks.

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1869 days

#7 posted 06-15-2014 01:54 AM

Joined and glued back? That seems like a whole heap of potential wood movement. I think that’s why tongue and groove or ship lapped boards are used for backs. I would reconsider a 54” wide glue up.

I could be wrong. :-)

Good luck!

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Scottlj's profile


87 posts in 1719 days

#8 posted 06-15-2014 01:56 AM

Good point. I’ve got a router and table, so I suppose I could try that.

View Scottlj's profile


87 posts in 1719 days

#9 posted 06-15-2014 02:37 AM

Ahhhh… ok… so here’s what might be an amusing follow-up…

“How the heck to you join ship lap boards!” : )

I’ve been searching a bit online and getting seemingly ambiguous answers. Some say you put in one nail in center of length, and the bottom/tops are in frames? Or screwed into stiles?

What do you guys do? I really want something with actual pine boards rather than cheat and use ply.

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1869 days

#10 posted 06-15-2014 02:43 AM

They float. You can nail them into the sides, top and bottom, but leave just a fraction of space for expansion. The danger of ship laps is if the wood bows. You are using pine, so I’d consider that. This is why I see tongue and groove as the best option. Unless your going to pin the boards to the back side of the shelf/shelves. That would minimize bowing/warping.

I admire that you’re taking on this project. Do keep us posted, and take pictures as you go.

By the way, you could mill tongue and groove with your router, and it doesn’t need to be milled as deeply as the stuff you buy. Just a quarter inch or so.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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