Spacing between shelves

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Forum topic by Woodworker101 posted 01-30-2015 10:47 AM 967 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 1840 days

01-30-2015 10:47 AM

Hi LJ’s,

I’ve been comissioned to make a pair of tall shelves that need to be roughly 2400mm (94 inches) tall, 1000mm (39 inches) wide, approximately 300mm (11 inches) deep and 20mm (3/4 of an inch) thick. Two questions here, the first one is how far apart can I space the shelves from each other, is there some rule of thumb? My second question is what would be the strongest joint to use for joining the shelves to the sides?

Many thanks,

-- Jackson, Australia,

7 replies so far

View ChrisK's profile


1946 posts in 3049 days

#1 posted 01-30-2015 01:05 PM

Can you make the shelves adjustable? If not, you might ask about what will be placed on the shelves and space accordingly. I use dado’s when I have fixed shelves.

-- Chris K

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1182 days

#2 posted 01-30-2015 02:23 PM

I space about 8-10 inches apart (200-254MM). Its a very useful distance. The strongest joint on the side is a Wedged through tenon with a dado. There are other passable joints you could do a dado the thickness of the board, or do the dado thinner, then rabbet the board to fit. If you want ultimate mechanical strength you could do a sliding dovetail, which can be tricky to cut but adds tons of strenth. You could also do through tenons and something like a walrus tooth which would allow you to knock it down.

I’m a little worried about the 39 inch span on 3/4 X 11. Are you going to support the shelves at the midpoint by attaching to the back? They would be prone to sag otherwise (assuming these are bookshelves even though you did not say they were.)

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View Woodworker101's profile


22 posts in 1840 days

#3 posted 01-30-2015 08:37 PM

Hi Chris K,

Unfortunately no I can’t make them adjustable the client would like them fixed. Dados would be a good option thanks :)

-- Jackson, Australia,

View Woodworker101's profile


22 posts in 1840 days

#4 posted 01-30-2015 08:48 PM

Hi HornedWoodwork,

Thanks for your response, you’ve given me a lot of different joinery methods thank you. Yes I’ll be attaching a 10mm (1/2 an inch) backing on it so I’m hoping that will add some strength to it. The client wants me to build storage shelves where they can put there xbox, stero system those types of things.

-- Jackson, Australia,

View AandCstyle's profile


3027 posts in 2225 days

#5 posted 01-31-2015 01:04 AM

Space the shelves further apart at the bottom and closer together as you approach the top. That way larger, heavier items will be lower down and lighter items higher. If load is a major concern a sliding DT would keep the sides from bowing out. Also, with that height, I would consider anchoring the units to the walls. HTH

-- Art

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3039 days

#6 posted 01-31-2015 01:30 AM

Sounds like you’re getting the spacing figured out. Don’t forget to also run your shelves through the sagulator if you haven’t already.

You might as well build the shelves sturdy enough to hold books. Even if your client is only planning on putting relatively light electronics on the shelves right now, you don’t know what they’ll be used for in the future.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4050 posts in 2277 days

#7 posted 01-31-2015 10:26 AM

Your answer lies in here somewhere. But, I’d get this information from the ones paying the bill.

This is a must read too.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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