Adjustable Shelves – On the House

Adjustable Shelves

By on March 4, 2014
exposed shelves

On just about any Saturday afternoon in our father’s workshop, we’d find Dad drilling, sanding, chiseling and hammering, oblivious to the world around him. No matter how simple the project, his concentration never waned. He loved his workshop. We sometimes wonder where he got his ideas and, if he were still alive would he build the projects we write about.

We think he would have liked this one. It’s a project he easily could have finished during one of his Saturday afternoon sessions. This is one you will want to undertake if you’re interested in doing something a little different. Shelving is something we all need more of. And finding a way to make exposed shelving look interesting often can be a challenge. Although these shelves can be used inside cabinets, the system is best-suited for supporting exposed shelving between two house- or wing walls. This is an end-support system, so shelves that are too long and narrow for the weight placed upon them can sag or even break.

There isn’t anything about this project that looks anything like regular shelving alternatives. OK, you can go to your local hardware store or home center and find myriad shelving choices. But that isn’t what this is about. If your room has rounded corners and sweeping shapes, you might want to add more of the same. This is one project that can be done inexpensively. All you will need are a couple pieces of 1×4 for the end supports and some shelving or material.

Begin with the end-support rails. You will need two 1x4s. Use the wood type of your choice. The end supports should be as long as the overall height of your shelving system. In other words, if you want the shelves to adjust over a length of 4 feet, your 1x4s will need to be 4 feet long. It might be cheaper to purchase an 8-footer and cut the two pieces yourself. Do you have a truck, van or SUV? Remember: The shelving can be pretty much any kind of 1-by material you want to use. You might like high-density particleboard; we prefer dimensional lumber (it is so much stronger). Also, you can mix and match. The shelving and the end-support rails can be the same specie of lumber or you can be creative and mix species. For example, maple and teak look great together. Also, if you are painting, this is one system that has endless possibilities. Simple can be beautiful.

Creating the end rails is easy. Just drill a series of equally spaced holes the length of the rail. Clamping the 1x4s together so that their broad sides are in contact will make it easier to get holes that are exactly the same on both boards. Mark equally spaced points along one of the exposed broad faces. We used 3/4-inch holes at 3/4-inch intervals. For best results, the two rails should be clamped down to a third piece of wood so that the drill doesn’t tear up the second rail as it exits. You can select any size hole necessary to accommodate your chosen shelving material thickness. Also, the increment (spacing between holes) can vary based on personal choice. We wouldn’t go any closer than three-quarters of an inch.

With the holes drilled, do your sanding. Then all you need to do is split the rails down the center. You end up with four 1x2s, each 4 feet long. Once they’re split, sand the cut surfaces. Next, you’ll need to fabricate your shelves. This means rounding the shelf ends to fit into the end rails. You can round the front edge, as well. We used a router for this task, but if you’re a hard-core do-it-yourselfer, you might want to use a plane and sandpaper or a shaping plane or a rasp.

At this point, you can paint, stain and varnish, oil or otherwise apply your favorite finish. Once it’s dry, the end rails can be mounted. If you plan to show off the mounting screws, mount them on the high, flat portions of the rail. If you don’t want the screws to be obvious, countersink them into the rounded area and fill with matching putty. That’s all there is to it.

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