Shelving - How to Build a Set of Shelves Including How to Make Shelves in an Alcove

Summary: Making timber shelves including Shelving an alcove, floating shelves, shelves without brackets and fixing shelves. In this project we will show you how to build a set of fitted shelves in an alcove without using any brackets to give the effect that they are floating shelves.

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A very popular question to Diydoctor is how do I fit shelves into my chimney recess. Follow the example below which of course you can vary to suit your own ideas.

Our client wanted big chunky looking shelves with no visible brackets. We had already replaced their timber floor 2 years ago and all the doors last year. See our replacing a timber floor and also our hanging a door projects.

We therefore decided to use Redwood for the shelves so they could be stained later to match the floor and doors. The skirting we used when we did the floor was 6 x 1 inch Redwood so we used the same for the top of the shelves and to hide the support battens we clad the underside with tongue and grooved matchboard. The support battens were 2 x 1 inch treated softwood and were fixed using red wall plugs and 3 inch number 8 screws. See our fixing to masonry project for details on how to do this. A battery screwdriver is a must when undertaking a project like this. Not only does it make life easier but you can be sure every screw is driven in properly. When buying a cordless drill/screwdriver do not buy one under 12 volts and if possible pay a little extra for one with 2 batteries. Its a real nuisance if your battery runs out half way through a job and you have to wait 3 hours for the battery to recharge.

To fix a timber batten hold the batten in position on the wall making sure it is level. Mark the wall with a pencil. Take the batten down and drill a 5mm hole in the centre of the batten to push a screw threw. Put the batten back on the wall to the line you have drawn. Push a screw through the pre drilled hole and wiggle it on the wall to mark it. Using a 6mm masonry bit, drill a hole to the correct depth. Push in the wall plug and screw the timber up tight to the line. You can now use the masonry bit to drill right through the timber and the wall (don't forget to alter your depth marker as shown in the aforementioned project). Push the wall plug into the timber, turn the screw in a couple of turns and tap it through with a hammer. You will feel the plug slip through the timber into the wall and when you do it is time to screw the screw in. This method saves you marking each hole individually which can lead to mistakes. To be fair it does eventually blunt the masonry bit slightly but it takes about 650 holes through timber to do this and the time saved, together with the accuracy involved, makes it worth it.

Alcove Suitabel for Adding Shelves

Alcove Suitabel for Adding Shelves

Shelf Bearers fixed in position in alcove

Shelf Bearers fixed in position in alcove

Above left you can see the alcove we started with. The 2 x 1 battens are fixed to the wall at heights dictated by the clients books, stereo etc. Make sure you think about this before starting your project. These shelves have a face on them as you can see from below so make sure you leave the side battens back far enough to accommodate this if you have the same plane. Drawing the job out and making a plan are always good ideas. Although work can be undone its much easier to get it right the first time.

The wall at the back of the shelves was bowed as this is a very old house. Rather than have big gaps we cut the back shelf slat to the shape of the wall. This is called scribing the timber

Shelving fixed in places on top of shelving bearers

Shelving fixed in places on top of shelving bearers

Close up of Shelving showing supporting strut added to centre

Close up of Shelving showing supporting strut added to centre

The 6 x 1 timber we used is easily strong enough to support the weight of books etc over the span we were working with, but the slats we used underneath would have sagged if we had not fixed them up to a centre strut. This strut was simply cut to length and then glued (as all of the connections and joints were) and nailed (we use a nail gun but you may prefer to screw or use 1½ inch oval or lost head nails. See our nails information DIY project) The strut just supports the small weight of the T & G matchboard.

Checking the Levels of the Shelves once positioned on top of bearers

Checking the Levels of the Shelves once positioned on top of bearers

Fixing the face to the shelving to hide any gaps

Fixing the face to the shelving to hide any gaps

With the top slats and matchboard in place is now time to fix the front (top right). This is simply another length of 6 x 1 inch cut down to the correct width. It is then fixed to the end of the batten bearers at each end and in the centre.

Chop Saw and Table Saw situated outside with awning covering it

Chop Saw and Table Saw situated outside with awning covering it

Wood Glue and Applicator Gun

Wood Glue and Applicator Gun

All the timber was cut to length using a small table saw and a chop saw. The weather was a bit dodgy so we used a cheap gazebo tent on the patio to protect the power tools and to keep all the sawdust outside.

Finished shelving job with shelves added to alcove area to the side of a chimney breast

Finished shelving job with shelves added to alcove area to the side of a chimney breast

The finished product, which will be stained by the client to match the floor and skirting which is just visible in the picture.

Why not check out our video sections on shelving, how to correctly use a power drill and how to use a table saw to watch a variety of films on how to hang shelves and the tools you can use for this task.

Don't fancy doing this project yourself? We work with Checkatrade to ensure that we recommend only reliable and trustworthy tradesmen.

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