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Project Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Project Time: 1 hour, plus drying time, for each shelf

Tools and Materials:

3/4-inch-thick plywood
1x2 clear pine
Measuring tape
Circular saw with rip guide
Power drill/driver
Safety goggles
Wood glue
10d nails
Orbital sander
Wood putty
Paint or stain and polyurethane varnish, as needed


Shelving is an easy and economical way to add extra storage space in almost any part of your home--along walls, inside closets, and even in the basement or garage. Building shelves doesn't usually require a lot of skill or specialized tools, so this is one project just about any do-it-yourselfer can handle. And unless you decide to use hardwood, which looks great but costs a bundle, it won't cost a lot to install them either.

Solid wood shelving is the way to go when you want to show off the wood or your work. But the cost per board foot often rules out using classic hardwoods like oak, cherry, or walnut. Softwoods, such as fir or pine, are a better bet; they can be painted or coated with polyurethane to bring out their natural beauty.

Plywood and particleboard offer a couple of advantages when it comes to shelving, though. They cost less than solid wood, and can be bought faced with decorative surfaces. They also come in sheets, which makes them ideal for a really wide shelf. Inexpensive manufactured storage units ready for assembly are often made from melamine-coated particleboard.

Wood trim will help match your new shelves to the rest of the room or add some interesting detail. Trim is also a handy way to hide seams, gaps, exposed edges of plywood, and other blemishes. You can get trim in either hardwood or softwood. If you plan on finishing a project with stain or sealer, make sure the trim matches the wood you used for the rest of the project.


1 . Rip the Plywood

Use a circular saw to rip sheets of plywood into wide shelves. Stock lumber such as pine is normally no wider than 12 inches. (Fig. 1)

2 . Cut Pine Strips

You could conceal the rough front edge with veneer tape, but a narrow strip of pine is more rugged and adds extra width. Cut pine strips to fit the front edges of the shelves. Drill pilot holes in the leading edge of the pine, and spread carpenter's glue where the other edge will meet the plywood. (Fig. 2)

3 . Attach the Pine Strips

For each shelf, set a pine strip against the plywood, attach it with clamps, and fasten it through the pilot holes using 10d finishing nails. (Fig. 3)

4 . Fill the Nail Holes

Set the nails into the pine strips using a hammer and nailset. Wipe off the excess glue. Then mix up a small amount of wood putty and, using your finger, fill the nail holes on the exposed edges of the pine strips. (Fig. 4)

5 . Finish the Shelves

Sand the trim seam and all the edges and surfaces of each shelf (Fig. 5). When smooth, clean each shelf, and then finish with paint or stain and polyurethane varnish.