How wide can I make shelves - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 09:04 PM Thread Starter
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How wide can I make shelves

I'm making a bookshelf with no supports under the shelves, just the glued up shelves. They will be 12" deep. Made of hard maple into 1/4" dados on each end with pocket screws too. I will only be putting small paperbacks so not a lot of weight. How wide can these be without having any type of support running underneath?
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post #2 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 09:22 PM
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there's a "sagulator" link online

I don't know about Hard Maple, but I've used Red Oak at widths from 38" ... very slight sag with heavy books to 34" with little or no sag with books and magazines.

Paper backs would be lighter, but you can't guarantee they will always be used for them.

I would add that my shelves have no back. They are just slid into the dados as well and can be flipped over at any time to reverse the sag.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

Last edited by woodnthings; 02-02-2016 at 09:55 PM.
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post #3 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 09:25 PM
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If you are attaching the shelf to the back you would probably be alright with making the shelves 48" wide. If not attached to the back I try not to make a shelf more than 30" wide.
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post #4 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 09:38 PM
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Over time any wood over any span will sag to some extent with or without a constant load.

Given my own experiences building bookcases/shelves/cabinets I would say with your intended design and use 4ft would be the max I would go.

One thing to consider (and the way in which I build bookcases/cabinets) is to use a 3/4" backing with 1/4" dado's for the backside of the shelves. Along with a bigger/wider face this technique really aids in minimizing sagging over time.
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post #5 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. That helps a lot. I was planning for 40" and it seems like that should be fine. And there is a back similar to the one described that will attach to the shelves that should add strength.
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post #6 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 10:12 PM
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My dad built this shelf for china sometime before 1950. It was made with whitewood pine shelves and is 48" wide with a back nailed to the shelving. This picture was taken in 2014. The shelf is still in great shape.
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post #7 of 7 Old 02-02-2016, 11:29 PM
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I built a set of shelves that was 6' tall, 6' wide, & 14" deep, & were made from pine. The shelves were put in dados, & nailed a backing to the complete set. Under each shelf at the ends, I glued & nailed a quarter support under them for extra support. Before the whole deal was over, I ended up having to put supports under the shelves throughout the set. This was a client order, and built to their specs. Just keep in mind, the wider you build, the less strength you'll have without support.

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