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kristok 04-29-2019 01:16 AM

Wall mounted shelves, feedback wanted
1 Attachment(s)
Hi all,

I'm making some wall-mounted shelves for our little office nook. I've attached (I hope) a model I made in sketchup. It's loosely modeled after tetris blocks so it's not just straight-across shelves. I'm planning to make it from maple or birch 3/4" plywood. My plan is to use dados for the "T-shaped" joints and butt joints for the "L-shaped" joints. Undecided on leaving the plys visible vs. iron-on veneer vs. hardwood facing. This is my first real project, anything else I've done I would categorize as "functional carpentry".

- Do I need anything other than glue in the dado joints?
- Thoughts on nails vs. screws vs dowels for the butt joints? I had one suggestion to glue up the butt joints, and then afterwards drill out and insert dowels for more strength. That sounds appealing as it doesn't seem like it would require quite the same precision as drilling the dowel holes on each piece individually.

To mount it to the wall, I'm going to do a french cleat across the top, and after that's in place have an additional rail at the bottom that I screw in to wall studs. For an idea of scale, the total span is a little under 6 feet. Each "block" is around 12" square. The shelves will be used for a mix of books, random desk stuff, and trinkets, so I do want them to be fairly strong.

Thanks for any thoughts, suggestions, feedback :smile2:

TomCT2 04-29-2019 08:29 AM

I'm fond of dowels - and yes, you can glue/set then-drill-and-glue in the dowels. dowels are not needed in the dado joints, but you may want to add them simply for appearance sake.

I do not recommend the iron on type banding, at all. nothing but bad experiences long term. use thin slices of solid wood - easy enough to make on a table saw. sand or use a thickness planer prior to glue on. glue+clamp, not nailed.

the six ft span is a large one, with the top and bottom fully supported sagging shouldn't be an issue - I'd avoid too much weight on the middle horizontals tho.

GeorgeC 04-29-2019 09:59 AM

I guess I am just plain blind, but I just cannot understand what is that figure in green. Is it the top view of a shelf that you are going to make from several pieces of wood?


kristok 04-29-2019 11:05 AM

Thanks for the input TomCT2.

GeorgeC - It's a front view. Imagine the green background is a wall, the gray is the shelving unit.

evilboweivel 04-29-2019 11:29 AM

I would personally use daddos and rabbet joints
2cd choice would be biscuits and screws.
I don't like dowels, however I do like the idea of dowelling afterwards for added strength. This sounds like the best way for you at this time
Iron on veneer has worked for me in the past, make sure that the edges are sanded down slightly below the edge or they will get torn loose. Only 40 years and counting on stereo cabinet, tv stand, bookcase combo I built with cheap tools and a lot of ambition when young.
Solid wood edging can look nicer, still can be torn loose if too thin. Can also v cut the edging and insert it into the plywood, way more work but stronger. All kind of ways, choose one that challenges you enough without over tasking your skill set. You want to grow your skill set not get so frustrated you never try again

Good luck and post pictures

FrankC 04-29-2019 11:58 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Your joints will have to be very strong as there are no vertical supports for any of the shelves, books are heavy. Flipping it 180 degrees would help:

GeorgeC 04-29-2019 01:11 PM

Dados where appropriate. Miters with splines where no dados.

See no benefit to use biscuits and screws.

Edge band with 1/2" solid wood, or at least 1/4". Banding will assist with joint strength, especially if also used on back.


unburled 04-29-2019 08:19 PM

Tony B 04-29-2019 10:01 PM

here is my take on the whole thing............Make a rear panel and paint it the same color as the wall so it will disappear.
cThe rear panel will then be dadoed for the entire shelf framework. This will give some support and rigidity to the structure. Then you can the shelf sections using dados, dowels and overlapping and butt joints to conform to the shape

Before you do this, lets get back to the rear panel. It can either be flush mounted and screwed into the wall Or, alternatively, it can be rabbited into the shelf
edges just the thickness of the rear panel which should be 3/4" ply.

Or start with the outside frame at the same time and dado the rear panel so it sits inset to the frame 3/4". the you will have the 3/4" space behind the rear panel to allow for a french cleat.

I think the design is kinda unique and cant wait to see the final photos.

kristok 04-29-2019 10:48 PM

Thanks all for the helpful input! I think that I'll stick with the "simpler" design concepts of dados and butt joints + dowels. Will probably attempt solid wood banding on the front instead of the iron-on. If I did a band on the back also, would dowels/nails be appropriate, or is glue sufficient?

About the miter+spline suggestion - I totally understand the concept of splines, but I think that's beyond my super beginner abilities for now. Same with the idea of a full rear panel, although I don't see how you stop a dado in the middle of a board. I presume that's when you get out the chisel and do some fine manual work?

Will definitely post photos once I get into the build. Will be slow going, but I'll get there!

Tony B 04-29-2019 10:57 PM

You get the dado in the middle of the board by dadoing the top, bottom, and sides before u assemble. Just one setting needed on the table saw or router table

FrankC 04-30-2019 12:24 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by kristok (Post 2052971)
although I don't see how you stop a dado in the middle of a board. I presume that's when you get out the chisel and do some fine manual work?

To do a stopped dado in the middle of a board that is cut with a router don't worry about the rounded ends, just stop your tenon short at the red lines as shown. The rounded ends will be covered.

FrankC 04-30-2019 12:31 PM

double post, darn slow site.

Frost 05-02-2019 06:25 PM

I'm always struck by the varying ways that people build things, as evidenced by the responses. Lots of skilled people here.

You didn't give the depth of the unit, but if its for books, it doesn't have to be more than 9 inches or so. You might find it easier and faster to make it from solid wood rather than edgebanded ply. You can buy 1 x 10 in pine. If you do solid edgebanding, you'll need a lot of clamps to make good glue lines, if you have them than you're good to go. I don't do much iron on any longer, but its ok if you file/sand the edges a bit so it can't be caught and torn off. Don't know if you care about exposed ends of cut pieces but if it were ply, you may want to edgeband them also. Lots of work.

Me, I'd use solid wood, biscuits and glue to register each joint and use a few screws for backup, with wood plugs to hide them. No dadoes or rabbets.

Good luck with your project.

kristok 05-02-2019 11:07 PM

Yeah, unfortunately the boss wants to be able to put some 3-ring binders on these shelves. So they need to be a little over 11" deep I am planning to do 11.5" or so, that way I can get 4 full "lengths" out of a 4' wide plywood sheet.

WeebyWoodWorker 05-03-2019 12:55 AM

Aw dude! I love Tetris! It's one of the only games I both play at a high level and go to tournaments for.

As far as your shelf goes I think it'll look nice once you get through with it. I like to put screws through my dados and plug them personally. I'd also add a back panel so that the shelves have something you can attach them to for some extra strength. I've used Iron on veneer and didn't hate it but solid wood is almost always better. Just takes a bit longer to apply is all.


Packard 05-03-2019 09:11 AM

If I were making this, I would definitely not make any dadoes.

My process would be like this:

I would assemble the pieces in sections of two pieces each using either biscuits and glue or dowels and glue plus 18 gage pin nails to hold the pieces together.

In this way the sections (probably all "L" shaped) will stand on their own.

I would then assemble the sections into a completed assembly.

At that point I would rest the assembled shelves on the backer board placing it accurately where I would want the shelves to appear. I would then use a pencil to trace the outline of the shelves (both sides of each shelf) on the backer board.

I would remove the shelves and drill pilot holes in the centerline of each shelf. After all the holes are drilled, and with the assistance of a helper, I would use glue along all the edges of the shelves and accurately place the shelves on the backer board using the outlines as a guide. I would put a sheet of plywood on the top and then some evenly placed weights until the glue dried.

After the glue dried I would flip the unit over and drive either construction screws or (preferably) Confirmat screws at the locations of the pilot holes.

If the layout was done carefully the screws should go in the centerline of each panel. You can drill some 1/4" or 3/8" holes along the centerline and add dowels or more screws for more strength.

As for the edge finishing, if you are going to paint it, then I would use Spackle on the edges and sand it smooth prior to painting.

If you are using stain and clear coating, then I would use either iron on or solid wood edging and I would apply either prior to assembly.

I never have heat applied wood banding peel off. There are two "tricks" to an effective bond. First I position and lightly "tack" the band in place using the hot iron. Then I go along with the iron for a full bond, following it with a 8" to 10" long piece of " by 1" stock which I press onto the banding to keep it in tight contact with the edge while the glue cools. That pressure while cooling is what makes for a strong bond.

The second thing I do is to trim the banding with a random orbital sander using 100 to 120 grit and a slow setting. I lightly sand the edge band with about a 30 degree angle pressing towards the band and the edge of the plywood. The sanding is just as quick as using a blade trimmer and you are going to want to sand anyhow. The trimming goes very fast so use a light pressure. Test the trim with your fingernail. Your nail should not "catch" on the band's edge. If it does, sand a bit more.

If you want solid wood edges and you have tongue and groove router bits, then route the grooves in the edges of the shelves prior to assembly. Then route the tongues on both edges of a 3/4" x 1-1/2" stock. Then glue two planks together using the board with he tongues on both edges. Let them dry and then rip them apart along the center of that board. You may have to use a router trim bit to make it flush on both sides of the board as plywood us slightly undersized.

The tongue and groove edging will never come off.

unburled 05-03-2019 11:32 AM


Originally Posted by WeebyWoodWorker (Post 2053487)
Aw dude! I love Tetris! It's one of the only games I both play at a high level and go to tournaments for.



WeebyWoodWorker 05-03-2019 08:31 PM


Originally Posted by unburled (Post 2053527)

"I'm making some wall-mounted shelves for our little office nook. I've attached (I hope) a model I made in sketchup. It's loosely modeled after tetris blocks so it's not just straight-across shelves"


unburled 05-05-2019 12:14 AM


Originally Posted by WeebyWoodWorker (Post 2053593)
It's loosely modeled after tetris blocks

And precisely modeled after Soma.

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