Do-it-yourself projects are widely popular in a variety of ways. Constructing various home items is a great way to spend your time, as well as save money on home furniture that adds character to your spaces and furnishing needs. Shelving projects are great for starters, having potential of being simple yet elegant, and provide a lot of use and functionality.

Here are some guidelines on how to make wood shelves.

Plans And Budgets

The first thing that you need to do when starting any sort of do it yourself project is to establish your budget and create your plans. You have to take down measurements of the area that you plan on installing your shelving unit. This is essential to determine how big you can make your shelves considering all measurements, including height, width, and length. A budget is also a good measuring scale to help you determine the size of your project, as a smaller budget won’t allow you to build too big. Once you have established the initial step, you can look into designing your shelves.

Create A Design

Not all shelves are built the same, so your shelf design will be up to you. You have to choose between a variety of options. As mentioned you will be limited in terms of space you have to work with as well as budget, but as long as you can be creative, you should have plenty of ways to build a shelving unit that more than meets your needs. You can go with more aesthetic choices, considering floating shelves that would also help create and save space, or more traditional builds with different structural or aesthetic design choices. Once you have a design in mind, you can move onto the next phase of construction.

Choose Wood

With a plan in hand for your shelves, you need to select the right material. The type of wood you use will vary depending on your needs for structural integrity, your wants for how it should look like, and your budget. Certain woods are sturdier and stronger than others and you need to consider which wood is appropriate for your build. Other factors in addition to strength may also be weight and size that you can get in the wood pieces. Weight is important to consider because the more shelves you have, the more support you will need. If you are building floating shelves, you do not want something too heavy as to risk collapsing or falling. You also need to factor in the weight that is being held on these shelves and if your unit can support them. The functional properties, tied in with what kind of wood you want will be priced differently. This will again factor in your budget and if you can afford your project or have to be more flexible, perhaps making more financially friendly material choices.

Cut Shelving Panels

Once you have your wood, and have properly created your blueprints and plans, you will then begin assembly. You will need to cut your shelving accordingly, following the measurements you have made along with the blueprints you created. Make sure to take the safety precautions when working with the right tools found in these helpful guides.  Prior to making your cuts, be mindful of confirming your measurements, making marks and notches of where you expect to cut and seeing if they line up. This rule applies to the rest of your construction to ensure your final product is not misaligned or wobbly. Once you are certain of your alignment, you can begin to cut your pieces. Once completed, you will sand the edges to ensure they are as smooth as possible. This is important for shelves that you intend to slide in and out of compartments, depending on your storage needs.

Measure And Cut Notches For Shelves

Onces the individual shelves are cut, in the large side panels of your housing unit, you should cut notches for the panels to slide into. You may choose not to and simply create and drill screws into the shelves directly, but that makes it so your shelves cannot be adjusted, and relies heavily on the strength of the screws. With notches for support, plus the screws drilled in to ensure your shelves don’t shift or move, your storage unit is almost ready to go. With long shelves especially, you want to have as much support as possible.


Unless you are wanting your shelves to have an open back for whatever reason, you need to provide a back to your shelves. This helps with the structure of your unit, but also provides functionality, ensuring stored items are not falling between shelves. Depending on your needs for the shelves, you can also cut holes between panels and in the back to allow for things like wires to pass through. A solid backing also decreases the risk of tipping.

Sand And Varnish

Once everything has been installed and fitted, give your shelves a final sanding to ensure that the surface is smooth and good to be handled. You do not want to be moving your shelves, only to get caught by a splinter or cut unexpectedly. Once it has been sanded down, you can use a wood varnish to coat the shelves. This will provide a protective layer, helpful against moisture, but also bring out the beautiful wood color.

Mounting The Shelving Unit

Once you have your shelves in place, it is a good idea to mount and stabilize the storage unit. Shelf mounts are important for larger furnishings that may have some tipping concerns. These are important for those that live in areas where weather and other natural occurrences can cause your furniture to shake such as earthquakes. Additionally, you want to have your unit properly secured if you have young children as they may attempt climbing these shelves without your supervision.

As you gain more experience with woodcutting, construction, and assembly of your projects, you will start to see improvements on the quality of your shelves. Use your creativity to create more elaborate designs, or keep it simple and perfect your craft if you so choose.