Mounting Shelves and Pictures on Walls

Since moving into our new house last year, I have hung dozens of pictures and shelves. Okay, maybe not dozens, but very likely a dozen. Every time, the challenges are the same: what is the best location, where are the studs, and is it level?

While not immediately obvious, we always do reach a consensus of where best to hang the shelf or picture.

I am also fortunate to have a trusting family that doesn’t second-guess my ability to mount things level. However, I have certainly hung more than one where my “helper” is peering over my shoulder at the level and reminding me that it’s slightly slanted.

“Thanks, but why don’t you try levelling this a round clock?”

Not only is this not helpful, but it actually makes the process more aggravating. Sometimes I want to use the level in a very different way from which it was intended.

Besides that, I find playing “find the stud” is irritating enough (I’m pretty sure that whoever framed my house was an M.C. Escher fan). Instead of a stud finder, I need a pair of X-ray goggles. Or a treasure map.

While I’m still saving up for X-ray goggles and searching for that map, I have found a solution to make finding level easier, and I recently got to try it mounting one of my #WSBO wall shelves. Check it out: the First Guess Gravity Gauge.

More Wall Shelf Sketches

I’ve continued to sketch, trying to figure out what design to use for the Wall Shelf Build-Off this weekend. I could well find myself in the shop Saturday without a design and just making it up on the fly – that idea is not foreign to me.

Have a look at my sketches – perhaps they’ll be the spark you need for your design.

If you need some more inspiration, check out my ever-growing Pinterest board of #WSBO inspiration.

There’s still time to register! #WSBO is January 28-29.

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Sketching to Develop Wall Shelf Ideas

With two weeks before the Wall Shelf Build-Off, I spent some time this afternoon working on design ideas. I filled three pages of sketches with a variety of designs.

When sketching, I like to use pen and don’t spend more than half a minute on each.

I use the sketches to help me figure out what I like and what I don’t like. Sometimes I will sketch different variations of details, like square and rounded corners, right over each other.

If a detail is difficult to draw, or is an important part of the design, I may add an arrow and label. I may draw in the grain if it is part of the design, but I usually focus on basic concepts and form.

Feel free to use these ideas for your Wall Shelf Build-Off design.

I’m always interested in your feedback, but particularly interested in your thoughts on these sketches. Do any of the ideas stand out to you?

If you need some more inspiration, check out my ever-growing Pinterest board of #WSBO inspiration.

And there’s still time to register! #WSBO is January 28-29.

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Designing a Wall Shelf – Mounting Options

For a wall shelf, the best place to start is at the beginning – the wall.

How will the shelf be mounted to the wall?

Perhaps the biggest challenge in designing a successful wall shelf is attaching it to the wall strongly enough to support it and whatever it supports. The method of attachment will in part dictate the design of the shelf. Consider these methods of attachment when designing your shelf.

Angle Brackets and Screws

Probably the simplest attachment method involves store-bought metal brackets and screws to attach the shelf to the wall. This method is simple and effective, but hardly  elegant. To improve the look, use fancier metal brackets or make your own corbels from wood, metal, or another material. Screws can be visible or hidden. If you want to anchor the brackets into studs, you will have to consider that in your design and mount them accordingly.

If your shelf has a structural back, you can screw directly through it into the wall. It’s typically not very discreet, but with the right design and right choice of fastener it can look very good. In this case, as soon as books are loaded on the shelf, the back plate and screws are hidden.

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Keyholes

A special keyhole-shaped slot that is wider at the bottom and narrower at the top captures a screw head to hang an object. The keyhole mount is mortised into the back of the piece and not visible from the front or edges. Cut keyhole slots with a special router bit, or buy metal keyhole brackets that attach with screws. These require a degree of precision to install, and may dictate where the shelf hangs on the wall if you need to hit a stud.

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French Cleat

A versatile and strong method of hanging something, a French cleat is usually invisible once the shelf is installed. A wide cleat provides a good chance of being able to hang it where you want and secure it to at least one stud. Comprised of a pair of matching strips with mating chamfers on the edges (usually 45 degrees), one is mounted to the wall and the other to the back of the shelf. You can hide it in a recess in the back of the shelf to make it invisible. The cleat allows simple drop on/lift off installation.

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Variations of this exist, including the narrow cleats I use on my tusk tenon wall shelves, and low-profile manufactured metal cleats.

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Slide-On Floating Shelf Systems

This style of mount consists of one part that fastens directly to the wall, and the shelf slides right over it for installation. Shop-made versions typically involve a strip of wood or wooden frame screwed to studs, and a hollow shelf that slips on and covers it completely. Like a wide French cleat, a wide mount makes it easy to fasten to the wall wherever you like.

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Metal hardware exists too, which typically requires two or more deep holes cut into the back edge of the shelf. These holes can be drilled, or routed in if the shelf is laminated. If the hardware must be mounted to a stud, this style of hardware makes it more difficult to mount it exactly where you want.

Need More Ideas?

If you need some more ideas, try wandering the aisles of your local hardware or home decor store. You can also check out my Wall Shelf Build-Off Pinterest board, and remember to register for the #WSBO!

The Wall Shelf Build-Off: January 28-29

Everybody is Invited to Participate!

The purpose of the Wall Shelf Build-Off (#WSBO) is to encourage woodworkers from around the world to simultaneously build a project in their own workshops and share the process online January 28 and 29, just like the Shop Stool Build-Off that I hosted four years ago. I expect to see many returning participants and lots of new faces.

#WSBO Rules are Simple:

  1. Build a wall-mounted shelf during the weekend of January 28 – 29.
  2. Share the process online via social media (#WSBO), blog, and/or forum.
  3. To be eligible for prizes, pre-register, then submit your entry by Tuesday January 31 (see below).

#WSBO Pre-Registration

Use the form at the bottom of this page to pre-register.

Start Thinking About a Shelf Design

You can work from plans or you can design on the fly. You can use wood, metal or even some other material. One great thing about a wall shelf is that the design possibilities are endless. Check out my Pinterest collection of wall shelf ideas if you need some inspiration.

Two Days to Build your Wall Shelf

I hope to finish my shelf in one day, but the build-off will carry on through Sunday for those who require more time.

After the shelves are complete, I would like to share everybody’s work here on my blog.

We had a lot of fun and had a lot of participation four years ago with the Shop Stool Build-Off, and I’m really excited about this year’s Wall Shelf Build-Off!

Submitting Your #WSBO Entry

To be eligible to win a prize, send an e-mail to FlairBuildOff@gmail.com by end of day Tuesday, January 31 containing:

  1. one or two photos of your completed wall shelf (please label the files using your name – mine will be titled ChrisWong1.jpg and ChrisWong2.jpg);
  2. overall dimensions of your shelf;
  3. a list of the materials used; and
  4. a link to where you shared your build.

You can also include:

  1. a sentence or two about your greatest challenge during the build;
  2. up to 300 words about the shelf, your inspiration, construction techniques etc; and
  3. a suggestion for the next Build-Off.

Pre-Registration Form

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New Work: Reign

Prior to this one, I had created three shelves of this style: Black Locust Wall Table, Artifact of, and There is Not Always Light at the End of the Tunnel. They are characterized by tall vertical elements with long tusk tenons mounted to the wall. The shelf slipped over the tusk tenon and was locked in place with a wedge.

The design was simple and practical with bold lines. I liked how the mechanics of the design were in the open and appreciated the freedom I had in shaping the three visible elements – the shelf, upright and wedge. Apparently, the public appreciated the design as well since the two I offered for sale sold quickly (one remained in my workshop next to my bench).

Reign was the fourth in this family of designs. I was going to tell you why I like it, but instead, I decided to just show you.

Let me know what you think about it in the comments section.

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Links:

Deconstructed – Finished Shots and Reflective Thoughts

Today, I completed Deconstructed, making it the first piece of 2013.  Although there are a couple of things that didn’t go the way I wanted, I am very happy with the result.  I find myself loving it more the longer I am around it.  (The same can be said with most of my woodwork.)

The shelf is 23″ x 7″ x 3.5″ thick.  The Crystal Clear resin is 1″ thick.  You can see some air bubbles in the back right section of the casting where it meets the wood which are a result of the resin curing too quickly.

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The transition between the wood and resin is perfectly smooth – the seam is indistinguishable to the fingertips.  I am particularly happy with this result.

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When viewed from below, it is more obvious that the three wood pieces were actually one piece at one time but are now separate.

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At the left, you can see that parts of the end grain are darker because resin was allowed to penetrate the surface.  (Next time, I will prefinish the wood parts to prevent this.)

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You can read about the build process step-by-step in the following five Tweet-Along sessions:

I have not decided whether I will list this piece in my Store, but it is in my Gallery (which showcases my past work regardless of whether or not it is for sale).

Deconstructed, Session 5

In Session 1Session 2Session 3 and Session 4 I began working on an exploded shelf I’m calling Deconstructed.  I finished the last session by filling in air bubbles with epoxy.

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Today, in the final session of this Tweet-Along, I completed the shelf, including applying the first coat of finish.

As always, I documented my progress live on Twitter using hashtag #FlairWW (follow me @FlairWoodworks) which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  I attempted to record my build in time-lapse as usual, but due to a technical glitch, that didn’t work.  I compiled the photos and Tweets into a video (duration – 2:16).

Deconstructed, Session 4

In Session 1Session 2, and Session 3 I began working on an exploded shelf I’m calling Deconstructed.  I finished the last session by pouring clear resin around the wood parts set in a mould made of waxed melamine.

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Tuesday, I unmoulded the casting.  If everything had gone perfectly, all that would have been required would have been to apply a finish.  Alas, that was not the case, so I continued work.  This was my first time working with resin (Crystal Clear by Smooth-On) and, considering that, I’m happy with the results.

As always, I documented my progress live on Twitter using hashtag #FlairWW (follow me @FlairWoodworks) which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  I also recorded my build in time-lapse and compiled the photos and Tweets into a video (duration – 9:36).

In the next session, I expect to complete the shelf.

Deconstructed, Session 3

Earlier this month in Session 1 and Session 2, I began working on a new project.  I had cut parts for the mould and begun waxing them.

Yesterday, I finished waxing the mould and poured the resin.  As always, I documented my progress live on Twitter using hashtag #FlairWW (follow me @FlairWoodworks) which was useful because each update had a time stamp so followers could see the rate at which I progressed.  I also recorded my build in time-lapse and compiled the photos and Tweets into a video (duration – 7:15).

In the next session, I’ll unmould the casting and find out if my first attempt at casting was successful and to what degree.