Making Floating Shelves - Japanese Inspired Style

Adrian Preda
by Adrian Preda
1 Material
3 Days
I had some scraps of mahogany, actually bought as good usable wood to make a tool cabinet, but they were too twisted to be used, the effort to hand plane them for fine work didn’t sound very fun, so I thought in order not to cry anymore on the money spent on them to use it by making some, non critical, floating shelves, with some japanese-asian influences.

The project really brought some color to the wall of my room where I keep the “room corner woodshop”. Made six shelves in the end, three used for my needs in the shop, other three for my wife’s mini vintage collection that she likes to buy from antique markets.
You can check out the video build or follow the step by step guide below. OR watch them both! You can find many details in both versions.
I've started by rough cutting the mahogany boards. I came up with two 16" long pieces and another four of 12". Their cross section is about 4" x 3/4".
Here is the best example to see how twisted they were.
With an old Stanley No.4 plane I began flattening one side of the board. The process start by shaving first the high spots of the board, in my case were along one diagonal, and then planing all away from one end to another until the face looks flat. Doesn't need to be dead flat, it's a simple shelf in the end.
Now having one face flat, with a marking gauge (I use a Japanese type one, called kebiki ), set it to the lowest thickness of the board (check every four corners and see which one is), and then mark a parallel marking all across the edges of the board. Having now this reference all you need to do is to plane the material until it is reaching this marking.
I then added a small chamfer to the three visible edges of the shelf. For this I have used a straight shooting board by adding a small piece on the end in order to tilt a little the angle.
From a remaining piece of mahogany I made the supports of the shelves, with a small arch sanded on the ends.
To attach the supports to the shelf I've used a simple lap joint, or cross joint, not sure about the name exactly. I first traced the thickness of the support in the shelf, cut near the lines, made several cuts in between also, and then chisel the waste. Same procedure on the supports also by transferring the shelf thickness. Then glue it and the shelves are quite done.
To hang the shelf on the wall I thought initially to buy some steel hardware fixtures from the shops, but I then remembered I have a cheap set of Dremel router bits, and a cheap Dremel type machine as well, so why not try to make a keyhole into the wood. This router bit is called rabbeting bit. The procedure is to drill first a normal hole by the big size of the router bit, plunge with the router in the hole, than move a little towards in order to make the keyhole.
This one is the best looking out of all 12 holes :) Is quite difficult to push the router straight, but they are all functional anyway.
For finishing I have applied just one coat of boiled linseed oil.
These are the shelves in the end hanged on the wall of my little apartment woodshop.
And the other half part of the shelves.
Thank you so much for reading or watching! You can check out also my Youtube channel for more woodworking videos
Suggested materials:
  • Mahogany Wood   (Big box stores)
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  • Gloria Gloria on Jan 03, 2022

    I enjoyed seeing you working with the hand tools. Beautiful work.

  • Corina Corina on Dec 12, 2023

    Amazing, so elegant!! I appreciate so much what you are doing here. After I became a wood sculptor I learned for one year fine carpentry with only hand tools from the raw wood plank to the end product, sooo much fun. You deserve a big, beautiful workshop with a fine living area on top in the country, 10 min out of town. Would that be ok? I'll ask Santo for you. Greetings from New Zealand, Corina. 😊