Your Easy Guide to Making DIY Floating Shelves Shaped Like Mountains

Wes Hamstra
by Wes Hamstra
18 Materials
1 Day

In this tutorial, I’ll be helping you through my step-by-step guide to creating DIY shelves. I focus on one of my finest creations in this guide, my mountain DIY floating shelves, but the stages can be applied to any DIY shelves design that you want to make a reality.

As I have sectioned out each phase of this potentially tricky job, you’ll find it easy to follow the steps and end up with a great-looking shelf.

The glory of my mountain DIY floating shelves is that I can hang them up anywhere and they won’t look out of place. As the design is simple but impactful, all that you’ll want to do is change the paint color scheme to suit the room that you want to hang up your DIY shelves in.

My DIY shelves are hanging proudly in my son’s bedroom, adding some style to the room as well as providing a place for him to put some of his stuff.

DIY Floating Shelves

Tools and Materials

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • 8ft of Pine Board
  • Table Saw
  • Push Stick
  • Power Sander
  • Matte White Paint
  • Black Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Paint Roller and Tray
  • Black Wood Stain
  • Miter Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Wood Glue
  • Polyurethane
  • Nails x2
  • Hammer
  • Spirit Level
Gather Your Tools and Materials
Gather Your Tools and Materials

Now that you’ve assembled all of the tools necessary for this job, it’s time to start building your DIY shelves.

I always like to have all of the materials, tools, and equipment at the ready when I start a DIY project. For this job, you’ll want to make sure that you have access to two heavy power tools: the table saw, and the miter saw.

If you’ve got a steady hand and a good circular saw, you may be able to get around using these big power tools, but for the best cuts and finish, it’s a good idea to use a table saw, and a miter saw.

As for materials used on this DIY floating shelves project, you only need one 8ft length of pine board. You can use any type of wood or thickness that you think will look the best, but I like to go with the pine board as it’s a suitable thickness, and it’s a reasonably strong wood.

Cut the Wood
Cut the Wood

To get the project underway, you’re going to want to set your table saw up for a 3½‘’ cut. With an 8ft pine board, this will give you plenty of wood to work with for the DIY floating shelves as well as enough remaining pine board in case you want to start again or make another mountain floating shelf.

Once I had the table saw set for a 3½‘’ I cut, carefully but firmly guide my pine board through the saw, ensuring that it kept tight to the guide so that it cut in a straight line.

It’s very important that you use a push stick during this step. Using your hands to guide the pine board through the table saw is very dangerous, whereas using a push stick grants you control over the cut while also keeping your hands away from harm.

After all, if the cut goes wrong, you can always cut another bit of wood – healing your hand from a table saw injury is a much more daunting task.

Sand the Wood
Sand the Wood

You’ll probably find that your pine board has a smooth side and a rough side. Some people like to keep the rough side to give the finished DIY shelves a more wood-like and authentic feel. I prefer a more rustic look to my DIY floating shelves, so I decided to sand down the rough side.

I always turn to my power sander for these steps, but you can do a similar job with a regular sander if you don’t mind the extra elbow grease. With my power sander, it only takes a minute to buff away any rough areas on the pine board.

Paint the Wood
Paint the Wood

This stage is optional as you can just stain the whole piece of wood later, but for my project, I thought that it looks nicer when the inside edges of the mountain floating shelf are painted.

I used black paint for my shelves as well as a similarly dark stain for the rest of the wood. So, to get the most out of your colored paint, it’s always a good idea to lay down a base color.

I used a matte white paint, which I applied with a paintbrush and then allowed a couple of hours to dry. Next, I put some black paint in a tray and used my paint roller to apply it to the pine board, which I also allowed a couple of hours to dry.

It’s best to paint your wood now while it’s still one board as it’s just easier than painting all of the individual cuts later on in the process of painting the DIY shelves after it has all been put together.

Clean Up the Edge of the Wood
Clean Up the Edge of the Wood

Now, you take your sanded and painted plank of pine board back to the table saw. If it’s still set up for a 3½‘’ cut, bring the guide inwards – towards the saw blade – by a tiny amount. This is so that, when you run your pine board through the table saw again, it will only trim off a small amount to clean up the edge of the wood.

Once again, it is vital that you use our push stick to guide the wood through the saw as it will help to keep you from getting an unnecessary injury.

Stain the Wood
Stain the Wood

Now that the wood has been sanded, painted, and cleaned up, it’s on to applying the stain. This is an important part of the process as it helps to preserve the wood as well as cover any burns or blemishes.

Having used a black coat of paint earlier, I made use of some black wood stain for my DIY floating shelves. This way, my shelf finished with a wood-like feel to its outer edges while having a smoother finish on its interior sides.

Now that you have finished staining all of the sides that you did paint in Stage 4, you can leave your pine board to dry overnight.

Cut the Wood with a Miter Saw
Cut the Wood with a Miter Saw

Before revving up the miter saw, it’s best to check and then double-check that you have all of the measurements right for your mountain DIY floating shelves.

I always measure and then note down what I need which, in this case, was:

  • Two 12’’ pieces of wood
  • Two 8’’ pieces of wood
  • Two 4’’ pieces of wood

These six pieces cut from my pine board created the peaks of the mountain o my DIY shelves. When you’re ready to cut the pieces from the wood, it’s best to do one at a time, marking the measurements for the next section after each cut.

Don’t worry about creating the base just yet as you’ll need to see how much wood you need after you’ve put together the peaks.

For my project, I cut all of the pieces at 60o on the miter saw. However, it can be challenging to keep track of which angle to cut based on what side you want to be showing on the interior or the exterior of the floating mountain shelf.

This gives an argument for painting and staining the project after it has been cut and assembled. But if you’re careful and methodical about how you cut the wood and put it together, you should be ok.

Once it’s been put together, you could just paint over any areas that went a bit wrong. The most important aspect of this stage is getting each of the pieces to their exact length, otherwise, they won’t piece together.

Glue and Nail the Pieces of Wood Together
Glue and Nail the Pieces of Wood Together

So, you’ve got your six pieces of wood mitered and ready to stick into a mountain formation for your DIY floating shelves.

To create a classic-looking, three-peak mountain, from left to right, I laid it out as a 12’’ piece leading upwards, a 4’’ piece leading downwards, an 8’’ piece leading upwards, the other 8’’ piece leading downwards, a 4’’ piece leading upwards, and then the other 12’’ piece leading downwards.

I always like to do this first so that it’s easier to visualize which pieces to stick and nail together.

With the pieces laid out, you now pick up your wood glue, glue one of the two faces that you want to stick together – logically starting with the 12’’ upwards piece and 4’’ downwards piece – and then press it to the other face.

Wood glue is often enough to stick two mitered pieces of wood together well but, as your DIY floating shelves won’t have much hanging support and may have to hold up some weight, it’s best also to nail them together.

I used my nail gun with some short brad nails, as the small heads on these are easy for you to conceal with a dab of paint or even a marker pen.

You have to make sure that each part of these mountain peaks are aligned exactly, without any overlap. This will ensure that the shelf will look neat and symmetrical once the job is done.

Make your way from left to right, gluing and nailing all of the pieces together until your mountain peaks are all set and ready.

Trim the Bottom Board to Fit
Trim the Bottom Board to Fit

This part might be a bit different for each Hometalker, so I won’t note down my exact measurements in this guide. But the best way to work out the length and cutting lines for the bottom of your DIY shelves is to put it up against the bottom of the mountain peaks that you’ve just constructed.

Place the remaining painted and stained pine board alongside the mountain peaks – with the right finish on the inside – and then mark with your pencil where the ends sit. You will also need to note which way the two ends of the 12’’ pieces of the peaks are mitered so that you can miter the bottom board to fit.

Now that you’ve worked out where to cut, set up your miter saw to the same 60o angle as you did before, cut the bottom board, and then stick it and nail it to the rest of your creation.

Apply Polyurethane
Apply Polyurethane

As you don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste on a project that will lose its coloring, I suggest taking the time to wipe on some polyurethane.

Polyurethane provides a clear finish that protects the wood and enables it to hold its coloring. So, I always apply three coats of wipe-on polyurethane – waiting for each coat to dry before applying the next one.

Hang Your DIY Floating Mountain Shelves
Hang Your DIY Floating Mountain Shelves

Now, all you’ve got to do is hang up your mountain DIY floating shelves on the wall of your choosing.

Being DIY floating shelves, it’s incredibly easy to hang up your new creation. To make sure that mine were exactly where I want them to be, I held up the shelves to the wall and make little pencil marks underneath each of the lower peaks.

When doing this, I was very careful to not have my new shelves placed directly above any sockets so that the nails didn't interrupt the electricity feeds in the wall cavity.

Then, from the leftmost peak mark, I used my spirit level to draw a straight and level line to the area of the rightmost peak, then adjusted the right peak’s mark to be level with the left peak. After that, I just hammered two nails into the wall and hung up my mountain shelves.

DIY Floating Mountain Shelves

Admire Your Handiwork!

There are many tricky aspects to get to grip with when making some DIY floating shelves, but by following my step-by-step guide, you’ll easily be able to make your own DIY shelves at your own pace.

It’s essential that you take your time in each stage, considering your safety when using the large power tools as well as taking care when measuring for cuts. Always remember: measure twice, cut once.

Once you’ve hung up your DIY floating shelves, you’re bound to have many admirers of your work. So, be sure to tell a friend about this easy-to-use guide so that they can also have a shot at making their own mountain floating shelves.

If you plan on using this guide for your own project or have already made use of the steps provided here, comment below and let us know how your DIY job turned out!

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  1 question
  • Tene Murray Tene Murray on Apr 11, 2020

    I love the finished product! It looks like you used a 45 degree angle on the "mountains" but what angle did you use at the base?

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