DIY Floating Shelves Made From Scrap Wood

Zac Builds
by Zac Builds
10 Materials
8 Hours

So my place has a serious lack of storage and that’s led to a very cluttered entryway. I wanted to add some sort of organization to the space, somewhere to put shoes, hats, gloves and etc. AND I also really wanted to try my hand at building some floating shelves. Two birds one stone right?

It was a match made in heaven.

I started my project here. These are LVL beam offcuts. LVLs are structural beams that are made the same way you make plywood, by laminating many thin layers of wood together. They’re very strong and they also have a really cool texture along their vertical faces where you can see each individual layer of wood.

Calling them LVLs is actually probably a regional thing. I’ve heard people on the west coast call them glue-lam beams. Let me know if you know them by a different name.

I’m doing a major reno (my day job) for a client and these pieces of LVL almost went into the garbage. I rescued them at the last minute from the landfill though. I knew I could make something cool out of them. It took me a few weeks to figure out exactly what I was going to do with them but I got there.

Because I sourced most of my materials from the garbage for this project the only real cost I had was a single gallon of paint. I think in total I spent less than $50 dollars on this project.

Years of building houses has taught me that no interior (or exterior, for that matter) corner is perfectly square. Before I left the house to start working on this project I made a template of the corner where I was going to install the shelves.

My template was a piece of cardboard that I slowly cut away at until it fit nicely into the corner. I then took that piece of cardboard and traced its edges onto my pieces of LVLs.

I think I goofed and either deleted the pictures of that step from my camera or just never took them. Not sure what happened. So you’ll just have to settle for a picture of lines transcribed onto the LVL. Sorry (I’m so Canadian)!

When I first started doing this project I knew I wanted to paint the shelves the same colour as my wall so that they would feel like an extension of the wall themselves. That meant I had to paint them white. White isn’t exactly the most interesting choice in the world.

To compensate for my conservative colour choice I decided to get a little funky with their shapes. Each shelf would have its leftmost edge cut at 30-degree angle. To make things EVEN MORE INSANE I elected to alternate the direction of that 30-degree angle between shelves. I know, I’m a total madman.

Just like before I traced my cuts right onto the surface of each shelf and then…

With all of my cuts marked onto the surface of the LVLs I was ready to start cutting.

Some of the cuts were a little tricky. We’re talking about tapering 3/16 of an inch across 6 inches or so. Not exactly the type of thing I’d trust myself to do freehand with a jigsaw or a circular saw. Instead, I used my track saw. I really love this tool. It helps me make those precision cuts that I’d never trust myself to do without a guide.

For those of you who are unaware (and don’t feel bad if you are one of them, it’s not a common tool) a track saw is like a circular saw except it comes with a track that the saw attaches to and slides along. It allows you to make perfectly straight cuts, even at odd angles.

Mostly track saws are used for bigger, longer cuts, but it works really well in this application too!

When you buy LVLs they come coated in a waxy substance that makes them very resistant to moisture and rot. Which is great if you’re using them to build a house, but I was trying to make some shelves.

The wax feels gross on your hands and I suspect it would make the LVLs impossible to paint with any type of conventional paint. From the beginning, I knew I was going to have to find a way to strip it off. I experimented with sanding them and rubbing them down with various abrasives but I wasn’t having any luck. The wax would instantly gunk up any sanding pads I was using.

At a certain point, I said “Screw it! I’m just going to run them through the planner and see what happens”. I was actually pretty worried that the planner might de-laminate the layers of the LVL. To my surprise though the LVLs came out of the planner perfectly smooth and de-waxed. Score!

Now that my LVLs were all cut and cleaned up I was ready to move onto cutting my mounting system into them.

The mounting system I came up with was pretty basic, but then again I’m pretty basic too so I think it appropriate 

The first step was to cut some channels into the LVLs. I started by marking my channels on the backside of the LVLs. I wanted my channels to be 3/4″ wide and 3/4″ deep.

Over on my table saw I started cutting the channels into the LVLs. Because I wanted the channels to be invisible on the finished shelve I didnt cut them right through to the front of the shelves. I stopped just short of the front of the shelf face. You can see in this picture I actually marked how far I had to push the shelves into the saw blade before stopping with green tape.

Technically, I’m pretty sure this is called a blind dado. Dado is just a fancy woodworker term for channel and they are “blind” because the channel is concealed by stopping short of the face of the shelf.

With the dados done it was time to cut my cleats. Luckily I had a bunch of random off cuts of the LVL that I could use for my cleats. I set my table saw to 3/4″ and ripped off a few pieces.

See how the cleats fit right into the dados? I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but the cleats fit in there so snug it still warms my heart to think about. Mmm yummy.

Any small defects on the surface of the shelves were filled with some quick drying wood filler. Once the wood filler dried I gave all of the shelves a good sand with a random orbital sander. I started with 80 grit sandpaper and slowly worked my way up to 220 grit sandpaper.

My original plan was to “paint” these shelves with an opaque wood stain. I wanted something that was as thin as possible in order to preserve the texture of the wood. However, I got to the paint store and explain my project to the owner and he suggested that I avoid using any product meant for exterior use inside my home. Apparently, the chemicals used to make paint survive exterior conditions are not great to breathe. Go figure. Honestly, I’m still a bit skeptical about this, but I thought I’d play it safe.

The owner of the paint store recommended I use this furniture paint. After I saw a few examples of stuff painted with it I agreed it would work well for this project. He told me to roll it on thin and wait a long time between coats in order to get the best results. Damn! I hate waiting for paint to dry.

Side note: It’s been my experience that people who work at paint stores are wildly knowledgeable. This has held at every paint store I’ve ever been to. They always know pretty much everything about every product they sell. Shout out to all the paint store employees out there!

Rolling on the furniture paint was a breeze. Quick thin coats. This paint actually has a bit of oil in it, so it takes a long time to dry. Which was very annoying for me. I usually like to rush through the painting process as fast as possible because there isn’t much for me to do in between coats.

With everything painted and finished the next order of business was bringing the shelves home and mounting them.

I mounted the cleats on the wall using a combination of 3″ screws (screwing into studs where I could) and 1 1/2″ screws with metal drywall plugs when I couldn’t get to a stud. Using drywall plugs is never my first choice, but the metal drywall plugs are actually fairly robust and do a good job of support light loads like this. Should hold! (famous last words)

I used my laser level to help with alignment and stud locations. It made installation of these shelves an absolute breeze.

With the cleats in place mounting the shelves at this point was a simple matter of slipping the shelves onto the cleats.

With all six shelves mounted this is what it looked like.

Not bad, but a bit bland if I do say so myself. Let’s populate these shelves and see if it looks any better.

That’s a bit better. It’s a little less boring to look at with some new textures and shapes. I still feel like it’s missing something though.

Maybe a bit of colour?

Ahhh ya, now we're talking. A little bit of colour always makes things look better.

That's it for my build today! Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride. If you have a chance I'd really appreciate it if you could checkout my instagram page. It's jam packed with DIY tips and pictures of my other projects.

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  3 questions
  • Joe Joe on Nov 29, 2018

    How did you mount the the shelf to the 3/4 you cut

  • Debbie Wood Debbie Wood on Dec 13, 2018

    Cool idea. Why do a couple of the shelves look slanted down a little?

  • Phyllis K Phyllis K on Sep 13, 2021

    I love these shelves! So unique & I have just the right spot in a bathroom. Thank you!

Join the conversation
4 of 44 comments
  • Hlpinghand Hlpinghand on Jan 26, 2019

    When I first looked at the shelves I was a bit put off by the differing shapes of them--some shorter in length, etc. But then I realized the pure genius of it--By making some of them shorter in length, you've left space for taller objects to sit on the longer length shelves and have those objects rise up next to those shorter shelves. What a fantastic idea! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    • Zac Builds Zac Builds on Jan 26, 2019

      You know, I'd love to claim that that was my intention when I made the shelves different sizes, but really I just wanted to create visual interest. But now that you mention it that's definitely I could, and will, do. Thank you :)

  • Kate Kate on Feb 25, 2019

    Zac, as soon as I saw the different lengths and angles of the shelves I loved it and had to know more! Thanks for sharing ! I'm definitely going to check out your Instagram account!!

    • Zac Builds Zac Builds on Feb 27, 2019

      Thanks Kate, I really appreciate the kind words! Look forward to seeing you on Instagram :)