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Build Your Own Shelves

Remember those shelves I built for my bathroom that I shared way back when?

Since I have fairly recently proclaimed the power tools in our house are MINE and have a newfound love of building things myself, I thought I’d share a quick tutorial on how I put these together for all you beginner carpenters out there.


Gathering Supplies
I listed every item I used at the end of the post for your reference.
These are the main things you will need to consider.

SHELVES – This is super easy. Have a piece of wood cut to size. The big stores will do the cuts for you for free – just ask! I had a 1″x6″x6′ piece of select pine cut into three 2′ pieces. {The shelves are on a wall next to the toilet and I didn’t want them to be too wide or we’d be wacking our heads on them when maneuvering around that area!)

BRACKETS – I used these brackets:

TRIM (optional) – If you would like to trim out each shelf, figure out how much you’ll need for one long and two short sides of each shelf and make sure to get more than you need to compensate for waste created when you cut angles. (see below)


If you choose not to trim out your shelves, scroll down to Assembling The Shelves.
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go with the clean lines out a shelf without trim, or add some detail like these black cafe shelves from Ballard.
I decided that I wanted to add trim to the perimeter of the shelves after all.
Adding Trim
If you decide to trim out your shelves, it’s time to get out the compound miter saw.
If I can do it, so can you!
If you own a saw but have never used it, get someone in the know to give you a tutorial (some stores have free classes on the weekends) and get up your courage.
If you can drive a car, operate an oven or  mixer or use sharp knives…….
then you can learn how to use a saw safely and proficiently!
If you don’t own a miter saw, you can use a miter box to cut your trim.
Miter the corners of your trim on 45 degree angles.
Now, I said you could figure out how to use a saw and cut wood, but I can’t promise that learning how to cut angles properly is going to be a breeze. It still takes a few wrong cuts for me to get my groove on!

Assembling The Shelves
First up, paint your shelves, bracket and trim. I decided to add trim after I had primed and painted the other pieces.
These products are a woodworker’s best friends.
 If you are trimming out the shelves, add the trim before the brackets.
Glue each piece of trim and hold in place with painter’s tape while you attach with a nail gun or use finish nails and a gold old fashioned hammer.
Next, attach the brackets. Glue & tape them into place then nail from the top of the shelf. I also added nails through the bracket shooting up into the shelf but in retrospect this wasn’t necessary.
Fill nail holes with wood filler, allow to dry, sand, and then prime and paint as needed.
You might run into problems…
but hang in there!
-That piece of trim that was too short?  I just cut an extra little piece, glued it in, filled the seam with wood filler and sanded it all down.
-The nail that I shot through the top of the shelf by accident?  I placed a flathead screwdriver on the top of it and whacked it with a hammer to invert it, then used wood filler and gave it a good sanding.
-The mitered corner that was far from perfect?  You guessed it, wood filler to the rescue.
Trust me – once you have filled in your corners, nail holes and imperfections with wood filler, sanded it all down, primed and painted, your shelves will look fabulous!!!
There are all sorts of imperfections on my DIY shelves, but that’s why I’m honing my amateur carpentry skills on a project for my master bathroom….only Mark & I will see the shelves up close!
You will make some mistakes to learn how to do it better the next time….so if you’re just starting out, choose a project that won’t be in a public area. You’ll still get the satisfaction of having built something yourself and you will learn some mad skills for your next carpentry project!!!

Was It Worth The Time & Money??
Well, let’s see. My shelves are not an exact replica of the Ballard Design Cafe Shelves, but similar. The smallest BD shelf is 3′ for $99. My shelves are only 2′ each, I have 6′ total of shelving which would cost $198 at BD if I purchases two 3′ shelves.

My Cost*:
-6′ select pine board, cut into 3 shelves:  $13
-6 brackets @ $6.92 each:  $42

*I had the trim, primer, paint, wood filler and wood glue on hand already. I estimate that if you don’t have these items they would cost $34 to purchase cumulatively which would bring the project cost up to $89.

Gratification of building custom-sized shelves myself:  priceless!!

I hope this tutorial helps you to build your own shelves, or inspires you to try something new and scary!


Supply List

Wood for shelves (I used 1×6 boards)

Trim (optional)


Wood Glue

Wood Filler





Miter Saw (this is the one we have)

OR Miter Box


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Friday 29th of June 2012

What a great tutorial! I admit, carpentry still makes me a little nervous. I need to take your advice and just go for it. So impressed that was one of your first times!

Jennifer L. Griffin

Friday 29th of June 2012

I'm glad that you chose to add the trim, I love that look. You are a smart one! I think the mitering is the trickiest part, I never seem to get that right the first time!

Maury Kilgo

Thursday 28th of June 2012

These look awesome Lisa! Great job!


Thursday 28th of June 2012

These turned out great! You are a genius with the power tools :)

pam {simple details}

Thursday 28th of June 2012

I've always loved those shelves from Ballard, great knock-off! I had forgotten how pretty your bathroom turned out!