Making and Mounting Shelves

Mounting Shelves

Everyone at one time or another has had to put up a shelf, there are many ways of mounting a shelf to a wall, the most secure is to find the studs running up the wall and drive screws into them. There are two methods to find a stud in the wall behind the sheetrock.

1. Measure out from the corner and tap on the wall with a hammer at locations in multiples of 16 inches apart, you will hear hollow sounds between the studs and a solid sound at the stud.

2. Use a stud sensor, if you do this often this is the way to go.


A big technological improvement over previous sensor designs (which relied on magnets to locate nail heads), the newer types find studs by measuring the relative material densities of the walls, a faster and far more accurate method.

Sometimes it is not possible to use the studs, the fasteners have to be in a certain spot, this is when anchors are used, in sheetrock walls we can either use a plastic anchor or a metal star anchor. The metal star anchors will support a greater load than the plastic anchors.

Plastic anchors are pushed into a hole drilled in the wall, when the screw is tightened the back of the anchor expands locking it to the wall.


When the screw in metal star anchors is tightened it buckles metal fingers back to clamp the fastener into the wall. This shows the screw only partially tightened.

There are several methods of hanging the shelves, if they have a back screws can be driven through the backing material into studs or anchors.

Do not use drywall screws to mount a shelf or cabinet, they are designed for hanging drywall and do not have the proper shear strength for any other use.

AWI Quality standards reference

A strip can be placed below the shelf and screws can be driven through it as shown below.


To mount a cabinet on a wall a French Cleat can be made by ripping a 45 degree cut through a wooden strip:


Metal brackets are also available similar to above wooden style.

metal french cleat
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To mount a shelf that does not have a strip you can use keyhole slots cut in the supports. This can be done with a router with a special bit and a jig, or metal hardware can be used for this.

If you don't have a router and use the metal plates you will have to cut an insert for the plate with a chisel and drill out the material for a pocket behind the keyhole.

 


Insert for plate

This type of mount hangs on screw heads that protrude from the wall, if you have to use an anchor the metal star anchors work best. Insert the anchor, tighten the screw until the fingers are completely compressed against the back of the sheetrock, then back the screw out enough to allow the slot to slide snuggly over the head of the screw.

To mark the position for screws or anchor holes drive a small finishing nail into each of the keyhole slots as shown, cut it off with side cutters so that it protrudes about 1/8". Using a level position the shelf on the wall and press the shelf tight to the wall, the nails will mark the mounting spots. Remove the nails with pliers. If you are not sure if a stud is behind the mark drive a screw into the wall, if it finds a stud use the screw, if not remove the screw and drill a hole for an anchor.

Making Shelves

Books are one of the heaviest things we put on shelves now that nobody uses record albums anymore. There is a basic span chart to the right to give you an idea of how long the shelves should be.

As you can see a reinforcing strip on edge will add quite a bit of support to the shelf as well as providing a finished look to the end product.

For maximum strength glue the strip to the shelf.

Shelf Span Chart

10" wide full of books

Shelf Material
Max. Span

3/4" Particle Board

24"

3/4" Plywood

30"

4/4 (13/16") Solid Stock

36"

6/4 (1 - 5/16") Solid Stock

60"

3/4" Plywood reinforced with 1 1/4" face strip on edge.

36"

How shelves are fastened inside a carcass depends on whether they are to be adjustable or mounted in a fixed position. Fixed position shelves can be held in place by cutting dados in the uprights, or by using dowels, nails or screws using a basic butt joint.

To make shelves wider than the recommended distance in the span table dividers can be put below the shelves to support the weight.

Adjustable shelves are usually done by drilling a series of equally spaced holes in the uprights and then using pins or push in brackets to hold the shelves. For added strength and a finished look metal sleeves can be inserted into the mounting holes.

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Bench Notes has a jig for drilling evenly spaced holes that you can make, or another method is to use a strip of peg board to mark the position of the holes.


Single wall shelves require a support, this can be either under the shelf or at the ends of the shelf, if the shape of these supports are an ogee, then one cut makes two supports.



Simple Shelf Projects