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Some good friends recently bought a house, and tore out a built in bookshelf.  They wanted to replace it with some floating shelves that looked like a reclaimed beam.  I figured it’d be easier (and cheaper) to fake it than wait on finding the right beam. It was interesting because one side of the inset was brick, and the other was drywall.

This is an extremely simple project that could be adjusted to just about any situation.  If you don’t have an inset like theirs and are just interested in a floating shelf that hangs on a wall, I’ve got one of those here that you can check out!

Oddly enough, I’ve got a different set of friends who also want a floating shelf piece, but it will be entirely different than either of the two I’ve done previously. I’ll be posting it in the near future as well, so keep an eye out!

First, I cut 1×12 pine down to the width of my shelves.

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Next, I trimmed to shelf depth, minus the face thickness (1/2″).

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I trimmed the end of a pallet slat flush, before cutting it to shelf width.

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On the table saw, I trimmed off just enough to remove the rough edge.

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Then ripped the slat to final shelf thickness (2 1/2″).

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I ripped scrap 3/4″ pine into strips at 1″ wide.

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Then I cut these strips to match the depth of the shelves.

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I glued these strips down to the pine board, keeping them away from the outside edges.

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I used brad nails to hold them in place while the glue dried.

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I added glue to the top of those strips.

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After sandwiching on another pine board, I nailed them together.

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All of the front faces of the boards then got covered in glue.

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The pallet strip was nailed on to become the shelf face.

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I used a rasp to tear up the smooth cut edges, matching the ruggedness of the pallet strip.

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Using an orbital sander, I smoothed out any sharp or rough areas.

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I used a dark stain to make the wood match better and look like an old beam.

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Finally, I cut two more 3/4″ strips for each shelf.

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I used a Leica laser level to transfer my shelf locations to the side walls of this inset area.

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I transferred the two marks to the 3/4″ strips.

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Then I drilled a 3/8″ hole on those marks.

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I matched up those holes with the marks, and drill shallow pilot holes with a masonry bit.

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Then drilled the full depth holes.

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The 3/4″ strip was attached to the brick with Tapcon screws.

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I followed the same process for drilling the holes to the other side.

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Since it was drywall, I enlarged the holes to fit my anchors.

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I pushed in two drywall anchors capable of holding 100+ lbs each.

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I drove screws in to mount the strip to the anchors.

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The shelves slid right onto the 3/4″ strips.

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The shelves turned out great!

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Even up close, they look almost like a solid beam.

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  • minisvlad

    Hey Bob, just found your site and YouTube channel and now I’m inspired. I showed this project to my wife and we have a great spot on either side of our fireplace to put shelves like this for some toys for the kids. Our fireplace has stone and not brick. It’s not a very even surface. As someone that is just getting into doing some workworking, I’m not sure how to approach that edge of the shelf and attaching the cleat.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Hmm, without seeing it, that’s hard to say. You might want to use a jig saw to cut the profile of the stone into the cleat that is going on the wall, so that it fits around the shape. Is that a possibility?

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  • Nick

    Hi Bob, great video. I have all the wood ready to go for this, but I’m using MDF for the top and bottom parts of the shelves. Is there anything you think I should watch out for if I’m using MDF but following these steps? I also want a clean, sharp finish so I’m slightly worried about using the brad gun. Any hints would be very helpful. Thanks.

    • Thanks! MDF should work fine, and if you don’t want the brads, just glue the box up instead. The weight is all on the top panel, so there isn’t really any stress on any of the other pieces.

      • Nick

        Thank you. I’m going to give it a go today, wish me luck!

  • pyrzak

    I am in the middle of copying this design for book shelves in a similar type of cove. I wonder if 3/4 inch cleats are beefy enough to hold 48 inches of books or if I should use 1×2 cleats. Using 1×2 cleats will make the shelves look a lot thicker, which I’d like to avoid.

    • For something that size, I’d always err on the size of bigger, personally. A lot of the support has to do with the anchors though too. Make sure that you’re getting ones strong enough for the accumulated load of the shelf and the books.

      • pyrzak

        I’m going to use 3.5 inch cabinet screws into studs, no anchors. So I should be fine on that front. I was more worried about thin cleats not being able to handle the weight. Looks like I’ll be going for some fatter shelves.

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  • Dave

    Thank you for the great post. I just built a very similar floating shelf based on your design. I just need to stain it and hang it on the wall, but I already love how it looks. I think I am going to make another to go above it on the wall. Thanks again!