Stuart Lawson builds these contemporary shelves
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These simple-to-make box-style shelves are designed to be painted, but should you desire a wood-finish shelf, the process and construction is almost exactly the same.
A nailgun is the ideal tool for much of the assembly, particularly if you are working by yourself, although a heavier, air-powered gun will be easier to use than the electric stapler/nailer featured.
Providing that you don't skimp on the glue and that all of your timber is accurately thicknessed, this torsion box construction can take a surprising amount of weight. However, unless you have one or both ends supported by an alcove side it does not have enough strength to be filled with heavy books. Ply instead of MDF facings does add a little strength.
The shelves in situ
Dimension all of your timber in one go before routing
It is critical that the protruding part of the wall support bearer is exactly the same thickness as the spacing battens. Likewise, the protruding part of the facing length must be of an equal dimension. Both can be slightly undersized but not oversized. Offering one piece up to another will give you a clear indication
Mark out the underside of the top-facing board and rub-glue the spacing battens to the surface. Leave for an hour or more before carefully gluing and screwing the facing length (pre-drilled) onto the spacing battens. For exposed shelf ends the last spacing batten becomes the end piece. If you want to preserve the timber-facing strip, wait until the support battens have dried before gluing and pinning the spacing strip on
Once the initial assembly is dry, glue and pin the bottom-facing board. To maximise the strength of these pins, slightly skew them in various directions into the support battens and front-facing strip. Although the glue has dried, in order to add strength to the underside, turn over the construction and pin into the support battens and front-facing strip
6 & 7
Fix the hardwood wall bearer and any alcove support bearers necessary. Don't forget that, if your walls are not straight, you will need to pack out the wall bearers in order to achieve a decent fixing through the facing board
The shelves after being glued
Pre-drill (every 75mm or more) and carefully countersink (just enough) the top-facing board along its back edge. Push the box construction onto the wall bearer(s), support it level with a couple of bearers down to the floor and screw a couple of temporary fixings. Drill screw holes into the wall bearer and fix. Add some further screws to the bottom facing board into the wall bearer