I build cantilevered shelves

November 2009

I had just completed building a new shed (from a kit) to store bicycles and pool supplies in. This left me with an empty wall in my basement shop (where the bikes had hung) and leftover 2x4s and particle board (the floor kit for the shed, which I didn't need). I had to either find space to store the extra lumber or use it...

I had dreamed of shelves in my new shed, but it was too full now. With that blank basement wall staring at me I began to think about a massive shelving system. I searched the web looking for designs. Mostly the things I found were pretty utilitarian, but then I came across plans for cantilevered shelf plans on Matthias Wandel's website.

THIS WAS IT! Not only do the plans call for the materials I had at hand, but the skill level required was pretty minimal. Best of all, when I imagined the things I could store if there were no supports in the way I got really excited.

(Matthias also has a slightly different set of plans this web page. I believe that design is a precursor to the design I built.)

The first step was to attached 2x4s from floor to ceiling at an interval that would provide enough support for my stuff. I used carriage bolts at the rafters so I could take them back down for the next step.

Now take down the 2x4s and build these shelf supports on them. This image is from Matthias' website. Go there for all the details. As he did, I used glue (construction adhesive for me) and 2" nails w/heads. [ Mathias emailed to say ""I wouldn't recomment construction adhesive - not as stiff and not as strong as wood glue."] My side pieces were either 3/4" thick or 1" thick (planks from the pallet my shed kit came on). Matthias pre-drilled his nail holes to avoid splitting, I didn't think to do that and only a few boards split. Those rough pieces from the pallet were pretty tough.

As I finished a vertical, I put it in place. I had to, because I didn't have space to leave them laying around. Finishing the verticals is the most time consuming step.

I cut out the required shelf pieces from the 5/8" "flake board" that was to have been the shed floor. I notched out the shelves so they went flush against the wall. As each shelf went into place I began loading my stuff on it.

Here you see the finished shelves, with loading well under way. This is about the neatest looking shelf design I've ever seen. An added bonus is that when you build them yourself you can customize the depth and height, or leave out a section for tall things or a clock. And notice I made the bottom shelf just high enough for me to roll the sailboat under it.

I did more research later and never found a better design. I did, however, find that you they make metal brackets destined for workshop lumber storage that might also serve as the basis for similar shelves. The prices were quite reasonable looking, so consider that if you want to save time. But the cost of the lumber for this design would be quite modest, even if you had to buy it all.

by Charles Hall