Build Your Own Modular Shelves Build Your Own Modular Shelves

What You'll Need
3/4-inch hardwood plywood
Table saw
1/2-inch dowels
Drill press (hand drill)
1/2-inch drill bit
Clean rags
Natural bristle paintbrush

Modular shelves allow you to use a simple configuration to create storage. Each module is usually a very simple fabrication that can be replicated numerous times to achieve the desired effect. With each of the modular shelves being the same size and basic pattern, cutting materials is simplified. The shelves can be finished as desired to match any room decor.


Step 1 - Cut Shelves

For each of the modular shelves, use a table saw to cut 5 pieces of 3/4-inch plywood to 18 inches by 36 inches. In each of 4 pieces, cut 2 slots about 1/2-inch wide by 9-inches long, 4 inches in from either end of the piece. The slots are cut along the 36-inch edge. The slots will match up to each other at 90 degrees, to form the side supports and the shelves.

Step 2 - Drill Holes

On the 5th piece, drill 4 each, 1/2-inch holes, 3/8-inch deep, spaced at 4 inches from the 18-inch edge (along the 36-inch edge) and 2 inches in from the 36-inch edge (along the 18-inch edge). Also drill 1/2-inch holes (3/8-inch deep) in the top of the 2 side supports's top at 2 inches from either edge. The 4 holes drilled in the 1 shelf piece will match up to the 4 holes drilled in the support edges of the modular shelves.

Step 3 - Finish Shelves

Sand all pieces of the modular shelves with 120-grit sandpaper. Clean with tack cloth and apply stain with clean rag. Wipe excess stain off after 5 minutes. Allow stain to dry for 24 hours. Apply polyurethane, one thin coat at a time, lightly sanding with 220-grit sandpaper between coats and wiping clean with tack cloth after sanding. Allow final coat to dry at least 24 hours.

Step 3 - Cut Dowel Pieces

Cut the 1/2-inch dowel into 3/4-inch long pieces. The dowel pieces will fit into the holes drilled in the top shelf and the shelf support top (Step 2).

Step 4 - Assemble Shelves

To assemble shelves, first sit one piece cut in Step 1 on edge, with slots facing up. Insert 2 cut and slotted pieces such that the slots are facing down and are received by the piece with slots facing up. Turn this 3-piece assembly over and insert final piece to form shelf unit. Stand the unit up such that the top holes drilled in Step 2 are on top. Insert 1/2 inch by 3/4-inch dowel pieces into the 4 holes in the shelf edges. Place top shelf, with drilled holes down, to receive 1/2 inch by 3/4-inch dowels.

Step 5 - Fabricate Multiples

As described, the single unit will form 3-shelves. There will be a smaller distance between the second shelf and the top shelf than between the first 2 shelves. You can adjust the slots in your boards to change this spacing. By fabricating multiple modular shelves, you can create any configuration desired.

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