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How to Build a Corner Shelf From Reclaimed Wood

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Corner shelf made from reclaimed horse fence rails

How to build a beautiful corner shelf tutorial using scrap horse fence rails.

In this lens I will show you how you can turn discarded horse chewed wood into a unique and useful piece of furniture that will look great in any style of home old or modern.

I love the shapes that are created by time-weather and of course the horses they all add to the character of the shelves when finished.

A corner shelf is a great space saving piece of furniture and very economical on materials to build. Although I used old horse fence rails in this shelf making tutorial suitable materials can be found in a variety of places such as construction site bins or reclamation yards you just have to keep your eyes open whilst out and about.

Art and Funtionality - Express yourself with saw and sandpaper

Tall corner shelf

Tall corner shelf

Before we begin I just want to say that I love building these pieces.

I start these projects by first visualizing the finished article- how I do this is by first selecting the front pieces of timber and listening to what they tell me they want to be!

Weird but true,

Every pair of upright front pieces determine the overall character of the piece tall will it be how wide and how rugged or finely finished etc

I then find the pieces that will become the shelves, They have to belong together so to speak!

The whole process is immense fun but calls for a certain amount of artistic license on the builders part

However the thing that I love most is that the rougher and more battered the selected timber is the better the end results ..So don`t be put of by conventional thinking that the material Isn`t good enough because if that is the case the chances are that you have some very good raw material just aching to be transformed into a beautiful characterful piece of furniture.

ps..These shelves are always a talking point.

Tools Needed For Shelf Building

This is a list of tools that I personality use in my shelf building projects, But you may prefer to use other tools or whatever you have to hand , either way if it does the job great!

  1. First up is the most important tool of all ...Good old common sense and care

    Using both power and hand tools can be extremely dangerous.

  2. Tape measure and pencil
  3. Circular saw or handsaw
  4. Electric sander and suitable paper (or lots of elbow grease)
  5. Framing or speed square
  6. Screwdriver (electric preferably)
  7. Hammer
  8. Safe workbench to cut timber on (Obvious really but worth mentioning)
Driftwood shelf

Driftwood shelf

What is needed for corner shelf building

Materials for shelf building

This list is open to your own interpretation because it of course depends on what timber you have access to in your own part of the world.

I am lucky in that I have access to lovely old fence rails that lend themselves to building unique pieces but you can use whatever you want or can get hold of you are limited by nothing more than your own imagination..

So this is just really a rough guide but the basics remain more or less the same!

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Every thing except the back boards is officially known as 2 x 6 but is in fact 1 1/2" x 51/2"

I used approximately 13 feet for making the triangular shelves.

The top and upright pieces were 14 feet in total.

The backboards are 1"x6" Tongue and groove I used 46 feet.

The shelf overall dimensions are...

72" tall

27" wide

12" deep

The accompanying picture is a small corner shelf with driftwood front pieces dressed with tiny treasures.

Measuring and cutting corner shelves - How to make the shelf template

Measure and cut each shelf

Measure and cut each shelf

First of all I make a shelf guide template though not strictly necessary it does make life easier and makes sure that all the corner shelf's are exactly the same (more or less)

I use a piece of hardboard for this but you can use cardboard if you like.

There are a few things to consider and decide at this stage.

You want the front upright pieces of the shelf to actually fit flush with the wall it sits against so "don`t cut the shelves to a 90 degree angle" because they won`t fit in the average corner because you will end up with a gap at each side (this is a classic diy corner shelf builder mistake)

First cut your corner template to a 110 degree angle, Depending how deep your shelves boards are going to be determines how big your template needs to be.

If you use the shelf template you can make them as large or small as you like depending on the shelf board size but the angle remains the same (110 degrees)

The dimensions of my shelf was 26" wide and 11" deep.

Next lay together the boards that are to form the shelf making sure they are closely butted together then mark out the cut line using your template.

Now cut out the shelf and repeat the process on the rest of the shelves.

Tip...You can vary the size of the shelves to suit your materials.

Screwing the shelf together - How to join the shelf boards together

Detail of shelf board construction

Detail of shelf board construction

I use "gorilla glue" for Joining together the shelf boards,

This glue requires that you wet both surfaces then spread the glue onto the wet surface then put them together making sure that they align up correctly.

Then using a small drill bit make pilot holes then drive home two 4" screws at an angle similar to the picture make sure the screw heads are below the surface.

Gorilla glue is a foaming glue that uses the water as a catalyst so don`t forget to wet the wood before applying it or you will finish up with a gooey mess that wont cure,

Once the glue has cured you can trim it of easily with a sharp knife.

Then sand the shelves smooth ready for assembly.

Fitting shelf back boards - Assembling the corner shelf


First you need to decide on the overall height of the piece this all depends on the front upright timber and is totally up to your own discretion and creativity.

My shelves are all unique due to the nature of the material that I use so this is where you need to have a picture in your mind of the overall piece that you want to create.

I used 5" tongue and groove kiln dried boards for the back of this corner shelf with the (sanded) rough face on the inside to create the look that I wanted but you can use whatever you prefer or is available.

Next I paint the boards with a translucent interior wood stain including the tongues and grooves so that if the wood shrinks you don`t end up with unpainted timber on show!

Lay the top and bottom shelf face down and fit the first board using a square to align them, Then screw it onto the shelves (assistance is good at this stage) make sure that the back boards overhang by a couple of inches at each end as we will trim them of later.

Pay particular attention to the back corner and how you arrange the boards overlapping each other because if you don`t make a good job it will be seen from inside the finished piece.

Next fit the rest of the boards making sure that the tongues fit nicely into the grooves by gently tapping the together taking care not to damage them.

I use screws for assembly because they "suck" the back boards to the shelves better than nails and it is easy to adjust things if required.

It`s also a very good idea to pre-drill the screw holes to avoid causing cracks in the back boards.

Fitting the corner shelf facade - This is the fun bit!


This is the part of building my shelves that I enjoy the most as it is where I get to see my vision become a reality.

Lay the corner shelf down on its side on a flat surface to ensure that the back edge of the front timber is more or less the widest point as this is what should be in contact with the wall when stood upright then drill holes for the attaching screws then bore the holes part way through to accommodate the screws then glue in dowels to cover the screw heads.

Next cut and fit the top piece and trim the back boards to length.

At this stage stand back and take a good long critical look at the nearly finished piece and make any final adjustments.

Finally give the whole corner shelf a good hand sanding with fine paper until you are satisfied with the finish then apply your choice of polish or wax, I personally used a clear paste wax with natural carnauba wax called Trewax on my corner shelf it is soft and works into the wood very easily without leaving a gooey mess.


Build your own corner shelf

As I said at the start of this hub I love building these pieces and every one is different from the last.

I really hope that I have inspired someone somewhere to have a go at building their own unique piece of furniture whether it be a corner shelf or table or whatever it doesn`t really matter just have a go and you will probably surprise yourself.

Everyone has a different skill level and I hope that you will realize your own hidden talent but if you don`t try you will never know!

To see more of my corner shelves click on the picture.

To see more of my corner shelves click on the picture.

To see more of my corner shelves click on the picture.

My favourite tool - The Swanson speed square

There are many speed squares but the"Swanson Speed square" is still the best!

I hope you enjoyed checking out my handmade shelf lens please take the time to leave a comment be it good bad or indifferent all are welcome so get out your quill and let me know what you think!

ps...All will be published (Gulp)

All ye that paseth this way may comment-Tis thy duty as a human bean !

jtbmetaldesigns on March 17, 2013:

Nice use of old materials.

IFold4Food on March 13, 2013:

Will make one and post photos of it. Thank you for an idea!

Wayne (author) from west vancouver BC Canada on October 30, 2012:

@ScottMckinzie: Thank you for commenting on my lens!

ScottMckinzie on October 30, 2012:

Thanks for sharing!!! Those corner shelves are nice. Great Lens..:)

Wayne (author) from west vancouver BC Canada on August 29, 2012:

@katiecolette: Thank`s for checking them out!

katiecolette on August 29, 2012:

Love your corner shelves!

jejoju on June 24, 2012:

Thank you for sharing a crafty lens.

CorkFlooringTips on April 29, 2012:

Wow really cool lens i bookmarked this i'm building my new home when i get some free time ill build one of these for my man cave.

mahasson on April 25, 2012:

Those are some seriously cool shelves, man. I wish I could build with an artistic outcome like that. My shelves are just the basic stuff. Well done!

norma-holt on February 18, 2012:

Gorgeous work. Blessed and featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 29012, hugs

Nimblepins on January 19, 2012:

Nicely done. I agree - great, detailed instructions. These shelves are my favourite and I think you're so creative to design them.

Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on December 18, 2011:

You are very talented and creative, and I really like your shelf design made from reclaimed fence rails and other salvaged wood. Very well done!

Wayne (author) from west vancouver BC Canada on December 18, 2011:

@Tiggered: Thank`s for commenting on my lens, I`m pleased that you like my shelves! I put the sales modules at the end because it doesn't break the rhythm for the reader if they are actually interested in the subject.

Tiggered on December 18, 2011:

I like both your shelves and the fact that you put your article first and sales modules at the end :)

Wayne (author) from west vancouver BC Canada on December 04, 2011:

@TheLastResort LM: Thanks for leaving a comment..I am glad you liked the instructions I just wanted to inspire other people to have a go with whatever reclaimed materials they find to hand however unlikely the source...

TheLastResort LM on December 04, 2011:

These shelves actually look good, in an artistic way. I don't think I will come across such building materials in my city, but I like the detailed instructions.

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