How to Build a Simple Shelf

DIY wall shelves are the perfect project to hone your carpentry skills. Maximize your room's storage potential with this easy do-it-yourself shelf.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

Free up valuable space on your countertops by adding shelves to your kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom. These DIY wall-mount shelves are similar to open shelving, but the trim stretching across the front provides more security for display items. The shelves are simple to make and can be finished and installed in one day. Customize the length to fit your space and fill them with decor or daily-use items.

finished wall shelf with blue decor

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Straightedge or ruler
  • Table saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • Dry cloth
  • Clamps
  • Nail gun
  • Level
  • Drill


  • 1/2 x 24 x 48-inch plywood board
  • 1/4 x 3/4 x 96-inch trim molding
  • Paint or stain
  • Wood glue
  • Nails
  • Screws


  1. Make Cuts

    Cut your wood to the below dimensions.

    Cut Measurements
    Piece Dimensions Quantity
    Side Boards 1/2 x 5 x 5 inches 2
    Back Board 1/2 x 4-1/2 x 24 inches 1
    Bottom Board 1/2 x 5 x 24 inches 1
    Trim Rail 1/4 x 3/4 x 25 1
  2. Cut and Prep Wood

    Using a pencil, measuring tape, and straightedge or ruler, mark your measurements on the sheet of plywood. If your table saw has a built-in measuring tape, you can make measurements directly on the saw. You should have two 5x5-inch pieces, which form the sides; one 4-1/2x24-inch piece, which forms the back; and one 5x24-inch piece, which forms the bottom. Following the cut list, cut your sheet of plywood down to size with a table saw. Measure and mark 25 inches on your trim piece, and cut with the table saw. Sand any rough edges and use a tack cloth to clean up the dust.

  3. add stain to wood pieces for shelf

    Stain or Paint

    Here's where you can get creative. We chose to stain our shelf, but you could opt for a bold paint color or a trim piece that's an entirely different shade. To stain the plywood and trim pieces, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Cover your work space if you're concerned about a mess. Use a dry rag to wipe extra stain off the wood. Allow to dry.

  4. Assemble Base and Back

    To form the bottom and back of the shelf, glue the two long pieces together at a right angle and use wood clamps to hold into place while glue dries. The 4-1/2x24-inch board should sit on top of the 5x24-inch piece. For reinforcement, drive nails into the joint with a nail gun.

  5. use nail gun to secure glued pieces together

    Attach Sides

    Using wood glue, attach the first 5x5-inch board onto one side of the shelf. Clamp and let dry. Repeat with the other side. Nail the sides into place with a nail gun. If you don't have a nail gun, call your local hardware store; they may have one available for rental. Alternatively, you can use a hammer and nails.

  6. Finish and Hang

    Once both sides are assembled, place the trim piece on the open side of the shelf, about 1-1/2 inches from the top. Use a nail gun to secure it in place. To hang your shelf, first drill pilot holes into the back of the shelf, then secure it to the wall with screws. Use a level to ensure it is straight. If you're planning to use the shelf for heavy items, consider hanging the shelf on wall studs.

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