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How I Build a Home Project Shelf: Building My Own Shelves With A Little Wood, Work, and Attitude

Updated on January 9, 2011

The Scene of the Crime

Our 'Big Shed'... It's taller than the house!
Our 'Big Shed'... It's taller than the house!

Born without the 'guy gene'

Related Hubs:
A Little More Wood, Work, and Attitude - Building Shelves in the Shed Part 2

How To Build A 2 Floor Shed

Today was project day. We have a lot of those, but this one was unusual. I was actually a willing partner, rather than a conscripted worker. Normally, I avoid 'family projects'. They always involve tools. Tools that can't wait to hurt me. You've seen the movie, Final Destination? Well, that's how my tools act. Every time I use one, it's an opportunity for injury. I do not have the 'guy gene' where most men are born inherently knowing how to build, fix, and improve.

Some projects only give me small cuts and gouges. Some include broken bones. Small sprains are common. It's not unusual for me to call a professional in to repair my repairs. You would think anybody with a minimum of common sense would see the trend, and avoid these situations. However, I fell in love with, and married, a lady who does projects at the blink of an eye. Her mother has the same inclination. When they're faced with a project that would have any sane man quaking in his boots and calling in the pros, they don't run. They research. In our time together, we've torn down a full-scale aviary. Built a 2-floor shed. Put together a 20' x 30' ground level deck. Built furniture. Painted, repaired, remodeled, laid wood flooring, you name it. Right before we met, they installed a beautiful tile floor in the kitchen and dining room. The tiles were those huge stone ones that are 2 feet square.

(I'd like to interrupt this hub for a brief intermission... My brother-in-law Rick, carpenter extraordinaire, built the shed, with all other family members acting under his guidance. This was not clear in the above paragraph. There will be much more detail in a future article coming soon to a hub page near you!)

Monique and her Mom are forces of nature, and similar to being caught in a whirlwind, I typically get pulled along with each new project. Monique has come to accept that I can pick things up, move them, and do the basic physical labor. She handles anything requiring skill or actual thought. Mom has almost accepted it, but sometimes she still asks my advice as if I would actually know the answer.

The Mess - and the Monstrosity

It's actually worse than it looks
It's actually worse than it looks
One of my early projects
One of my early projects

Requirements for a Do-It-Yourself Project:

But today. Today was different. Today I actually took charge of a project. We made shelves. We made huge shelves, in our shed. The shed is mostly for eBay, for inventory, and for supplies. It's been getting out of control, and we needed some way to get organized again. Somehow, the idea of shelves lining the entire wall came up. Then we thought of shelves branching out from the wall like a library. I nearly had a panic attack, but managed to stipulate we build the shelves one section at a time. The goal for today was to build floor to ceiling shelves on the left as we enter, from the door to the corner. For a long time, there was an assortment of cabinets, bookshelves, and buffets for storage. In the middle was this great wheeled monstrosity that shipping boxes were kept in. It was supposed to be movable, so you can access everything behind it. If you look at the picture, you can easily tell it was a previous project of mine.

People know we need boxes, and we started getting more than we could keep up with. So the wheeled box storage unit must go, and new shelves must be built.

When I do a project, there are requirements. First, no painting. Once it is assembled, I am done. Second, minimal tool use. Preferably only a hammer, but if I must use power tools, only a drill and a skill saw. And they can only be used briefly. Third, any project by me must have some endearing flaw. A slight lean, maybe a non-right-angled corner. Just some little way that makes the project truly mine.

From first thoughts, to first steps

Waiting for inspiration
Waiting for inspiration
First Shelf
First Shelf

How to plan your project

First the shed needs to be cleared. Lots of work, but easy enough. Just cart it all outside. Once it's empty, I like to look at it for a while. Try to visualize exactly how this is going to happen. My first plan only requires one 2x4, some nails, and the shelves. I'm thinking, maybe I can do this whole thing without buying any materials! Then it occurs to me... my design won't be very strong. Maybe it needs something under the shelves to brace them. Searching the pile of left-over lumber from previous projects, I find enough timber to support the first shelf. And one piece of plywood big enough for the entire shelf.

Soon, that one shelf was built. Maybe a little cockeyed. I think I attached some parts to the top of my measured line, and other parts to the bottom of the same line. When you're really close to a project, you don't realize that front left corner isn't exactly square. Until it's too late and you've already built more shelves. But you know what? It's entirely functional, and not like we're building to impress anybody. I say let it stand as is. Besides, there's only a half-inch difference in width. I'll just cut the shelf wider on one end.

Now... one shelf down. Two more to go. This is going great! Until I realize I don't quite have all the pieces after all. Quick trip to Home Depot, get 3 long pieces of wood, a box of screws, and we're good to go. Back home, slap the supports up quickly, it's getting late. I hate projects that take more than one day. Time to cut the plywood for the shelves. There aren't any more big pieces, so it's cut kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.

In the meantime, I'm using nails where possible, and screws everywhere else. If I ever need to take it apart, at least half of it will be very easy. After the last shelf-piece was cut and put in place, it became obvious that some of them wobble. That'll probably clear right up once we put things on top of them.

The Finished Project

Waiting to be filled
Waiting to be filled

How To... Not!

By now, it's getting late, sun's going down, and supper is almost ready. Monique was my able assistant (and subtle guide) most of the day, but she had other things to do, so much of my work was unsupervised. She was quite proud of my shelves when she came back out. I did catch her frowning intently at them. When I asked what was on her mind, she said "planning how to approach the next part of the job." Probably something along the lines of "Don't let him work on his own any more!"

This isn't so much a "How-To", it's a "How-Not-To". But mainly I wanted to show that ANYBODY can improve and reorganize with the addition of a few shelves. And if you lack the guy gene, don't feel so bad. You're not alone.

Here's a short addendum: Our shelf building project only cost $11.00. None of my injuries required a doctor. And the next time you think about doing a self-help project, remember this... Somewhere out there, a skilled professional needs a job to feed his children. You shouldn't deprive him.

Click here to read Part 2

Much better than mine, but much more complex also


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    • Crewman6 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Pretty darn close, anyway!

    • agvulpes profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      LOL "nearly everything?"

    • Crewman6 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Agvulpes, thank you so much! Coming from someone who actually knows which end of a hammer to hold, I take your comment as a major compliment! And you're right... nearly everything I've ever broken has grown back. :^)

    • agvulpes profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      Congratulations , as a DIYer for many years and usually starting another before finishing the first I had many unfinished projects lol. I also like the no-painting policy you have. And to build those shelves for $11.00 you have done well. :-)

      So whats a few scratches , cuts , broken bones to a DIYer at least we can say " I built that"!

    • Crewman6 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much, SEO IT! Me too, as a child I was assigned "flashlight holding". Now I'm trying to exceed my limits... but by as little as possible!

    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 

      8 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      I lack the "guy gene". Yeah, I know, I'm not a guy... but my mom and older sister are both into construction, carpentry and mechanical things. I have always just kind of stood around, looking lost and handing out tools. Given my tendency to trip and drop things, I've counted my lack of handy"man" skills a blessing! I think it's great that you are doing what you're doing, now. Kudos to you!


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