In Projects, Questions And Answers, Techniques, Weekend Projects

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Free-Form Wall Shelves

Edited by Dave Munkittrick

Here’s a versatile shelf that allows for a
creative, one-of-a-kind edge treatment.
Hung on the wall without any visible
means of support, these shelves are real
eye catchers.

Choose boards that are at least
1-1/4-in. thick and no more than about
7-in.wide. Wood with wane,bark pockets
or end checks is a perfect candidate.
(You guessed it—this is a great
way to use reject boards that are just too
pretty to throw away or burn.)

First, true up the top and back edge
with a hand plane or jointer. The back
edge of the board is planed a degree or
two less than perpendicular to keep
objects from rolling off the shelf.Next, position the keyhole hangers out
towards the ends of the shelves. Try to
space the hangers every 16-in. so the
shelves can be mounted directly to wall
studs.The keyholes are mounted either
horizontally or vertically and
placed near the top edge to
provide a bearing surface
below the attachment point.
Mark the profile of the hangers
with a sharp knife and
carefully chisel out the mortises
to the exact depth of
the hangers. Next, drill a
recess at the bottom of each
mortise (approx. 5/16-in.
deep) to allow the wall-mounted screws to securely engage the

Now you’re ready to shape the rest of
the shelf.The gently curved and beveled
ends can be cut on a bandsaw. Don’t
think too hard about how each piece
should look. I’ve had good results simply
letting the grain figure determine
the shape of the shelf. Just remove the
loose or broken stuff and smooth out
any rough edges with a carver’s gouge.

Finish with a couple coats of oil,
hang it up and you’ve got a conversation
piece that will wow your houseguests.

John Nesset



(Source information may have changed since the original publication date.)

Woodcraft,, 800-225-1153, Keyhole Hanger, #125505, $1.25 each.

This story previously appeared in American Woodworker June 2000, Issue #80.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

Fig. A: Wall Mount

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