Corner Shelf (5)Michelle’s townhouse includes a beautiful fireplace with space above for a TV. She opted to wall-mount the TV, freeing up that currently uncharted territory for something new and exciting. Her initial thought was to construct a built-in to fill the open space. As we discussed and visualized that option we had concerns that it would make the fireplace corner appear small and stuffy.

We invested time looking at shelf ideas online as well as in several woodworking books from the public library. DIY is about picking, choosing, adapting, and repurposing. Pick the parts you like from one deign and integrate them with parts from another. Our design discussion included these questions:

  • What problem are you hoping to solve?
  • How will you use the shelf space?
  • What future plans might be impacted by a built-in?
  • How do you plan to handle the existing electrical and cable outlets?

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The purpose of the discussion is to prevent wasting time and money on a solution which becomes visually tiring and limits opportunity. Here’s the space, and please ignore the slabs of ancient barn wood. Those were reserved for a future project which has been added to Dad’s List. I really need to password protect that file.

Michelle’s requirements for the corner include:

  • shelf space for books
  • display area for doodads and what-nots
  • space for her expanding plant collection

Corner Shelf Model

We captured dimensions of the open space and drew a scale model. The shaded area represents the bottom of the proposed design, and by sliding it forward and backward we could see how the shelf width would impact plant space and so on. (Yes, there is probably an app that will do this on a smartphone or PC.)

In the end we decided on a 42” shelf that preserves 10” of space for plants and incorporates Michelle’s personalized design elements. A small triangle of corner space is wasted, but given the visual effect of her solution no one will notice.

Corner Shelf Plan

After several iterations of my design diagram I had a shopping list ready. For the support members I used 1×4 clear fir, and the shelves are cut from 48” sections of 1×12” pine. I burrowed through the lumber stack to find clear boards (minimum knot holes) and double checked for warping and cupping.

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My small table saw will not safely cut 1×12’s on a 45 degree angle. The corner bevels required two passes – one with the table saw and a finishing pass with the jig saw. Use what you have, and get creative, but be safety conscious. At no time does a serious carpenter think, “It’s time to put my fingers in the saw.” Those accidents happen when we let our guard down and relax around the tools. Keep the fleshy parts out of the rotating machinery.

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Michelle was enthralled (or at least polite) as I pontificated about saw kerf and the need to position the 1×4’s on the chop saw correctly.

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She expertly made the cuts.

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The Kreg Jig makes short work of the joinery.

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The support ends of the shelf are identical. We placed the pieces in order to assist in marking the spots for the pocket screws which must be hidden from view.

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Clamps held the parts in place while Michelle inserted the screws.

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Don’t forget to turn the drill to a lower torque setting before installing the pocket screws.

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The shelves had to be notched to fit, and we accomplished this with the jig saw. The fit was a little tight and once primer and paint were applied I had to cut these slots a little deeper.

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The top and bottom shelves were secured with 1¼ wood screws making the structure strong and wobble-proof. We drilled pilot holes to prevent splitting. Next was a quick after-lunch run to the lumber yard for the trim of Michelle’s choice.

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Product testing is a major part of any effort. Michelle verified that a book could rest comfortably on the vast expanse of the shelf.

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I used one coat of primer and two coats of paint and the product was ready to install. The test fit showed us why it is better to be lucky than smart. My finished unit missed the electrical outlet as planned, but it covered the cable outlet which is thankfully unused in her application.

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The innovative solution is a corner shelf unit that preserves the open look of the fireplace. Nice design, Daughter!