We told the Editor to ‘shelve’his latest project – such a shame he takes us so literally…

Some shelves need to be open, such as for books, but other items are safer if they cannot fall off accidentally (especially if someone bangs a door in a stud wall and it vibrates every time). We have a collection of carved wooden elephants that have a habit of ‘walking’ every so often. So, here is a design that looks good, can be produced in multiples and placed asymmetrically on the wall, but also ensures nothing falls off.

1. This project is made from throwaway offcuts, so no cost or wastage is involved. Take a piece of 12mm thick board, cut it to width with a handsaw and plane the long edges smooth, checking the width remains consistent

2. Then mark and crosscut two matching pieces for the shelf ends using a try square or engineers square. Clamp together in a vice so they are lined up then plane the ends smooth

3. Use a sanding block or pad to clean up the edges and ‘break the corners’, i.e. a very light sanding to remove any sharpness or ragged bits

4. The ends need a curved shape. Because it is quite a large curve you need to find something that will bend smoothly such as a steel ruler. However, do bear in mind it could permanently distort it and it may not go back to its flat shape

5. Use a coping saw to follow the curve and stay on the line rather than one side, so there isn’t too much cleaning up of the shape to be done

6. A good rub with medium abrasive paper should be enough to give a smooth result with MDF. Solid wood may need more attention to get a good finish

7. If you use reclaimed 6mm ply or MDF with emulsion paint on, for the back and base, you may be able to scrape off the worst of it using the long side edge of a chisel as most chisels come with quite sharp, square edges that will work like a scraper

8. The board surfaces need a good sanding to give an even surface without rounding over any edges in the process

9. The back of the shelf needs to be pinned on, but it needs to hang down enough to cover the bottom panel when that is fitted on. Holding the base in place allows you to check the overhang

10. One end is pinned on with panel pins and the panel overhanging at the end by about 6mm. Ditto then with the other end using the surface behind to press the shelf against while nailing

11. The bottom panel needs some dabs of glue to bond it to the back panel. Slim panel pins and a very good aim are necessary to fix it without the pins breaking out

12. Now two slim pine strips are needed along the front of the shelf. Mark the distance between the shelf ends and draw across with a try square. Cut with a fine tooth hand saw using a bench hook to aid the sawing process

13. Glue and pin the top rail in place. All pins will get painted over so it doesn’t matter if they are visible

14. While pinning, place a piece wood under the other end for support as the base back boards overhang and don’t help its stability

15. The bottom rail is simply glued; no pins as the long edge with glue on will hold very firmly. You will need several spring clamps to keep it in place while it dries. Note the deliberate overhang at both front and sides

16. By fitting the back panel on, it will leave a gap above, behind the bracket. This needs to be filled with a small piece of the same thickness ply, glued and taped in position until it dries

17. You can buy small cans of finishes like this Rust-Oleum chalky finish for the body colour and then complete the effect, in this case using their metallic gold on edges to give a two-tone look

18. Your final piece should look something like this

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