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AW Extra - Free-Form Wall Shelves


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 hangers.

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