Build Leaning Shelves

  • Build Leaning Shelves

Create simple but decorative vertical storage using lengths of plywood and pine. 

At first glance, this lightweight ladder-like shelving looks like it might topple over, but it’s actually very stable and sturdy.

The legs are cut at a 10º angle, and the incline against the wall keeps the 2100mm high shelving solidly upright. 

The tray-like shelves can hold items up to 330mm high, and each shelf is less deep than the one below to follow the angle of the unit.

The shelving can be constructed from a more expensive timber, such as maple, jarrah or Tasmanian oak, to showcase the grain. 

Or, it can be made from plywood or pine and finished with a timber stain to keep costs down.

This set of shelves was made out of BC grade plywood with the better B side facing up. The plywood layers at the front edge of each shelf are hidden behind iron-on edging, while the legs, spacing cleats and shelf backs and sides are cut from DAR finger-jointed pine.

After being assembled, the shelving was thoroughly sanded with 180 grit abrasive paper and a satin stain and varnish in jarrah was applied.

TIP For a painted finish, make the shelving from MDF and apply a sealer, then two coats of acrylic.   

Step 1. Prepare plywood

Position the plywood with the best side down, then cut it to 775mm using a circular saw and straightedge guide. TIP To make a guide, attach a 100mm wide strip of melamine with a factory edge to a 330mm wide piece.

Step 2. Cut the shelves

Rotate the plywood 90º and clamp the straightedge guide to cut the five shelves using a circular saw. Cut the narrowest shelf first to ensure enough ply is left to clamp the guide firmly when the largest shelf is being cut.

Step 3. Cut the legs

Mark a 215mm long taper at a 10º angle on the leg tops and top spacer cleats. Clamp to a pair of sawhorses, then cut the tapers using a circular saw or jigsaw. Round over the cut edges with 180 grit abrasive paper.

Step 4. Attach edging

Clamp the bases on edge to the workbench with the best edge up, then sand with 150 grit abrasive paper. Use an iron on the cotton setting to attach the edging. Go over it with a brayer, then trim the overhang with a flat file.

Step 5. Make angled cuts

Use a mitresaw to square-cut the shelf backs and sides to length, then rotate the saw to 10º and cut one end of each shelf side. Next, make all the angled cuts on the two pine legs and 12 spacer cleats.

Step 6. Secure the cleats

Position the spacer cleats on the legs to check the shelves will be level once secured. Working from the base, secure the cleats with PVA adhesive and a brad nailer, using an offcut of 67 x 18mm timber to space the cleats.

Step 7. Join the shelves

Working on a flat surface, apply PVA adhesive to the back edge of each base. Position the backs and secure with brads at 100mm centres. Attach the sides with the angled ends at the front using PVA adhesive and brads.

Step 8. Assemble unit

Position one leg on three offcuts and apply PVA adhesive in the gaps between the spacer cleats. Clamp the shelves flush with the leg front and secure with nails. Apply adhesive to the other leg, position and secure.

Step 9. Finish shelving

Position the shelving against a wall, check for square and hold it using pipe or sash clamps until the adhesive dries. Fill over the nail heads with timber filler, then sand and apply stain, finishing with a clear polyurethane.

Click on the diagram

Click on the diagram to see each component of these shelves in mm. 

Click on the cutting list

Click on the cutting list to see what components you need for this project.

Click on the fastener list

Click on the fastener list to see what fasteners you need for this project.

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