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How-to Woodworking General

Creating Floating Shelves

By George Vondriska on April, 7 2021
Woodworking and interior design

Floating shelves have a nearly magical look, with no visible hardware holding them on the wall. Here are some tricks that’ll help you create floating shelves.


Hardware for wall mounting

Buy the hardware first!! The functionality of floating shelf hardware is pretty consistent. A bracket with rods projecting off of it gets fastened to the wall. The rods project into the shelf to support it. But there are also subtle differences. The manufacturer will tell you the maximum depth the shelf can be, how thin and long the shelf can be and how much load it can support. Don’t machine any material until you know these parameters.

The hardware shown here holds up to 90 pounds and works for shelves 24” to 36” long and 8” to 10” deep.


Machine the shelf for the bracket

The wall mount hardware can be made completely invisible by machining the back edge of the shelf to hide it.


Installing a dado head in your tablesaw

Install a dado head in your table saw and set the height of the blade so it’s slightly above the wall mount bracket. The width of the dado head should be slightly more than half the width of the wall mount bracket. Use a 5/8” wide dado head for a 1” wall bracket.

Calculate the fence position on your tablesaw by subtracting the width of the wall mount bracket from the shelf thickness and dividing the result by two. For example, if the shelf is 1-1/2” thick and the wall mount bracket is 1” wide, the result you’ll get is 1/4". Position the rip fence 1/4" from the dado head.


Test cut against the fence of your tablesaw

Make a test cut by using a piece of scrap that’s the same thickness as the shelf. Make a cut with one face against the fence…


Making cuts on wood as you rotate the angle

…rotate the piece end for end and make another cut.


inserting the bracket on the groove

The bracket should fit in the resulting groove. Adjust the blade height and fence position as necessary.



Repeat the cuts on all shelve pieces

Make the same cuts on your shelves.


Calculating rod insert placement

Measure the rod to rod distance on the bracket. Subtract that from the length of the shelf to determine how far in from the end the rods should be. For example, if the rod to rod distance is 18” and the shelf is 28” long, the rods should be 5” in from the end.


Marking the location the rod will penetrate

Mark the rod location on end of the shelf and position the rod at that mark.


Trace the postion of the second rod

Hold the hardware in that location and mark the position of the other rod. It’s easier, and more accurate, to trace and transfer the rod locations than it is to measure and lay out the locations. It’s very important that the rod holes are drilled in exactly the right spot, or the shelf won’t mount to the wall bracket.


Drilling the hole with the dowel jig in place

Determine what size hole the rods call for. Use a self-centering dowel jig clamped in the correct location to drill the hole. The jig will ensure the hole is drilled perpendicular to the edge, and straight. Be very careful locating the jig on your work, making sure it’s perfectly set on the lay out lines made in the previous step. Drill as deeply as you can.


Finishing the drilled hole

Due to the length of the rods, you most likely won’t be able to fully drill the holes with the dowel jig in place. Remove the jig and continue drilling, allowing the bit to follow the hole that was started with the dowel jig.


Alternative easier option with extra long drill bits

Instead of doing a two-step drilling operation you can use extra-long drill bits to drill the holes in one step, without having to remove the dowel jig.


Testing the hole placement

Test the wall bracket in the holes you drilled. If it doesn’t go in you can, possibly, slightly enlarge the holes you drilled. This is not, however, good practice and may weaken the shelf’s contact with the bracket, and cause it to sag.


Plug the grooves

The grooves made to hide the wall mount bracket will show on the end of the shelf unless you plug them.


Planing scrapwood until it aligns with groove

Plane a scrap piece of the shelf material until it just fits in the groove.


Creating plugs for the groove

Rip pieces of the plug material so their thickness matches the depth of the groove. Cut them to length and glue them in. Keep the plugs short so they don’t interfere with the wall mount bracket seating in the groove.


Create a series of plugs to match grain of wood

It’s best to make a number of plug pieces so you have plenty of choices and can match the color and grain of the plug to that of the shelf.


Install the shelves


Marking position for shelf installation

Using a level, mark a level line on the wall in the shelf location.


Using hardware to trace drilling holes

Position the bracket on the level line and trace the locations of the screw holes.


Drill holes on the wall

Predrill for the screws or anchors. Be sure to use the correct fastener for the wall type you’re working with. Screw directly into studs whenever you can, and use robust fasteners and anchors.


Inserting screws

Drive the screws securing the wall mount brackets to the wall.


Sliding wood into final placement

Slide the shelves onto the wall brackets.

You may have to vary this procedure a little, depending on the what mounting system you purchase, but the overall process of hiding the hardware will be similar.

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