Sep 8, 2020

How to Build and Stain Your Own Shelf

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nstalling shelves in your home can be intimidating enough for some, so the idea of building your own shelf to install may seem complicated, but these steps will show you how easy this floating shelf project truly is! Not only will it be satisfying to know that you’ve made and installed your own shelves in your home, but they’ll look great once they are up on your wall holding up all your books and other home decor! This post includes step by step instructions for assembling your own shelf, staining it, and installing it all by yourself.

Included in this Blog Post:

  • Tools and Materials You Will Need
  • Building Your Shelf
  • Staining Your Shelf
  • Installing Your Shelf
You’ll likely already have many of the tools and materials required for this easy at home project!

1. Tools and Materials You Will Need


  • You will definitely need a tape measure.
  • You will also need a level.
  • You will require a cordless drill and 3½ inch screws.
  • You will need sandpaper or a sanding block of 120 grit or more.
  • If you are not able to purchase your boards in the length you are looking for you will need a compound miter saw or circular saw as well to cut them to size.


  • First, you will need two corbels to hold up your shelf, these are essentially brackets that hold your shelf up on the wall.
  • Next, you will need two 2x6 boards in a length of your choosing fitted to where they will be in your space.
  • You will need a wood stain in a color of your choice for finishing the shelf.
  • Gloves.
  • A tack cloth or lint-free cloth to ensure a dust-free surface for staining.

Before you begin assembling your shelf one important thing to note is that 2x6 boards come with rounded edges. If you do not want your shelf to have a look with rounded edges then consider purchasing either a compound miter saw or circular saw even if you are able to purchase your boards at the desired length. If you do not want this rounded edge then cutting about an eighth or a quarter of an inch off either end of your boards with a table saw is a good way to solve this problem, this post helps walk you through this process if you are interested.

Putting together this project is much easier than you think and the end product will look fantastic!

2. Building Your Shelf

Now, if you have sawed off the rounded edges of your boards (or left them rounded, which has its own more natural look to it as well) you can begin to assemble your shelf!

Prepping Your Materials for Assembly:

Begin by laying one of your 2x6’s on the ground (on the edge that will be placed against the wall).

Now place both corbels on the ground (also on the edges that will be fixed to the wall). Decide how far in on each end of your shelf you would like your corbels to be.

If you are building a longer shelf (anywhere from six to eight feet long) then you will want to place your corbels closer to each other and farther away from the edges of your 2x6’s (around 8 inches from the edges of the board). Not only does this help your shelf get more support, but the way that it looks is also much more pleasing to the eye. If you are building a shorter shelf width-wise, however, (about three or four feet long) you will want to place your corbels a bit closer to the edges of your 2x6’s (anywhere from four to six inches from the edges).

Attaching Your Corbels and Boards

Now that you have your corbels lined up against your wood where you would like them to sit, take your cordless drill screw in two 3½ in. construction screws down into the top of the wood corbel through the first 2x6.

Repeat this step on the opposite side of the shelf with your second corbel. Now that your first board is attached to the corbels, place your next board in front of the first one and against the corbel (so that the depth of your shelf is extended) and repeat the same steps of drilling through the 2x6 and into the corbel once more.

Now that your boards and corbels are securely attached you should have a fully assembled shelf!  

One important touch to make sure your shelf fits right in with your other home decor is choosing a stain that compliments your space.

3. Staining Your Shelf

Prepping Your Shelf to be Stained

Before you can begin prepping and staining your newly assembled shelf it is important to find a well-ventilated area to stain the wood. If you do not have an outdoor space to stain your shelf consider purchasing a dust mask. You will also want to have a drop cloth or some type of tarp or plastic covering to protect your floors if you are applying the stain indoors.

Before staining you will need to sand your shelf with a sanding block or sandpaper. Most corbels will come pre-sanded so it is likely that you will only have to sand the boards used to make the shelf.  

Staining Your Shelf

There are many stains to choose from, some will not require this but it is a good idea to apply a wood conditioner to your shelf before staining it to prevent blotches and streaking in the application. Because there are so many color options to choose from when it comes to staining your wood it is a good idea to test a couple of different stains on any scrap pieces of wood you may have leftover from this project before coating your shelf.

It is a good idea to put on a pair of gloves to stain your wood. You should also thoroughly stir your wood stain before applying it to your shelf. Once your wood stain has been stirred you can either choose to apply the stain to your shelf with a paintbrush or a cloth or rag. If you do choose to use a rag to apply the stain, a good way to gauge how much stain should be on the rag is to make sure that your stain is not dripping from the cloth but that the rag is still wet.

Now that you have your stain and applicator of choice ready, you should thoroughly coat your shelf with the stain making sure that it is fully saturating the wood. After your shelf looks adequately coated in stain you will want to make sure that there are no places where there is extra stain or where the stain is dripping on your shelf. If there are drips make sure to wipe them up with a lint-free cloth (so as not to get dust or other particles in the stain) before they dry. If you are having trouble making your stain application even then consider taking a look at this guide.

Once your shelf is all done it’s hard not to want to just put it straight on the wall but be sure to check the recommended drying time for the stain you are using on your shelf so that you do not smudge or transfer any of the stain when hanging it on your wall.

4. Installing Your Shelf

Most Corbels will have some form of a bracket on the back to allow for an easy installation process. You will need to make sure you are hitting a stud when hanging your shelf. In order to do this, you can either purchase a stud finder or (if you would rather not buy another piece of equipment) refer to this very helpful list of ways to find the wall studs in your home.

This very simple project can be accomplished in just a day and it will always be a source of satisfaction to see your beautiful homemade shelf hanging in your home or office! Share this easy and quick way of building and installing your own shelf with friends who are interested in DIY home improvement projects as well!

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