Leaning Wall Shelves Part 6: Assemble the legs & supports

By Pinktoesandpowertools | Progress Posts

I’m going to admit that modifying the leg’s to make the leaning wall bookshelf shorter and only three shelves high rather than constructing the full size was a bit of a pain!  Even though I tend to be a planner before I start a project, if I’m modifying I work on-the-fly a lot too.  This project required making some things work as I went.I decided to go with Ana’s plans at this point, which meant that I marked my boards from the bottom up, for 3 shelves, using her measurements.  I knew this wouldn’t work perfectly, but I had to start somewhere!

Make sure that when you are drawing the lines on your board, that you make one board a mirror of the other, like this, but you haven’t cut anything yet:

Lean wall shelf legs cut out as mirror images of each other

Only cut one board at this point, it becomes the template

Once everything is marked, you can cut the angles into the tops of the boards.  I used the miter saw at 7.5 degrees to take off the ends and then had to support the board more at a perpendicular-to-the-saw orientation to make the second cut.  ONLY CUT ONE BOARD.  Now take your board, along with your biggest shelf, to a room with a flat floor and wall, and decide where you want the legs to hit the side of your shelf.  Right now it will hit toward the back–I wanted mine toward the front.  I eyeballed about how much more I needed to cut away, took it outside, and it worked great the first try.  Take it back in and check the fit.  You’ve now got a template for your other boards.

I believe that I ended up cutting 8 degrees (instead of Ana’s 7.5 degrees) for the top of the legs, marking in 12/16″ and 4″ down (connect those marks with a straight line) and cutting the part that leans against the wall.  But I also have marked that the bottom was 10 degrees and Ana’s angles are both the same.  LESSON: Start with the 7.5 degrees, make a small change, recheck, and modify until you get a perfect fit and a template to use for your other 3 legs.

Redraw your lines where the support boards will be attached

Here is where I redrew the lines on the side of the board that the length changed (you cut more of the board away).  The other side should have stayed the same because you cut to that tip, but didn’t remove any wood.  You may choose to mark your boards only at this point.  Like I’ve mentioned, this part made me nervous, so I marked everything and then remarked.

Cut the shelf supports paying careful attention that you measure for the fattest part of your shelf width

Now to cut the shelf supports.  In an perfect world with straight boards, you would make these cuts 24″ (22.5 + .75 + .75–shelf front, side width, side width).  Furring strips do not exist in a perfect world.  I cut my shelf supports at the measurement I was sure was the fattest part of the shelf, and once I had glued and screwed the supports in place, some of my shelves would not slide in.  Or pound in.

I got out the 60 grit, the sander, and my smile.  I would shave off the sides and it would fit.  Fifteen minutes later (and still on the same shelf) the smile was gone and I got out the rubber mallet, unscrewed the supports and wacked them apart.  It only splintered in one unseen spot, thankfully.  LESSON: measure the fattest part of your shelf width (probably the middle with cupping in the board) and give yourself a little smidgeon more than that.  You might not want to use glue to assemble either, just in case it still isn’t wide enough.  Your choice.

Drill your pocket holes

Now you want to drill pocket holes with your Kreg Jig–two in each end of your supports.  Since these shelves are shorter and you can’t see the bottom of the shelves, you should be fine with pocket holes in the bottom.  I would probably put the holes in the top of the top shelves if I could do-over.  My shelves are up higher and you can slightly see the holes.  Cupping matters here too.  You want the board to cup up into the shelf above it, so drill the holes on the back side of the “(“:

Kreg Jig and pocket holes to assemble leaning wall shelf supports

At this point you need to decide if you want the shelves where Ana’s plans have placed them.  I lowered the bottom shelf because of the unusual place these shelves will be situated.  Ana’s plans give you room under the bottom legs for the base molding against a wall, but you will be deciding how far back to put the shelves, so it shouldn’t be an issue if you want to move the spacing.

Attach the supports to the legs

To attach the supports to the legs, clamp a scrap piece of lumber to the back side of the line you already drew, glue (or not), clamp, and screw in:

Attaching the leaning wall shelf supports with pocket screws

When you screw in your pocket holes, they have a natural tendency to tighten up toward the back.  By clamping a board behind the board you are attaching, you get a nice straight assembly tightened right up to where you want it.

The middle is trickier.  I have a portable work bench that opens in the middle, so I clamped from the middle in the same manner:

Attaching the middle shelf support for leaning wall shelf

The other end is the same as the first.  To attach to the other leg, use two scrap pieces of lumber on each end, clamped to the correct side of the line, glue (or not), and place the partially assembled unit on top, clamp, and screw in.  Ideally you would have 3 scrap pieces–one more for the middle–but I don’t have that many clamps yet.  It worked fine my way:

All three supports attached for leaning wall shelf assembly

It’s looking like a real shelf now!  This picture makes it look bowed on the top, but it wasn’t.  By the way, once I had loosened the shelf supports from the legs so that I could get the shelves in, the shelves slid in and the screws tightened right back up.  This is the only spot where that did not happen, and lucky for me it is on the bottom shelf, hidden from sight:

There’s always an “oops” part of a build…

What project have you had to get out your rubber mallet to “repair”?  Make me feel better in the comments!