How to Make Easy Shelf Brackets

By Chris Deziel

Shelf brackets don't have to be complicated, and many commercially available ones aren't. Consisting of little more than a length of metal bent at a 90-degree angle, they make up for their lack of elegance by being utilitarian and inexpensive. A woodworker, whether novice or expert, doesn't have to make that trade-off. Sturdy shelf brackets are easy to make -- you don't need heavy-duty tools -- and the materials are inexpensive. With a little extra effort, creativity and the right choice of wood, they can also be elegant.

List of Items Needed

  • Tape measure
  • Combination square
  • 1-inch-thick lumber
  • 2 sawhorses
  • 2 C-clamps
  • Pencil
  • Handheld multipurpose tool
  • Carbide cutting accessory
  • Corner rounding routing accessory
  • Handheld cutting tool
  • Multipurpose blade
  • Oscillating tool
  • Drill
  • 1/4- and 3/8-inch drill bits
  • Sanding accessory
  • 120- and 150-grit sandpaper
  • Wood finish
  1. Measure the width of the shelf you want to hang and subtract an inch. Slide the stop of a combination square along the ruler until the 45-degree guide is situated that distance from the end as measured from the inside corner of the guide.

  2. Choose a length of 1-inch-thick lumber that has the same width as the shelf and either matches the wood or contrasts with it in an attractive way. Lay it flat on a pair of sawhorses and clamp it to the horses with C-clamps.

  3. Place the square on the edge of the board with the 45-degree guide flush against one edge and trace a line along the ruler from the inside corner of the guide to the end of the ruler.

  4. Slide the stop of the combination square along the ruler until the 90-degree guide is at one end and the entire ruler is available for measuring. Place the guide on the line you drew so that it is parallel and the end of the line touches the inside corner of the guide. The ruler should extend over the edge of the board.

  5. Draw a second line along the edge of the ruler from the inside corner of the guide to the edge of the board. When you are done, you will have drawn a right-angled triangle with two equal sides and a hypotenuse on the edge of the board.

  6. Draw a simple or complex curve inside the triangle, starting about an inch from the point where one of the lines intersects the edge of the board and finishing about an inch from the point where the second line intersects. The curve is cosmetic -- you'll be cutting it out to transform the bracket from a simple triangle to something more decorative. Be creative.

  7. Cut along the curve with a handheld multipurpose tool fitted with a carbide cutting accessory and remove the off-cut.

  8. Remove the cutting blade from the multipurpose tool and insert a corner rounding routing accessory. Rout along the edges of the shape you cut out. When you are done, turn the board over, re-clamp it and rout the edges on the other side.

  9. Cut the bracket out of the board by cutting along the two original lines you drew with a handheld cutting tool. Use the bracket you just made to trace a second one on the board.

  10. Cut and rout the curves of the second bracket, then cut it from the board. Use the first bracket to trace a third one. Continue repeating the procedure to make as many brackets as you need.

  11. Drill two 1/4-inch holes through the inside edges of the brackets so you can drive screws to hold the brackets to the wall and the shelf to the brackets without splitting the wood. Countersink the holes by widening the openings with a 3/8-inch drill bit so the screw heads will sink about 1/4 inch below the surface of the wood.

  12. Sand the brackets with an oscillating tool and 120- to 150-grit sandpaper. Apply a finish, if desired.

Tips and Warnings

  • Install the brackets by screwing them to the wall with screws long enough to go through the bracket and sink into studs or wall anchors. Make sure they are at the same height before you screw them. When they are secure, screw the shelf to the brackets with screws long enough to sink into the shelf without emerging from the top.
  • Wear safety glasses when cutting or routing the brackets.

© Demand Media 2011