How To Support A Wooden Shelf

By Woodworking Street •  Updated: 04/22/18 •  9 min read

This article shows how to support a wooden shelf. There are really many ways to do this. It’s a good idea to consider how this will be done in the early stages of your project.

You should consider things like:

There are really many ways to support a shelf. Some of them are listed below:

1. Simple Block Of Wood

To do this, attach wood to the side support pieces of a bookcase, cabinet, or similar furniture item. Glue or screw the side pieces into place. If the screw holes are in a visible area, you might consider countersinking them and using plugs.

This shows a simple way to support a shelf. A wood piece is screwed into a side supporting piece in order to hold the shelf. The screws in the side piece are countersunk. Small image.
Simple shelf support

Another option is to just use nails and glue. You can use a nail set to recess the screw holes. However, nails can come loose with stress on the wood. Because of that screws are often a better choice.

So, what sort of wood should you use for the shelf?

2. Shelf Support Peg

Many pieces of hardware can be used to support shelves. These include shelf support pegs.

How To Support A Wooden Shelf: What Are Shelf Support Pegs?

These pegs do just that: They support the shelves. First, drill holes along the side pieces. The holes on the other side piece must match. You can then adjust the shelf height. The end part of the peg goes into the hole, the remainder extends outward and serves to hold the shelf up.

This shows a shelf supported by pegs. One end is inserted into a hole drilled into the side support piece. The other end holds the shelf. Small image.
Metal pegs support shelf

Actually, you find this approach used often with furniture from Target or Ikea. That is because the pegs make assembly easy, and are relatively inexpensive. Also, you can easily adjust the shelf position to agree with the size of the objects you need to store.

Are There Problems With This Approach?

3. Shelf Support Bracket

This is picture of a shelf supported by brackets. The brackets fit into vertical metal strips, attached to wall studs. Small image.
Shelf brackets fit into metal strips

It is often convenient to support shelves with brackets. These brackets fit into metal strips, placed vertically on the wall. The metal strips are screwed into the wall studs. This is a very simple approach and it’s easy to put up shelves like these. However, there are a few things to consider:

4. Angle Bracket

This is a picture of shelves supported by angle brackets. The shelves are holding decorative ceramic items. Small image.
Shelves supported by angle brackets

These often allow for very secure shelves that can hold significant weights, even some heavy garage items. As with the case above, it’s very important that the brackets be attached to wall studs.

How To Support A Wooden Shelf: More Than One Type Of Angle Bracket

Generally, the holes in these brackets come in two types:

With the first, there’s no chamfer angle taper to accommodate flat head wood screws. However, roundheaded screws will stick out of the brackets. This sort of situation is alright on a garage shelf. However, if the brackets are in a room with fine furniture, you might want the heads to be flush with the surface.

The second type of bracket has holes with a chamfer angle taper for flat head wood screws. If you use this type, you can screw directly into the hole.

Problems With Angle Brackets

However, there’s an issue with this: If you just position the screw by hand, it will inevitably be off-center. It will stick out of the bracket. Since the screw is traveling at an angle, it might break through the wood at the wrong point. Also, you can push the bracket to the side and change the position by tightening the screw. Just a small change in measured position can have a great effect since you’re also trying to make the shelves level. Since the head is not entirely flat and sticks out of the bracket, things can get caught on it.

So, is there anything you can do about this? How can you take care of this problem? Actually, a very inexpensive tool can help. This is the self-aligning center punch. With it, you can make sure that the screw is positioned at the exact center of the screw hole. Then, when you tighten it, the head will be flush. This really works!

The self-aligning center punch consists of a cylindrical piece of metal, much like an ordinary nail set. The end has a chamfer angle taper to match that of a wood screw head. When you rest it in the bracket hole, it will automatically be positioned so that the center of the punch is at the exact center of the hole.

The punch has a spring-loaded core along the central axis of the cylinder. You can tap it with a hammer in order to leave a mark at the hole center. Place the screw tip at that mark. When tightened, the screw will be positioned perfectly.

5. Angle Iron Support

This picture shows storage shelves supported by angle irons. The shelves hold cheese. Small image.
Shelves supported by angle irons

These wooden shelves are supported by metal angle irons. If the angle irons are pre-drilled, you can use the holes for mounting. Otherwise, you’ll have to drill your own holes. This can be done with a drill bit for metal. Make sure to wear eye protection (Goggles). This is important because sharp metal splinters can be thrown off when drilling through metal.

The metal pieces are often “pointy” and sharp. Angle Irons might be better for a garage or storeroom.

6. Metal Pipe Shelf Brackets

This picture shows shelves supported by metal pipes. The shelves are holding cheese. Small image.
Shelves Supported by metal pipes

This is another picture of cheese on shelves. Horizontal metal pipes support the shelves. Many pipe-type supports are available. Some of them screw into plates. In turn, the plates screw directly into wall studs.

7. Shelf Of Boxes

This picture shows a shelf made of boxes or crates. In turn, these are supported by other boxes. Small image.
Shelf supported by boxes

A shelf can also be made of boxes or crates. These can be stacked on other crates, located below. This can be done in a decorative way, as shown in the picture. An advantage of this approach is that the crates can easily be moved to another place.

You don’t screw boxes into the studs. So, this approach doesn’t leave any marks on the wall. You can move things around without having to cover up old screw holes.

How To Support A Wooden Shelf: Conclusion

In this article, we showed how to support wooden shelves. Several different ways of doing this were discussed. You can see that the approach you should take depends on the actual situation, and many other factors.

So, now it’s your turn. Can you come up with more ways to support a shelf? Do you have other things to add? Please feel free to make additions or comments below.

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Woodworking Street

I've had an interest in woodworking and building things since I was a child. With a good plan, the right tools, and a bit of know-how it's possible to build anything. That's what this website is all about. The internet can be an intimidating place for someone new to woodworking. My goal is to provide you with great resources and information to help you get started.

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