Stackable Shelves

Buy PDF & Cut List It's shelving, storage, a desk and work surface combined

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Make your own stackable shelves. A simple shop-made jig makes this project simple to build and a snap to assemble.

Tools Required

  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set
  • File
  • Forstner drill bits
  • Framing square
  • Hacksaw
  • Jigsaw
  • Miter saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Rubber mallet
  • Safety glasses
  • Straightedge

Materials Required

  • 3/4-in. brad nails
  • 3/8-in. steel rod
  • Baltic birch
  • MDF
  • Wood edging
  • Wood glue

If you need shelving, storage, a desk or a work surface, check out this modular system. It’s got lots of storage space for your electronic gear and books and a nifty recess to accommodate a stool. And you can easily customize this system to suit your storage needs and wall space.

The T-shaped standards are simple to cut and glue. We used Baltic birch because we liked the look of the multiple laminations on the edges, but any 1/2-in. hardwood plywood will do. We chose sturdy, easy-to-clean 3/4-in. Melamine for the horizontal shelves because it has a tough, plastic-like surface, but you can use plywood, MDF (medium-density fiberboard), or particleboard and paint it any color you wish.

The plywood standards and the shelves are drilled precisely with a homemade jig and are held together with 3/8-in. dia. steel pins. The pins slide through the shelves and into the standards, so putting this together is sort of like stacking blocks or Lego pieces.

Build a jig to assemble and drill the T-shaped shelf standards

You can’t successfully build this project without maintaining exact consistency. This handy jig will help. You make the jig by gluing and nailing 1/2-in. plywood strips to a 3/4-in. scrap plywood base. Use a square to lay out everything precisely as shown in Fig. B. This jig helps you assemble the parts of each standard precisely. And you can flip it over and use it to accurately drill the pin holes (Photo 6).

The jig will also be your guide for drilling the holes into the horizontal shelf boards, which need to perfectly align with the standards (Photo 8). All you need to do is screw an auxiliary fence to the jig to maintain the proper overhang on the front and back of each shelf. (For a larger, printable PDF of Figure B, see “Additional Information” below.)

Use the drilling jig when you assemble the stackable shelves.

Project step-by-step (10)

Step 1

Rip the Pieces

  • Rip the 1/2-in. plywood into pieces to make the standards.
  • Cut the lengths with a circular saw.
    • Pro tip: Cutting large sheets with a straightedge guide and a circular saw is easier than wrestling large sheets through a table saw.

Step 2

Glue the Part A’s Together

  • Glue together the two pieces that make up part A of the standards.
  • Nail the two pieces together at two corners with 3/4-in. brads once you’ve aligned them.
    • Note: This keeps them from drifting apart when you clamp them.