How To Make Floating Wall Shelves

DIY Floating Shelves With LED’s

I have a few leftover cherry boards from my barstools episode that would be perfect for this project. The final thickness of the shelves is just over an inch thick so the rough 8/4 cherry is going to work just fine. Since the only part of the shelves, you will see are the edges, I didn’t get too picky when laying out the parts on the board. Let’s get started!

List of Materials

  • (2) 1.125″x 5.75″x8.5″ – Shorter Horizontal Board
  • (2) 1.125″x5.75″x9.5″ – Vertical Board
  • (2) 1.125″x5.75″x20″ – Longer Horizontal Board

Step by Step Instructions for DIY Floating Shelves

1) Breaking Down Rough Stock & Milling

Starting with the Jig Saw

To break down the cherry board, I’m using my jigsaw because it’s too wide to cut on my miter saw. Next, I rip the parts to a rough width at the table saw. The final width of the shelf parts are 5 3/4” so I set the saw fence to 6” so I can have a little room to clean them up after milling. And finally, I cut the parts to rough length at the miter saw. The smaller the boards, the faster it is to flatten them at the jointer.

Get A Flat Surface

Speaking of the jointer, I begin by flattening one face and then place that face up against the fence to get a 90-degree edge. With one flat reference face, I run them through the planer to take them down to a thickness of 1 1/8”. With the boards milled to their final thickness, I take them over to the table saw and cut them to width, and then using my miter gauge, I cut them to length.

2) Cutting the Miters!

What Joint to Use?

The joinery method I chose for the shelves were miter joints. An easier alternative would be to use a simple butt joint with screws for reinforcement. But for mine, I’m using miters that will be reinforced with loose tenons. The top and bottom shelf parts only have a miter on one end whereas the vertical board has a miter on both ends so it’s worth taking a second to mark the boards so you don’t get confused when you’re cutting them at the table saw.

Tilt to 45°

To begin cutting the miters I tilt the blade to 45 degrees. I use a magnetic angle finder to help me make sure it’s actually tilted 45 degrees to the table. With the stop block set, I begin by cutting the miter on one end of the shorter board. I’m using a stop block because I’m making 2 shelves. This allows me to make sure both shelves are the same exact size.

Next, I reset the stop block for the vertical piece that gets a miter on both ends. And finally, I cut the single miter on one end of the longer shelf piece.

3) Design Elements

The shelf is pretty much done if you wanted to stop here.

But now I’m going to add a few design elements to make them look a little better. The first design element I added was a chamfer on the ends of the top and bottom piece. I installed a 45 degree chamfering bit at the router table and slowly removed waste(raising the bit) until the chamfer looked good to my eye. To help with tear out while routing the end grain, I’m backing up the piece with a scrap board.


The second design element, if you will call it that, are LEDs. The shelves are going to have a groove routed down the center of the inside faces. The LEDs I’m using are battery powered, so no outlet required. To route the groove, I first measured the width and thickness of the LED strip to determine which router bit to use. Turns out the strip I bought is 3/8” of an inch wide and a little under a 1/4” thick. So over at the router table, I installed a 3/8” spiral bit and set its height to 1/4″.

Making Space for the LEDs

Now the grooves on the top and bottom boards are going to be stopped grooves obviously so that I don’t plow through the ends of the boards. I made a mark 1” from the edge. This will help me line up the cut. My router fence has 2 marks on it, one on the left side and one on the right side of the bit. This is going to help me when I line up the mark on the board with the line on the router fence. I line up the marks and slowly push down on the board, and once it’s flat on the table, I put forward pressure on the board to route the rest of the groove. The vertical board, however, has this groove from end to end, so no need to line anything up.

4) Reinforcement & Bracket Hardware

Since the miter joint is an end-grain to end-grain glue joint, we will need to reinforce it. I’m going to use loose tenon joinery that’s cut using the Festool Domino. An alternative to using the domino would be to use miter keys or splines.

Bracket Hardware Installation

Now I can start the process of marking the back side of the shelves for the mounting hardware. I’m putting the hardware on the longer boards because they will have the heaviest items on them. So to begin, I make a mark 5 inches from each end of the board. Next, using a combination square, I find the center and make another mark. This mark tells me where I need to drill. I chuck up a 1/2” bit in my drill press and drill a 4 1/2” deep hole. My drill press wasn’t able to drill that deep, so I had to finish with my cordless drill.

Next, I need to route a 3/4” groove so that the hardware will be hidden and the shelves will sit flush up against the wall. Now I’ve seen some folks skip this part and leave the hardware proud of the shelf, but I’m going to hide it.

I make a mark 2 inches to the left and right from the center of the hole. This is going to be the full width of the groove. I made mine a little wider than the bracket just in case I need to move it around a little on the wall as the brackets are adjustable. But, if you want to make your groove a little shorter, go right ahead. I often over plan on projects like this.

To make the groove I’m using my plunge router with an edge guide installed as well as a 3/4” straight bit. I line up the bit and plunge down 1/4” at a time until the groove is 1/2” deep.

5) Surface Prep & Finish

Next, I hit the edges of the boards with my smoothing plane to remove any marks and then I switch over and sand the surfaces using 120, 150 and 180 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander.


To help prevent glue from getting on the surface, I put some masking tape on the boards, right up against the miters. When the glue dries, I can just pop the tape off and the glue squeeze out comes with it.

Time to Glue

Speaking of glue up, I can now start that process by putting glue in the domino holes and then on the miters. This is a pretty straightforward glue up, it’s essentially a 3 sided box.

I put a few clamps on the shelves to help pull everything together and I also make sure the corners were 90 degrees to one another.

For the finish

I wiped on 3 coats of a wiping varnish using a cotton cloth. They won’t need a whole lot of protection, so I stopped after 3 coats. I sanded between each coat with 320 grit sandpaper.

6) LED Installation

With the finish dried I installed the LED’s. The LED’s I purchased are adhesive backed, so it’s as simple as pulling the paper off of the back and sticking them into place. But before I did that, I did a trial run to see where I needed to cut the LED strip. The strip has indicators letting you know where you can safely cut the strip.

With the strip cut to length, I pulled the paper off the back and pushed it in the groove the same way I did during the trial run. And now we are ready to mount the shelves!

7) Hanging the Shelves

The hardware comes with wall anchors but the screws are too big and cause the anchors to just spin in the wall. So, I went to my local hardware store and bought 8 self-tapping wall anchors.

These will hold plenty of weight for a couple of shelves like this and they are super easy to install. I also bought replacement screws.

I then made a template to help me figure out where to place the holes for the brackets. It’s just a cut off from the longer shelf board. It’s the same exact length and width so it’s perfect for this. I drilled a few holes so all I have to do is measure up 54 inches from the floor, throw a level on top of the template and mark the holes for the wall anchors. A French Cleat would be another way to hang these shelves but because of the material needed for the cleat they will not sit flush against the wall and will detract from their beauty.


To install the anchors you really don’t have to use a hammer, but I like to tap the anchors in right up to where the threads start. You can use a screwdriver but I like the control a hammer gives you. Since the template gives me the location for all 4 holes, I go ahead and install the other 3 wall anchors.

Next, I put the washer on the screws and mounted the bracket. I left the brackets a little loose so that I can level it up before tightening them.

With the brackets installed, I slid the shelf into place. If you notice your shelf not sitting flush against the wall, the brackets are adjustable. The top of my shelves weren’t flush so I adjusted it and now it’s perfect.

To install the second shelf, I placed a level on top of the first shelf and scribed a line all the way across the shelf on the wall. Now it’s as simple as placing my template up against the line and make marks for the wall anchors. I install the 4 anchors and then the 4 brackets before putting the shelf in place.


And the shelves are finally done! I love the modern look of the shelves and the LEDs are a nice touch. This design is nice in that you can rearrange them to form different shapes, like an S or keep them in this rectangular position. The cherry will be beautiful in a few years when it starts to age a little. I hope you enjoyed this one.

Did you like this build? We have many more DIY builds from Simple Cove and other builders on our blog, so check them out. Let us know in the comment section if you would want to try this project and any changes you would make to it to fit your home. Want the tools in the video? Check Acme Tools website for all the tools and maybe get the one you want on sale or clearance. Now get out there and start building and don’t forget to Always Do Your Best Work.

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