My wife wanted to know if I could do something, build some shelving to organize the pile of food boxes and canned goods littering the kitchen floor. Okay…why not? How tough could it be? There was plenty of scrap lumber, chunks of OSB (strand board) left over from building the house. It was piled under the front of the semi trailer.
Wait a minute. Normally, I’d simply build a “big box” on the ground outside, lug the thing into the home, stand it up against the wall, and that would be that. But that approach wouldn’t work this time. Several reasons:
1. A box that big with that many shelves, constructed of strand board and 2″ x 4″ pieces, would be onerously heavy. Could I move it alone? Sure. But at 67 years of age, going on 68, my need to prove how macho I am has dwindled considerably. How about figuring a less strenuous way?
2. While there might be enough long pieces in the scrap stack to form the tall sides and back of the thing, they were deep down in there. Did I want to pull out dozens of pieces of board just to get to them? I did not.
3. We were fresh out of 2″ x 4″ lumber. I’d saved a little pile of really short pieces, but those were going to be…problematic. The only longer chunks had been lying out in the weather for the past year, having once served as concrete forms for interior wall footngs. They could be used (though ugly), but I’d need to minimize the number of pieces needed.
Think, cowboy, think! (Always a risky proposition.)
It took a while, but a construction plan did come together eventually. Thinking to grab the camera didn’t happen at first, though–so the project beginnings are lost to photographic history.
Anyway, the first thing to remember is that these shelves are strictly temporary. They’re sturdy, of course; I don’t build any other way, scraps or no scraps. But not bee-yoo-ti-ful. Hardly that.
Okay. I decided to build this thing from the ground up, cobbling together one U-shaped (square U) level at a time. Much of the time, I work measurements by intuition. How big should the shelves be? Well, what feels right? Oh, and what will fit onto the unfinished floor space by the kitchen’s west wall where we ran out of rubber flooring tiles because I miscalculated the original order?
Final shelf “footprint”: 40 inches wide by 17 inches deep.
With the thunderheads already piling up over the Huachuca Mountains by the time I got to work, it seemed advisable–since most of the work would be done outside due to the lack of a workshop–to limit my production to one “modular shelf” per day. Gotta get the power tools put away before the afternoon rains hit.
1. Cut a bunch of shelf pieces from various scrap boards, each piece measuring 17″ x 40″.
2. Cut the two side pieces for the bottom shelf, 14″ x 17″, so that this shelf would be tall enough to handle the two-liter soda bottles (Coke, Ginger Ale, and Doctor Thunder from Wal-Mart) upon which we thrive.
3. Cut a couple of 17″ pieces of 2″ x 4″ to serve as “top rails”.
4. Cut four 10 1/2″ pieces of 2″ x 4″ to serve as “side posts”.
5. Screw all that together, angling the too-long sheetrock screws (of which we have an abundance left over, at least 15 pounds of the things) so that the tips don’t push through the lumber to stab Pammie in the fingers.
Once the “square U” assembly is ready and lugged into the house, then:
1. Set the new shelf squarely on top of the floor (in the case of the lowest shelf) or directly on top of the previous shelf.
2. Care is taken to check the level of the previous shelf. One side is always a touch lower than the other–there’s no way this is going to come out as precision cabinetry, folks.
3. One side of the “new” shelf is also always (or at least usually) a bit taller than the other as well. (One look at my “outdoor workshop” should give you a clue why this is so.)
4. The taller “new shelf” side is placed above the lower “previous shelf” side so that the “un-level-ness” does not accumulate to create a nasty curve to the total project.
Note: This may be a redneck way to compensate for one’s crude efforts with the tape measure and SkilSaw, but like most redneck techniques, it works.
5. Next, two screws are installed on each side of the shelf, extending down through the strand board and anchoring that shelf to the 2″ x 4″ “top rail” of the previous shelf.
6. Using a level, each side board is straightened to a vertical position and anchored to the wall with a single “toenail” sheetrock screw. Yep, that’ll leave holes in the wall when it’s time to remove these shelves, but who cares? We’ll be installing fancy store-bought cabinets there someday, so the holes will be hidden, duh!
The resulting installation is impressively solid, but there’s one more thing to do:
7. Install a 2″ x 4″ post, dead center between the two shelves. Otherwise, on a 40″ run like this one, the shelf will sag badly under a heavy load of canned goods.
Update: I never did photograph the finish of the project, but it went like this:
1. A top board was added to what you see here. Any taller than that would have meant my wife (five feet tall) would have had trouble reaching things, so we stopped there.
2. The shelving did the trick for nearly two years. At the end of that time, I finally got around to installing high end kitchen cabinetry. This temporary shelving was removed and donated to a neighbor, and that was the end of that.