How to Build a Corner Shelf

Corner Shelf

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  • Working Time: 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Yield: Corner shelf 40 inches by 9-1/4 inches
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $40 to $60

When you add this corner shelf to a living room, bedroom, or just about any room of your house, you provide yourself with instant design opportunities. Appearing to float effortlessly from the wall, this shelf is perfect for small, lightweight items that you cherish and want to display, such as flowers, glassware, pottery, plants, and photos. All can find a home on your new corner shelf. This shelf is also a great way to use the typically unused upper regions of wall corners.

The Basics of This Floating Corner Shelf

This corner shelf is referred to as a floating or cantilevered shelf because it has no visible support bracing. The concept of the architectural cantilever is an emblem of modern design; its influence is found in many aspects of contemporary style.

The shelf is supported in two ways. First, two E-shaped wood cleats act as the hidden sub-structure for the visible shelf surface. Second, these cleats are attached directly to wall studs. This connection is far more secure than if you were to screw the shelf into the drywall with drywall anchors. Only because of this secure wood-to-wood connection can you cantilever the shelf; otherwise, the shelf might tear out of the wall.

This corner shelf's design is lean—specifically designed to be simpler than many other corner shelf plans:

  • By using white primed board on the face, you do not need to paint the shelf (though you can if you wish).
  • Factory edges are used for the long sides of the boards, eliminating the need for complicated rip-cuts.
  • Tricky angled pocket holes are unnecessary.
  • If you should move, the shelf can be taken down with relative ease and the eight screw holes can be patched.

Safety Considerations

While this corner shelf is strong for a floating shelf, no floating shelf should be used for heavy items. Heavy books, appliances, office equipment, and other weighty items should be kept off of this shelf.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Electric miter saw
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Cordless drill
  • Stud finder
  • Speed Square
  • Laser level
  • Cordless nailer
  • Spring clamps


  • Wood glue
  • 2 one-by-threes, spruce/fir/common, 8-foot
  • 1 one-by-three, trim board white primed pine, 8-foot
  • 1 two-by-three, 8-foot
  • 2 one-by-tens, white primed pine board, 8-foot
  • 2-1/2-inch screws


  1. Cut the Boards

    Use the tape measure and the electric miter saw to measure and cut the material as follows:

    • (1) one-by-three (spruce/fir/common) at 40 inches and 39-1/4 inches
    • (1) one-by-three (trim board white-primed pine) in half to produce two boards, each 48 inches long
    • (1) two-by-three to produce 6 pieces, each 8-1/2 inches
    • (2) white-primed one-by-tens at 40 inches and at 30-3/4 inches
  2. Assemble the Cleats

    To build the right-side cleat, use the cordless drill and the 2-1/2-inch screws to attach the three two-by-threes to the face of the 40-inch one-by-three (spruce/fir/common). First daub the end of the two-by-three with wood glue. Place the two-by-three, squaring it up with the Speed Square. Then drive the screws through the back of the one-by-three, two screws per cleat. From left to right, space the two-by-threes on-center as follows:

    • 10 inches
    • 24 inches
    • The right side of the cleat flush with the right side of the one-by-three

    Repeat with the 39-1/4-inch one-by-three, in order to build the left-side cleat.

  3. Mark the Studs

    Use the stud finder to identify the four studs that the corner shelf will attach to, two on each side of the corner junction. One will be 16 inches from the junction and the other will be 32 inches away. Mark with the pencil. Set up the laser level to cast a line at the desired level of the shelf. Leave the laser on for now.

  4. Attach the Right Cleat

    With the cordless drill and the 2-1/2-inch screws, attach the right-hand 40-inch cleat to the right side of the corner. Maintain level with the laser's line. Drill pilot holes through the cleat, then run the screws into the studs. Drive two screws per stud, for a total of four screws.

  5. Attach the Left Cleat

    Place the 39-1/4-inch cleat on the left side of the corner, butting it into the right-hand cleat. As with the right cleat, drive four screws into two studs. Turn off the laser level and put it away.


    When attaching both cleats to the wall, make sure they are positioned so that the flush-mounted one-by-three is at the end.

  6. Attach the Top of the Shelf

    Nail the 40-inch and the 30-3/4-inch primed one-by-tens to the top of the cleats to form a 90-degree angle.

  7. Attach the Bottom of the Shelf

    Nail the other 40-inch and the 30-3/4-inch primed one-by-tens to the bottom of the cleats to form a 90-degree angle. Hold the boards in place with the spring clamps.


    Run a bead of wood glue along the bottom of the cleat for added strength. Leave the clamps in place for at least one hour until the glue is fully cured.

  8. Mark the Cut Points on the Front Trim

    Place the two 48-inch primed one-by-three trim boards across the front face of the shelf, temporarily securing them with the clamps. With the pencil, mark the ends of the shelves on the trim. Remove the trim. Set the miter saw at 45 degrees and cut the two trim boards. Do not install these boards yet.

  9. Mark the Cut Points on the Side Trim

    Place the remaining primed one-by-three trim pieces on the side and mark the cut points with the pencil. Remove and cut at 45 degrees with the miter saw.

  10. Attach the Front and Side Trim

    Use the cordless nailer to nail the front and side trim into place.