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Custom CD Shelves

From the moment I saw this half-height wall in my upstairs loft, I just knew it was the perfect location for a set of custom shelves. Here is a quick tutorial on how I built them, which includes one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to making custom shelves — building them upside down! The overall cost for materials was less than $50, and the entire project was finished in a single afternoon.

Materials Required:

– Wood (for shelves): 8 feet long, 6 inches wide, 1/2 inch thick.
– 20 (or so) metal L-shaped brackets.
– Paint, screws, saw, stud finder, a level, and a drill.

Before starting on the shelves, I first painted the wall behind where the shelves were going to go. I was planning on (and eventually did) painting the entire room a dark green color, so it made sense to go ahead and paint this wall first. You don’t have to do this, but if you’re not going to put a backing on your shelves, it gives the illusion that you did.

As I mentioned, the easiest way in the world to make shelves exactly the right height is to build them upside down! To do this, lay the “top” shelf down on the floor. Have someone hold the two sides up (or you use a chair; that’s what I did) and screw them into place. Two or three screws should be fine. Now, here’s the trick. Use whatever you’re going to be storing on these shelves as a spacer. I used a few CDs, with two or three CDs placed sideways on top as spacers. Since CDs are all the same size, the shelves will come out level. Also, when you remove the CDs, the shelves will be the perfect height, with a little space left over at the top of each one. A level can be used to ensure that each shelf is level, but by using this method, assuming the CD cases are all the same size, they should be perfect!

As you can see, before long your pieces of wood will begin resembling shelves!

Repeat this process over and over until you either run out of wood or room.

After the shelves were assembled, I painted them. This would have gone a lot easier if I had simply painted all the wood first and then assembled the shelves, instead of the other way around. You can do either.

Here is a trick I use when building shelves I want to sit flush up against a wall. Cut a small notch out of the back side of the bottom side pieces. That way, the shelves can be pushed flush up against the wall without hitting the bottom molding on your wall.

Now all you need to do is flip the shelves over, push them up against the wall, and secure them to the wall. I used a stud finder from Lowes ($12) to find the wall studs. Then I screwed 2 L-shaped brackets into each shelf, each into the furthest stud of the wall. As you can tell by the picture, that wasn’t enough support and the shelves were sagging in the middle even before I put any CDs on them. A day or two after these pictures were taken, I bought some more brackets and added additional support in the middle of the shelves. I could have avoided this problem by using thicker boards, different wood, or by making the shelves less wide.

Success! Here is the final product. As stated, I built these shelves in one evening for less than $50. If I were building them again, I would have made a few minor changes — mainly, I would have made the shelves tall enough to hold DVDs as well as CDs. While they aren’t very fancy looking, they were cheap, easy, and simple to create and assemble. You can use this same technique to build shelves for just about anything: video games, DVDs, CDs or anything else!

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