Simple Wall Shelf

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Shaker storage with modern style

We humans have a knack for collecting knickknacks and bric-a-brac as we travel through life. Some of these curios need to be protected behind glass or closed in a box for only occasional viewing, while others beg for your eyes full-time. Many of these items may be smaller and more delicate than others and therefore require an equally delicate display to show them off. That’s where this small wall shelf comes in. 

During a recent foyer facelift, my wife and I wanted such a shelf. To make it, I drew inspiration from similar Shaker shelves but added contemporary elements to better fit our aesthetic. As for the materials, I chose ash for its light tone and strength. 

The piece is rather small, only 15" wide and two feet high, and the deepest shelf is 6" deep. An open top and bottom give it an airy feel, and tapered sides reduce bulk. The sides are further shaped with scallops and bevels that add visual interest without overpowering the items it holds. Made from 5/8"- and 1/2"-thick stock, the piece is lightweight, but the strong ash wood and sturdy sliding dovetail joinery keep your keepsakes safe. 

The finished shelf will hold your tiny treasures and building it will hold a few fun techniques. You’ll gang-cut the sides and learn a unique method for cutting sliding dovetails. To mount the piece, you’ll route keyhole slots using a simple jig you can use again on any project in need of hanging. Let’s get started.

Dainty but durable

Subtle and graceful like the mementos it will hold, the shelf has an open design and is made of light-toned ash. Tall, slender sides start with a bevel and swoop into large radii scooped from the top. They then lightly draw the eye down, tapering from narrow to wide before another scoop and bevel settles the bottom against the wall. Crossgrain dovetail slots sawn and routed into the inside faces of the sides hold shelves of graduating widths via strong dovetailed tenons.

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