How to Build Curved Shelves

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Techniques used to construct a curved wooden shelf are similar to those used to construct any other shelf. The shelf consists of a horizontal shelving plank or board and a pair of vertical shelving brackets. Curved shelves built to support especially heavy items also have a horizontal support rail attached to the back edge of the bottom of the shelf, between the brackets. For a decorative effect, the front and side edges of the shelf are routed before the shelf is assembled.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Large paper
  • Protractor (optional)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape
  • Shelving board or plank
  • Jigsaw with medium or fine wood-saw blade
  • Router
  • 2 Wooden shelving brackets
  • Drill with drilling and driving bits
  • Coarse-threaded drywall screws
  • Draw your shelf to size on a large piece of paper. A protractor may be used to draw rounded edges. Measure the length and width at the widest dimensions of the shelf. Cut out the shelf pattern with scissors. Tape the paper pattern onto the shelf board with double-sided tape. Trace a pencil line around the pattern onto the board. Remove the pattern and the tape.

  • Place the board on a flat surface with the edge you intend to trim extending past the edge of the work surface. Trim the board on the traced cutting line.

  • Install a cove or round-over bit in the router. Tighten the chuck. Set the depth of the bit to create the desired edge effect. Decide which side of the shelf will be the top. Rout around the curved edge of the shelf. To create a full-rounded or bull-nose edge, also rout the curved edge of the underside of the shelf. Do not rout the edge that will be installed flush with the wall.

  • Lay the routed shelf on a flat surface, top-side down. Measure and note the length of the shelf. Mark the center of the back edge of the shelf. Multiple the length of the shelf by .33 to calculate the distances from the center of the shelf to the shelf brackets. Mark their positions on the back edge of the shelf.

  • Position the shelf brackets on the shelf, aligning their centers with the marks on the underside of the shelf and aligning the back edges of the brackets with the back edge of the shelf. If the brackets have pre-drilled screw holes, pass the tip of a pencil through each hole to mark their positions on the shelf. Remove the brackets, and drill pilot holes about 1/2 inch into the shelf.

  • If the brackets are not pre-drilled, drill pilot holes through the horizontal portions of the brackets, and drill about 1/2 inch into the shelf. Each bracket should be attached to the underside of the shelf with a minimum of four evenly spaced screws.

  • Realign the brackets with the back edges of the underside of the shelf. Select screws long enough to pass through the bracket and about halfway through the shelf. Use a drill and driving bit to screw the brackets to the shelf.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the shelf needs a support rail between the brackets, trim a 1-by-3-inch board to the distance between the brackets. Rout only the lower front edge of the rail. Use finishing nails to attach the rail to the back edge of the shelf. During installation, the support rail is screwed to the wall and framing studs.

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