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How to Make Wood Picture Shelves

Do you have a large wall in your living room that you are struggling decorate? I had this problem in my living room, so I add a long picture ledge to display several pieces of artwork.

You can easily make a picture ledge to display frames and miscellaneous home decor items. A set of picture shelves will look great as bathroom shelves, a bookshelf, and more!

These shelves can be customized to fit any space in your home, and you can stain or paint them to match your personal style.

DIY Picture Shelves – Only $20!

These picture ledge shelves are super simple to make and literally cost $150 or more at other stores that rhyme with “smottery smarn”.

diy picture shelves

You can make picture shelving for frames or bathroom floating shelves yourself for under $20, and they will look just as good!

If you need a quick, easy, and affordable gift idea, these picture ledge shelf are it!

Our friends actually surprised us with a rustic console table when we bought our first home.

This console table means so much to us because we knew a lot of time and thought went into making such a beautiful and sturdy table.

Shopping list/Cut list for Picture Ledges:

  • 1 – 1×4 common board @ 8 feet
  • 1 – 1×3 common board @ 8 feet
  • 1 – 1×2 common board @ 8 feet

Other Items:

  • Mouse Sander
  • Varathane
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Nail Gun
  • Brad Nails 15-16 Gauge
  • Picture Frames

Purchasing the Wood for Picture Ledge

When I say common board, it can be any type of wood you want to display.

I usually choose pine, which is a softer wood, but cheaper.

If you’re new to wood working, a 1×4 or 1×3 or 1×2 is not truly 1 inch by 4 inches or 1 inch by 3 inches, etc.

The “true” size of a 1×4, as an example, will actually be closer to .75 inches by 3 ½ inches.

picture shelves

How to Make a Picture Ledge

So, you can make either an 8 foot long picture ledge or make 2 picture ledges measuring 4 feet each.

First determine the length of the shelves then follow the remaining steps to assemble the shelves.

The 1×4 will be the back piece that attaches to the wall.

Then the 1×3 will be the shelf, and the 1×2 will be the front lip of the shelf.

To put it together I used a 16-gauge nail gun with brad nails.

The nail gun made putting the shelves together a breeze and I would strongly recommend a nail gun.

If you do not have a nail gun, these shelves can be also be put together using basic finish nails.

Start by laying the 1×3 on the floor, with the 1 inch part on the ground, as you prepare to attach the 1×2 to it.

Next, put the wood glue on the edge of the 1×3 then put the 1×2 on top of it.

Make sure to realign it as you go, so that the bottom is as flush as possible.

I started on one end with the nail gun and worked my way down, ending with about 6 or 8 nails in it.

After the 1×2 is attached to the 1×3, I flipped it over and then did the same thing with the 1×4 on the other side.

I wiped up any excess glue then waited for it to dry before staining or painting.

picture ledge

Sand the Shelves

Sand the entire shelf with a light to medium grit sandpaper.

I did this by hand or you can speed up the project by using a small sander.

If you start with a medium grit sandpaper, you will want to finish with a finer sandpaper to smooth the surface.

I decided to use medium grit sandpaper because there were miscellaneous grooves and splintering in the wood.

You do not have to sand this a ton, just enough to smooth the surface.

Next take a rag and wipe down the shelves and table to make sure all the sand on the table has been removed.

diy picture shelf

How to Stain Picture Shelves

Now that the diy floating shelves shelves have been wiped clean, you can begin staining.

Grab an old t-shirt or a brush and apply a thin coat of stain in the same direction of the grain of the wood.

Let the stain sit for a few seconds then lightly wipe the stain with a t-shirt or rag.

Since the stain is oil based it has a strong odor, make sure you wear a mask, work in a ventilated area, and wear gloves.

Also, do not forget to place a drop cloth under your work space to prevent any dripping.

Apply as many coats as you need to achieve the color you prefer.

Wait at least an hour in between coats, so the stain applies evenly.

I applied 2 thin coats of Varathane to the picture shelves because I like a darker finish to match our Java Scrapped Pergo floors.

Once you have achieved the look you are going for, you are done with the staining.

Again, the Varathane Stain and Poly already had a clear coat built into the stain, so no need to apply a clear topcoat.

How to Hang a Picture Ledge

To adhere the floating picture shelves to the wall, I used 2 ½ inch dry wall screws, a stud finder, and level as well.

Given that these shelves are 4 feet long, I was able to attach this shelf to 3 studs.

Start by finding the location where you want to hang the shelves, then find 3 studs that span that area.

Here are a set of shelves that I cut in half for bathroom shelves over toilet.

diy picture ledge

I pre-drilled a hole right through the shelf and into the center stud and then screwed in the dry wall screw.

From that point, I was able to adjust it to make it level then drill in the other screws.

Add black and white pictures to the floating picture shelves to create a timeless, classy look.