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How To Build A Floating Live Edge Shelf

How To Build A Floating Live Edge Shelf

In this video, I show you how to build a live edge shelf from an offcut of a poplar slab. I used poplar since it's what I had on hand, but walnut, ambrosia maple, or other woods with a more interesting grain pattern would look incredible. Enjoy!

Tools Used In The Live Edge Shelf Build:

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Live Edge Shelf Build Process

The first step in this live edge shelf build was trimming a little width off of the slab and creating a clean, straight edge on one side. I used a track saw for this, but you could also use a circular saw with a straight edge. This live edge slab was an off cut from a larger slab I used to build a coffee table, and there was a little epoxy left over from that build, so I removed it with a chisel.

Next, I skip planed the slab. I didn’t need this to be dead flat, just roughly flattened. The piece was too wide for my jointer, but skip planing got it close enough. This involved taking a little bit off of each side of the slab, turning it over between passes, until it was flat on both sides.

After planing, I took the slab to the jointer and jointed one edge, squaring it up with the face of the slab. Next, I cut the pieces I needed for the two live edge shelves from the larger slab. I squared up each end at the miter saw and then cut my shelves, which ended up at about 24” long.

I’ve had this slab for over a year at this point, and the bark is holding on tight. I like the look of the slab with the bark on, so I decided to leave it. There was a small section of loose bark that I decided to reinforce with a little 5 minute epoxy. I mixed it up, filled the gap between the slab and bark, and clamped it in place. I did this on the underside of the shelf so you won’t see the epoxy in the final live edge shelf.

Next, I sanded the shelves, working my way through the grits, starting at 80 grit, then moving to 120 grit. After sanding with 120 grit, I rounded over the edges of the shelves with an ⅛” radius roundover bit, then finished sanding with 180 grit. I like to use my roundover bit right before my final sanding, as it keeps the roundover from being effected by the sanding and helps to remove any tool marks from the router.

For the finish on this project, I used Danish Oil. I just followed the instructions on the can, flooding the surface and keeping the surface wet for the first coat. The wood will absorb a ton of finish on the first coat, so make sure to stay close and keep applying finish. Once the wood stops absorbing the oil as quickly, I let this first coat dry for about 30 minutes and then came back and did the same thing, flooding the surface. I let the second coat sit for about 15 minutes and then wiped off the excess.

Safety note: Make sure to lay your rags out to dry completely and unfold them before doing so. Folded rags with oil based finish can spontaneously combust and you definitely don’t want that to happen in a room full of sawdust and dry wood.

I let the finish dry for about three days and lightly buffed out any surface imperfections with a 1000 grit sanding pad. This left a smooth matte finish, which is exactly what I was looking for on the final live edge shelf.

Next, it was time to mount the shelves. The first set of brackets I tried were a metal French cleat set that I found at my local home center. Unfortunately, it turned out that the bracket relied on being able to rest on the back of the piece to provide stability and my shelves just weren’t thick enough. I really wanted to get that floating look, but this hardware just didn’t work, and I didn’t have time to try any other options. If you have a recommendation for another kind of floating hardware that would have worked in this project, let me know in the comments section.

I found another set of more traditional brackets at my local home center and used them instead, making sure the brackets were level and plumb. I was overly concerned with one of the brackets being in a stud, and this threw off the spacing of the brackets. I would have preferred that they were a little further from the edges of the shelves, but they turned out fine in the end. These brackets came with drywall anchors and I just should have used those on all of the brackets since these shelves would be supporting a ton of weight. Last, I attached the shelves to the brackets with a few 1” screws, and they were done.

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