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Crown Molding Shelf

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Here’s a neat trick: build a shelf that stores, displays, and elevates your favorite collectibles and knickknacks so they’re well within sight but safely out of the way. Building these built-up projects is a fun mix of rough and finish carpentry. This project is a more refined three-part assembly similar to cornice molding that is made with pine and pine moldings and can be painted or left natural. This shelf is a broad, flat surface that performs as a handy display shelf. One skill you may wish to brush up on ahead of time is cutting and coping crown molding. Working with crown molding requires some mental gymnastics, but once you learn the routine you’ll be glad you did. You can hang your new shelves at just about any height, although they naturally look more comfortable higher up on the wall. At least try and position them at or slightly above eye level. Locating the shelves so the bottom edge rests on top of a door head casing is one good strategy.

There are different variations on how the shelf can be installed. For example, you can wrap the entire room with it, simply span from one wall to another, or place it on three walls only, etc. Not only is this built-in totally homemade, but the design is flexible to suit different needs and tastes. And by choosing trim types and styles that already are present in your home you can enhance the built-in look. The trimwork shelves seen here are constructed with simple butt joints for ease of building. If you have the woodworking equipment and skills, consider using dado joints instead of butt joints where it makes sense. With dado joints, the wood parts can expand and contract (as they are prone to) without creating separation gaps.

Crown Molding Shelf Diagram

Crown Molding Shelf Cutting List

How to Build a Crown Molding Shelf

  1. HI0523_19C

    Use a laser level to create a level reference line for the shelf ledger installation. Mark the location of the bottom edge of the ledger, making sure to allow room for the bottom panel above the door trim and for the full height of the finished project.

  2. HI0523_19D

    Select a straight 2 × 4 and cut it to length. Use an electronic stud finder to locate wall studs in the installation area, and mark the wall studs just below the level line. Choose high-quality, 3½"-long screws for attaching the ledger: either use hex-head deck screws or square drive multipurpose cabinet screws. Apply panel adhesive to the back of the ledger and position it so the bottom edge falls just above the level line and the ends are in the correct spot. Drive a pair of screws through the ledger and into the wall studs at each stud location.

  3. HI0523_19E

    Install molding pieces from the bottom and work your way up. If you’re wrapping a room, do “laps” with each layer of trim. Rip wood for the bottom panel to width (2¾" as seen here) and cut it to length. Finish sand all wood parts to 150 grit before installing the parts. On the bottom strip, drill a counterbored pilot hole every 12", located in a line ¾" in from the back edge of the strip.

    Attach the bottom strip to the ledger with panel adhesive and 2¾" flathead wood screws.

  4. HI0523_19F

    Crosscut the top panel to length and then attach it to the top of the ledger with panel adhesive and 6d finish nails. The ends should be flush with the bottom strip ends, and the top panel should be butted cleanly against the wall.

  5. HI0523_19G

    Measure the distance from the front face of the ledger to the front edge of the bottom strip and cut a few spacers to this length from scrap. Attach the spacers to the face of the ledger at several spots along the length of the ledger. These spacers will ensure that the front panel is vertical when it is positioned against the spacers.

  6. HI0523_19H

    Rip and crosscut the front panel to width and length, press it against the spacers so the top edge is flush against the underside of the top panel and all ends are aligned. Install the front panel by driving 6d finish nails through the front panel and into the edge of the bottom strip. You also may nail at the spacer locations if you wish. Also drive nails through the top panel and into the top edge of the front panel. Set the nail heads with a nail set.

  7. HI0523_19I

    Cut the crown molding to length. If your shelf has one or more open ends or occupies more than one wall, make a crown molding return or mitered or coped corners. Fit the molding between the bottom of the top panel and the top of the bottom strip, making sure the flat ends of the molding are flush against the surfaces. Drill pilot holes and drive nails at 12" intervals through the molding and into the top and bottom strips.

  8. Cover nail and screw heads with wood putty and then sand and finish the shelf, matching the other room trim if possible.

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