Rustically Elegant Shelves You Can Build This Weekend
This is one of my all-time favorite projects. I love these shelves because they were so quick and easy to make… and they look great on my wall. Kind of like how great I imagine they’ll look on your wall if you make them. The wood has tons of character and they’re perfect shelves to display my trinkets and my (remaining) books.
Oh, how I love my books! Having a book case though, meant I couldn’t have this GORGEOUS antique gate-fold dining table that I got second hand for a steal! #smallspaceliving After getting down to brass tacks and accepting the book case had to go, I rearranged the furniture and went through the painful process of donating most of my books. *sniffle*
Now that I had an empty space for shelves, I whipped these babies up in a weekend. Here’s what I did:
Gathering Materials for the Shelves
First of all, I gathered the materials. I scored big time and found 2 old, weathered but structurally sound 2×10 planks for free on CraigsList. This guy on the other side of town was using them as ramps and no longer needed them. I really do LOVE Craigslist! I always try to re-use or re-purpose something in the world before buying new. It jives with my inner environmentalist. Also, my frugal inner grandma (I call her Irene).
After hauling the 10’ planks back to my house in my little Prius (people are always shocked at what I can pack into that baby!), I measured the space where I wanted the shelves to go. I ended up figuring 3 shelves would sit nicely over my gate-fold dining table and pull the space together beautifully.
I ran over to Home Depot and picked up six 10” galvanized pipe nipples (to match the width of the plank), 6 end caps and 6 floor flanges. I also bought some molly bolts, spray texture and a dark bronze spray paint. Now, I know you’re probably thinking: WHAT?!? That’s not “non-toxic”! and you’re right, it’s not. So far, I haven’t found a way to make galvanized metal look like aged iron in a non-toxic way. If you know of one, PLEASE let me know in the comment section! In the mean-time, stay tuned… that’s the only toxic part about the project!
Making the shelves
Now comes the fun. Next up in the process, I put on my respirator mask, sprayed the brackets (pipe nipples, etc…) and let them dry while I cut the plank into shelves.
Once all the pieces were cut, I sanded like I’ve never sanded before, lol! I wanted a nice polished look for the shelves and sanding is the way to get it. I started out at about 80 grit and worked my way up to 220. Then I was ready for the stain.
For the stain, I decided to try a vinegar/steel wool mixture. The vinegar breaks down the steel wool and the mixture gives the wood an aged look without compromising the integrity of the board. I had been letting some sit in a mason jar under the sink for about a week or so and brushed it on the wood.
It was instant glory! It gave the shelves a nice deep, weathered barn wood look without destroying any of the sanding I had done. The longer I left it sit, the deeper it got.
For the grand finish, I mixed a little dark pigment (totally non-toxic from Earth Pigments) into raw linseed oil. If you try this project and you’re going to use linseed oil, make sure it’s raw and not boiled. Boiled linseed oil has all sorts of nasty chemicals added as “drying agents” that you don’t want to be breathing in for months after you hang your shelves up. After all, you’ve already sprayed paint on the brackets they’ll sit on! If you’re not using linseed oil, you can use an acrylic urethane or some other sealer that works for you.
Here’s the worst part ever about using raw linseed oil: you have to wait a couple weeks for the linseed oil to totally dry. I know, inconvenient right? That’s why they put drying agents in boiled linseed oil, because it takes FOREVER to dry! But here’s the thing. Once it is dry, it’s pretty darn durable, fairly water proof and so, soooo okay to breathe around! The good news is that I didn’t have to wait for long to put the shelves up though and neither do you.
Putting the shelves together
By the time I got done with all the sanding and staining and linseed oiling, my brackets were dry. So, I hung them up on the wall, making sure to level them (painter’s tape is SUPER useful for this!) and securing them both into studs. The few holes that weren’t connected to studs, I used molly bolts in. I could do pull-ups on these bars! Well, if I could do a pull up.
The finished product
Next, I placed the drying shelves gently on the brackets and left them there to dry. A few weeks later, I made sure they were dry by wiping my finger across. They weren’t tacky and didn’t leave any pigment on my hand. Sweet! I loaded them up with my knick-nack’s and what-not’s and appreciated my new shelves!
For the finishing touch, I added a spider plant to one of the shelves. Spider plants are great at purifying the air of formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene which are ingredients in paint. So… even though the brackets weren’t made with non-toxic paint, my spider plant is limiting the impact is has on the household! As a bonus, spider plants are safe to have around cats & dogs which is a necessity in my house. Well… because of this:
So there you have it! Rustic but elegant shelves made mostly with non-toxic ingredients to open your space and give you serenity. I hope you have as much fun making them as I did!
Have you tried this project? Did I leave something out or did you find this post exceptionally inspirational? Please let me know by posting a comment below!