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How to Build Shelves That Don't Wobble

Simple homemade shelves often start wobbling back and forth because they have not been assembled properly or because the unit itself does not get enough support from the shelving frame structure. There are two specific design features that will make a shelving unit less wobbly: a solid base panel and a supportive back panel. Without these two panels, the unit is more likely to collapse and potentially break the items you have stored in the shelving unit.

Step 1

Gather the measurements required to build your custom-designed shelving unit. To determine the total height of the unit, place the measuring tape from the floor toward the ceiling. Find the width by extending the measuring tape horizontally out from the wall, and determine the depth of the unit by holding the measuring tape horizontally in front of you in a left-to-right manner. Write these three measurements down.

Step 2

Draw the two side panels needed for a stable shelving unit on the plywood using a pencil and a ruler. Side panels must use the height and width dimensions.

Step 3

Draw the back panel needed to give the entire unit stability and support. This panel must measure the height and the length dimensions.

Step 4

Draw the bottom, top and shelving pieces, which all have the same dimensions. Draw three panels for a shelving unit with one shelf; add more panels for your custom unit if desired. Use the total width dimension and an altered length dimension -- the original length minus two inches, which is the total thickness of the side panel’s thickness.

Step 5

Turn on the table saw. Hold the plywood sheet up to the blade, and cut out all the pieces, following the pencil lines for an even cut. Turn off the saw when done, and remove all cracks and splinters with sandpaper.

Step 6

Place one of the side pieces on its 1-inch “height” side. Take one of the shelving panels, and place it perpendicular to the side on its “length” side. Line up the level against both panels to ensure they come together in a 90-degree angle. Put the clamp around the two panels so it holds the 90-degree angle in place.

Step 7

Nail the two panels together by hammering nails through the side piece. The nails must be at least 1 inch apart. Repeat this step with another end piece and the second side piece so you have a full rectangular shelving unit frame.

Step 8

Add the remaining shelving panels to the unit by pushing them in between the siding panels where you wish to add shelving. Adjust the shelves with the level, ensuring they are horizontally even. Hammer nails through the side panels into the shelves to install them to the unit.

Step 9

Lay the back panel on top of the unit while it is still horizontally placed on the floor. Install the back panel to give the unit ample support by hammering nails into the back piece, spacing the nails at least 1 inch apart. This back panel will ensure the unit does not sway left and right during use.

Things You Will Need

  • 1-inch-thick plywood sheet, 3 sheets
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Table saw
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Level
  • Cabinet clamps
  • Hammer
  • 2-inch-long nails

Tips

  • Add color to the nonwobbly bookshelf by using your chosen shade of paint or stain. For a light color, apply a single layer of paint so the texture of the wood shows through the color. Apply several layers of thick paint to get an opaque look. This is ideal if you want a bright red, dark brown or vibrant lime green shelving unit.
  • The shelf may still be wobbly due to an uneven floor surface. If this is the case, place cardboard pieces underneath the shelving unit until it stops moving around. Push the cardboard completely underneath the unit, so it is invisible.

About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.