How to Build a Folding Shelf

Folding shelves are great for use as extra storage in an apartment, or as a display device when setting up a yard sale. The best part is that the shelves can be folded into a unit that is easily stored until it is needed once again. While it is possible to buy folding shelves, building your own set of shelves is a relatively simple carpentry task.

  1. Mark and cut the sections of wood according to the plans. Cut all the sections at one time. This will make the process of assembly much easier.

  2. Sand the cut sections. This helps to ensure both the cut edges and the general surface of each piece is smooth. Wipe the sanded surfaces with a clean, dry cloth to remove any residue.

  3. Attach the hinges to the back section of the folding shelf unit. This is easier to accomplish if the back section is placed on a flat surface such as a worktable. Use the drill to make starter holes for the screws, then gently use the screwdriver to secure the screws into place. The number of hinges required may range from two to four on each side, depending on the height of the shelving unit.

  4. Align the side pieces on either side of the back section. With the hinges fully extended, slide the side pieces into position so that the free arm of the hinges lay on the side pieces. Make sure the top and bottom of the side pieces are level with the top and bottom of the back section.

  5. Attach the side pieces to the back section using the aligned hinges

  6. Determine the placement of each shelf in the unit. Use hinges to secure the back of each shelf to the back section of the folding shelves. Generally, two hinges per shelf is sufficient, although three may be required for longer shelves.

  7. Mark the side pieces to determine where the bottom of each shelf will meet with the side pieces when the shelves are set up. Drill a couple of small holes into the side pieces and slip in dowels. The dowels will provide a place for the shelves to rest when the unit is unfolded.

  8. Install the clamps along the front of the unit that help to hold the side pieces to the shelves. This will add stability and ensure the sides do not slip out of place as items are stacked on the shelves

  9. Paint, stain, or seal the folding unit according to your taste.


  • Whenever working with tools, be sure to wear safety goggles.
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