DIY woodworking projects for every budget and skill level

DIY Slab Wood Floating Shelves

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Slab Wood

Floating Shelves

How to Make

Floating Shelves

Ashlee (my wife) wanted to put floating shelves in our bathroom. Usually I get first crack at making something before she buys it but in this case she ordered a pair of floating shelves for $80. 

Shelves are pretty straightforward and I knew I could offer a more custom and natural solution at a cheaper price. 

I had some great scrap Walnut laying around and so my total cost was $19. For someone that doesn’t have spare walnut, shame on you – but also, about $30 should get you the Walnut that you need for the project.    

NOTES: Slab Wood

shame on you” is intended strictly as a joke. Do not fret over my comment or your lack of wood. I recommend that you keep an eye out on facebook marketplace for an inexpensive Klin dried slab. What is Kiln you say? Click below to learn more about slab wood and what to look for

DIY Floating Shelf, Walnut alternative to West Elm and Pottery Barn
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Categories and Difficulty

Every Project is ranked by Tool Category and Difficulty Level.

Click below to learn more

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Tool Category: Stray Cat

Scrappy. I get by with my creativity. Need a flat head? This butterknife will work just fine.


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If you click through any of the below links then I may receive a small compensation from Amazon, even if you go on to buy something else. This is a great way to support the site without actually sending me money :). 

Note On Tools

In photography they say that the best camera is the one that you have with you.

In woodworking, you can do a heck of a lot with the most basic and inexpensive tools. That being said, the more that you have available to you the quicker you may be able to finish a task. 

For example, an orbital sander will eventually get rid of band saw lines while a belt sander will get the job done a heck of a lot faster. 

My projects have a tool rating that can help guide you on what you need. Check it out by clicking below


If you don’t have scrap wood, look on facebook marketplace for a hardwood that is at least an 1″ thick and four 4″ inches wide. The length is up to you. My floating shelves are 20″ in length. You can get a larger piece and cut it down. It’s great to have a bit extra for other projects. Keep in mind that you can get a 8″ wide slab and cut the width in half. In other words, a 1x8x20 or a 1x4x40 would work for this project. The price depends heavily on where you are in the world but it shouldn’t be more than $30. I provided links for everything that I used (except the slab). Just click the image to the right to get pricing info. Yes, I am recommending that you buy drywall anchors even though the brackets come with them. I found the brackets to be solid but the anchors to be trash. I did this project in 2021 and at the time this was the most economical solution – things may change by the time you are reading this (in the future…trippy right?).

Learn More

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Step 1

Scope the Space 

Determining the length of the shelves is the first step. I decided to go with 20″ because it fit well with the space. Be mindful of the brackets, I wouldn’t go smaller than 12″ or longer than 36″.  


Learn More
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DALL·E 2022-08-17 09.04.52 - happy bro cat with hat and headphones, holding tape measure, measuring something, cinematic lighting, digital art
DALL·E 2022-08-15 15.44.06 - Grey tabby cat with Dewalt safety glasses pointing using an orbital sander on a piece of unfinished slab walnut wood, cinematic lighting digital art
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Step 2

Cut to length 

Cutting Length – Using a tape measure, I measured 20″ from the end of the wood and marked it with a pencil. I then used my miter saw to cut a nice straight line.

Circular Saw alternative
Popping the grain opens the pores of the wood. It allows the stain to penetrate the wood and provides a deeper richer color.
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Step 3

Cut to Width 

Cutting Width – I set my miter gauge to 4.5″ and then ripped the boards. 

This can end up being a narrow cut. Be sure to use a push block and keep your hands from the blade. I don’t have any write ups on table saw safety yet and so I highly recommend searching youtube, get comfortable before you use your table saw.


Circular Saw alternative

Measure 4.5″ from one end of the wood marking it with a pencil. Repeat this every 5 inches and then use a ruler or straight edge to draw a line using the pencil marks as a guide. 

Make sure the wood is firmly secure and slowly follow yourine as you make your cut.

Walnut Slab Wood floating shelf
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Step 4

Drill holes for brackets 

This is a critical step in making sure that your shelf is level. If you use the brackets that I link to above then I suggest:

  • On the side that will face the wall, measure 6 inches from each end, center the mark.

  • Using a 10mm drill bit, drill 3-3.25″ into each mark (2 total)- this needs to be straight! A drill press would be great in this situation but if you do not have one just be sure to secure your wood and drill straight down on each mark. Drilling crooked will result in an uneven shelf.

  • Optional – I notched out the bracket depth using a chisel (see pic below). It doesn’t have to be pretty, nobody will see it. This helps the shelf sit flush against the wall. 


Let’s be clear, my daughter did not drill the bracket holes – I wanted to get her involved and so she used her toy drill inside the holes that I made with the drill press. It was a good way to teach her how the drill works! 

Learm More
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Step Details

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On the side that will face the wall, measure 6 inches from each end  Make sure to center your mark, measure the distance from the top of the wood and the bottom to find your mid-point 6″ in.



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Using a 10mm drill bit, drill 3-3.25″ into each mark Be sure to drill straight. Drilling crooked will result in an uneven shelf.


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Optional: notch the bracket with a chisel It doesn’t need to be perfect or pretty but it helps.

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Step 5


I would start with an orbital sander with 80-grit sandpaper. Go in the direction of the grain (follow the lines) If the wood is too rough you may need to use a belt sander first.

The issue with a belt sander is that you risk sanding unevenly. After using 80-grit switch to 120-grit to smooth things out. 

After the wood is sanded pour a little water on it and wipe it down with a rag. Let the water dry and then run your hands over the wood. This is called popping the grain. Sand with 120 grit once the wood is completely dry. 


I run the sander in a half moon arch over the edges of the wood, this gives the shelves a more natural look. For more information on sanding click below.  

This is a good part of the project to get the kids involved.


Step Details

Walnut Slab Wood floating shelf 2


This is what we started with. If you don’t have scrap slab then search facebook marketplace. A piece of wood like this would be considered scrap and should sell for $30 or less. I have seen wood like this sell for $15. 



Floating Shelf sanding


Using a table saw I cut the slab into two pieces, one piece is shown above. You can use a circular saw to achieve the same result.


Finished Walnut slab floating shelf


I sanded with 80 grit and 120 grit, then applied three coats of semi-gloss polyurethane.

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DALL·E 2022-08-16 06.40.47 - Gym bro cat wearing a backwards hat listening to big headphones, dipping a thick paint brush with brown bristles into a can with one paw, cinematic li
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Step 6


Walnut is beautiful in its own right and I rarely apply any type of stain.  For this project I started (BUT REMOVED) with Watco’s Dark Walnut Danish Oil. Danish Oil is one of the easiest finishes to apply because you can’t really overdo it.  

The finish was a little too natural and I wanted to give the shelves a more polished look.

After sanding the Danish oil off I used a semi-gloss polyurethane to protect and give the shelves a nice shine.


Poly what?

Polyurethane is an easy to apply protective coat that is commonly applied to wood.

Click below on more details on how to properly apply Polyurethane. 

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Final Step


It’s time to mount your new shelves. To do so, trace the brackets on to the wall with a pencil. You are going to want to make sure that these brackets are completely level. To do this, use a tape measure to a common reference point. For example, make sure that both brackets are “x” from the floor or “y” from the ceiling. Also, be sure to triple check your spacing, it will be difficult to correct for any mistakes so don’t rush it. 

As mentioned at the beginning, the brackets are great but the mounting anchors are absolute trash. As such, put the anchors where they belong (the trash, stay with me). How you mount the brackets will depend on your wall type and placement. I needed to mount these brackets to drywall and thankfully I was able to use a stud for one side of the shelves. 

Don't Poke and Pray

For 10+ years I was definitely the guy that played poke and pray. I always figured that whatever I was mounting would cover the holes I made – yeah, really silly (I have a few other choice words but I feel like google might get mad). Don’t be silly, spend a couple of bucks on a half decent stud finder. It has saved me hours of time and I use it way more than I thought I would. 

Nowww, using that studfinder that you  bought – check your wall for studs. If you have a stud in line with your mounting location then great! Most stud finders will tell you the center point of the  stud, it’s important not to drill too close to an edge of the stud as you risk splitting the wood. The stud finder that I linked above does tell you the center point. 

If you are mounting into studs you do not need anchors. It is likely that you will need anchors on at least one side. Do not, I repeat, do not mount the bracket into drywall without a stud or anchor. 

If you do not have a stud that’s accessible, check the drill bit specifications given by the new anchors that you bought and drill a pilot hole.

The second mistake that I made as a younger..sillier…person was to guess the drill bit size. If you are even just one size off then you will create an irreparable mistake. Just take the time, get the bit size and drill the pilot hole. 

Tap the anchor in gently with a hammer. 

If the hole is too snug then put the bit back in the hole and move it around very slightly in a circular motion. 

Once the anchor is secure take your bracket and screw through the opening into the anchor. 

Take your beautiful new shelf, line it up, push it onto the brackets, step back, take your right (or left) hand and pat yourself on the back.

My wall is not Drywall
If you are mounting to anything other than drywall then shoot me a message and I can try to help. I have mounted on drywall, brick and plaster. There are some unique nuances to each.

Great Job! 


My writeup’s are more wordy then most, mostly because I try to write out what was going through my head during a project. I also try to highlight parts where I learned from my mistakes (like the poke and pray method). It’s extremely rewarding to know that I can help someone else get through a project and I truly would love for you to share your finished product with me via email ( or by tagging me on instagram (@thecraftycatsman). I may even feature your post or pic on the website.


Thanks for reading.

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