Leaning Wall Shelf

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This scalable leaning wall shelf can be adapted to many uses from a spice rack, to an entertainment unit or a bookshelf. It features self tightening tapered housings that make it readily disassemblable. The joinery combined with the shape and leaning nature of the shelf make it stable and strong.

Tool List

  • Knife
  • Square
  • Combination gauge (or marking gauge and mortise gauge)
  • Tape/Ruler (or both)
  • Sliding bevel
  • Chisel hammer
  • Chisels (at least 3/4″ and 1″)
  • Hand router (see how to make a ‘Poor Man’s Router here)
  • Smoothing plane (No 4)
  • *Jack Plane (No 5) (optional but recommended for refining edges and if preparing your wood from rough-sawn stock)
  • Spokeshave
  • *Scrub Plane
  • Handsaw
  • Tenon saw
  • Brace & bit and hand drill or drill driver
  • *Rasp
  • File
  • * = optional

Joints Used

  • Tapered half housing


  1. grover on 29 January 2018 at 11:48 am

    Do you have any plan or scheme?
    Thanks in advance,

    • Mark Hawkins on 29 January 2018 at 12:15 pm

      It’s coming just as soon as I’ve finished cleaning up the scan! Shouldn’t be long now. Thanks for your patience!

    • Mark Hawkins on 29 January 2018 at 4:06 pm

      Done! See above.

      • Stellmacher on 29 January 2018 at 4:16 pm

        I have a Problem, i cant’t see any Plans above?

        • Craig on 29 January 2018 at 6:59 pm

          Press where it says ” click here”

          • Stellmacher on 29 January 2018 at 11:08 pm

            There is no “click here”
            At the end of the TOOL LIST and the JOINTS USED
            stands “Theme function themeblvd_get_mini_post_list doesn’t exist ”
            Is this the problem?

          • grover on 30 January 2018 at 7:55 am

            I’m with Stellmacher. There is no link to the plane

        • Philip Adams on 30 January 2018 at 10:25 am

          Sorry about that. We made a change that seems to have removed the link. We are working on resolving it and will update you once it has been corrected.

  2. courcour Pi on 29 January 2018 at 12:08 pm

    How much weight is it?

    • ehisey on 29 January 2018 at 1:48 pm

      That will be wood dependant. If you use light woods like eastern white pine pretty light. On the other hand using a dense hard or soft wood it could get heavy.

  3. Don Trust on 29 January 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Been looking forward to this one since it was announced. Love the look of it. The mini one is very cool.

  4. btyreman on 29 January 2018 at 1:00 pm

    this looks like it will be a fun project, I could imagine this working well for fitting CD’s or films as well, looks great.

  5. aintgonnahappen on 29 January 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I have a request Mr. Sellers. I think there would be great interest in learning how to design furniture. Something for novices-intermediates to be able to start to use and then grow with. Perhaps a progressive ongoing series? It is sorely needed in the community. There is very little on how one learns how to design properly. If you do read this then thanks for the time.

  6. Rodney Worthington on 29 January 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Love the design. I know exactly where I will put mine. Two units smaller than Paul’s larger version for books in a small reading area.

  7. George Harris on 30 January 2018 at 11:03 am

    Just a note Phil and the gang, on the drawings, you’ve got an extra N in the “design and draw-n-ing by Paul Sellers”.

  8. Farred on 31 January 2018 at 7:40 pm

    This is probably NOT something I’ll build, but as always, Paul creates projects that build skills, so I have no doubt I’ll enjoy and get something out of it.

  9. George Knotek on 3 February 2018 at 8:54 pm

    It looks like a wonderful design, however it stands a full nine inches out from the wall at the base, which means there is a good deal of wasted space behind the shelving. Since space is at a premium in my home, I am wondering if there is any reason why the unit could not be built in a way that brings it much closer to the wall? I realize the angles would have to be changed.

    • Philip Adams on 5 February 2018 at 3:19 pm

      George, you could certainly make a non leaning version of this. It wouldn’t have the increased stability that this has, but I think it would look very nice.

      • George Knotek on 15 February 2018 at 2:07 am

        Thanks, Philip. I think I will change the angles and bring it in a bit closer to the wall. I will let you know how it turns out.

  10. dicksters on 9 February 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Any strategy for scaling down? I love the spice rack.

  11. gerald Anania on 12 February 2018 at 6:18 am

    Nothing to do with this project but suddenly noticed Paul using his pinky for steadying his hand when making his knife mark across the shelf sides. Obviously not something you can do on every layout but when it is across a wide piece and there is room to the side of the line it is very useful. Thinking back it would have been helpful on several layouts I have done. Just shows that even if you have been watching Paul do his work for months or years there is always something useful you can pickup from the videos even this small a trick.

  12. gdailey2 on 21 February 2018 at 11:25 pm

    A question:
    The design relies on tight-fitting joints for lateral stability, though friction on the wall will help.

    The joint uses slots in the length of one board to trap the thickness of the other board. Therefore drying will tend to open the joints.
    In one plane the joint is tapered, so it can be re-tightened. In the other plane the joint is parallel, so its resistance to racking will be reduced by drying even if the joint is re-tightened.

    When designing this sort of thing, are there rules of thumb to help to decide how much wood movement is acceptable?


    • Philip Adams on 4 April 2018 at 11:03 am

      Hello Geoff,
      I will have a a think to how we can discuss wood shrinkage and project design further.
      In this case, wood tends to shrink mostly across the grain and only very minimally along the grain. It is also important to make sure your wood is stable before using it, particularly in this kind of project.
      Hope that is helpful. Certainly something worth addressing further.
      Best, Phil

  13. ngreene on 28 March 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Would using 1 inch poplar instead of 5/4 make much difference in the shelf strength?

    • Philip Adams on 29 March 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Hello Neil, that should be fine strength wise. It will effect the sizing and a little bit of the integrity of the joint, so be careful when laying that out.

  14. Andrea Marceno on 30 March 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Sorry I couldn’ get the type of wood Paul has used for this project.

  15. Bob Lawry on 11 January 2021 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you Paul & the team, just love your work & teaching methods & have completed lots of small projects.
    Regarding this lovely leaning wall shelves, i would like to make the back flush with the understairs cupboard wall & use as a stylish built storage space whilst keeping the tapered sides & protruding shelves.
    Please could you just confirm for me the method of establishing equal measuring of support & shelf with ever reducing widths!
    Would it be half the width on the front of the side support’s & equal measurement’s to the front of the reducing shelf widths.
    Sorry if im being a little slow, but i am just learning & have watched back the videos a couple of times.
    Do you also think this would be possible in 18mm Birch faced plywood, as there will not be loads of weight on them.
    Thank you.

  16. Elias Jordan on 14 July 2021 at 1:50 pm

    Quick question about the table of dimensions in the technical drawing. Are these the finished dimensions or raw material dimensions? i.e. when selecting materials, should I go a bit bigger than what is listed there, or is there already allowances added?

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