Shop Projects – Slatted shelf


Having used the piece of plywood I had intended to use to build a cabinet next to the stove for the kitchen bookshelf project, I decided to see what other materials I had which I could use to make a storage and counter unit. My first thought was to modify the existing kitchen cart, but when I looked closer at that idea it really wasn’t the best solution. I did not have any suitable plywood to make a full cabinet, but I did have a good supply of 2×2 and 2×4 scrap in suitable lengths to make a slatted shelf unit. Considering my main idea was to store countertop appliances, cutting boards, and similar items which did not really need closed storage, the slatted approach seemed a good one to try.

After getting the rough measurements of the space, the first step of construction was to determine the basics of the design. As with the bookshelf, this project was intended to store specific items in a specific space so a sample collection of the objects ended up defining the number of shelves and their spacing. This also allowed getting a rough idea of the dimensions needed for the slats and their spacing, which combined to provide an overall set of information to start coming up with the material lists.

Next came the decision on how much time and effort I wanted to put into it. I had previously built some slatted garage storage out of 1 x 2’s with no additional work done beyond cutting pieces to length and nailing / screwing them together. The project went together quickly and gave me quite serviceable storage for many years, but the rough finish and exposed fasteners of that approach would not have fit into the rest of the kitchen décor very well. After a bit of back and forth between the bases of utility, appearance, materials on hand, and interest in fiddling with things I ended up deciding to mill and finish all 4 sides of the material, use dadoes to connect the shelf with the upright, but otherwise take a basic approach.

With the design more or less in place, the first real step of the construction was to assemble a pile of suitable material to select from for later usage. From that a couple of longer sections of 2×4’s were ripped into nominal 2×2’s, cut to length, and milled to make the 4 legs. Following that shorter sections were ripped to be slightly over the desired slat thickness, then cut to the desired length prior to being milled to the final dimensions.

raw material

rough cut

ready to use

Once all the stock was milled, the dadoes for the shelf insertion could be laid out, the dado width adjusted on a piece of scrap until it was a properly snug fit, and the legs appropriately cut to receive the shelves. This then enabled the width of the shelf cross pieces to be determined and cut from suitable pieces of the slat stock.

Assembly began by cutting dadoes in a few pieces of scrap to the same depth as cut on the legs to make an assembly jig for the slats. With the edges of the slat shelves accordingly defined and fastened with glue and a couple of brads, spacers were cut to stack between the middle slats as they were added and attached. After all 5 slatted shelves were made the unit was temporarily assembled and trialed in place to confirm it fit properly before finishing it.




Once the fit trial was complete, the unit was disassembled and prepped for finishing. Slat and leg edges were rounded over with a couple of passes of a roundover plane, a small piece of plywood and leftover slat material were made into a removable top, and everything was sanded in preparation for painting with the one-coat exterior paint used on the rest of the painted portions of the kitchen cabinets.

I had recently acquired a paint gun which claimed it could spray heavy bodied paints and decided to test it on this project so I made a small paint booth using drop cloths, a furnace filter and a box fan. After a fair bit of time spent getting the gun to operate reasonably well on some scrap pieces (determining in the process that it needed the heavy paint thinned far beyond the level recommended by the paint manufacturer) I hung the shelves in the paint area and was very pleasantly surprised by how well the paint went on and covered even with the excessive thinning. It also made for a much better paint job relative to trying to brush inside all the gaps between the slats.

Final assembly and finishing consisted of removing the masking tape on the shelves where they let into the legs, gluing them in place into the legs, and then brush painting the legs and top. Once dry it moved into the kitchen and has filled it’s role well.

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