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Build Corner Shelves with Mitered Edges (page 1 of 2)

Learn how to build corner bookshelves with a sharp-edged twist.

More in Remodeling

build corner shelves with mitered edges
  • Time


  • Price Range

    $250 - $500

  • Difficulty


Here's How to Do It:

Step 1: Cut the Mitered Edge Shelf Boards

Measure your room’s corner and establish the length of shelving you’ll need.

Use a circular saw to rip-cut sheets of birch plywood lengthwise into manageable 13-1/2” wide boards (Image 1).

Use a table saw to cut the boards to a uniform 11" width (Image 2) (save the cutoff strips for edging).

Set the blade on the table saw to 45 degrees and cut the front edge of the shelves at an angle to create the mitered edge. Because table saw teeth rotate downward, place the wood with the best side up for a smooth cut.

Position the saw fence 2” from the blade. Using the plywood cut-off strips from the shelf boards, place the 45-degree side of each strip against the fence and rip 2” wide mitered pieces for the front edge of each shelf board (Image 3).

Rip extra pieces that can be used for the short angled edges at the ends of the shelves.

Step 2: Cut the Angled Shelf Ends

Use a tape measure and carpenter’s square to mark the length of the shelf boards.

For the outer ends of the shelves, cut across one end of each board at a 45-degree angle, with the angle of the saw’s blade also set to 45 degrees for the mitered edge strip (this is called a compound cut).

Cutoffs on long boards are easier to do with a circular saw than with a table saw. To make a smooth, exact cut with a hand-held power saw, clamp a straightedge to the board to act as a guide (Image 1). First measure from the saw blade to the edge of the saw’s shoe, then transfer this measurement to the board. Position the straightedge so that the saw shoe is against it and the blade lines up with the cut mark.

With the saw shoe snug against the fence, make a cut across the shelf end (Image 2). Repeat this process on each shelf board.

Step 3: Rout the Upright Supports

You’ll need a minimum of two 1x6 vertical supports for each shelf, depending on the length of your shelves – supports should be positioned no more than 30” apart to prevent the shelves from sagging. Use solid wood for the supports, which will be cut to 23” in length. The vertical supports extend from the top side of the bottom shelf, through the center shelf, to the underside of the top shelf.

The finished dimension of the supports is 3/4” thick by 5-1/2” wide. Mark the location of the supports on each shelf. Because the supports are perpendicular to the length of the shelves, determine the center point across the width of each board and measure 2-3/4” in each direction from this point. This will be the centerline of your router cut for each support.

Build a simple rectangular jig to make the routed grooves consistent. Your router base should fit inside the jig and be able to move forward and back only, without wandering from side to side (Image 1). The jig is placed over your support centerlines and each is routed in turn.

Use a 3/4" straight-cutting bit in a plunge router (Image 2) to cut a 1/4" deep groove in the bottom shelf and a matching 1/4" deep groove on the underside of the top shelf. Rout a slot completely through the center shelf.

Step 4: Assemble the Shelves

Before fastening the shelf edges, dry fit each one and use a sander or block plane, if necessary, to make any adjustments needed. Check the fit of the side pieces as well by placing them into position with the long edge strips in place.

When ready, apply a bead of wood glue along the mitered edge of the first shelf lip piece and set it in place against the mitered edge of the shelf.

Use a pneumatic nail gun to attach the lip to the shelf, shooting down through the shelf top into the lip edge. Place nails every 6 to 8 inches. Shoot additional nails through the front of the lip into the shelf, alternating with the top-down nails. Angle the nails for better holding power, but be careful not to shoot through the narrow lip surface.

Complete each shelf by attaching the side pieces with glue and nails.
Add a solid wood 1x2 strip along the back edge of each shelf, using glue and nails. Keep the top of this strip even with the top surface of each shelf. This cleat will be used to fasten the shelf to the wall studs.

assemble the shelves
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