How to Build a Half Wall
A half wall (also called a knee wall) is a great way to divide a space without closing it in. Use these step-by-step instructions to build one in your home.
Cut the lumber to these specifications:
two – 23-1/4" x 47" top and bottom panels (45 degree both ends of each)
two – 23-1/4" x 33" end panels (45 degree both ends of each)
one – 23-1/4" x 31-1/2" middle divider (square both ends)
four – 23-1/4" x 22-3/8" shelves (square both ends)
one – 11-1/4" x 47" top and bottom panels (45 degree both ends of each)
two – 11-1/4" x 48" end panels (45 degree one end of each and square the others)
three – 11-1/4" x 45-1/2" shelves (square both ends)
1x2 clear pine
Face trim – main case
two – 47-1/2" top and bottom rails
two – 30-3/4" right and left side stiles
four – 20-7/8" shelf stiles
1x4 clear pine
Face trim – main case
one – 2-1/4" x 30-3/4" middle stile (cut to length then rip to 2-1/4")
1x2 clear pine
Face trim – top case
one – 47-1/8" top rail
two – 46-1/2" right and left stiles
three – 44" shelf rails
3/4" x 3/4" clear pine
Nailers – top and bottom case
Rip three full lengths of 1x2 in half so you end up with 3/4" x 3/4"
sixteen 23" nailers for main case
ten 11" nailers for top case
one – 46-7/8" x 84-7/8"
Door panel inserts
two – 17" x 27"
1x4 clear pine
Door – stiles and rails
Rip the remaining 1x4s to 3" before cutting them to length.
four – 16-1/2" door rails
four – 32-1/2" door stiles
4x4 Douglas fir
four – 3"
Lay the middle and two end panels flat on a table lined up edge to edge. With a framing square, mark your shelf locations on one of the panels. Run these lines all the way across all three panels. Flip the middle panel over and mark the other side the same way.
Attach the 3/4" x 3/4" nailers to the panels using wood glue and an 18-gauge nail gun with 1-1/4" nails. Line each nailer up with the lines you drew and attach them on the bottom side of the line. The middle panel will get the same amount nailers on each side. Attach nailers to the top and bottom edges of each panel as well. For the end panels, attach the nailers to the bottom inside edge line of the 45-degree cut. For the middle panel, attach the nailers to each side, flush with top and bottom edges. These nailers serve two purposes; they hold up the shelves and help to connect the panels.
Connect the four panels using wood glue and an 18-gauge nail gun with 1-1/4" nails. Line up the 45 degree miters then glue and blind nail each corner together. You are effectively forming a rectangle -- the main case.
Note: Blind nailing means nailing from underneath through the 3/4" nailer into the bottom of the panel your connecting to, instead of, nailing through the top surface of one panel into another to connect the pieces. This keeps the top surface of your case free of nail marks.
Slide the shelves into the main case so they rest on the nailers. Check for fit, as they should be snug. If the fit is good, attach them using wood glue and the blind nailing method. Make sure that the front edges of the shelves are flush with the front edges of the case.
Attach the 4x4 legs to the bottom of the case at the corners. Keep each leg lined up and flush with a corner. Attach the legs using wood glue and an 18-gauge nail gun with 2" nails. For the legs, nail through the top of the plywood into the leg. Fill the nail holes with wood putty.
Lay the two end panels edge to edge and mark the lines for your shelves. Attach the 11" nailers to the lines and the ends of the panels as you did in step 2.
Connect the two end panels to the top panel by blind nailing the corners together. Repeat the process in step 3.
Note: The top case does not have a bottom panel. The bottom nailers will act as the attachment points to the main case.
Take the shelf panels for the top case and slide them into the top case resting them on the nailers. If the fit is good, go ahead and attach them in the same manner as you did in step 4.
Set the top case onto the main case so that the ends of the end panels line up flush with sides and back edge of the main case. Once you are satisfied with the fit, connect the two with wood glue and 1-1/4" wood screws. Drive the screws through the nailers into the top panel of the main case. Make sure to pre-drill and countersink the nailer before driving in the screws.
Attach the back panel to the back of the case using the 18-gauge nail gun with 1-1/4" nails. Start in a corner and square the case to the panel as you go. Continue nailing all the way around the edge and into the back of each shelf as well.
Cut the top and bottom rails according to the cut list. Attach these rails (top edge of the top case, top edge of the main case and bottom edge of the main case) using wood glue and an 18-gauge nail gun with 1-3/4" nails. Face nail the trim to the edge of the plywood. Try to limit the number of nails you use.
Note: Keep the top edge of the trim flush to the top edge of the plywood you are attaching it to.
Measure, cut, then attach all of the stiles (upright trim) next. Finish the trim by cutting and attaching all of the shelf rails.
Note: All of the trim is 1-1/2" wide (1x2) except for the middle stile on main case. This piece should be 2-1/4" wide.
Putty and sand all of the trim.
Get the cut door stiles and rails, and the cut 1/4" plywood door panels. Using the table saw with the blade height set to 3/8", run a groove down the center of one edge of all the stiles and rails. This groove should be at least 1/4" wide. Mark the center of one of the ends of a piece of the stiles or rails, and then line this mark up with the blade of the table saw. Move the fence over against the piece of wood. Now you’re ready to rip. This 3/8" x 1/4" groove or dado you create will eventually accept the 1/4" door panel.
Note: If you don’t have a 1/4" dado, you will have to make a few swipes through each piece to get the width you need.
Using the Kreg pocket-hole jig with pocket-hole screws, join one of the 16-1/2" rails to two of the of the 32-1/2" stiles. Place the rail between the stiles so the long outside edge of the rail is flush with the ends of stiles. Make sure the dadoes are all facing in. Clamp the three pieces together and use the pocke-hole jig to drill the holes from the stiles into the ends of the rails.
Glue the joint and drive in the pocket screws. Repeat this same process to the other set of stiles and rail.
Slide the door panels into the grooves of each partially finished door frame. If the door panels don’t slide in fairly easily, just sand down the edges until they do. The fit should be fairly snug.
Tap on the remaining rail until it rests snugly between the two stiles. Flush up the rail with the stiles, and then join them the same way you did in earlier.
Check the fit of the doors on the front of the main case. If satisfied with the fit, sand then stain and polyurethane the doors.
Attach the hinges to the doors with the supplied screws. Now you can attach the doors to the main case. Attach the door knobs to the doors.
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