Simple, Sturdy Box Shelf

These box shelves are so sturdy that they can be used as window seats, entryway seats, or to store heavy items. We love that they are functional enough to use in any room, but easy enough for even beginners to build.

To begin, you’ll need a sheet of 1/2″ thick plywood. Veneered or birch is best if you want to paint your shelf, because the wood grain doesn’t show through. The actual plans for the project are on They suggest that you buy a quart of woodworker’s glue, 3/4″ and 1” brads for your nail gun, fast-drying wood filler, a quart of B-I-N or KILZ primer, and a quart of latex enamel paint.

They say that you can use a hammer if you don’t have a nail gun, but it will be harder, more awkward, and take longer. They also warn that if you choose a gloss paint, it will show imperfections. If you have a router, you can cut the outer panels a little long and then use a flush-trim router bit to clean up the ends without the hassle of precise cutting.

Check out the actual plans for this project at the link below. We love how they clearly and plainly give instructions for making this shelf perfectly square, smooth and super sturdy. Everything is illustrated with clear pictures and has tips along the way for avoiding long drying times, bowed ends, and rough overhangs. Perfect edges will make your project look professional, even if you’re a beginner.

Sanding is an important step in finishing your project. Plywood edges should be sanded. Family Handyman says to use 80-grit sandpaper and then 120-grit sandpaper. Then rub the quick-drying wood filler into all of the edges, nail holes and dents. When that is dry, you can sand everything down one more time with 120-grit sandpaper.

Use primer over the whole project to reveal any places that still need to be sanded or filled. Fill, sand and prime those spots again. Apply your paint, sanding gently with 220-grit paper in between the layers of paint. Do two coats.

Mark the studs and draw an outline of your box dimensions where you want it to hang. You can apply a small dab of toothpaste to the wall on the studs where you want your screws to go. Press the shelf into your outline and the toothpaste will mark where you want to drill the pilot holes on your shelf. Use two 3” deck screws to secure the shelf near the top and then two more at the bottom. Secure it to at least two studs. If more studs are available, use those too. This way your box will be sturdy enough to hold heavy objects, even people.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit for all of your wood product needs.


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