The clean lines of this simple shelf in your bedroom, bath, entryway, kitchen, or living room enhance whatever you choose to display on it. Those same lines tell you that this project is easy to build from readily available materials.
The shelf is 32 inches long, sized to span two wall studs spaced 16 inches on center, the traditional construction of a framed plaster or drywall-covered wall. If you want to lengthen it, keep stud spacing in mind. Some homes are built using 24-inch stud spacing. If your walls are lath-and-plaster or brick, you'll need to use appropriate hangers.
Although this shelf is shown in naturally finished maple, it can easily be made of any species available. Finish options are as varied as the range of stains and paints available. Keep in mind, though, that softwoods, such as pine, and some plain hardwoods, such as poplar, often look best when painted.
About 2 hours to construct, plus an hour to finish
Tape measure, clamps, drill bits, counterbore, countersink, electric drill/driver, circular saw or table saw, jigsaw with hardwood cutting blade, combination square, level, stud finder
Sawing, gluing, clamping, finishing
Find and mark wall studs at shelf location
Place the cutout pattern on a maple piece wide enough for the side supports. With a combination square, draw a line at a 45-degree angle to the direction of the grain. Align the pattern with the line and trace it onto the board. Repeat for a second piece (two are needed).
Sharp saw blades leave sharp edges on wood that can splinter and cut your hands. So it's always a good idea to break, or soften, the edges of project pieces before assembling them.
Use fine abrasive paper (120-grit) on a sanding block or a fine mesh sanding pad to go over all edges. You'll still finish-sand the entire assembly before applying a finish.
If you want to display plates on the shelf, rout a groove to keep the plates from slipping off. Before you assemble the shelf, mount a 1/8-inch round-nose bit in a router. With a guide attached to the router, cut a 1/4-inch-deep plate groove in the top of the shelf (A), 2-1/4 inches from the back edge. If you don't have a router, you can cut a shallow groove using a straightedge, backsaw, and chisel, or you could use a table saw.