I recently had a friend ask me how I made my shelves that are up in my kitchen and bedroom. She asked if I every followed any steps online or had anything I could send to her on how to get started with this little project. Truth is, I never really had one blog or article I followed to learn how to stain my own wood furniture. It’s something I’ve loved to do for years now, and I had begun by checking a few random blogs to see what materials I needed, and then just going for it. Now, after failing a bit at the beginning, and becoming more familiar with techniques and wood types, I can confidently say that I have gotten the hang of it. You can search my whole apartment and find shelves, a nightstand, a ladder, two huge dressers and a ton of crates that I have DIY’ed over the years. Let’s just say, I’m a tad bit obsessed.
The main thing I can say I learned from all of these projects is that; “practice makes perfect.” As cheesy as it sounds, its very true. I started some of my first projects with wood pieces that were heavy with stain, caused from over staining and lack of technique. I also went through one of my biggest, 2-week long, DIY wood projects I’d ever done, all to find out that the wax finish I was using – that I though looked REALLY nice – is not the best choice of finish at all. Turns out, wax is not durable and needs multiple coats months and years down the line to stay protected.
Well, here I am today to share with you my simple, easy, DIY Wood Shelf project. I had seen shelves like these ALL over Pinterest and was obsessed with them in kitchens. If you can’t tell, I have quite the collection of unique, plates and bowls (yes, there are more in the cabinets lol), so being able to display them out to be seen was really important to me. Shelves like these with dark, black hinges are so aesthetically pleasing in any space, and can be decorated and placed in many different ways. With moving into my new apartment, I knew I had to DIY these.
This is a fairly easy project. Don’t let all the steps and information below make you think differently. Once you get the hang of staining you are going to want to do it to every piece of wood in your house! That, I can guarantee.
Know the Wood You Want (Somewhat)
- Keep in mind the kind of wood you are purchasing and natural color it holds. If you’re going for a lighter stain look, then you will need a specific kind of wood that can take well with a light stain and won’t look too yellow/orange after stained. For example, I stained a natural cherry wood before (I had no idea that was the wood it was), and after sanding it bare, I placed a light colored stain on it and right away a yellowish/orange color came peaking through. NOT what I was going for at all.
- Ask the employees at the store about the best wood for a light stain and any other questions you may have, they can help point you in the right direction.
- If you are going for a darker stain then it doesn’t matter too much what wood you get, since the stain will be dark enough to mask any color changes happening on the natural wood beneath it.
- Wood: You can find wood at a lot of places, ranging from free to a bit pricey. I check FB Marketplace & St. Vinnys for cheap or free wood. You can also go to Home Depot, Lowes, etc. The wood for my kitchen shelves are from Home Depot. If you’re going to one of these home improvement stores, go into the wood section and ask someone to help you pick out the wood you would like. Ask them about the style and look you’re going for. They are actually really educated on this so they can help you pick out something sturdy, long lasting and within budget. Have them cut it for you to the dimensions you want. My kitchen shelves are 12ft W x 2 1/2ft L.
- Brackets: I love the look of J brackets on my kitchen shelves. You can also look into L brackets, which are pretty standard. I normally buy my brackets off of Amazon since they are relatively cheap and come in packs. The brackets on my kitchen shelves are linked here, and they are very heavy duty. I’m talking they weight like 10ibs. I also linked some brackets here as well, of some smaller L brackets that I recommend using if your shelf is 7in or less in width. Kitchen shelves though, should be around a foot in width, so they can hold the full diameter of a plate on it – if that’s your goal.
- Sandpaper: You can get sand paper from anywhere (Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, etc.). Get a coarse grit that’s anywhere from grit level 60-80 to get the tough parts of the wood shaped. Then, I like to finish off the wood smooth and splinter free with a finer sandpaper, grit level from 150 and up. I linked a basic variety pack here. Also, don’t worry about needing a hand sander. Most of the pieces of wood you will get won’t need an excessive amount of sanding. Using your hands will work just fine.
- Stain: You can find stain at a bunch of places. (Amazon, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart). I use the MiniWax brand on almost all my projects. I used the stain ‘Weathered Oak’ on my kitchen shelves for a light stain with the slightest hint of grey. If you want to see what other stains look like, I like to search Miniwax stains on Pinterest and see how they settle on different types of wood.
- Rags: When staining, do NOT use a stain brush. A brush is very heavy and puts way to much stain on the wood. Instead, use an old rag. Grab a couple of these. I will explain how to stain with a rag below.
- Sealer: On my kitchen shelves I used a liquid sealer in a tin can, which was a Polyurethane sealer. Linked here.
- Scissors: For cutting the sand paper if need be.
- Flat head screw driver: To pop open the tin cans.
- Paper towels: In case it gets messy.
- Grungy clothes: Wear paint clothes or clothes you don’t care about because stain does just that – STAINS. I have ruined a few shirts from this so just keep in mind to wear something you don’t care about.
- Stud finder
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Step 1 – Sand the wood: The corners and sides are the most important because those have the most splinters/lift after being cut. Do a bit on both sides of the surface as well. Tip: Try to sand in one direction. You will see that the wood gets smoother more easily.
Step 2 – Stain: Take an old rag and just dip a few fingers in the stain with the cloth and start to rub it into the wood. Keep doing that until the whole piece of wood – front, back, sides – are stained. If you add more layers, the stain will build and get darker, so keep that in mind. Tip: When you use the rag and apply the stain, I always have a dry cloth near by that I instantly wipe it over with. So, I apply stain to a section, then wipe down immediately with a dry cloth over that spot. Continue all over the board with this method. Stain, wipe with a dry cloth, repeat. This gives it a more natural look and ensures it’s not too heavy with stain.
Step 3 – Dry: Once you’re done staining, let it dry for a few hours or overnight before sealing.
Step 4 – Seal: Take a fresh cloth, dip it into the sealer and apply it all over the wood. Do this similarly to how you stain it, but you don’t have to always keep wiping it down with a dry cloth. Just apply it all over, and make sure the cloth isn’t stopping wet with sealer when you apply. A light coat works just fine.
Step 5 – Dry: Let it dry overnight.
Step 6 – Drill: Time to hang them up! Drill on the new hinges to the wood and then drill the shelves into the wall. Or the other way around. To ensure a proper placement, grab your stud finder while doing this. You want to make sure the brackets are hitting a stud, which are usually every 16 inches apart from one another. Do what works best for you. If you want to find the studs first, mark them, drill the brackets to the wall and then drill the wood shelf onto the bracket, then do so. Just make sure the shelf is drilled into a stud. This way it is a lot safer and stronger for the amount of weight that you’re going to be putting on it. We don’t want any of your kitchenware or decor crashing down and breaking!
And you’re done! This project is honestly the easiest one to do. Like I said, don’t let these steps scare you. Once you get the hang of staining and sanding, this project can seriously take 10 minutes!
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Let me know if you guys liked this post and feel free to comment below any questions you may have or share pictures if you did this DIY! If you want to see more DIY projects on the blog, just comment below or DM me on Instagram, @mindful.living_
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