Live Edge Floating Shelves | How To Build

In this tutorial I’m going to show you how I made these floating live edge wood shelves. It’s a very simple process but can turn any wall space into something visually unique but also functional. Lets get into the process. 

Things I Used in This Project:

I’m starting off with a walnut slab that had a good amount of bug tracks on one end and a deep but beautiful bark inclusion on the other. I think features like these give the shelves character so I intentionally chose a board that wasn’t flawless. 

However, since there are so many cavities I went ahead and starting the process by first filling them with clear epoxy. I flipped the board over to what will be the bottom of the shelves then started taping off any and all cracks or holes I saw.

After getting a good amount of coverage over any, I used a pencil to press the tape down firmly. Leaking epoxy is not fun, however you also see I laid down some cardboard on my workbench before getting starting. 

Now for the end I went with something a little bit more thick than painters tape, I did four layers of duct tape to try and build up a dam on this side. I just need something to keep the epoxy from spilling over once I start pouring it in the voids.

Even after a few layers of tape though, I knew it wouldn’t hold so I next grabbed a thin scrap that had some flex to it and screwed it into the end. Making sure it took the curve of the slab. Then the last thing I did before pouring was clear out all the dust and dreby from the voids. 

If you don’t want to go through all this work of pouring epoxy then know you can skip this step. With these being shelves, there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with leaving them as is. I just like the look that clear epoxy gives the surface. 

Before pouring, I like to raise the slab off the workbench so I can check for leaks along the way.  I grabbed a few bench cookies from my dispenser and set them on either end of my slab. 

For epoxy I’m going with my go to brand of epoxy which is Total Boat. Here I’m using Total Boat High Performance. This stuff is crystal clear, is a simple 2:1 ratio, and dries pretty quick.

I poured this in the morning, let it sit overnight, then was ready to start sanding the next morning.

Be sure to read the mixing time and stick to it when using epoxy and also make sure to have a flame on hand so after you pour, you can use the heat to remove all the air bubbles. I typically keep a small torch in my shop for this reason but couldn’t find it and tried using a regular lighter. It makes the fingers a little toasty since it’s so close so I went with the only other heat option I had around which was my mega torch. : ) Ha, it’s overkill but a quick spritz and all the bubbles were gone. 

Be sure to overfill any voids because in the next step you sand it, and you want the surface of the epoxy to come out flush with the surrounding wood after.

Also if you’re needing epoxy remember I have a 15% off coupon code on anything Total Boat if you use the code AprilW at checkout. 

Ok after letting that sit up overnight it was sanding time. I wheeled my shop vac and separator cart into place, hooked up my Triton ROS and started the process. I always start with 60 grit sand paper to take down the bulk of dried epoxy. I also prefer to use my larger ROS since I have one but a belt sander would also take it down quickly. 

After getting it flush, I switched over to my palm ROS and then ran through the grits, going over  the entire slab at the same time.

As I ran through the grits, going from 60 to 100, to 150, to 220, to 320, to 400……I would really focus on hitting the epoxy portions to remove as many scratches as possible so that in the end it would be crystal clear in the ending results. I like to use a little mineral spirits to get a sense on how it will look with finish on it. 

When I’m happy with the results, I move on! Hitting the entire edge with my sander, then wiping it all down to prep to applying finish. I’m testing out a new finish called walrus oil on this project and found it very simple. Of course it makes the walnut just absolutely pop as soon as it’s spread on. I always start off with finishing the bottom of projects first then flip them over to do the show face before letting the entire thing set up to dry. 

BTW: even though these will be five separate shelves, it’s much easier to do all of these steps with the board as one big unit rather than working with five smaller pieces. 

So after letting the finish dry, I then started marking out my shelves boundaries on the slab. I’m using a soapstone pencil and my track saw guide to draw out where I think the shelves should be so I can make sure I like the visual of them before actually making a cut. I wanted the shelves that will be most at visual level to be the ones with the most character in them, so the large bark inclusion and the bug tracks.

Once I was happy with the layout, I hopped up on my workbench and used my Triton track saw to start making some cuts.

The track saw is great to get straight cuts on a natural shape like this that doesn’t have a straight edge reference to start. However, I’m using almost every inch of this slab and couldn’t over cut my lines so I would sneak up to the corner with the saw as close as I could, then finish it off with a hand saw. 

Once I broke down the slab a bit using that method, I was then able to take the remaining slab and pieces to the table saw and use my Rockler Cross cut sled to finish it off.

Oh yeah, that’s gonna be cool I think. I not only cut up the rest of the slab but I also used my sled to get all of the edges at a perfect 90 and the shelves to final length. 

The Shelf Hardware I’m going with can be found at Rockler.

It comes with a rectangular mounting bracket that will butt up to the back of the shelf. I like to cut in a small recess on the shelf so the back will sit flush up again the wall when it’s mounted. After marking off the placement of the two brackets, I used a straight bit in my router table to carve this recess out. Test fitting the bracket afterwards to make sure it would comfortably fit. 

With the bracket cavity cut in, now I just needed to drill the holes for the hardware. With it being a live edge and so tall, using a drill press isn’t an option so instead I’m using a new drilling guide from Rockler.

It’s pretty much a portable drill press and has quickly gone up the list of one of my favorite things. This quill here can be chucked up in a drill and travel up and down. There are two stops that can be placed anywhere in order to regulate the desired depth. It has onboard storage for a chuck key, and even a tilting feature so you can drill straight but at an angle. Tell me that isn’t cool.

There are also two pins that have on board storage at the top that can be screwed into the bottom. These can be set on the edge of any piece of wood to help you quickly find center of that edge.

I could have used this feature to drill my holes, but instead I used the mounting holes in the drilling guides deck to secure it horizontally to my armor tool workbench. I locked all four casters to keep it from moving around on me, and just felt like this was a bit more secure for the depth of hole I was going after. 

I would line up the shelf so that the center of the mounting bracket recess was in line with the center of the drilling guide’s bit, then plunge. After drilling the depth needed for the first, I would move the shelf over and repeat on the second. After knocking out one shelf, I repeated on the remaining four. 

Hanging the shelves is very easy. I started off by first measuring out the height I wanted each shelf then used a level to draw a straight line across.

Now the mounting bracket can be held up into place and the first screw sunk to secure it. After getting the first screw set, I used the level again to make sure it was level before driving in the second screw. Once the first bracket was attached, I used the level to make sure the second bracket went in the same. 

The top two holes are for mounting the bracket, the third is for a set screw to be inserted so that a metal rod can be threaded on. This is what will go into the holes I drilled in the back of the shelves.

Rockler has two versions of this mounting hardware: this one that is rated at 50lbs (which is still a lot), or Heavy Duty Supports that can support up to 125lbs.  

For my shelves, I went with a staggered look. I don’t know what I’ll end up storing here in the end but no matter what it is, the shelves definitely took this bare space and turned it into something more interesting and beautiful. All from a slab I grabbed from The Wood Shed as well. 

I was about to call this project done when I decided to add in a hidden feature….just for you loyal viewers. I quickly grabbed a few more scraps and threw together a simple and tiny drawer to mount on the bottom side of the lower most shelf.

In this drawer, I will always keep a few stickers and if you ever come to The Wood Shed in person, please feel free to help yourself to this secret stash. 

Ok, and that really does wrap up this project. Big thank you to Rockler for sponsoring this video and supporting what I do.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Live Edge Floating Shelf project. Be sure and watch the video for an even better tutorial! And I’ll see you on whatever I’m working on next. 

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