Quick, easy, cheap storage shelves

Simple shelves to make the most of your storage space. Wood cost about $70. You get about 64 sqft of storage, and 32 linear feet of shelf.

Materials needed:
2 sheets of 4×8 ply wood (ripped lengthwise, provided free at HD and Lowes)
18 2"x2"x8'
108 2" screws
68 1" screws
1 staple gun (optional)
1 electric drill (but two is better!)
1 saw (preferably a miter saw, though any would work)
Start to finish it takes about 4 hours

cut list
24 18" 2×2 – these crosspieces will go between the uprights
24 Custom height 2X2 – I use 20 1/2" for two levels and 15 1/4 for two levels. Each level needs 6 of whatever length you choose. These are the uprights.

tip: if possible, cut more than one board at a time. My saw cut 3 2×2's at once without a problem.

Assemble the squares by placing two crosspieces between two uprights to form a square.

tip: hold the squares together with staples first. The staples make screwing the squares together go much faster than trying to brace each one individually by hand or clamp.

Countersink each joint about 1/2 an inch. Use one 2" screw to join each corner. Press hard to keep the joints nice and tight.

After the squares are assembled, attach a rail across three using a 2" screw. Repeat on the other side. Use staples or a partner to stabilize. Be careful not to try to screw through a screw on the other layer. Repeat on the other side.

Place the plywood on top. Square the frame to the plywood. mark 3/4 of an inch in and mark every foot along the perimeter of the plywood. Counter sink (not too deep, just enough to cover the head). Use 1" screws to attach sheathing to frame. Put three screws through the squares as well: one through each upright and one in the middle.

Countersink two holes in the bottom crosspiece of the squares. You will use these holes to attach each layer to the layer below.

It's probably worth adding some diagonals at least to the bottom layer for stability, thought I don't in this video.

Without some diagonals these are not good stand alone shelves for the middle of a room. Pushed against wall, they're great. Don't forget to anchor the top to the wall so that they don't fall over on anyone.

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor ( )

31 Comments

  1. Sugarloaf Mountain Films

    Uncut (single piece) verticals front and back will support the horizontals upright, providing greater strength and reducing construction time.

  2. Great project DrDeRock. Also the trick with the staples. I just got finished with an 8 ft DVD rack, wish I had known your staple tip then. Just wanted to make a comment. It seems that every time I see a really good video like this one, there are always people commenting about “why didn’t you do this”, “why didn’t you do that”, bla, bla, bla. I fail to understand why some folks have to voice their ways of how they would make it better. To me that is a “put down” on the creator of the project and is not respectful to the creator or the project itself. You people need to not cast your opinions where they are not asked for. Just take what you have learned from a talented individual and go ahead and build one with all your changes and then post your own. Bottom line once again, great project. I would not change a thing.

  3. Thanks Frank! Love the passion.

    There are gems in the comments sometimes. It’s interesting to see where people go with my ideas.

    That staple trick saved me. Sorry you didn’t get to use it on your DVD rack, but hopefully you get to use it soon!

  4. This is a great video. Thank you. I would like to use this, but I may not be reading the numbers correctly. Looking from the top, you have a 24″ (widthwise) plywood. Underneath the plywood (widthwise), you have three sets of 18″ 2×2, 2 2×2 uprights (4″), and 2 2×2 rails (4″). That equals 26″. However, the rail is clearly flush with the plywood on the side. I am definitely missing something. Please help.     

  5. This should help: dimensional lumber is talked about in its rough dimensions. Any 2x is actually only 1.5″. For example, a 2 x 2 is only 1.5 x 1.5. The math works with these dimensions because you would have an 18″ cross + 3″ for the two uprights front and back + 3″ for the rails front and back for a total of 24″.

    Good luck with your shelf!

  6. Nice! I appreciate your help. I added a fourth support to each of the shelves because I needed really strong support for heavier stuff. Turned out great. I’m going to build three more to really clean up my house. Thanks, again! 

  7. At the end of 2013, I made 7 shelves following your demo, except instead of plywood, used 3/4″ pine boards that were on sale.  About a year later, they’re going strong.  Shelf depth is only about 17″.  Works great in the basement.  Thanks for the help. 

  8. Awesome! I’m so glad the video helped. They’ve worked great in our basement as well. Thanks for checking back in!

  9. Thought your approach was nuts at first but this is actually very smart. Modular, easy to break down and move – and not over-built like so many of the 2×4 systems which are very strong but overkill for typical household stuff. Good job!

  10. Glad it helped and I agree; I need it to hold empty suitcases not transmissions.

  11. This video is really impressive.Well demonstration on how to make quick and easily storage #shelves. Nice work.

  12. looks weak, id use 2×4

  13. I followed your pattern. it snapped, killed my dog, and stabbed me in the nuts

  14. +cacadodo666 Really sorry to hear about your dog. And your nuts. Ouch! The video does get tricky in the middle. Just to be clear, you’re supposed to (1) face east (2) stand on your left foot while (3) looking (just looking) at a yoga pose (any will do). Most people get the east part right, but then some try to do the yoga pose while looking at someone on their left foot. Totally won’t work that way…and can be dangerous!

  15. And the aftermath of this incident
    (1) find a stray cat; cost = free
    (2) self sex change; cost = free

  16. +cacadodo666 lol that sucks.. having 666 in your name probably didn’t help, & when your working for Devil that don’t help always lose lol…

  17. I’m concerned that this design is vulnerable to lateral collapse on both horizontal axes (but mostly lateral). The supports will rock from side to side more and more over time. What’s worse: each level is an essentially separate system, so it can wiggle like a snake, adding other complexities of momentum. The bottom level is the most likely to fail, but any of them could. Tug on a heavy box wrong, bump into it wrong, or if a child tries to climb up the side …. could be disaster. As I see it, the minimum remedies would be (1) Secure each level to wall studs (2) Add sisters to the corner uprights. (3) Add trusses to the back and sides. Best wishes.

  18. That was my 1st thought- definately needs to be anchored to wall, not free standing. I would have run 2x3s vertically for support and a couple for cross support.

  19. Could I use 2x4s and rip them instead of 2x2s? I’m considering doing this, but $70 is still too much money for me so I’ll probably pick my lumber from a construction site waste bin where 2x2s aren’t commonly found.

  20. Yes absolutely. You might even like those better than what you buy. Keep in mind that my measurements rely on the dimensional lumber measurements, i.e. a 2×2 is really 1.5″ x 1.5″. Good luck!

  21. justgivemethetruth

    Labor intensive and a kind of flimsy, but nice looking design. Stand on either end and just rhythmically tap and you will this thing resonate because there is no diagonals/shear members, and the vertical supports do not go continuously from top to the bottom. It looks good though and probably won’t have to go through any earthquakes, right? 😉

  22. This guy is baked.

  23. Wait til’ the kids climb on them and tip those fuckers over!!! Then you will have advice on “getting a good lawyer for cheap”

  24. This is VERY unsafe ‘modular’ design!!

  25. im going to make some thing not so big and not so wide i going to make some thing that is 1 foot x 1 foot and maybe 5 feet tall and i going to use wood that not so thick or heavy but strong more like 2 inch x 2 inch and 5 feet tall but not in one part more then one part to make it 5 feet tall its only going to hold light weight things it will not be for heavy things. want to make it so u can take apart and put together when ever any one wants to. also want the wood to be strong but not heavy so can be delivered to any where.
    here a link to some thing almost what i want to make only that this one is not small enough part so that if i send it to any where it will fit in a smaller box so that the cost will be less in delivery also this one only has 4 shelf’s i need to have 5 so here the link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000NPSJP0/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=8YYA7TOT8YFO&coliid=IPUNADBRYZ96C&psc=1

  26. good it hit your nuts, you didn’t need to breed.

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    Awesome )O_-(

  28. Thanks for posting this. I followed your video and built these shelves a couple years ago and they are serving us very well. I’m satisfied with the stability.

  29. You would be better off with the 2×4’s and NOT ripping them in half !!!!

  30. Efficiency was completely ignored. I cant imagine a more difficult way to build simple shelves. If i have massive amounts of time to waste ill build my shelves this way.

  31. Love the design and the clean look. Any shelves built with 2×4 get old and tiresome to look at. I wonder if using glue in addition to the screws will be a good thing. These are the best looking shelves by far.

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