December 15, 2015
Learn Woodworking and Build a Garage Shelving Unit | Part 4 - Assembly

This post will be the last entry in a series detailing a weekend project I recently engaged in, which was the construction from scratch of some garage shelving. Furthermore, I expect that this series will be the first of many woodworking projects that I detail on this blog. Why, you may ask, am I writing about carpentry on a blog that has, up until now, been focused on computers and web development? I see this blog as focused on engineering, and woodworking is certainly a type of engineering! Furthermore, I think that there is a niche for amateur woodworking tutorials and I intend to fill that.

These posts will be written for the use of amateurs, including those who have zero experience in working with wood. I will be writing the most basic of techniques, including how to create and adapt plans, how to properly measure and cut wood, and the like. This is the kind of post I would have found useful when I was starting out, and it is my hope that it will be of use to others, too. Note that I am far from an expert myself, so I will be glad for any feedback that those more experienced can provide me.

Let's get started!

I have a messy garage. Perhaps you do too. To solve this problem, I decided it was time to build some shelving upon which I could stack all my stuff. This series of posts will walk you through my build process from start to finish, and will hopefully serve two purposes:

  • Show you how you can build a shelf just like mine
  • Show you the general processes involved in building a project out of wood – creating the plan, finding and sizing the materials, and assembling the item.

This series will consist of 4 posts, which are as follows:

  1. Plans and Materials
  2. Cutting the Wood
  3. Attaching the Brackets
  4. Assembly

In Part 4 – Assembly, we are going to take the four posts with attached brackets, and attach them together with the crossbeams, thereby assembling the shelf. The major challenges here will be ensuring that the crossbeams attach properly and square to the posts. This may be difficult due to possible warp in the posts, but with the use of clamps we can mitigate that.

Once again we’ll need a screwgun and screws, along with c-clamps, and some sort of working surface, like a sawhorse.

Let’s begin!

Attaching the Short Crossbeams

When we left off, we had the four posts with the brackets attached:

You should have four of these, two with the brackets oriented in one direction and two in the other. We’re going to begin assembly by attaching the crossbeams, and making four units into two.

As a test, I inserted the short crossbeams into the brackets of two posts and laid the unit flat. It should look like this:

If you want to stand it up (it helps to have a second person if you’re going to do this) you can test whether the crossbeams are level – in other words, whether you installed the brackets properly. I did so and found that it was almost spot on, which I was happy with.

Let’s get to actually screwing the crossbeams in. I put my whole unit onto my sawhorses:

We’ll insert three screws into each individual bracket to attach the crossbeam. Before you put any screws in, we need to ensure that the crossbeam is both seated properly in the bracket, and sits square against the post. Get it seated properly, then clamp it down to the bracket, like so:

Then it’s just a matter of screwing it in. You can put two screws in when it’s laying this way, which will be enough to secure it:

Then, once you’ve put screws in all eight brackets, you can flip the unit and put in the remaining screws

Repeat the whole thing for the remaining two posts, and you’ll have properly installed the crossbeams.

Attaching the Long Beams

Next comes the more difficult part – attaching the long beams and completing the shelf. This is more difficult since the beams are larger.

I chose to tackle the problem by standing the unit up and inserting the long beams into the brackets, like so:

The sawhorses are helping keep the unit up, but once again you may want to have a friend help hold the thing.

Just like with the short crossbeams, you will simply need to clamp and screw the long beams to the brackets. Pipe clamps may be useful here to clamp the thing together lengthwise (warp in the posts was a problem here for me, as you may notice in some of the photos). I didn’t have pipe clamps so I had do my best to seat the beams properly. Ultimately, do what you can and don’t worry too much if there’s a beam or two that’s not perfectly seated.

Once again you’ll need to put two screws on the outside of each bracket, and one on the inside:

Once you’ve got it all screwed together, your shelf frame will be complete!

Installing the Shelves

Now that we’ve got the frame standing, all that remains is to install the shelves, which fortunately is very easy.

We built our shelving unit to have three individual shelves, plus the top. I didn’t add a shelf for the top, but you certainly could if you want to. Due to the way the unit is built, we won’t actually need any nails to hold the shelves in place.

First, we’ll need three flat boards – plywood or MDF will do (I used MDF). Each should be cut to 31” x 63”.

Next, we’ll need to cut notches in all four corners for the posts. Each notch should be the same size of a post – 1.5” by 3.5”. Make sure you orient it correctly!

Cut out each notch like so, making sure you account for the kerf.

Once you’ve got all four notches cut out, we need to install it into the shelves. Fortunately, our unit is just the right size for us to be able to slide the shelf in diagonally:

Slide it all the way in and lay it flat against the crossbeams. As you can see, the posts hold the board in place, and no nails are required.

You may notice that my shelves aren’t quite snug in place – when I got the boards cut at Home Depot, the employee cut them an inch short lengthwise. A good reminder – measure twice, cut once.

Add all three shelves, and you will be done!

Over these last few posts, we have done two things:

  1. Go over, step by step, how to build a sturdy set of garage shelves from scratch
  2. Introduce many basic woodworking concepts

I hope the former is valuable. These shelves are good shelves and I would recommend them for your own garage. Here is another link to the plans:

I am also very excited about the second goal. The concepts introduced in this series are applicable to many different projects, and I hope you’re able to go on and use them to build your own furniture as needed.

Woodworking is a wonderful hobby and I plan to post more plans and guides on here in the future.

Until then, best of luck with your projects, and remember: measure twice, cut once.