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  • Writer's pictureKelsey

DIY Angle Iron Corner Shelves

Level: Way More Experienced Than Me

Time: 3 years of your life and a piece of your soul and possibly your sanity

Materials: Wood, Saw, Angle Irons, Cutting Oil, Kreg Jig, Drill, The patience of a saint

I decided a few months ago that we needed to get our living room toy situation under control. There were toys literally everywhere, in mismatched bins and boxes, or just out on our fireplace. It was really driving me crazy.

And this was when things were "cleaned up" haha

The only real space we had available for any shelving was this oddly-shaped corner that was impossible to find shelving for. I looked everywhere because I had no idea how to even begin to build shelves for this corner, but because of the specific dimensions I finally came to the realization that if I wanted shelves that would fit in this corner I'd have to make them myself.

I had this idea for wooden shelves with angle iron legs that would fit perfectly in this corner. The only problem was that I could not find any plans online for any type of shelving even remotely close to what I was imagining. So I decided to make my own plans! This was my first ever attempt at making my own plans with no guidance and my first time working with metal, so I was super intimidated. These were my super sad, incredibly un-detailed plans.

In case you can't tell, this was one of the most frustrating projects I've ever undertaken. Because it was so difficult and I had no actual plans, I didn't take a ton of pictures on the progress. Partially because half of the steps took 25 tries to get right. So I'm going to detail my process as best as I can with the few pictures I have!

I used 12 inch wide boards because I wanted them to be deep enough to hold large-ish baskets for toys. I cut the boards down to the size I needed for my corner (one was 36 and the other was 48). I laid them out to make sure they were all the right size and fit together well. I ended up putting these together upside down, which caused a lot of problems down the road for me. But we'll get to that soon...

I used wood glue and clamps to glue the boards together before I secured them with screws. Side note- wood glue is shockingly strong if it's applied properly and clamped tightly. I probably could've skipped the pocket hole screws, but I wanted this to be as strong as possible because I'm sure Leo will try to climb on it at some point.

Next step was the pocket holes. I also did these wrong the first time, so I had to go back and do them over again. Pocket holes are really amazing and super easy to do with a Kreg Jig (as long as you don't do them upside down, which I did).

I did three sets of pocket holes/screws for each set of shelves, two on one side and one on the other. I'm hoping having pocket screws coming in from each side makes it strong. I'll let you know in a few months if it worked or not.

Because I put the pocket holes in on the top side instead of underneath, I had to fill them all in with pocket hole plugs, glue the plugs in, then chisel off the excess. This was when I started to realize I was in way over my head.

The next step was staining! This is always my favorite part because they start to actually look like something!

After the stain dried I did a coat of polyacrylic to help protect the wood from the inevitable beating Leo will give it. I added braces to the bottom of the shelves to add some extra strength and support. I also added some extra supports to the ends. Will any of these things make the shelves stronger? I have no real idea, because I made these plans up myself and I have no idea what I'm doing.

The next step was to drill holes in the angle irons. I didn't take any pictures of this part because it was so time-consuming and frustrating and I completely forgot. So I'll try to explain it as best as I can! I wanted to use angle irons as the legs, so if you don't know, this is what an angle iron is:

So in order to use these as legs I had to drill holes in them. I was really intimidated by the idea of drilling holes in metal. It seemed impossible. But really, with the right tools, it's not THAT bad. It's not great, but it's doable! (It's also way easier if you measure correctly the first time, but I'll get to that in a minute) The three most important things you need for drilling into metal is a drill bit made for metal, cutting oil and patience. Just pour some cutting oil on the metal and drill! It's pretty slow going, but eventually it drills all the way through! It also helps to have a piece of scrap wood or something underneath to drill into.

Here's where I went wrong. I needed 6 legs for the shelves and I had to drill 6 holes in each leg. That's 36 holes. But because I'm very bad at numbers, I measured wrong and ended up having to re-drill about 10 holes. So I had to drill almost 50 holes into metal. It took hours and my hands were SO sore. But eventually I got them all done!

Now that I had all the holes drilled and the shelves ready, it was time to put it all together.

This part was also a struggle because it was so large, there were so many legs, and trying to hold everything in place while screwing the pieces together was almost impossible. But after several attempts, I finally got all the legs on!

I was really bummed when I got it all put together because it was really wobbly. Like, unsafe to be around a child wobbly. I almost scrapped it at that point but decided to do a little research and realized I needed some back and side supports to make it sturdier. I bought some metal slats and drilled more holes in them (because why not) and screwed them into the back in a "V" shape because the internet told me that would make it sturdiest. I also added some wooden braces on the sides. And you know what, it worked!

Finally I had a real working set of shelves!!!

It was ready for its place in our oddly shaped corner!

I was so happy when it fit perfectly! It's nice to know I don't always measure poorly. The only thing left was to fill it with baskets ($6 each from WalMart!) and toys!

Even though this project nearly drove me insane, I am incredibly proud of it. It was definitely the hardest project I've undertaken, but it was also very empowering to know that I could come up with an idea, create my my own plans, work through the many, many problems that arose, and come out with a piece of furniture that I actually really love. Sometimes I walk by it and just think to myself, "I MADE that!!"

And now all Leo's toys are held compactly in one corner, rather than strewn about the entire room. Our living room has felt SO much cleaner and more livable! So all in all, it was definitely worth it.

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