With so many things taking up my garage wall space, any empty area was prime real estate, no matter how small.
The other day, some wall space caught my eye - a little gap between the two garage doors. Right away I thought that it would be an excellent place for some narrow shelves.
Strange that it took me a year to spot the little gem between my garage doors.
The project I was working on at the time (the built-in bookcase with window seat) produced a lot of scrap birch plywood.
This was expensive stuff - 4x8 sheets sell for $50 at Home Depot. So I wasn't wasting any cut offs (believe me, I was quite inventive in the different ways I reused those scraps).
My shelving idea between the garage doors would be a perfect little project for some of the plywood scraps.
Simple flat shelves wouldn't suffice though. With so little space, the shelves would be small, and things could fall off easily.
So instead of shelves, I started visualizing little boxes on the wall.
How nice would it be to walk in wearing yard gloves, and have a box to toss them into as soon as I enter the garage?
I took the box idea a step further and considered using French cleats for them. This would allow each box shelf to be removed by simply lifting it. It would lead to a very modular design where the boxes could be swapped with other ones on the fly.
Rather than digging through a box on the wall to find what I need, or make repeated trips to the wall, why not just take the box shelf with me?
Now that's some clever thinking, if I do say so myself.
I came up with this simple box design below:
Here’s another view of the box design, resting on the wall via the French cleats:
Here's a TinkerCAD exploded diagram showing in detail how it was constructed:
In the diagram above, the orange piece on the far right is mounted to the wall (to allow the box shelf to drop into and secure to the wall). The rest of the pieces form the box itself.
The wall mounted piece and the other angled cut directly above it (attached to the box) form the French cleat system. I used scrap ¾” birch plywood for the box and French cleats.
For the floor of the box, I used ⅛” thick scrap plywood. I cut all the pieces to size quickly using my table saw, and then miter cut the side pieces for that nice angled profile.
For the French cleat 45 degree lengthwise cuts, I used the table saw again.
Then I used construction adhesive, some bar clamps and my 16 gauge finishing nail gun to assemble the wood pieces into a functional French cleat box shelf.
Technically, I built the first shelf without the nail gun. I just used regular finishing nails and a hammer.
With these types of shelves, the strength comes mostly from the construction adhesive (that stuff is really strong when completely dry). The nails really just hold the pieces in place for the glue to set. So that's why I used finishing nails.
Also, I didn't want to risk splitting the plywood scraps, so finishing nails were a good choice due to their thin profile.
As I mentioned earlier, I was in the middle of a bookcase/window seat project at the time. Part of this project involved installing crown molding and baseboard.
I remembered installing crown molding in my previous home, and having an incredibly hard time doing it with finishing nails and a hammer.
I ended up borrowing my neighbor’s cordless finishing nail gun, and the installation was such a breeze. I just held the crown molding in place, then tap tap tap, and the nails (technically brads) were countersunk, securing the molding to the wall.
So purchasing my own finishing nail gun had long been on my wish list.
I finally bit the bullet and purchased one for my birthday to use on the bookcase project. I also got some angled finishing nails to go along with it.
They arrived in the middle of these French cleat shelves.
So the shelves were the perfect opportunity to hone my skills with the gun.
Here's a picture of me using the finishing nail gun for one of the box shelves:
I originally purchased an 18-gauge finishing nail gun (keep reading to see why I returned it).
For those not familiar with finishing nail gun terminology, the gauge represents the thickness of the nail. I'm using the word ‘nail’ loosely because these nail guns actually fire brads, which are strips of thick wire with a very fine head.
They are great for finishing applications (like securing trim) because the heads make a very small hole and require little work to conceal. The thinness of the brads also reduce the likelihood of splitting the wood when they are driven in.
Finishing nail guns are not to be confused with framing nail guns, which fire actual nails and use substantially more power to drive them (hence also more dangerous). I used a gas powered framing nail gun in my shed project if you are interested.
Anyway, I was saying earlier how I purchased an 18-gauge finishing nail gun. Unfortunately, I was not having a good experience using it with the birch plywood.
Most of the nails would fire in straight, but then bend half way and stick out the side of the wood. It was very annoying.
I did some research online and found out that 18-gauge nails don't work well in hardwoods (like birch) and will do exactly what they were doing with me (changing direction as they are driven into the hardwood).
So I decided to return the nail gun and get a 16-gauge version instead. The new nails were noticeablely thicker and worked perfectly for me. The gun is now a permanent addition to my top 12 list of must-have tools.
The 16-gauge version is also an ideal compromise for the average home DIY’er. Depending on the type of woodworking project you're doing, sometimes you'll need a thinner nail (higher gauge) and sometimes you'll need a thicker nail (lower gauge).
Unfortunately finishing nail guns can only fire a single gauge, so you'd need multiple guns to accommodate different nail gauges. This is obviously very expensive, and may not make financial sense for you unless you're a dedicated contractor.
So, 16-gauge is a good compromise because a majority of the projects a typical DIY’er works on can be satisfied with that sized nail gauge.
This has held true for me ever since purchasing the nail gun too. I've used it for everything from crown molding to shelves to quickly tacking on temporary supports for concreting wooden posts. It's also my favorite tool, and well-worth the investment.
With the finishing nail gun, construction of 5 box shelves went by very quickly. I only made 5 because I ran out of scrap wood large enough for box shelves. The remaining smaller scraps had another destiny.
Five boxes were perfectly adequate for the space allocated though.
Here's a picture of the completed boxes resting on the wall (they are empty below, but filled today will all sorts of goodies):
After this was completed, some of the remaining birch plywood scraps got used for another project.
I was going finishing nail gun crazy and just wanted to keep tap-tap-tapping brads, so I ended up making an incredibly useful battery charging station for my cordless tool batteries.
The station consisted of four L shaped shelves fixed to the wall, with two triangular supports each.
Here's a picture of the empty shelves on the walls so you can get an idea of the design:
Here’s what the shelves look like actually being used:
The shelves provide enough space for 4+ battery chargers, extra batteries and a host of accessories.
I got creative and tacked on an empty plastic nail box to store stationary-like pencils, markers and scissors.
I’m most proud of my measuring tape holder though.
I was always looking for my measuring tape and needed a dedicated location for it, so I mounted a metal strip to one of the shelves, and the measuring tape just clips onto it.
It's in the perfect location too. Whenever I need a measuring tape, I just open the garage door and grab the tape off the holder. When done, I just snap it back on the holder and it’s there for future use.
Here's a picture showing my measuring tape holder:
So that's it for this round of garage shelving.
I completed everything on a Saturday with no additional cost to me. I used all scrap wood, and although I benefited a great deal from the finishing nail gun I purchased around the same time, it could have been done with just regular finishing nails and a hammer.
Stay tuned for future shelving ideas as inspiration strikes.
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Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)