Making a shelf to hang off a picture rail
November 2, 2016 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Our apartment has plaster walls and old-fashioned sturdy picture rails. Can I use these rods to make something like this that costs less than $175?

I want a shelf about 6 in deep and 20 in long. It doesn’t have to be fancy wood like the expensive ones linked above, and the load on the shelf will be no more than 10 lb. I am having trouble visualizing (a) how to make the shelf stable and non-wiggly, given that there is only one attachment point between the rods and the shelf and (b) how to anchor the shelf to the rod (drill holes through the rods and insert pins that the shelf rests on?). The position of the shelf on the rods does not need to be adjustable.
Tools: I have access to standard carpentry tools, drill press, table saw etc (no router). Expertise: average handyperson skills, i.e. this looks a bit too complicated. Thanks!
posted by ogorki to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The trouble with those rods isn't their tensile strength, it's their small cross-section and lack of rigidity. If you used a single rod at each end of the shelf then they would have to intersect the shelf some distance out from the wall, in line with the center of the load. That means the intersections would have to be precisely angled back to towards the picture rail, with i.e. not vertical. It still wouldn't be stable if it ever got bumped, and if the load moved forward or back much the torque might bow the rods enough to tip the shelf and dump the load. The longer the distance between shelf and rail, the less stable it would be.

I think you'd be better off with a more rigid rod, and the work would be easier too. Electrical conduit is very cheap. You'd just have to improvise a hook for the top.
posted by jon1270 at 2:04 AM on November 3, 2016

The design you linked to would be an easy diy project if you replaced the aluminium pieces with pvc pipe (which, of course, can be painted with metallic spray paint) and use furniture grade fittings under the shelves. You would still need to improvise a hook. Or you could use a slip fitting at the top, which would allow you to hang the shelves from some type of hooks installed at the picture rail.

However, I think this design better addresses the issues raised by jon1270 (again, using pvc pipes and furniture grade fittings). For such a light load, both shelves could rest on the elbow fitting, i.e., you wouldn't need to attach the bottom shelf to the wall.
posted by she's not there at 7:03 AM on November 3, 2016

I'd glue and screw a couple of braces made from 3/4" x 1.5" stock, whose length matches the width of your shelf, on edge underneath the shelf and at right angles to it. Drill the holes for the rods all the way down through the shelf and the braces, so that the holes end up a little over 2" long; then drill small holes sideways through each rod, and install a retaining pin. You could carve grooves into the undersides of the braces to hide the pins.

For the kind of loads you're envisioning, the rod holes would not need to be on the centreline of the shelf - just step them out far enough from the back edge that the rods hang vertically from the picture rail. The long holes through the supports should add enough rigidity to the joints to deal with a somewhat off-centre load.
posted by flabdablet at 7:20 AM on November 3, 2016

I think you could do this with threaded rods (washers and bolts top and bottom of your shelf) and for the hanging rail hook at the top, a threaded rod coupler and a hook. (Just make sure the dimensions all match up better than these examples!)
posted by notyou at 12:37 PM on November 3, 2016

Thank you, all! I think I can do this.
posted by ogorki at 5:38 PM on November 5, 2016

Please post back with pics when it's done!
posted by flabdablet at 4:11 AM on November 6, 2016

Work ended up taking over all my spare time, so I bought a nice shallow shelf from a salvage place and drilled some illicit holes into the studs, see here.
posted by ogorki at 10:32 PM on March 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

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