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Adding a Shelf and Crown Molding

Home repair expert Henry Harrison shows how to install a custom shelf and crown molding around the perimeter of a nursery.

On his elbow grease scale of one to four, Harrison gives this job a three.

Materials and Tools:

portable workbench
miter box and saw
carpenter’s square
folding rule
nail set
tick stick
stud finder
countersinking bit
spring clamps
coping saw
spacer block
safety glasses
painter’s tape
1x4 boards for support (nailer) boards
1x6 boards for shelf
crown molding

Figure A


1. Decide how far beneath the ceiling to mount your shelf. Measure the items you plan on placing on the shelf so get an idea how far down you need to mount the shelf. Measure with a folding rule and mark the spot with a piece of painter's tape (figure A).

Figure B

2. Use a stud finder to locate mounting points for the shelves. Stick painter's tape on either side of each stud so you don't permanently mark the wall (figure B).

Figure D

3. Use a tick stick to measure the length of the walls. A tick stick is an ancient tool that consists of two long, thin sticks with 45-degree cuts on each end. Simply hold the stick in place with the help of an assistant and extend it until each end touches a wall (figure C). The 45-degree angles at each end of the tick stick enable you to get accurate, single-point measurements (figure D). Hold the sticks level then lock together with clips.

5. Transfer the measurements to the support or nailer boards. These boards will mount against the wall and be screwed into the studs to support the shelf and give the molding something to attach to.

Figure E

6. Clamp the first nailer board on-edge to the workbench and use the miter to cut a 45-degree angle in one end (figure E). Put on safety glasses when sawing or working with power tools.

7. Transfer the measurements from the tick stick to the nailer board and mark a 45-degree angle on the opposite end of the previous cut using a carpenter's square (figure F). To make the corresponding cut, turn the miter saw 45 degrees in the other direction.

Figure G

8. Since the miter box isn’t wide enough to cut the shelving, use the nailer as a guide for the length when cutting your shelf. Place the nailer board you just cut on top of the board you're using for a shelf, mark the length, then use a carpenter’s square to mark a 45-degree angle along the broad part of the shelf (figure G).

Figure H

9. Clamp the shelf in place and make the cuts using the miter saw (figure H). Even though you can't use the miter box as a guide, using the miter saw allows for more precise control.

Figure I

10. Next assemble the shelf and nailer. Clamp them into place, with the nailer on edge (figure I), and attach the shelf by driving nails through the top and into the edge of the nailer. Set the nails below the surface with a nail set.

Figure J

11. Measure the crown molding against the assembled shelf and nailer unit and mark to cut (figure J). Flip the molding over and continue the mark across the molding. Clamp to the workbench and cut to size.

Figure K

12. Lift the assembled shelf into place and use an 8-inch block (or whatever length you've decided on) to keep the spacing consistent. Make sure the tape strips marking the wall studs are visible. Have someone hold the shelf while you drill pilot holes through the nailer board and into the wall studs. Secure the shelf by driving screws into the holes (figure K).

Figure L

13. Place the molding you cut in position, pre-drill holes into the studs and secure the molding with nails (figure L).

Figure M

14. Build another shelf to fit the next wall. Mount the shelf and cut another piece of molding to length as before. Highlight the edge of the molding with a pencil and use a coping saw to cut away the meat of the molding (figure M).

Figure N

15. Trim the molding with the coping saw so it fits seamlessly against the first piece in the corner (figure N). Secure molding as before.

Figure O

16. Once all shelves are up, run a bead of non-toxic caulk along the joints and wipe away the excess caulk with fingertip (figure O).

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