How to Build Open, Old-Style Kitchen Shelves

Open shelving in the kitchen is a great way to display antique dishware.

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A curved side opening with a vertical post gives these shelves a vintage look.

Materials and Tools:

one 1/2" maple side piece at 38-1/4" x 11-1/4"
one 1/2" maple back piece at 48" x 38-1/4"
three 3/4" maple shelves at 10-3/4" x 39"
one 1/2" maple strip for bottom shelf at 1-3/4" x 39"
one 1/2" maple strip for bottom shelf at 2-1/2" x 9"
two 3/4" maple vertical frames at 1-1/2" x 48"
one 3/4" maple vertical frames at 1-1/2" x 44-1/2"
one 3/4" maple horizontal frame at 3-1/2" x 38-1/2"
one 3/4" maple horizontal frame 3-1/2" x 10-7/8"
pocket jig
pocket screws
wood glue
1-inch brad nails
countersink screws
eye goggles


1. Build your shelf pieces starting with the bottom. You'll be rounding one edge of the shelf unit, so draw a 90-degree curve in the top-left corner. Attach the two support strips to the bottom shelf.

2. Turn the bottom shelf over and cut out the rounded corner for the shelf.

3. Cut out the portions of the bottom shelf that will fit into the framework for the cabinet. Remove a 1/2" notch from the front corner of the shelf. Then measure down 31-1/2 inches and remove a 1-1/2" notch.

4. Trace the curve from the bottom shelf onto the two upper ones to assure all the shelves are the same size.

5. Next, use a table saw to rip down your side and back cabinet pieces. Attach them so that the side piece fits over the edge of the back piece.

6. Next, build your framework. Rip down the framing pieces. Miter the connecting ends of the horizontal pieces. Make four pocket holes at the opposite ends of the miter cuts, creating them on the same side as the long point. Nail your two mitered ends together. Then attach the two end frames with pocket screws.

7. On the shorter vertical frame piece, add two pocket holes at the top where it will connect to the horizontal pieces. Attach 33 inches from the end of the longer frame piece.

8. Arrange your shelves to the spacing that you like. Remember that your framework will leave you with a 3-1/2" top plate, so adjust your measurements accordingly. Use a straight edge to evenly place your lines.

9. Once you have your shelves placed, attach then with brad nails. Then turn the cabinet over again and use a straightedge to place accurate lines where your shelves are located. Secure them with countersink screws.

10. Put your framework in place. It should fit right into the notches on your bottom shelf. Attach with glue and brad nails.

11. Paint or stain as desired.

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