d.i.y. cardboard shelf [tutorial]

Happy 100th post to my blog! Thank everyone so much for reading. I can’t believe the amount of views my blog has had this month. It’s more than I could have ever expected. Thank everyone so much for their dedication and enthusiasm for my blog. You guys are great!

In honor of this fun day, I have a d.i.y. post to share.

D.I.Y. Cardboard Shelf

I made this cardboard shelf this afternoon. It took less than two hours and cost next to nothing. Seriously. It’s  great.

Click on the photos to see a larger image.

Learn how to take a simple cardboard box that was almost trash and turn it into a functional shelf for your trinkets. This cardboard shelf measures 5″ deep and 25″ long.


1. Hot glue gun
2. Tape Measurer
3. Big cardboard box
4. Xacto knife or another cutting tool, box cutter, etc.
5. [Optional] Cutting mat, very helpful, but I used some carpeted cat scratcher thing [I’m cheap, er, resourceful]
6.   Paint, if you’d like to paint your shelf

Step 1: Tracing

1. Begin with a box  and cut it and lay it flat.

2. Measure out the desired length you want your shelf to be. This one is 5″ x 25″.
3. Create a rectangular pattern using these measurements. Be sure to keep the pattern lines as straight as possible.

2. Cut your pattern

Cut out your first rectangle of cardboard using your box cutter or Xacto knife.

Now you’re going to trace out two more cardboard rectangles. You can use the first one as a pattern.

Cut out all three.

During this time, you can also cut out the base of your shelf, which should measure 3 inches wide by 25 inches long. [not pictured.]

3. Trace & Cut Shelf Braces

You will also need to cut a few more pieces from the cardboard. These will be the braces or stabilizers that connect your shelf top to the base.

Measure out a triangle brace that is 3 inches wide and 3 inches deep. Make the width and depth meet at a right angle. Connect them with a straight line across the middle. Cut one out and use it as a stencil for your next ones.

You will need to make 8 total.

4. Glue the Braces Together
Now you’re going to want to glue two of the braces together, giving it a double-thickness. This will result in four reinforced braces. I used hot glue to do this.

5. Glue the Shelf Pieces Together
Next, using the hot glue gun, glue the three cut-out cardboard pieces that are the length of your shelf. The three layers of cardboard will give it some strength.

6. Trim the edges

If you are like me and terrible at cutting, you might need to trim your edges, so that they are smooth. Now is the time to do so. It’s really important to the stability of this structure that every edge be straight and even.

7. Assemble the 3-Layer Shelf to the Back Base

Next, assemble the three layer shelf to the back base.
Have the hot glue gun ready and loaded. Mine sort of dried half-way through applying the glue.
Using the hot glue, connect the shelf to the top of the base at a 90 degree or right angle.
Hold and press down until it’s completely cooled.

Side notes:See that light shining through at the center of the angle? That’s because it wasn’t cut straight. I had to sort of seal it with hot glue. This tells me it probably won’t be as structurally sound as I want it to be.

8. Assemble the Braces to the Back and Top of Shelf

Next, add the braces for reinforced security.

Start on the two edges. Glue the corner of the braces into the corner of the shelf. Press them in deep to add security.

Once you secure the outside two, then add the inside two, placing them in equal distance apart in the middle.

9. Smooth Edges and Paint

Smooth out the edges with a pair of scissors or your knife.

Paint your shelf if desired.

10. Mount & Decorate

Finally, mount your shelf on a wall and display your hard work! I mounted with nails, but half way through I thought double sided tape would work.

I would have preferred to put another coat of paint on this, but I ran out.
I wouldn’t put a book on this, but it’s perfect for display of tiny things or candles.

There you have it! I hope you enjoy this tutorial.

Here’s a link to a downloadable/printable .pdf file of this tutorial via my instructables account.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what I do with the leftover cardboard. Yes, there’s leftovers.

About heidi

a twenty-something young professional who enjoys crafting, cooking, sewing, and re-purposing old things.
This entry was posted in crafts, d.i.y., I Made This, Upcycled and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to d.i.y. cardboard shelf [tutorial]

  1. Pingback: Valentine’s Day Door Decoration Tutorial | a week from thursday

  2. Fallan R says:

    This is so COOL! I am going to save this, because I so want to make one in the very very near furture! So simple….and looks cute! Thanks for posting the tutorial.

    • heidi says:

      Thank you! It’s still holding up strong. I started putting some of my “valuables” on it, because I believe in its stability.

      I found out after the fact that if you use a thin, angled blade you will have no problem cutting the cardboard . I think I used a thicker blade that didn’t have much of an angle, which resulted in a less than finished look.

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