DIY Hard Maple Kitchen Shelf (FREE Plans)

The beauty of this kitchen shelf lies in the details, like the finger-jointed drawers, square screw cover plugs, and the matching, shop-made drawer pulls. Even a little detail like hiding the hanging bracket adds to the project’s beauty, offering uninterrupted, clean lines.

The trick to mastering the details is to test all your setups on scrap wood before making your final cuts. Take your time cutting, aligning and fitting the parts together. Figure on spending about $200 and two weekends to build it.

About Working With Hard Maple

Hard maple is exactly that, hard. Cutting it requires sharp tools, and sanding it takes a little longer than sanding most other hardwoods. We made our shelf from maple because we liked its rich, creamy color and subtle grain pattern.

Hard maple is a common hardwood available at hardwood lumberyards. It’s usually 34 in. thick, so you’ll need to plane some of it to 12 in. thick for the drawers (see the Cutting List). If you don’t have a thickness planer and a jointer, ask the lumberyard personnel to do it for you.

The maple was finished with clear semi-gloss spray lacquer, no stain. You can stain maple, but it’s tricky and sometimes turns out blotchy. If you’re thinking about staining yours, do a test sample on a piece of scrap wood first.

Tools You'll Need For This Project

Aside from some basic hand tools, you’ll need:

A few spring clamps come in handy too.

If you have a thickness planer, drill press and a woodworking workbench with a wood vise, you can speed things along, but you’ll manage without them.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Edge-Glue Boards & Cut All Pieces

Edge-glue boards to make pieces wide enough for the bottom, shelf, sides and drawer dividers (A, B and C).

Now cut all the pieces to the sizes given in the Cutting List.

Cut the 116-in. thick drawer runners (N) off the edge of a 1-in. wide piece of 34-in. thick maple.

To get continuous grain across the drawer fronts, cut the drawer fronts (E) from one long piece. Label the pieces so you’ll know how to assemble the drawers so the grain will flow across the front of the shelf.

2. Cut The Sides

Layout the shape of the sides (B) and cut them with a jigsaw, then sand the sawn edges smooth.

3. Layout Screw Holes

Layout, counterbore and drill the screw holes in the bottom, shelf and sides (A and B).

4. Chisel The Square Holes

Using a combination square, draw squares around all the 12-in. dia. counterbored holes.

Using a 12-in. chisel, and the drawn lines as guides, “chop” open the round holes, turning them into square holes as shown in Photo 1.

For best results, cut across the grain first (Photo 1 inset), then with the grain.

Use a sharp chisel to “chop” open the round holes so the square plugs will fit. Cut across the grain first, then cut with the grain.

5. Case Assembly

Assemble the case next. Start by cutting three 8 x 11-in. spacers from 34-in. scrap plywood.

Align and clamp the spacers to the bottom (A) so each drawer opening will be 11 in. wide.

Set the drawer dividers © in the slots between the spacers, and drill screw pilot holes in the drawer dividers.

Glue and screw the dividers to the bottom and remove the spacers.

Attach the shelf (A) to the dividers the same way.

6. Making The Square Screw Cover Plugs

Using a jigsaw or handsaw, cut twenty-four 38-in. long square screw cover plugs from the 12-in. x 12-in. x 20-in. piece (K) you cut earlier.

If necessary, sand the edges of the plugs so they fit tight in the square holes.

Glue and hammer the plugs into the square holes in the bottom and shelf, then let the glue dry.

Use a belt sander with a 120-grit sanding belt to sand the plugs flush with the bottom and shelf.

7. Cut The Beveled Edges

Cut the beveled edges of the top, wall hanger and wall cleat (D and G) with your table saw.

Glue and clamp the wall hanger, back and bottom of back together (G, L, and M).

8. Finish-Sand

Using an orbital sander with 120-grit sandpaper first, then 180-grit, finish-sand the outsides of the shelf and bottom.

Then do the insides of the sides and top and the exposed surfaces of the back (L and M).

9. Attach The Sides To The Case

Glue and screw the sides (B) to the shelf and bottom, then the sides to the top (D).

Glue and clamp the back to the top, then insert the remaining screw cover plugs as you did before.

1O. Add The Drawer Stops & Runners

Glue and clamp the drawer stops (H) to the bottom, then glue and press (no clamps needed) the drawer runners in place.

Sand the top and bottom of the sides so they’re flush with the top and bottom pieces.

Then finish-sand the outside of the assembled shelf.

11. Cutting The Finger Joints

Make the drawers next. Cut the finger joints on the ends of the drawer fronts, backs and sides (E and F).

Finger joints, also known as “box joints,” are a strong and decorative way to assemble drawers or other projects with 90-degree joints.

Cutting the joints is fast once you set up the cutting jig. For nice, tight-fitting joints, the width of the fingers must be equal to the width of the slots cut between the fingers. Here’s how to do it.

Make a 34-in. x 4-in. x 15-in. fence and clamp it to your miter gauge. Mount a 14-in. wide dado blade in your table saw and set the blade height to 12 in. Cut a slot in the fence (Photo 2), then remove the fence.

Start making the finger joint cutting jig by clamping a fence to your miter gauge. Cut a 14-in. wide x 12-in. tall slot about 4 in. from the end.

Cut an 8-in. long piece of wood to fit tightly in the fence’s slot. This piece is called a “spline.” It’s best to use a different saw to cut the spline so you don’t disturb the dado blade setup.

Cut a 2-in. long piece off the spline and glue it in the fence’s slot so it sticks out the front. Set the extra spline piece against the side of the dado blade. Push the fence’s spline against the outside of the extra spline, then clamp the fence to the miter gauge (Photo 3).

Screw the fence to the miter gauge and remove the clamp and extra spline piece.

Set the space between the fence’s spline and the dado blade using the extra spline piece. The fingers and slots will be the same width when they’re cut.

Tip: Before you cut the finger joints, it’s a good idea to label each piece according to its location. This will make for easier assembly later.

Raise the dado blade an additional 132 in., to make it 1732 in. high. When you cut the slots, the fingers will be 132 in. too long. You’ll trim off the extra after you assemble the drawers.

Cut the slots in the ends of the drawer fronts and backs (E) first. Hold a drawer front against the fence and spline, and cut the first slot (Photo 4).

Cut the slots in the ends of the drawer fronts and backs. The edges of these pieces start with a finger. Place the cut slot over the spline to cut the next slot.

Pull back the miter gauge, place the cut slot over the spline, and cut the second slot. Continue doing this until all the slots on that end are cut.

Flip the drawer front over so the edge you started cutting before is the same edge you start cutting now, and cut the slots on that end. Do the rest of the drawer fronts and backs the same way.

Do the drawer sides (F) next. Slide the first slot of a drawer front over the fence’s spline. Set the edge of the drawer side against the edge of the drawer front, and cut the first slot in the drawer side (Photo 5).

Cut the slots in the drawer sides. Their edges start with a slot. The first finger of a drawer front is used to position the first slot of the drawer side.

Remove the drawer front, slide the drawer side over so the first slot is tight against the spline, and cut the second slot. Cut the rest of the slots as you did before, then do the rest of the drawer sides.

Remove the dado blade and mount your regular blade in your table saw.

Cut the drawer fronts, backs and sides so they’re 3 in. wide; the outside fingers of the drawer fronts and backs are equal in width; and the outside slots of the drawer sides are equal in width.

You’ll probably have to trim some wood off each edge.

Cut the drawer pieces so they’re 3 in. wide, and so the outside fingers, or slots, are the same width. You may need to trim some wood off each edge.

Now you’re ready to assemble the drawers.

12. Drawer Pre-Assembly

Layout and drill the holes in the drawer fronts for the drawer pull screws.

Finish-sand the insides of the drawer sides, fronts and backs.

13. Drawer Assembly

Make the drawer clamping jig as shown in Fig. A.

Set the jig on two 1-in. tall blocks so it will be in the center of the drawer sides as you clamp the drawer pieces around the jig.

Assemble one drawer at a time. Using a small brush, apply glue to the finger joints, assemble the joints, and place the drawer over the jig.

Clamp the whole thing to the jig, but don’t put the clamp heads on the protruding fingers (Photo 7)

Clamp the drawer pieces around the drawer clamping jig. The jig ensures that each drawer is square and has the right inside dimensions.

Let the glue dry for one hour, remove the clamps and jig, and clean off any oozed glue from the inside corners with a chisel or knife.

Do the other two drawers, let the glue dry overnight, then sand down the protruding ends of the finger joints.

14. Routing The Drawer Bottom Rabbets

Rout the rabbets for the drawer bottoms (P) on the bottom edges of the drawers as shown in Photo 8.

Rout the drawer bottom rabbets in the drawers. Clamp a block of wood to the outside of the drawer to sup-port the router as you cut each edge.

15. Drawer Bottoms

Cut the round corners of the drawer bottoms so they fit in their rabbets.

Finish-sand the drawer bottoms and the outsides of the drawers. Glue and clamp the drawer bottoms in their rabbets.

16. Drawer Pulls

Cut the beveled edges of the long drawer pull piece (J), then cut the 116-in. reveals on the sides of that piece.

Cut piece J into 4-in. long pieces (three are for the drawer pulls; the others are spares).

Cut the beveled ends of the drawer pulls (you can do this with a file), then cut the 116-in. reveals on the ends of the pulls as shown in Photo 9.

Use a fence and stop to cut the 116-in. reveals on the ends of the drawer pulls. A 10-degree beveled cut on the front of the fence helps hold the drawer pull.

17. Drawer Finish-Sanding

Finish-sand the drawer pulls and smooth the edges of the reveals with a file and 220-grit sandpaper.

18. Drawer Finishing

Sand smooth the sharp edges of all the parts, apply the spray finish, then attach the drawer pulls.

19. Attach The Completed Shelf To The Wall

Attach the wall cleat (G) to your wall, making sure to screw it into two studs.

If it can’t be screwed to studs, use appropriate wall fasteners to handle the weight of the shelf and its contents.

Then carefully hang the shelf on the wall cleat, and you are done.

Shopping List

4/4 hard maple 17 board ft.
1/4" x 8" x 11" hardmaple plywood 3 pieces
No. 6 x 1-5/8" drywall screws 24
No. 4 x 3/4" brass flathead wood screws 6
clear semigloss lacquer spray finish 8-oz. can

Cutting List

A 2 3/4" x 8" x 34-1/2" (maple) Bottom and shelf
B 2 3/4" x 8" x 18" (maple) Sides
C 2 3/4" x 8" x 3-1/8" (maple) Drawer dividers
D 1 3/4" x 3-5/16" x 34-1/2" (maple) Top
E 6 1/2" x 3-3/8" x 10-5/16" (maple) Drawer fronts and backs
F 6 1/2" x 3-3/8" x 7-9/16" (maple) Drawer sides
G 2 1/2" x 1" x 34-1/2" (maple) Wall hanger and wall cleat
H 3 1/2" x 1" x 11" (maple) Drawer stops
J 1 1/2" x 5/8" x 22" (maple) 3 drawer pulls plus spares
K 1 1/2" x 1/2" x 20" (maple) 24 screw cover plugs
L 1 3/8" x 2-1/2" x 34-1/2" (maple) Back
M 1 3/8" x 1/2" x 34-1/2" (maple) Bottom of back
N 6 1/16" x 3/4" x 7-1/4" (maple) Drawer runners
P 3 1/4" x 7-1/4" x 10-5/8" (maple plywood) Drawer bottoms