Building a Custom Shelf To Display a train

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by BenhamDesign posted 04-26-2020 05:53 PM 436 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These floating shelves were a fun build. The client wanted to have one of the shelves equipped with a custom train tunnel for his 1950’s era model train.
The overall shape of the design was inspired by part submarine, part star wars ship, made from walnut.⁠
Train tunnel goes all the way through both upright supports. Trimmed it will a little walnut trim to kind of act like a row of bricks. This Maybe reminiscent of my childhood watching Mr Rogers trolley in the neighborhood of make believe.

The train fit perfectly with just enough space between the top for the train and top of the tunnel so the villain doesn’t get scraped off during the hijacking.⁠

Each unit spans a 4 foot by 4 foot wall space, and the shelves are 8″ deep.

You Can watch it be built on youtube or read about it on my woodworking blog

Video Recap

Today I am building a shelf for a Train collector
Before diving into the project I went out to the Colorado’s mining museum to see an old steam engine in action. This thing is pretty wild, and got me excited to build some stuff, so I headed back to the shop and started out by milling up the lumber and cutting the pieces to length.
The shelves are going to attach to the supports using a combination of a half lap joint and a bridle joint.
So I set up a jig the thickness of the shelf to rout out the bridle joint portion using a pattern bit in the router
I built the jig so the sides are the same width as the space between the shelves so I could use it as a guide to place each shelf in the exact spot on both vertical supports. This way I am assured that everything will line up perfectly.
I used the jig as a guide to square up the corners left by round bit before moving to the next position.

Now that I had the dados routed out on one side I still needed to transfer their location to other side, and of course wanted them to be in the exact spot.
Since I am going to be cutting a half lap in between the bridal joints, I just used pattern bit to get it one started enough so I could use it as a registration spot.
Then I dropped in a piece of wood in to reset my jig against to cut the dados on the other side.
Same procedure as before to square up the corners, Once I defined the corner, I moved the jig out of the way so I could do the final clean up.

Now to create the half lap portion of the joint, so I don’t rout too far, I cut some spacers and secured them in place.
Headed over to the router table and finished routing out all the space for the half lap joints.
Even though each self has a different offset from the vertical support, I still set up a stop on my miter gauge, to add some stability and to make the cut a little safer and easier to line up.

Then I made a plywood story stick where I cut two notches in it the distance between the vertical supports.
I used that to set up the stop block for each of the three shelves so the spacing on each shelf would be exactly the same, otherwise the shelves would not go together.
At this point it seemed to be a good idea to do a test fit to be sure everything was lining up good.
While I had it together, I made a jig to rout some mortises for some floating tenons to strengthen the vertical supports across the area where I routed out for the shelves.
It just clips over the shelves and around the supports, and with a collar and a plunge bit I routed out a mortise.
I just worked my way around each joint.

I then switched jigs to rout out a slot in the center of each support to glue in a French cleat. I will save this jig, so when I get out onto the job site I can hold it up to the wall to mark the exact location for the mating piece.
And of course I squared up the hole with a chisel.

I pulled it apart and moved onto a decorative detail of cutting arches on the fronts of the support pieces.
I made a plywood template on the band saw to be sure I liked the shape.
The band saw left a little bit of a jagged edge so I hand sanded it smooth with a flexible sanding strip.

To reduce tear out and the workload on the router I rough cut the supports with the band saw and then with a flush trim bit routed them flush to the template.

The template was held in place with some double stick tape.

The final decorative detail was cutting the hole for the tunnel. I made a plywood template the shape of the tunnel, hogged out most of the material at the drill press, and did the final clean up at the router table
I broke my scroll saw a few years ago, but I have this little baby CNC so I programed it to cut a trim to for the tunnel.
When installing the trim piece, I dropped a piece of scrap wood in the slot where the shelf goes to help line up the trim piece to the bottom edge while I glued it in place.
I intentionally cut it oversized, so I wouldn’t have to worry about lining it up exactly with the tunnel. Once the glue was dry I flush trim to at the router table.
Now we are ready for the final glue up, since there are so many parts I used some epoxy to glue it all together to give me plenty of working time.
Once I got the main shelves together, I cut some stock to make some floating tenons and the French cleat to hang it on the wall.
I glued and screwed the French cleat into the slot I had made earlier, and set aside its mate to be screwed to the wall on the jobsite.
I then rounded over the edges at the router table for the floating tenons
Then glued them into place
I finished the whole thing up with some poly, hung it on the clients wall, and he had a cool shelf that not only displayed his train, but interacted with it becoming part of the story.
Thanks for watching, please like, comment, subscribe, share, follow me on Instagram, join me on patron, hit the bell, watch another video, you know what to do, just do something,

Thanks for peeking
Colorado Custom Furniture Maker
Brian Benham

-- What I do in and out of the shop at

0 comments so far

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics