Floating Serpentine Shelf #1: Introduction

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Blog entry by Ron Stewart posted 07-13-2017 07:44 PM 842 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Floating Serpentine Shelf series Part 2: Torsion Box Design »

This series of blog posts describes my Floating Serpentine Shelf project in detail.

Over the past few months, my wife and I have completely reworked our study. We replaced the carpet with wood floors, painted the walls a nice shade of blue, bought new accent chairs, built a Modern Computer Desk with Integrated Cable Management, bought a new printer stand/ladder shelf, and updated some wall art. The only missing piece was some kind of bookcase or shelving unit to fill (in a sparse way) the back wall, which is 12 feet wide.

We did a lot of Pinterest and Google image research to find ideas. As usual, we found a lot of things I liked, but she wasn’t crazy about, and vice-versa. Eventually she showed me a crude conceptual sketch that looked good to me, so I opened SketchUp and started refining the concept. Here’s what we envisioned.

The dimension drawing above doesn’t specify it, but the shelves are slightly under 12” deep and spaced 12” apart.

With the concept defined, I started turning my attention to actually designing and building the shelf. As you can see, it’s quite large: about six-and-a-half feet tall and slightly over eight feet wide. My primary concerns revolved around weight and strength.

At first, I had hoped to build the shelf from solid wood, but some quick estimates showed that the unit would weight over 200 lbs. That was way too heavy. Construction would be unwieldy, and we’d have great difficulty hanging it. For this project to be practical, I’d need to cut that weight in half.

Regarding strength, my main worry was that all of the individual shelves were attached to a 24” wide back panel. Typically, floating wall shelves are supported across their full width, supported by some sort of bracket attached to multiple wall studs. With this design, I could count on attaching the back to two studs, but no more.

The solution to both the weight and strength problems was torsion boxes, and I’ll cover that next.

-- Ron Stewart

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