Floating Serpentine Shelf

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Project by Ron Stewart posted 07-13-2017 12:10 AM 2334 views 6 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife and I wanted a set of shelves to mostly fill the back wall of our study, but we wanted something different and unique; we didn’t want a heavy looking wall of bookcases. My wife had two more requirements: the shelf had to be made of wood (unpainted), and it had to float on the wall instead of resting on the floor.

As usual, we went to Pinterest for inspiration and found a few things we liked, but we didn’t find exactly what we were after. Eventually, she came to me with a rough conceptual sketch, and I refined the design in SketchUp. These photos show the finished product.

It’s a very large unit, 78” tall and 99” wide, with chunky (1 3/4” thick) shelves. Given that, I was very concerned with its weight. I had to be able to build it, and we had to be able to get it on the wall and have it stay there. My rough estimates showed that it would weigh over 200 pounds if I made it from solid wood. That was way too heavy.

I solved the weight problem by building each shelf and side as a torsion box. Each shelf/side is a skeleton of 3/4” plywood spines and ribs covered with thin (0.2” thick) plywood skins. The back panel is constructed similarly. The entire unit weighs about 100 pounds. The longest shelf (87”) weighs 15 pounds, and the shortest (54”) weighs 11 pounds. It hangs on three French cleats.

The skins are made of 5mm RevolutionPly underlayment I found at Lowes. As far as I can tell, it’s a 3-ply product with a reconstituted veneer face on one side and primer on the other. The veneer side looks like quarter sawn wood. It accepted Danish Oil (Watco Natural) just fine, and it’s also very affordable ($14/sheet). I’m happy with it for this application.

For more details, see my series of blog posts for this project. SketchUp models are also available on the 3D Warehouse. Thanks for looking.

-- Ron Stewart

9 comments so far

View EugdOT's profile


330 posts in 1568 days

#1 posted 07-13-2017 12:32 AM

Outstanding work.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


7808 posts in 3422 days

#2 posted 07-13-2017 03:28 AM

Well you have succeeded at making something very unique! Good work looks great!

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Woodknack's profile


13550 posts in 3393 days

#3 posted 07-13-2017 06:02 AM

The wood tone and blue color work together perfectly, well done.

-- Rick M,

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2780 days

#4 posted 07-13-2017 11:19 AM

Excellent work. I really complements the room.


View ChrisK's profile


2051 posts in 4094 days

#5 posted 07-13-2017 12:01 PM

Really nice take on the idea. Looks huge!

-- Chris K

View TraylorPark's profile


213 posts in 2611 days

#6 posted 07-13-2017 12:36 PM

That is really, really cool. Great design and finish.

-- --Zach

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3879 days

#7 posted 07-13-2017 07:29 PM

It’s a very attractive set of shelves.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View 32studios's profile


8 posts in 1376 days

#8 posted 07-18-2017 01:54 AM

this is great and i might just do a version for my sons room

View ScorpionBlacklight's profile


11 posts in 1306 days

#9 posted 08-06-2017 07:50 PM

Impressive looking. My daughter wants a “modern” bookcase but I’m going to show her this and see if I can change her mind.

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