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Protect Your Valuables with these DIY Floating Shelves with Hidden Storage

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Are your walls looking a little bare? Do you need extra space for decor and family pictures? Are you looking for ways to store valuables that won’t fit in a safe? Here, I will show you how to make a simple set of floating shelves that look great, give you extra space to display items in your home, and provide hidden storage inside for valuables such as electronics, cameras, flash drives, jewelry, and extra cash. These instructions are for a set of three floating shelves that are 33” in length, which you can make yourself for $90 ($30 per shelf). However, feel free to modify both the length and number of shelves you make as you see fit.


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Tools you’ll need:

Materials you’ll need:

1. Cut the wood according to the cut list below. For each board, cut approximately 1/2” from the end before cutting the specified lengths in order to ensure the ends are square. Use the tape measure to measure the required length, mark with a pencil, and use the square to draw a straight line across the width of the board. Pro tip: To ensure correct lengths after cutting, account for the width of your saw blade by lining up the edge of the blade with the cut line, rather than cutting directly over the line. Arrange the pieces to ensure all lengths were cut properly.

Cut list for building three floating shelves each 33 inches in length.

2. Drill pocket holes in the boards using a drill and the Kreg jig. The location and direction of each pocket hole are shown in the figure below by the red arrows. The bottom piece (one of the 1" x 6" x 31.5" pieces) will have ten pocket holes. The side pieces are all 1" x 4" cuts. Pro tip: If you plan on staining your wood, drill the pocket holes in the ugly side of each piece, since this is the side that will be hidden from view when the table is completed.


Location of pocket holes

3. Connect the pieces (except for the top panel) with the 1-1/4" pocket hole screws. Pro tip: If the tight proximity of the shelf interior prevents you from using a drill to tighten the pocket hole screws, tighten by hand by putting the square Kreg bit into a 3/8" socket wrench.



4. Glue a 2" piece of wood on one side of the inside of the shelf. This will help support the top panel.



5. On the other side of the inside of the shelf, glue a 1.5" piece of wood. Again, this will help support the top panel, but is slightly shorter to accommodate the magnetic latch.



6. Secure the magnetic latch to the 1.5" piece of wood so that the height of the magnetic latch in the closed position sits exactly 3/4" below the top of the side. The top of the magnetic latch in the closed position should line up with the top of the 2" piece of wood.



7. Test to make sure the top panel fits into the top of the shelf, lays flush with the top of the sides, and opens and closes easily. If it is a tight fit, use a circular saw, table saw, or block plane to cut or trim approximately 1/8" from the back edge. Take a little bit off at a time and test the fit regularly. You want the top to easily slide in and out of the shelf when pressure is applied to the magnetic latch, but try to avoid cutting too much so that a gap is visible. Once done, the top panel should drop into the interior of the shelf and be flush with the top edge of the frame.



8. Now that everything fits properly, sand the shelf by hand with 80-grit sandpaper, remembering to always sand in the direction of the grain to avoid scratching the wood.


9. Finish the shelves as you desire. I decided to stain using Varathane water-based wood stain (the color I used is called java bean). I first applied the Varathane wood conditioner, then 3 coats of stain, followed by 2 coats of Varathane polyurethane. You’ll want each coat to dry before adding the next one, so follow the directions on the product you use. Let the final coat dry completely.


Attach the floating shelf to the wall using wood screws drilled into the back inside of the shelf (blue Xs). Location of screws may need to move depending on where the available studs are located.

10. Using wood screws (and with the top panel removed), attach the floating shelves on the wall by drilling into available studs, as in diagram above. If studs are not available install drywall mounts first for a more secure connection. Once done, fill the shelf with your valuables and close the lid. You are now ready to display your family pictures and other home decor!