Shelves which do not have their ends supported by a wall are harder to fix unobtrusively. Most people putting up this kind of shelf settle for small, nest brackets, but if you feel you must have invisible fixings, there are solutions to the problem. The simplest method is suitable only for timber framed stud walls. Few houses in Britain have this type of wall, except in the ‘box room’ over the stairs, but a few recently built houses have stud partition walls.
Another similar method for brick breeze-block walls uses steel angle brackets the flat solid steel kind not the U-section type made of sheet metal. The horizontal parts of the brackets are slotted into the shell as the coach screws were. The only difference is that the slots in the shell are rectangular, rather than round. These slots are made by drilling several holes and cutting out the wood between them with a long, narrow chisel. It is easier to make the slots too wide and insert narrow pieces of wood as a wedge to hold the shelf firm to the brackets. The other half of the bracket is harder to hide.
One solution is to plug and screw’ it to the wall and hide it with a backboard. If there are three or more rows of shelves and the backboard runs behind them all, it can be quite a decorative feature. A more satisfactory way of hiding the brackets is to recess them into the wall 6 -13mm and cover up the recess with filler. A neat. shallow channel can be cut in a plaster wall with an ordinary carpenter’s chisel, though you will have to sharpen it afterwards. The blade should be held at an angle so that its cutting edge always points towards the centre of the channel. Then, if the blade slips, it will damage the plaster inside the channel instead of making a long gash in the wall. Once the channel is cut use proprietary plugs and screws to fix the bracket to the wall. As brick is much harder to cut than plaster, the above method is probably not worthwhile for a brick wall. Brackets should not be placed too near the ends of shelves or they will make it liable to sag in the middle. A proper position for a pair of brackets under a free-standing shelf is roughly one-quarter and three-quarters of the way along it. With this arrangement, neither the middle nor the ends is very far from a solid support. A shelf should always be fixed rigidly to its brackets to stop it from tipping up if the end is pressed down.
If you cannot hide the fixings of your shelves, the best thing to do is to bring them out into the open and make a feature of them. One way of doing this is to buy a ready-made shelving system, which has the great merit of being adjustable. If this doesn’t appeal to you, there are many good-looking fixings you can make yourself. If you have period furnishings,timber brackets are probably the most suitable. A typical design, intended to be made out of l5mm thick hardwood, is a good choice. The shape can, of course, be varied , provided that the vertical depth of bracket is at least half the width of the shelf. The bracket is best fastened to the back plate with a mortise-and-tenon joint as shown, but can be screwed on from the rear if you prefer. One of the simplest ways of holding up shelves, and one that looks particularly good with modern furniture, is to run vertical boards up the ends of the shelves to turn them into a wall-mounted box. All the shelves except the top one should be attached to the vertical boards by stopped housing joints. and the top shell rebated at each end. This construction, makes the shelves look like a bookcase, is very strong. (in good carpentry, shelves are never supported by just the strength of screws driven into the ends.) A backboard, even of hardboard, fitted behind the unit makes it even more stable, by acting as a brace in a long unit, short vertical ‘spacer’ boards can be put between the shelves to hold them apart. An attractive random effect can be created by placing these boards at irregular intervals. There are many other methods of giving your shelving an interesting appearance.
As long as the boxes are not stacked too high, they provide a strong, stable storage space that can be rearranged to any shape. If all the boxes are made the same height, but some are twice or three times as wide as the others, an enormous variety of arrangements can be made to suit any use. A wide variety of fixings are available for interior and exterior use. The choice of fixing will depend largely on the weight of the object to be fixed, and the type of wall or ceiling it is to be attached to. There are three basic methods of fixing: for solid walls, masonry nails and plugs and screws (or bolts in the case of very heavy objects) are used, and for hollow surfaces such as panelled walls or ceilings, cavity devices can be used.