Complete the Notched Shelves and Install Shelf Pins

table_shelf_pinRemember how you left the shelves wider than their finished size? Here’s why. Each shelf requires a notch in each corner to fit around the legs, but rather than cutting these notches with a saw (which you could do), create them by edge-gluing additional wooden “wings” onto the edges of the shelf blank. You’ll get crisper, more accurate notches more quickly this way.

Start by measuring the distance between the legs with the table framework assembled, then cut your shelf (or shelves if more than one) to width on the tablesaw. The idea is that the shelf just barely slips into the space between pairs of legs. Next, use the left over shelf off-cuts to make “wings” to glue back onto the shelf to create the required notches.  The plans show how it all comes together.

Be sure to support the shelves on props at their final height within the four legs while the wings are being glued on. This is necessary to get wings positioned correctly in relation to the legs, to the shelves and to each other. At this stage the shelves and legs should extend out slightly past all sides of the legs. When the glue is dry, mark and trim the shelf edges so they’re slightly recessed from the outer edges of the legs. I find a 1/8” recess looks best. Sand the glue joints and the edges and ends of the shelves, then put the shelves back into position temporarily between the legs to mark the location of the shelf pins that’ll support them. Watch the video up next for a tutorial on how the whole shelf thing works.

Start by installing the threaded shelf pin inserts in the legs. The pins that support the shelves need to be strong and elegant, and that’s why I chose two-part shelf pin hardware. The pin itself threads into the inserts set into the legs. The results look great, but only if the inserts are installed cleanly. Bore test holes in scrap of the same kind of wood you’re using for the table legs, then test-fit an insert to make sure the hole is the right size for the inserts to fit in properly and look good. It’s easy to break these inserts by trying to drive them into a hole that’s too small. The exercise with the scrap is so you can identify the size of hole that’s best.

Leave the inserts slightly higher than the surrounding wood of the legs when you get that far, then sand the metal flush for best appearance. I only put one pin in each leg, but I recommend you install two – one on each adjoining face of each leg. This offers more support.

Before you go on to the next phase you should have:

  • Shelf (or shelves) with notches for the legs prepared in the corners.
  • Shelf pins installed and ready to support shelves.
  • Complete table top and structure ready for sanding and chamfering.
  • Finishing supplies on hand.