Get Organized – Game Shelves

About a month ago I started a new job, which has taken up a massive amount of my free time and energy, hence the reduced post schedule.  By way of apology – I have a new project that I just completed, and I think you’re going to like it!

K and I love our board games.  We used to have friends over every weekend, we would look over the wall of options, usually taking longer to pick a game than to play it.  When we moved we were faced with an option – do we stuff the games away in the basement, or can we figure out a way to display them in the dining room without taking too much space?

The challenge with traditional shelving was the size of the room.  More accurately, the size of the table IN the room.  We didn’t have space around the table to squeeze a shelving unit in, which got me thinking vertically.

I think it turned out great!  We have some room to grow our collection, and I like the scatter pattern of the games.  When I was putting them up I didn’t measure anything or try to space in any particular pattern.  I checked everything was level and that there was enough space to get the game on and off the shelf, and I let the universe take care of the rest.


This was pretty straight forward.  I wanted to use floating shelves to keep the design clean.  Most of these games aren’t very heavy (I intentionally left the dominos out), so the shelves don’t have to be particularly strong.  I also thought a small lip would be important to make sure the games don’t slide off the shelves, but in hindsight I don’t think this is an issue.

Start by measuring out all of your board games.  You will need to know the width and depth of each box.  Don’t forget to add a tolerance for the kerf of your table saw blade when marking these measurements on your board.

Most of our games were around 3 inches deep and I allocated ½ inch for the lip and 1/8 inch for the blade.  That meant I could easily fit 2 games across a 2×8.  The size of your raw materials will depend on the games that you are putting on the wall, but I managed to fit all of our games on a single 8 foot 2×8.

When marking out your games on the shelf try to align as many as you can to make it easier to cross-cut your board down to smaller sizes.  Rip your shelves down to approximate widths and then trim each shelf to its final dimensions.

From here you have 2 options – if you want the lip included in the build we are going back to the table saw. Set your fence to ½ inch from the blade and ½ inch high.  Run all of your shelves along this cut.

Next adjust the height of the blade to the depth of the board game box, plus about ¼ of an inch. Keeping the fence at ½ inch from the blade you can confidently cut out the portion of the shelf that the game is going to sit into.

Now to drill the holes for the dowel supports.  It’s important that you get these as close to straight as possible.  You have a little bit of wiggle room here, but the straighter the holes are, the easier to install and replace the shelf (should you choose to do so later).  Use a 7/32 drill bit to drill the holes about 2 inches deep.  Again, this depends on the depth of your board games, you don’t want to drill the entire way through, but you need to make sure these holes are all the same depth.  Wrap a piece of tape around your drill bit 2 inches from the tip to help you remember when to stop.

Back to the table saw.  Cut off about ¾ of an inch from the wall-side of the shelves.  This gives you the piece of the shelf that can be mounted to the wall.

Dowels are critical for this project.  Using ¼ inch dowels cut to 2 inch lengths, sand down 2/3 of the dowel.  This will make it easier to get the dowel into the shelf, but still be strong enough to mount into the wall.


Once the shelves are cut and ready to go onto the wall you need to decide on finish.  For this I wanted to match the table in the room, so I decided a light sanding and a dark stain would be great.  With a smaller piece of material it was hard to use the random orbit sander, so there was a LOT of hand sanding to do.  I sanded everything at 80 grit then did the exposed face of the shelves at 120.

Once it was sanded I gave everything a quick wipe with a tack cloth and used a pre-stain to prep the wood.  I used the same dutch oil that I used on the table, it goes on easy and you can get 2 coats applied in an hour.


This is the clever bit of the floating shelves – with the 2 pieces separated you just screw the back of the shelf into the wall (if you can find studs that’s ideal, otherwise drywall mollies will work just fine) and gently* convince the front of the shelf onto the dowels.

*Or whack the crap out of them with a mallet

And that’s all there is to it!  Since each shelf is designed for a specific board game it helps if you remember which is which, but it isn’t too hard to find the right home for your games.  Looks great, now invite some friends over and get your game on!

Good luck out there.

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