Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Can Build It Too !

You probably thought I'd never complete this pottery display shelf system; I was having doubts myself. Here's the first shelf system we just completed. I quickly put a few pieces of pottery on the shelves to get an idea of how it would look. For those of you who are talented in carpentry, you're probably thinking, what's the big deal? But for Gary and I this is a real accomplishment.

Several times Gary said I should have hired someone to build them. He really doesn't like it when I rope him into some of my projects, but it did take two sets of hands to put this together. Now I have the confidence to design and build a display unit for my hanging ceramics, like tiles, plates and wall plaques. I have several sketches already. If I can build it, you can build it too!

The great thing about this shelf system is that it can be stored flat and is lightweight and sturdy when strapped to the sides of your art fair booth. They will fit in the back of a pickup bed or small SUV. I've always wanted some taller shelves so my pottery was more at eye level for passersby at art fairs. I chose to paint my shelves black, but I have seen other shelf systems left natural, stained, or painted white.

The material list for one 6 ft tall by 8 ft wide shelf system is:

12 - 2 x 2 inch boards 8 feet long
5 - 1 x 12 inch boards 8 feet long
6 bi fold hinges, three for each upright
box of 2.5 inch star pattern screws
variable speed drill
chop saw or skill saw
tape measure
one gallon of good quality primer
one gallon of good quality paint in your choice of color

Choose dry lumber as straight as you can get it. I chose white wood from a big box store. What is white wood? I have no idea, but it was straighter and smoother than pine and only a tad bit more in cost. I set my lumber up on saw horses to paint them. I find priming and painting ahead of time I get better coverage than if I paint after the unit is built. The ambient temperature should be above 50 F to paint, any lower and the paint will not dry. Prime all of your lumber on all sides. Let the primer dry at least a day. Next put color paint you chose and let dry at least another day. Then put another coat of paint on all the lumber and let it dry another day.

If you stain the wood, I recommend sanding the wood and using a wood conditioner before staining. You only have to wait for 5 minutes after applying the wood conditioner. Test the stain application on a scrap piece of the same wood before applying to your shelf system.

Now you're ready to start assembly. Remember the old adage of measure twice and cut once. These are words of wisdom well worth following. Cut eight 2 x 2's to six feet in length. These are the uprights that hold the frame for the shelves. Cut 20 lengths of 2 x 2's to 14 inches each. These will hold the shelves.

This is where I somehow luckily deduced that the section holding the shelves must be wider than the shelves since it's on angle. Even though the shelves are 12 inches, the angled upright supports make it necessary for the shelf support be a minimum of 14 inches wide for the shelves to slide in. Trust me on this and cut the rungs of the ladder to 14 inches. I should have painted the ends of the rungs, but I couldn't wait to get this first one together. I'll have to touch up the paint.

Next determine how far apart you want your shelves. This depends upon the size of pottery you normally make. I decided to make my shelves various heights in case I make different sizes of pottery. The bottom shelf board was warped badly, so I am returning it for another one, so that one is missing from the display. For my display, the bottom shelf is one inch off the ground, the next shelf is 12 inches above that, the next two 18 inches, the next 17 inches and then there is a top shelf. For stability I may add an extra rung across the top of the uprights. I think a top rung will help make the framework stay square.

Drill pilot holes where you want the rungs to be be and then screw them in place measuring carefully so they are level. (I have a couple I need to adjust). After you have your rungs together, attach three bi fold hinges to one side of a set of panels and then to the other set of two panels. The hinge in the photo is of my closet door since the pottery display is up against the wall and I can't get a good photo, but it's the same type of bi fold hinge. Notice there is a space left for the hinge to fit. I used a dark green marker on the black wood to mark the drilling holes for the hinge and I can cover up the marks with a black magic marker. Drill pilot holes for the hinge screws too. Pilot holes keep the wood from splitting when you insert a screw into the wood close to the edge.

Once you get the hinges attached you can set up the frames and slide the shelves into place. Then open the hinged sections till they fit snug against the front and back which makes the shelf system more stable. I think this shelf system would be a little bit tippy if it wasn't attached to the tent sides. There may be a way to weight it down at the bottom to make it more sturdy. Oh I bet the addition of just the lower shelf on the bottom will make it a bit better. Feel free to make suggestions about improvements.

I plan to build another one of these display systems. I might use 1 x 2's for the shelf supports (rungs) to make it lighter weight. A shorter version of this system could also be used on top of a table. Stay tuned to see what I come up with for other displays. A bisque is cooling down and there's the local 36th annual Homosassa Seafood Festival this weekend. Wish I had a booth at this one, but now I'm one step closer now to an improved art fair display system. Comments and suggestions are welcome.


  1. Well done Linda! I'm really impressed! I have always liked this type of shelving, I just wonder how sturdy it would be on grass. I end up doing a lot of shows that are in uneven meadows and don't know how these would work. nice tutorial!!

  2. OK Linda, who is head tipster now? Two things that make this kind of project easier are a framing square and a big flat table to work on. Tracy, I see a lot of people using these on grass.Shim carefully or use a base board on the ground and level it.

  3. Linda, very good tutorial! To help keep it from tipping backwards, attach another 14 inch piece on the bottom rung of your ladder, with a regular hinge at the back. Then when you set up it just drops down and back to form a leg that extends behind your unit. You could also attach another one with a hinge fastened at the front, to extend out in front for support. I will try and draw a picture tomorrow (evening for you).

    1. Could you send me that info? Thanks!

  4. You did it!! Your pottery display shelf looks lovely and at the same time easy-to-use!! Its color is nice too! And I've found your chic seaweed vase on the side bar. I love it!!

  5. Tool-time with Linda! Wow, great job!

  6. these look great. as we talked about b4 i have an abstracta set up... it looks great but is a pain in the ass to put together and take down. i find it too time consuming. i like the idea of how yours can be go up and down quickly and fold flat.

  7. Hi Tracey, thanks, I just got back from the Seafood festival and all those on grass has shims with them, a couple of my potter friends told me to always carry lots of scrap lumber and shims because you never know what the slope will be and that helps to level your shelving system.

    Hi Dennis, thanks, I will drag out my tables for the next set and use the framing square which I have but neglected to use, go figure.

    Hi Mr. Young, thanks, not sure I can visualize what you are saying in my mind. I will go look at the shelves and see if I can figure it out. I will be strapping them to the tent framework and then the tent will be weighted down. they are just rather tall - I think some weight at the bottom will help.

    Hi Sapphire, thanks, glad you like my vase, that is the one I made eons ago and let it try for several months, I want to make more with that same texturing which makes the glaze look nice, time consuming to hand glaze though, but worth it in the end.

    Hi Patricia, thanks so much.

    Hi Michele, thanks, I am thinking I could also use these at home for a studio tour too and then store them away. With my new found confidence I plan to make some other types of shelving too.

  8. Linda your unit looks great! And thanks for all the info on making them. You've gotten a lot of good tips on making them more stable already. Now you need to line up your shows for next season!

  9. Hi Judy, thanks, yes, I am itching to get into some shows. Got a bisque cooling now and a couple more ready to go and then several glaze loads too. The season is just starting here so hopefully I'll be able to get into a few very soon.

  10. Yaaay! how wonderful to see your pottery on your new shelves! Now fill them up with work to sell and you'll be on the Show circuit in no time. Just keep cranking it out because I can see those shelves empty in no time with sales :o)

  11. Linda, You are a wonderful writer. You have this great personal way of communicating that is exactly what pulls readers in. You can even make the building of pottery shelves very interesting! Love it! And, it may come in handy for me. They could also serve as shelves to hold my own pottery "collection."

  12. Your shelves look awesome! And I love that you painted them black! Great job and tutorial! If only we lived closer, I would have given you mine, which are stored in my Dad's attic.

  13. Gosh, these are great! I'm beginning to think you're invincible-- like there's nothing you can't do... :)

  14. Hi Cindy, thanks, I'm cranking them out, firing now. I do hope they fly off the shelves.

    Hi Teresa, thanks for the compliment about my writing. I like writing on my blog almost as much as making things in clay. It kind of keeps me organized. I am not sure these shelves are sturdy enough, of course that could be my carpentry skills, too.

    Hi Marguerite, thanks for the offer. I wish I lived closer, I am sure I'd run into you at one of the many outdoor events you attend. If you aren't going to use your shelves, perhaps there is a starving artist near by that might want the shelves or you could do like I have for so many things and sell them on craigslist.

    Hi Amy, thanks, necessity is the mother of invention. I got the idea for these shelves from John's blog, from Clayworks in your neck of the woods. I'll only try things I think I can succeed at and aren't too risky, bungie jumping I'm not going to try, and not skydiving either. Ha.

  15. Linda, when I was searching for shelf possibilities, I was thrilled to come across this post. Thanks for all the details. I've made myself two sets of shelves, then blogged about it myself!
    I've had lots of people ask about them at shows, and I smile as I see those folks again at the next show with their version of these same shelves. Thank you!


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