Woodworking joints suitable for supporting shelves

There are many types of woodworking joints that you can use to hold the shelves between the sides in various pieces of furniture.


Most of them meet all the requirements, and some of them are also intended for tall furniture pieces and heavy loads on the shelves. Their choice depends largely on your experience and the way you work, the machines that you have, and how you want them to look like. Shelves for fine furniture are mainly installed with woodworking joints.

 

Woodworking joints that you can use to hold the shelves:

 

 

- Biscuit joint

 

Biscuit joint shelf hanging method

 

The biscuit joint can be used for both the corner joint and the fixed shelf. It is a medium-duty joint. Its good feature is that it holds the sides together, and its bad feature is that this connection is not suitable for heavy-duty shelving . With biscuits, shelves are easy to install, and another good feature is that they are invisible. Use at least two biscuits at each end of the shelf. This connection of the shelf and the sides is not adjustable.

 


- Box joint

 

Box joint shelf hanging method

 

The box woodworking joint is used for connecting the side and the top or base shelf, i.e., as a corner joint. This is a visually beautiful joint which, if made well, can be very strong.

 


- Dado joint

 

Dado joint shelf hanging method


The dado woodworking joint is used for both fixed shelf and corner joint. It is very often used in practice, although it does not add much strength. When installing the shelf, an adhesive is used, and if you want to strengthen it, nails or screws have to be used. This way of connecting enables the shelf to withstand heavy loads, especially if you use some method to keep the ends of the shelves in the dado. This is a visible joint, but it can be easily hidden if it is stopped or covered by a face frame. The dado joint is not adjustable.


You can camouflage the dado joint if you make the shelf to be wider than the sides (see picture for a few examples). This solution is interesting because it can even slightly add to the beauty of the design.

 

Camouflage dado by extending shelf

 

 

- Rabbeted dado joint

 

Rabbeted dado joint shelf hanging method


 
A slight variation of the previous method, whose main advantage is the ability to fit the joint more easily (especially if the shelf thicknesses are inconsistent).

 


- Stopped  dado joint

 

Stopped dado joint shelf hanging method

This is the invisible variant of the dado joint.

 


- Dovetail joint

 

Dovetail joint shelf hanging method

 

The connection of the shelf and the sides with dovetail woodworking joints is very strong and decorative. The dovetail joint is difficult to make, and it will lose both of its positive characteristic due to imprecise production. It is only used for corner joints when strength and traditional look are required. It is a very decorative joint that will put to the test your woodworking precision and experience.

 

 

- Dowels 

 

Dowels shelf hanging method

 

Dowels can also be used for corner joints (connection between the side and base or top) and for shelving (fixed shelf). Accuracy of hole placement and size is very important in the making of this joint. The dowel joint is a hidden, medium-strength joint.


In the following pictures, you can see two additional variants of joining shelves using dowels.

 

Dowels can replace commercial shelf pins.

Dowels can replace commercial shelf pins

 

  
Dowels can serve to hang shelves when the sides are not boards.

 

Dowels can hang shelves on posts


 

- Through mortise and tenon joint

 

Through mortise and tenon joint shelf hanging method

 

The mortise and tenon joint is good for a fixed shelf, but it cannot be used for the corner joint. There are several variants of this shelf-and-side connection such as the hidden stopped tenon or stub tenon. This connection is not adjustable, nor is it easy to create, but it withholds heavy loads and prevents sagging.

Through tenons joint can be wedged.

 

 

- Keyed mortise and  tenon joint

 

Keyed mortise and tenon joint shelf hanging method

 

This shelf hanging method can be found on old wall shelves with sides. It is a traditional way of joining shelves and sides and provides high-strength structure that can withstand heavy loads and be visually appealing on various pieces of furniture (wal shelves, bookcases…).

 

 

- Sliding Dovetail and Half Sliding Dovetail joint

 

Half sliding dovetail joint shelf hanging method

 

The sliding dovetail woodworking joint is suitable for fixed shelves. This is a very strong connection between the shelf and the side, and with the use of a quality jig it can be created  rather quickly. In addition to keeping the sides together, this joining method can withstand a heavy load on the shelf. The following rule is applied to it, as well as to any dovetail woodworking joints: if not well executed, it loses both looks and strength. This joint is visible, but it can become invisible if it is stopped or covered by a face frame.

 

Half sliding dovetail joint shelf hanging method

 

Half sliding dovetail joint shelf hanging method

 

29 WAYS TO HANG A SHELF

 

- Shop-made ways to hang a shelf 


- Commercial ways to hang a shelf 


- Decorative ways to hang a shelf 


- Ways to hang wall shelves