Narrow shelves fit almost anywhere.

How to Make 4-Inch-Deep Shelving

by Wade Shaddy

Narrow shelves are perfect for pictures, souvenirs, crafts, hobbies or just about anything you might want to display. Four-inch-wide shelving is actually bigger than you think. It's big enough for laundry products, stacked books, office supplies or even smaller hand tools. The beauty of smaller shelving is the fact that it doesn't need heavy braces or supports. A small stretcher nailed to the wall is usually plenty of support. Make ornate or simple shelves using materials that you can pick up at any home supply store.

Use a level as a straightedge to draw a line on the wall where you want the top of the shelf.

Run a stud finder along the line. Mark each stud that passes behind the line.

Cut a piece of 3/4-by-4-inch oak, and a piece of 3/4-by-3/4-inch oak to the desired length of the shelf using a miter saw.

Apply glue to one side of the 3/4-by-3/4-inch oak. Place it flush along one edge of the 3/4-by-4-inch oak. Shoot 1 1/4-inch pin nails through the center of the 3/4-by-3/4-inch piece, spaced at 6-inch intervals, to secure it to the 3/4-by-4-inch piece. Place clamps on the two pieces, spaced at 6-inch intervals, to bond the smaller piece to the bigger piece. Allow the glue to dry for at least one hour and then remove the clamps.

Sand the shelf smooth and round the edges and corners using 100-grit sandpaper. Apply your choice of stain and lacquer, varnish or paint.

Place the shelf assembly up to the line on the wall, with the top of the shelf flush with the line. Mark each stud location on the 3/4-by-3/4-inch strip. Remove the shelf from the wall. Drill a hole at each mark using a 3/16-inch drill bit and drill/driver.

Place the shelf with the line on the wall, aligned with the stud marks on the wall. Insert 3-inch screws in the holes. Drive the screws into the wall using the drill/driver to secure the shelf to the wall.

Items you will need

  • 48-inch level
  • Stud finder
  • 3/4-by-4-by-96-inch oak lumber
  • 3/4-by-3/4-by-96-inch oak lumber
  • Miter saw
  • Wood glue
  • Pin nailer
  • 1 1/4-inch pin nails
  • Clamps
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Stain or varnish (optional)
  • Lacquer (optional)
  • Paint (optional)
  • 3/16-inch drill bit
  • Drill/driver
  • 3-inch wood screws


  • For recessed four-inch shelving, cut a section of the drywall out between studs. Screw some blocks to the studs on both sides and insert 3/4-by-4-inch-wide oak into the opening on top of the blocks.


  • Wear safety glasses when working with wood.

About the Author

Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images