Kitchen Range Shelf

Kitchen Range Shelf

The idea for the range shelf started with a discussion about having a shelf on the back of the stove to put condiments and grew from there. This discussion took place while I was doing power tool demonstrations at Home Depot stores for the Skil company. I spent time during one of my demonstrations designing and making a range shelf.

Even though it’s called The Kitchen Range Shelf, I started calling it Home On The Range like the old song about the West. It’s a useful project for most ranges, but these instructions are for a standard 30-inch range. The dimensions can be easily altered to accommodate the back of any range. This very functional project makes excellent use of space often wasted and can accommodate both useful and decorative kitchen things.

I made the first one of white pine, but the one in the photo above is red oak. You can build it from other materials with various finishes to match or blend in with the cabinets.

I used a beaded edge to match the doors on our cabinets. Edge treatments for you to choose from include the Bead, Cove, round over, Ogee and Classical. You can also choose the joinery method for assembly. I suggest biscuit joints as it is my favorite assembly method, but I also provide instructions for assembly with screws that will work well because the screw heads aren’t visible.

Build the project exactly as described or alter the design to suit yourself. Don’t hesitate to experiment. If your range doesn’t have a sufficiently large back or none at all, you can still build the range shelf and fasten it to the backsplash behind the stove with a couple of screws. You get all the benefits of the range shelf even without a range back. Below is the list of materials for the Kitchen Range Shelf.


Instructions For Range Shelf

First, determine what material you will use for the project. If you plan to use white pine that is readily available at home improvement stores, select a nice piece of 1X12 about 6 foot long. That’s plenty of material for the entire project. If you plan to use hardwood, there are more decisions to make.

If you have a hardwood dealer in your area, you can easily find material for your project. If you are dependent on home improvement stores, you may find that the widest hardwood they carry is a 1X8 in nominal size. That means it’s 7 ½” wide, and you need a piece that is 8 ¼” wide for the back posing a problem that can be solved one of two ways. The first is to rip a ¾” wide piece and glue it to the side of the 7 ½” board to make it 8 ¼”. Because the joint of the bottom piece falls where you glued the two pieces together, it’s not noticeable.

The other option is to reverse the sizes of the back part and the bottom part and make them wider. Simply, you would make the Back 7 ½” X 30” and the shelf 6 ¾” X 30 ¾”. Now instead of screwing the Back to the Shelf, you would screw the Shelf to the Back from the bottom. Instead of the Back sticking out beyond the Shelf, the Shelf would now be longer than the back maintaining the overall size of the project and eliminating the need for specially sized hardwood.

Either way cut all the parts to length and width as described in the Materials List. Select the most attractive parts of your boards. Watch for knots; you don’t need to avoid them completely if they look attractive but avoid them if they have holes or cracks. Make certain that there are no knots on the edges because this could create problems when you rout the profile.

Using hardwood could involve several additional steps if it’s purchased in the rough. The first two steps are straight lining and ripping. If the material is rough, you must plane it down. It’s best to purchase it from a hardwood store with planed boards or a home improvement store since all their materials are nominal sizes, planed, straight lined, and ready to use so you can avoid all those steps. You will still have to sand all the pieces.

I do my crosscutting on a sliding compound miter saw and recommend it for the cuts required on this shelf. If you don’t have one, you can use a table saw or a radial arm saw.

On a table saw, since the pieces for this project are small, you can make all cross cuts using the bevel guide. Attach a board to your bevel guide to give it a larger surface contact with the material being cut. You can either attach a 2”X18” board reaching just short of the blade path, or a 3”x24” to 30” board going beyond the blade path. If you attach this piece, make sure to cut through the board before making your first crosscut.

Using your rip fence as a guide for crosscutting pieces is a dangerous practice. If you use the rip fence to size the pieces, you will most certainly have a kickback. The piece between the blade and the fence will be thrown back at high speed, and can injure you seriously. Kickbacks can be frightening, even if they don’t hit you. A piece of hardwood thrown at high speed into your chest will cause you great pain.

That is why the bevel guide is so important and why it must be held steady and fed into the blade slowly. Safety when using any shop machine is critical but especially important with the table saw. It’s the most commonly used shop machine and causes the largest number of shop injuries. The potential for injury if you are careless is extreme.

Give your cutting 100% attention. Analyze each cut from start to finish to make certain it is safe and check the location of both your hands before starting the machine. Never use a machine when you are tired or when drinking alcohol. One mistake is all it takes to change your entire life. You can’t be too safe.

After cutting all the pieces to size, use your band saw to cut the radiuses. If you don’t have a band saw, use a saber saw or jigsaw. Cuts made in this manner will probably require extra sanding.

Remember that you can make changes to personalize this project. Perhaps you like larger or smaller radiuses, or you prefer small cove or scallop cuts on the corners. Maybe you like the project with square corners and a straight back. Whatever shape you select, your shelf will perform its function. Go ahead and experiment to learn more about designing projects for other functions. Remember, these instructions show you how I build the project. It’s just one person’s idea of how to build a project. It’s not the only way nor necessarily the best way since there is no “best way.”

After cutting all the parts, you are ready to sand. The easiest way to sand the edges of this project is with a belt/disk sander. The most common sizes of belt/disk sanders are a 6”x48” belt with an 8” or 9” disc or a 4”x36” belt with a 5” or 6” disc. Their advantage is that they allow you to sand the inside radiuses on the end of the belt sander by placing the radius of the project gently against the radius of the sander. Sand the outside radiuses on the disk by placing the surface of the project pieces on the sanding table and slowly sanding the edges. Or you can hold the pieces vertically over the belt sander and sand the radiuses with the flat surface of the sander. Remember to apply pressure very gently and to keep the project moving to smooth the radiuses and keeping the proper shape. Too much pressure will quickly alter the shape of the radius and ruin your project.

For sanding with the disk set the table square with the disk making the job easier and keeping edges square. After sanding the radiuses, sand all the flat surfaces lightly. If you are using good sharp blades on your table and radial saws, very little rough sanding will be required. Once you have sanded all the flat surfaces, check the radiuses one last time to make certain that the flat sanding has not affected the transition from straight to the radius. You can avoid this step if you prefer by sanding the flat surfaces first.

The cutout on the back (Part B) can’t be sanded with the belt sander. It will have to be sanded by hand or with a drum sander. If you are doing it by hand, start with an 80 grit sandpaper on a small block of wood until the saw marks are removed. Then sand it again with 120 grit.

If you don’t have a belt/disk sander, you can sand this project with a regular hand held belt sander and a small drum sander attachment for your drill press or hand held drill. Clamp the project pieces and carefully sand all the flat edges and the outside radiuses. Remember, let the weight of the belt sander do the work; do not apply pressure. If your sander seems ineffective, it’s probably time for a new belt. Applying pressure can create excessive wear and ruin the shape of your project because it is difficult to control a belt sander under heavy pressure. Once you’ve sanded the flat edges and the outside radiuses, sand the inside radiuses with the drum sander. The ideal drum size for this project is 3”, but a 1½” or 2” will do the job. To determine when you have sanded enough to remove all planer marks, you will need adequate lighting.

Once you have completed sanding the faces, do your final sanding with an orbital sander. Start with 100-grit sandpaper and sand the entire project including all edges and faces of all the pieces. Then switch to 150-grit and repeat the process. By now you should know what finish you are using. If you are using a brush-on finish such as Deft Clear Wood Finish, your sanding is complete for now. If using a product like Bartley’s Gel Varnish that doesn’t require sanding between coats, two more steps are required. Switch to 220-grit paper and sand all the pieces again. Finally, switch to 400-grit and repeat the process feeling the smoothness of the surfaces. Look at all the surfaces to be sure that no planer marks or other defects remain.

By this time you should have made a decision about the kind of profiles, you want to use. Again, the choice is yours. I chose a beaded edge, but you have many options. Choose a profile in the ¼” size for proper assembly, but beyond this requirement any choice is acceptable. Once you choose, place the appropriate router bit on your router or router table. For a small project such as this, a router table is a blessing. It is much easier to move small pieces past the machine rather than trying to move the machine past small pieces. Without a router table, it’s difficult to cut the profiles on the two small shelves (Parts C). A photo of an inexpensive router table is on the left.routertable

Without a router table, two suggestions will make the job of cutting these two small pieces easier and safer. First, consider buying or making a special router pad as advertised in many woodworker’s catalogs or websites. This small, inexpensive pad holds small pieces in place while you rout their edges. They work well and eliminate the need for clamping. Make your own from a piece of carpet padding.

An alternative is to clamp your router to a table upside down and then run the small piece through the router. Remember to clamp the router securely so it can’t work loose and perhaps cause an injury. Once clamped and before turning the router on, try to shake it loose. Make a genuine effort to dislodge making certain it can’t come loose. A powerful router has tremendous torque and could easily twist loose during startup or routing.

After cutting the profiles, it’s back to sanding. For Deft Clear Wood Finish or some other brush-on finish, sand all the profiles lightly with 150-grit sandpaper. If your router bit is sharp, very little sanding will be necessary, just enough to soften the corners. Don’t round over the corners; just knock off the sharp edges. If you are using Bartley’s Gel Varnish, take the two extra steps previously described before applying the finish. Do all this sanding gently by hand, so the profile doesn’t lose its character.

At this point, you can finish the pieces or proceed to the assembly steps before doing your finishing. Once again you need to make a decision. Either method will work well. It seems easier to me to finish the project before final assembly, but this is simply a preference. You may think assembling the project first and then finishing it is easier and simpler.

With Deft Clear Wood Finish, Follow the instruc­tions on the can. Remember that when instructions say to apply liberally it doesn’t mean to overdo it. It still requires some brushing to smooth out the finish. I like the Deft Clear Wood Finish because it is a self-leveling brushing lacquer. It also dries to the touch in less than thirty minutes and can be recoated in two hours making three coats in one day possible. I have used Deft Clear Wood Finish for over 25 years with great results, and I recommend it to you. This disadvantage of it are the strong fumes and vapors. Always use it in a well-ventilated area or wear a respirator. Use a fan to blow the vapors out through a window or door, and get yourself a respirator that works for lacquer fumes. It will make working with this product much more enjoyable.

One final rule with Deft Clear Wood Finish, do not go back to areas previously brushed. Deft begins to dry in minutes, but care is essential to avoid runs. If you do notice a run after it begins to dry, leave it alone. After it dries, remove the excess carefully with a razor blade and sand the surface until it is smooth. If you go back with the brush, you will lose the self-leveling benefit and the brush marks will be quite obvious and unattractive.

Remember that you will need to sand between coats for best results. The label says that sanding is necessary only if the surface feels rough. At the very least you should sand with 400-grit sandpaper after the second coat before applying the third coat. And if you want a glass-like finish, try sanding the third coat with 600 grit sandpaper and then apply a fourth coat. Deft Clear Wood Finish comes in Gloss or Semi-gloss. The choice is yours. Either one will do a great job for you.

If you use Bartley’s Gel Varnish, it’s still important to work in a well-ventilated area, but this product does not have a strong odor. Apply Bartley’s with a soft cloth such as a T-shirt remnant. You will need three pieces of cloth. One is relatively small for applying the finish liberally. Rub it into the grain. You can apply it across the grain initially, but make your final pass with the grain. Allow it to set for two to five minutes, wipe off the excess with another larger cloth. The last step is to buff the finish with the third clean, soft cloth. Do not allow large areas to dry before buffing them. The job should be complete before the finish is dry. Bartley’s dries to the touch promptly once the final buffing is done, but wait six hours before applying the second coat. Two coats do a good job. A third coat gives you a beautiful finish.

For staining use either Bartley’s Gel Varnish Stain for the first coat followed by Bartley’s Clear Varnish. Or, use Deft Stains that dry completely for recoating in one hour. They go on easily, and you can clean your brush with soap and water.

You can assemble the range shelf unit using either of two methods. The simplest way, requiring the fewest tools, is to screw it together. Since the screws will enter from the back of the unit, none of them will be visible. For the screw method, drill 3/16” holes through the back (Part B) in the appropriate locations. Check the hole locations on the drawings. For the bottom shelf, all the holes must be on a center line 3/8” from the bottom edge of the Part B. There are five holes. Measure 2” from each side for the end holes and mark them. Then measure 8 ½” from each end for the second hole and 15 ¼” from either end for the center hole. Drill the holes for the top shelves on a center line at 1 ½” from the top edge of the Part B. Place the holes at 1½” from either side. Place the second hole for each of the small shelves (Parts C) at 6¾” from each end. Once you have marked all nine of the holes, punch them lightly with an awl and drill them with a 3/16” brad point bit. After drilling the holes, turn the Part B face down and slightly countersink or ream the holes to be sure the screws won’t protrude and cause problems during installation of your unit. Clamp Part A in place on Part B and then drive in the screws when everything is correctly aligned. Next clamp each of the Parts C onto the appropriate location on the Part B and drive in the screws. Your project is now ready for installation.

The second method for assembly is also simple, but it requires a biscuit joiner. I suggest you use #20 biscuits. The easiest way to cut the biscuit slots is to avoid using the fence on your biscuit joiner. The first step is to mark the location of the biscuit slots. The simplest way to do this is to clamp the Part A to the Part B in proper alignment. Then, from the top mark for five biscuit slots. Make your marks on Part B and carry it over to Part A so they cross both pieces with the center mark of the biscuit slot. Make certain the end slots are not too close to the ends or the biscuit slot could extend beyond the end of the board and be visible. Take the clamps off and clamp down the Part A with the back flat on your work table. With the base of the biscuit joiner flat on the work table, align the guideline on the face of the biscuit joiner with the first mark and carefully make the first cut. Repeat that procedure for all five biscuit slots on Part A.

To cut the slots on Part B for the Part A shelf, you need to clamp a scrap stop on the work table. Stand Part B on the work table with the bottom on the table and the back against the stop. Now place the base of the biscuit joiner on the work table and line up the guideline on the face of the biscuit joiner with the first line on Part B and cut the biscuit slot. Repeat that procedure for all five biscuit slots.

Prepare Parts C by placing Part B on the work table. Then place the two Parts C on Part B in the correct orientation. I believe you can mark the biscuit slots on these without clamping them down. Make a mark on the face of Part B and the top of Part C for each biscuit slot. The correct position for the biscuit joiner marks is 2 inches from the sides of the Parts C. Place Parts C flat on Part B face up in the correct position. Clamp them both down to the Part B with a scrap piece on top of both Parts C. Place another scrap on the work table to balance the biscuit joiner. Place the biscuit joiner base flat on the Part B. Line up the guideline of the biscuit joiner with the mark on the Part C. Cut all five biscuits slots.

Without unclamping Parts C, raise the biscuit joiner so the base is against Part C and the face is down against Part B. Line up the guideline on the base of the biscuit joiner with the mark on Part C. Cut the first biscuit slot into Part B and repeat for all four biscuit slots. The photo below shows how to place the biscuit joiner for these cuts.


To assemble, place a little glue in the slots on Parts C and Part A and insert biscuits. Next place Part B face up on your bench and put a little glue in each slot. Align Parts C and Part A and tap them into place gently. Check for proper alignment and clamp them in place making certain that the clamps have not pulled them out of square. Allow the glue to set, remove the clamps and you are ready to install the unit. Remember to use glue sparingly in these biscuit joints. It does not take much for a strong joint, and excess glue will be forced out onto the face of your project and make a mess that will be hard to clean. The drawings for the Range Shelf are below followed by installation instructions.


To install your shelf, first find a couple of studs behind your range, measure their location, and transfer these dimensions to the back (Part B). Drill your holes about 1” from the bottom so they are covered by the things on the shelf. Either use a finish washer or ream the hole precisely to the size of an attractive brass screw and screw the unit to the wall. Two-inch screws should be sufficiently long. On some ranges, the top of the back will be wide enough that it will not be necessary to screw the range shelf to the wall.

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