peekaboo shelf unitShelving units are very popular, and for good reason, they are a great place to display special items that we have and in so doing they also add a lot to the decor of a room. Many shelving units have backs that make them appear stronger, and perhaps some are, but in most cases they are only holding smaller items so strength is not always needed.

In this build we are build something called a peekaboo shelf unit, probably so named because it is "backless".  A very nice design that makes it appear a bit lighter and some even say "airey". What I particularly liked about this shelving unit is the cleat system that not only has a solid locking mechanism to keep it hanging firmly on the wall, the unit is easy to take down and the clean helps to add to the strength of the shelving unit.


For this unit I used standard 3/4" wide wood for everything except the partition between the drawers. I felt that 1/2 inch wide spacers looked better and fit the project a bit better.

The only real criteria for this shelf is to make the unit so that it can span a couple of studs in you house. Most houses have 16" centers in their construction (sometimes 24") not that is is imperative, but if you ever want to span 2 studs, it's of course best to have a cleat system that will do it.

In the mock-up I made I struggles with 3 or 4 inch wide shelves, and finally settled on the 3 inch. They look best and will still hold a wide variety of items. I also felt that putting 4 inch wide shelves was inviting the placement of objects that might me a bit too heavy for a smaller shelving unit like this.

The construction of this shelf unit was done using dowels. You could use pocket holes but I didn't want to spend all the time trying to match the pocket hole plugs and gluing them in. Dowels are quick, easy and strong.

I did want a large "reveal" on the sides and thanks to the amazing versatility of the dowelmax jig system, after a bit of thought, I found it was up for that job too. Be careful when you do a dry fit when using dowels, fewer is better, I have found if you use too many it can be very hard to take apart for gluing.

After cutting all my pieces to size and lenght, I took all the parts to my outside sanding station and sanded everything down a gave the whole unit a coat of amber dye. When the dye was dry, I applied 2 coats of Osmo. I am finding the pre-finishing is saving me more time in my builds because I don't have to deal with sanding out glue over-runs that ordinarily would ruin a finish so that it had to be re-done. I think it also make me more mindful of my gluing.


Before the final assembly, you need to cut the cleat system. In my case simply used my Freud Glue-Line Rip blade that was already in the saw. A full kerf blade that cuts a 1/8" wide slot, so it worked well for these purposes too. I think in the future I will see if this same cleat system can be done with one of the Rail and Stile Door Making Bits I have. I would save a lot of the fussing that can happen with using a table saw. The alternative of course is to use a dado blade on the table saw.

Once the cleat and matching top shelf are a match, next is the assembly of the carcass.
After that come drawer making. The drawers on this shelving unit are pretty small and I consider them more decorative than useful. I used some 1/4 inch natural wood I had and glued them all together using a Cyanaocrylate glue that can have it's open time reduced to seconds with a quick misting of accelerator spray, which makes a quick, strong bond.

The final step was to apply some sort of a face to the the three drawers. For this I elected to use some of the spalted Alder I had found in the forest a couple of years ago. I gave a lovely flow of grain all the way throught the fronts of all three drawers.

The final step was some sort of a drawer pull and I wasn't happy with anything I had on hand or that I made. I am looking for ideas on this ... more to come on this topic.

Copyright Colin Knecht