Clamping Down on Some Shelves

We stumbles on this giant set of antique clamps several summers ago at a flea market, and I loved the patina and architecture of them – and knew I’d find a fun use for them.

Since they are the perfect symbol of building and woodworking, I really wanted to use them in Doug’s space in the Study.

After staring and plotting and planning, I decided on making a small set of shelves for the corner of the office. Nothing super large – just enough to show off the brackets, and hold a few fun treasures.

First, we labeled all the parts with painter’s tape, so we’d know for sure what went with what set. Bonny was a huge help, clearly.

Next, we cut some shelves out of 1x5s. Super simple wood – cheap and paintable!

My plan is to paint them, rather than stain. This will let the clamps be the star, and let the shelves  themselves melt into the wallpaper.

These will make two L-Shaped shelves. The shelves are different lengths, so when assembled in the corner, they will be the same length in the end!

Doug did all the math, which is good because I’m sure I wouldn’t have been patient enough to make it perfect. He made a mark for the holes where the threaded rod on the clamps will go. Then, the drill press made an easy work of getting the holes cut!

Perfect measuring (of course!).

We connected the “L” of the shelves together with pocket holes. It’s been ages since we’ve had power tools and safety glasses out, and it was SO NICE!


Next, we added a French cleat to the main body of the clamp. This will hold the weight of the shelves (and everything on them). We chose not to glue the cleats to the clamps – we only used pins. This will allow us to be able to easily take the shelves apart and keep the clamps as original as possible in the future (even though they are pretty perfect right now).

I didn’t put a ton of effort into finishing the cleats and matching the woods, since you won’t really see them behind the shelves.  I just used a little wood dye to give it some color. 

The shelves are going black, with leftover black paint from the ceiling and crown moulding in the Study. This will let them blend into the wallpaper a bit.

Simple and clean – they just need to dry!!!

Next, we hung the cleats on the wall. It’s a little bit of a jolt to the heart to drill into the wallpaper, but somehow I’ll get over it!

Ready to go on the wall!

Clamp body up on the wall!

One set up on the wall!

The bottom set doesn’t have a  French cleat, but does have a space to keep it off the wall the same distance as the top.

Making sure the bottom set will work!

Then, we took turns screwing the bottoms shelves on with the threaded rods. I LOVE that these actually use the clamp mechanism to function!

Done! I love how they came out.

There’s much more that will be happening on this wall, which is why they look a little lost. They won’t for long!!!

I think they turned out quite fun and delightful. I love making new ideas from old things!

So nice to do a small project – and get one step closer to finishing the room!!!


  1. I just read your blog.
    All of it.
    The whole thing!
    In about a day.
    You are so lucky to have found a large home that needs your help.
    Too many of the period houses here in Melbourne, Australia have been completely gutted to be “renovated” and there’s simply nothing left if the original except the front facing facade. It’s so sad!
    I hope one day I can rescue an old home like yours.

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