Weekend Project: Mountain Shelf

Living in a dated house comes with its challenges. Lucky for us, our home is structurally sound – it’s just that some of the rooms here and there need a little facelift. This time around, my oldest daughter’s bedroom was up for a makeover. She has a birthday coming up and I thought I may be able to pull off a 24 hour room re-do. After the third coat of paint went on at 1:00am on Friday night, I knew it would be tough to pull off a big reveal. So, feeling defeated, I called it a night after I washed most of the paint off my arms and cleaned up my mess.

So, the finished room will come later. But in the meantime, I thought I would share a project I was able to finish in a weekend – a mountain shelf for my girl.


Now, one of the benefits of living in a place that needs some work is that there is a nice little pile of scrap lumber in one of our out buildings. Some of that stuff is pretty rough – odd shapes and dirty old boards from past farm projects long before we lived here. But the personality in some of those boards? Absolutely remarkable. When I get the urge to get involved with a project that may involve wood, I always hit up this lumber pile to see if there happens to be something in there that jumps out at me. Not like something literally jumping out of the wood. Although, that barn is pretty sketchy and it is highly likely that a creature will, at some point, jump out at me while I’m in there. Someday, I’ll dedicate an entire post to the weird things that have been discovered in that building.

On this particular day, this was the chosen board:


Great potential, but it needs a little cleaning first. There are years and years of dust and grime all over that thing.


There! That’s starting to look a little better already. Here’s a close-up of some of my favorite details:


See those worm holes? They make tools to replicate this look in more “pure” boards, and I get to have a gem like this with all of the details built in. Anyway, here is the board all cleaned up:


Now, here comes that part that I struggle with every time – measuring and doing math things. My dad and brother are carpenters by trade and know all about precise measurements. My style is more like “good enough – let’s get the saw!”, which is never, ever the way to go about cutting and assembling things. So, based on the image in my head of my daughter’s wall, I thought two feet would be a reasonably sized shelf. Now, all we have to do is cut a straight line.

Gooood enough!

After I did a quick mock-assembly of the shelf, I thought the board that was going to serve as the actual shelf was a little too deep.

Gooood enough! Again!

Now it was time to draw the mountains on the wider board.


I just eyeballed where I wanted these to go. I left room for a little of this board to stick out on the bottom (it would easier to attach the shelf portion this way. Plus, you would still get to see those rustic edges) and accounted for the height of the shelf before I made the baseline for the mountains. Once I knew where the bottoms of the mountains would fall, I penciled in dots for the peaks and used a straight edge for the rest. After a few cuts with the jigsaw, it looked like this project was starting to come together.


After sanding and attaching the shelf piece from the back, this was ready for some finishing touches.


I contemplated staining the wood a darker color before adding some gold touches, but I really wanted to get this up on the wall, so I went straight to the gold paint.


Clearly, I need to work on drawing a straight line, and I may have chosen a paintbrush that was a little too big for these details, but I’m happy with how it turned out for the most part. It’s not perfect, but my girl seems pretty happy with it, so I’m good with that.

Lessons learned for next time:

– If you don’t have the proper tools for the job at hand, borrow them from someone (if you can)
A table saw would have worked better than the skill saw I used to cut the shelf portion down.
That 1/8″ that wandered off the line toward the end made it difficult to attach the shelf to the base.

– Take the time to stain the wood if necessary
I think a darker color would have helped the gold to stick out a little more.

– Take your time with the fine details
Sure, a smaller brush would mean that the painting portion takes longer, but it would be worth it.
And for crying out loud, if you can’t draw a straight line, pencil one in with a ruler or something.

– I should have gone for a 4th mountain
Several people who have seen this have mistaken the mountains for a princess crown. Ew.

There are a couple of other little projects that I’ll be doing to hang on the new bedroom wall. These are less likely to involve power tools and will give me an opportunity to fine-tune my hand lettering.