My Favorite #MEMADE Piece In My House - Sharpie Stained Wood Floating Display Shelf

Yes, not to brag, but this is my FAVORITE piece of all the pieces that I made. I have to report that this floating wood display shelf is still hanging in my foyer 5 years later and thanks to the fact that it gets very little sun exposure (no windows are near it) it is still as bright and vibrant as it was on the day I "stained" it.

I am using "stained" in quotations, because this was more of a coloring project with Sharpie Markers than it was a traditional wood staining project.

These photos were taken today, February 6, 2020. You can see that the colors on this display shelf are just as vibrant as the day I applied them during the week of November 1 through November 7, 2015 (those photos are below). However, just so you know, Sharpie Stained Wood that is exposed to sunlight (this shelf is not) will fade quickly. Don't ask me how I know this. Actually, you can ask me. There will be a DIY of that project in the near future. But I digress.

You will see by the photos below that this project would be tedious to some, but I found it really fun and I LOVE the results. I consider this to be a good DIY project for someone with an adventurous spirit and a "I'm Pretty Crafty" skill set.

I started this project on November 1, 2015 and hung the completed shelf on November 7, 2015. This was a week of solid work, not an hour here and there. I devoted quite a bit of time to this project. Luckily, business was slow at at the time so I could do this.

I started with a single board that I cut with my table saw. I mitered the corners/ends (45 degree angle at the corners). I had these cut pieces in storage at my old house for years upon years in the garage so they were exposed to changes in temperature with the changes of the seasons. More on that later. I was never really inspired enough to finish the project. I'm so glad I hung on to them. I'm grateful that my creative spirit got a boost when we moved to this house.

I believe the wood is walnut. But I'll be really honest here: I am not really sure. Like I said, there was quite a time gap between the purchase and the finished product. So....I know for certain that it is REAL wood, but that is the only thing I know for sure. You can do this project with just about any wood including plywood. Just as long as there isn't a finish on it. You want raw wood with a nicely defined grain so that the Sharpie Markers will soak into the grain AND the grain pattern will create a nice finished piece.


STEPS FOR THIS DIY SHARPIE STAINED WOOD DISPLAY SHELF (This is how I made my shelf. It may not be the best way to create this since I'm not a woodworker. However, all I can do is share what I did. Proceed with caution ;-) ):

  1. Choose a wood species that has a nicely defined grain pattern. I have done this on walnut, oak and plywood with good results. DON'T CHOOSE MDF OR FIBERBOARD. Also, don't choose anything with a finish already on it. This technique will not work on those other types of material.

  2. Measure and cut your wood (or have it cut) to the desired shape and size. As I said above, I had already cut my wood years before. I wanted a floating shelf unit shaped like a rectangular box so that I would have 2 shelves (top and bottom). This is up to you. The technique will work for any type of shelf, table, decorative piece, etc.

  3. Sand the wood until it is really, really, really (have I said, really?) smooth with an electric palm sander (finishing sander) and a sheet or two of the VERY FINE Grit sandpaper cut to the size of the palm sander.

  4. After the wood was SUPER smooth, I used both a tack cloth AND a damp paper towel (barely wet, just damp...don't saturate the towel with water. It will make the wood too wet) to remove the excess saw dust after sanding. Take you time here. You want the finished project to be grit free and smooth, so don't skimp on time on this step.

  5. After the wood is dust free, I sat at the kitchen table and colored the grain. Remember, Sharpie Markers on wood grain can bleed. If you want very sharp edges between colors, you may need to trace the shape of the grain lightly with an X-Acto knife to create a break and prevent bleeding. I started to do this and experimented a little, but in the end I did not do this. I simply stopped before the end of the grain pattern to get a feel for how much bleed there would be. I wanted a very colorful psychedelic look, so a little bleed was fine with me. You'll notice in the pictures that I did a test place first with black and a few other colors. I tried it on the end grain of the wood to test saturation and into the top of the wood. That created that little pattern inside the display shelf. It wasn't planned, but there it was so I doctored it up and now I call it character.

  6. After the shelf unit is properly colored to your liking, let it dry for a day.

  7. Time to seal your work. I used a high gloss, fine mist sealant. Remember, Sharpie Markers are INK. DO NOT USE BRUSH ON SEALANT!!! This will make the colors run. Use the finest mist sealant you can find. I show you below what I used. It was actually a Lowe's product called Valspar Micro-Mist Clear Top Coat. I tried several brands (including Minwax...mist isn't fine enough), and the one pictured worked the best. I sealed all sides of the wood. I let it dry for a day between coats. I lightly sanded between coats. I believe I used at least 3 - 4 coats in total and sanded between them VERY LIGHTLY!!!

  8. After the work is sealed, I assembled the shelf. Now, here's the deal. I discovered that the well aged wood that had already been cut changed shape over the years. It had been in the garage so it shrank and expanded with the seasons. So when I went to assemble it, after it was stained and sealed, the mitered corners did not want to go together nicely. I had to really work hard and get even more creative to close the gaps. It took some patience and strength, I'm not going to lie. I used a nail gun, a lot of wood glue and even a little caulk when all was said and done. And of course, the handy dandy blue 3M tape to hold it all together until it dried.

  9. I used my sharpie markers to make sure the color on the corners matched up with the grain design seamlessly after assembly. I had to layer some caulk very carefully to get the warped wood to look like it was straight on the corners as well.

  10. Hang the shelf. As the pictures will attest, I did this alone. I have a hard head and hate to ask for help. I also didn't want a lot of questions while I worked it all out. So I did this solo. Again, I got creative....and acrobatic.....and sore. But it is up.

  11. Enjoy!

If you have questions about this project, I'll be happy to answer them. As stated, I completed this back in 2015, so I've slept a few times since then. But I think my memory is good enough to help you if you need it. Contact information


FYI here is the legal stuff regarding the links below.....

FTC Disclosure:

Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these.

Reminder, I am also a Home Depot affiliate associate and this Home Depot image and link below and above will provide me with a small commission should you choose to use it to purchase the Makita Palm Sander. Thanking you in advance for your support!!

Now that the legalese is out of the way, here are some links:


Go to your local lumber yard, Home Depot or Lowe's and pick out a nice piece of walnut, oak or any kind of wood that is real wood, not finished, and has a nice grain pattern. Yes, I have also used plywood.


Here is a set of Sharpie markers like the I used in this project:




I have included links to both. I used Valspar, but I know Krylon is a good brand. Stay away from Minwax spray top coat for this project.




Note: I just grabbed what caulk I had in the tool shed that I thought would accept color. However, a wood filler that can be stained like this would have worked better in those corners after they were glued. Live and learn.


Note: I love the entire line of Irwin Quick-Grip Clamps. I have a bunch of them in different shapes and sizes. They are handy and easy to use. The picture you see above shows me using one in conjunction with a dog leash. It worked! In this project to keep it all tight, any belt or strap would have worked. I just had the leash handy. A link to a nice set of clamps is below.


Note: The square that I used in this project was small enough to fit inside the shelf. I have had it forever. It is like this one, but make sure if you build one like mine, you don't get one taller than 6 inches.


Note: I LOVE This little table. It folds up for easy storage and is sturdy. It has received a fair amount of punishment for many years and is still in great shape.


Note: My old ones are Stanley, but these look even better since they have the slide out arms that help for the wider projects.


Note: I love having an X-acto knife set around. I've used them for years. I prefer the softer grip handle if you are using it a lot. This Amazon link below only has an illustration on it, but it should be the one with a soft blue handle. I used it on my experiment of colors on this project, but then I abandoned that step since the color bleed was minimal and fine with the finished project.

Hope this post helps you if you are interested in a colorful wood piece. As always you are welcome to contact me with any questions.

That is all.

Carry on.

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