What is a Gallery Rail? Good question! I’m sure you have seen them in beautiful pictures on Pinterest. A Gallery Rail, usually brass, is a rail that is installed on the side of a shelf or table.
They are a beautiful addition to an ordinary shelf or piece of furniture and help keep things from falling off. Let’s look at how to diy a shelf with a diy brass gallery rail!
I’ve been wanting to redo my downstairs bathroom, and this was a fun place to start. It perfectly dressed up the shelf I already had in place and added some function as well.
See how we hung the mirror in the powder room.
Supplies Needed for a Gallery Rail and Shelf
For the wood shelf, this really depends on the individual space where the shelf will live. For my shelf, I had an 2×8 pine board. This is a hefty shelf.
Pro Tip: For painted shelves, go with something like poplar or maple. These paint really nicely. For stained or natural shelves, go with a naturally gorgeous wood like oak or pine.
Brass Gallery Rail
Next, you’ll need a gallery rail for the shelf. These from vintage hardware in the antique brass are stunning. Measure the shelf to decide what pieces are needed. I had mine wrap around the entire shelf (front and both sides), but it can also just go on the front.
- a center post
- 2 corner posts (if wrapping around the sides)
- 2 end posts
- rods to connect the posts
Be sure you have the right tools for the job as there is cutting involved for the shelves and the brass rods.
- saw for cutting the wood shelf
- bolt cutters for cutting the rods
- sand paper
- paint brush
- socket wrench
- shelf brackets
How to Make the DIY Gallery Rail for Shelf
Determine Shelf Size and Cut Accordingly
For the bathroom, this shelf needed to be deep enough to hold a fair bit of everyday things, but not too deep. I also knew I wanted a substantial looking shelf. The perfect shelf dimensions for my needs were 24″ long and 8″ deep.
I had my shelf cut at the hardware store, but it can easily be cut to size using a miter saw, circular saw, or even a jigsaw.
Prep the Wood Shelf
Now it is time to prep the shelf for either paint or stain. First, sand the board starting with a more abrasive sandpaper like a 120 grit. Next, work up to a finer grit sand paper to make the surface really smooth, 220-300 grit.
If you are painting the shelf, the next step is to prime it. I like these primers for most of my painting projects. For staining, use a wood conditioner prior to staining.
Mark Spots for the Finials
Now it’s time to decide where to place the posts or finials for the gallery rail on the shelf will go. I wanted them set back just a hair from the edge of the shelf, so I went with a 1/2 inch from the edge.
Next, Mark the spots with a pencil and drill pilot holes for the posts. The holes need to be marginally bigger than the screw. Choose the drill bit accordingly.
Cut the Rods and Assemble Gallery Rail
These rods and this whole system are not the cheapest, so when determining the length needed for the rods, measure carefully. Remember, measure twice, cut once.
Use bolt cutters to cut the brass rail to size. Slide the rods through the finals before installing. Drop the posts into the pilot holes and attach from the bottom. Use a socket wrench to tighten the bolt.
I used these shelf brackets from Lowes to attach the shelf to the wall. I previously had some industrial shelf brackets, and since I painted my shelf I wanted wooden brackets that I could paint.
How I Made My Dupe Gallery Rail Shelf
You’re probably wondering what is going on, let me explain. I have seen these beautiful gallery rails on shelving, furniture, bookshelves all over Instagram. They are beautiful, but just out of my budget. I knew I could get the look for less so I wanted to give it a try. Here’s what I did.
The detail was almost perfect to match the posts of the original brass gallery rails for the shelf, but I needed a round top to finish it off. Enter these wooden beads I had from another project. Aren’t they perfect?!?
Making Gallery Shelf Railing
First, I determined where I wanted the dowels to go on the sides of the little wooden spools. Then I marked for holes.
Taking my drill and a drill bit slightly bigger than the thickness of the dowels, I drilled into the side of the spools, not going all the way through. Once the holes were drilled, I sanded off the rough edges.
Next, I played around with bead sizes and found the right size to top my “finials.” We will glue them on with wood glue. I also cut the dowels to size using my miter box.
Pro Tip: Before painting, make sure everything fits together nicely.
Painting the Gallery Rails for Shelf
I painted my shelf in Sherwin Williams Anew Gray, and now I have decided to paint the whole room that color also and starting an impromptu bathroom makeover. Gotta love those snowball projects. (Sorry hubs!)
Next, I dry fit the rail on the shelf to make sure everything fit nicely before spray painting gold.
With all my pieces cut, it’s time to make them look like brass gallery rails. First, I spray painted all the dowels and finials in a metallic gold spray paint. After that was dry, I took some rub n buff in antique gold and applied that to the pieces as well.
Lastly, install the shelf and glue on the gallery rails! I used books to weigh down the posts and then glued on the beads to finish the “finials.” Now, style with your favorite functional and pretty items.
I’m pretty happy with how this project turned out on a budget. It looks a lot like the original gallery rail shelf as well. Next up, picture molding!
The brass gallery rails are a stunning addition anywhere they are added. I love the detail, character, and class they add to a ordinary shelf or piece of furniture, an instant elevated look. Whether you go with the traditional rail or DIY your own, the end result is stunning and definitely worth the extra effort.