I have a recess in a room about 60x 200cm, but it isnt perfectly rectangular. I'm not even sure the drywall is particularly straight. I want to put a built in shelf there - any advice on how to cut the shelf to fit the recess well?

  • 1
    Are you just installing shelves between two walls or are you trying to build a shelving unit similar to a bookshelf with sides and a back? You may have multiple options.
    – matt.
    Feb 3 at 17:21
  • @matt. It has 2 sides and a back Feb 4 at 22:15

2 Answers 2


While it may be overkill for an almost-straight shape like you have, Joggle sticks used in boat building are an useful technique to know. It comes especially useful if there is a curve involved.

  1. Make a joggle stick by cutting some notches into a 1 meter long piece of wood. It's desirable to make them a bit varying size, this way you don't confuse one notch for another in the drawing. Cut the end of the stick into a narrow point.
  2. Place a table or other horizontal work surface at the height where the shelf would be. It's easiest if it fits into the recess, but it's ok to just have the table as close as you can.
  3. Lay down a large paper on the table and tape it down so that it stays in place.
  4. Touch the sharp end of the joggle stick against the wall and use a pen to trace the notches onto the paper. Repeat for as many points as needed to follow the shape of the wall.
  5. Lift the paper and tape it down on or next to your stock material. Position the joggle stick based on the drawing and mark points on the material at the end of the stick.

Benefit over cardboard templates is that it avoids having to repeatedly cut and remeasure. By having a longer stick, you can scale the technique to areas much larger than the paper, without worrying of a cardboard template bending and sagging.


Get some card (old cereal boxes work well) and cut & tape to fit. Should give you an exact template.

  • 3
    Yeah, just cut some large pieces of cardboard, lay them over top of each other along the edges of the recess (niche?), and tape them together. Use the assembly as a template for your shelves. Assuming all the edges are straight, just not square.
    – Huesmann
    Feb 3 at 13:09
  • 4
    Never underestimate the utility of Cardboard Aided Design. For a 200 cm wide space I'd probably want to use corrugated cardboard from large boxes over thinner sorts for increased rigidity. (Maybe even a 2 layer sandwich with the second layer oriented perpendicular to the first. Feb 3 at 20:28
  • Did the same thing for custom-fit beaded wainscot for a bathroom. Made cardboard strips, cut and fit to the exact edges of the walls, used hot glue to glue the corners and cross strips, then sampled the corners and edges on a Shopbot, and cut perfect-fitting pieces. (pencil transfer of shapes and a jig saw can work as well if you don't have a Shopbot...) Feb 3 at 22:19

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