Friday, February 8, 2013

Mini Wire Shelving Tutorial

Almost immediately after posting my progress on my miniature fridge, I got a request from one of my readers to explain how I made the shelving inside-Which means that it's time for a tutorial;

Aluminum wire shelving.

Making the fridge itself is a little complicated (and still in progress), but the shelving is pretty easy to put together as long as you have the right materials and a little patience (there is a good chunk of drying time involved).

I measured everything out ahead of time and drew up a paper version of the fridge, including a template for the shelving. I'm not specifying exact sizes because the shelves were just "eye-balled" for size based on the template I made up for this specific project.

Template's just a rectangle, pretty simple (labeled so it doesn't accidentally get thrown out, or something).

Once I got the main part of the fridge put together, it was time to actually start on the shelving.

(it's still drying here)

First, I checked to make sure that my template would still fit inside because copy paper and basswood do not have the same thicknesses (turned out that it needed to be trimmed a little).

Next, wire and wire tools;

I used 20 gauge aluminum wire. If you have other types of wire, they might work with your project. Just remember, for realism, these shelves should look like they can hold a fridge worth of groceries.

The tools you see are jewelry wire clippers (also called, "Nippers"?) and jewelry pliers. You just need something that works to cut and straighten out the wire.

What to do;

Start with the outline of the shelves, use the paper template as a guide to cut each piece of wire to the correct length. When put together on the template, the pieces of wire should  just touch each other at the corners.

"Gluing" the pieces together;

Because making miniatures involves a little trial and error, I use water soluble glues ("school glue"), so I can still pull things apart if I need too. That's not going to work out too well with aluminum though, so instead I used Polycrylic.

(Clear Satin, because I think glossy makes most miniatures look weird)
You will also need wax paper and either a paint brush or Q-tips for this next part-I recommend Q-tips (because Polycrylic has wrecked a couple of my brushes). The wax paper is a must though, dry Polycrylic will peel off of it, and that's pretty important here.
Polycrylic is actually a sealer (similar to Polyurethane-without the yellowing), but it worked really well as an adhesive for this project.

 What to do;

Set the template down on your workspace and lay some wax paper over top of it. Take the wires that you just cut, and using the template (you can see it through the wax paper), arrange them on top of the wax paper. Then use a Q-tip(or brush) and drip some Polycrylic onto the corners of your shelf frames. It needs to completely cover both wires (just at the corners though), right down to the wax paper. Don't worry about extra drips or puddles around the wire. It can be trimmed off (exacto knife or even just scissors) once the Polycrylic has set completely.

If you are making 3 shelves at once, like I did: Tape your template down and use separate pieces of wax paper for each shelf. That way you can make a shelf, slide it off of the template (as shown, above), and out of the way, letting you continue on with the next one.

This is the waiting part: Polycrylic takes around 2 hours to dry, but up to 12 hours to set at full strength. You won't need full strength to keep working on the shelves, but if the Polycrylic would rather stretch instead of peel apart from your wax paper-It needs more time. Don't worry though, if at any point you accidentally pull something apart, just put it back together, re-"glue".

After you peel them from the wax paper and trim off the Polycrylic drips, Check to make sure that each of your new shelf frames still fit inside the fridge (or whatever you decide to make these shelves for, really). If  they don't, Cut (or just pull) one of the wires apart from the other 3 (you shouldn't have to completely redo the gluing part), trim down which ever wires are too long, and then re-glue the wire back in place.


Once you have the frames done, the rest is really just repeating the process a couple more times.

The frame is layer #1. The inside of my shelving is 6 evenly spaced bars(layer #2. the ends of these wires go underneath the frame), and one long bar running across the center(layer #3, goes underneath #2). The frame was the important, "structure", part. The other sections of wire just need to look good, so you can deviate a little from that part of my design, if something works better for you.

Ta-da! You're done, Enjoy your tiny wire shelves.

Other tips;

You can keep reusing the wax paper as long as you don't put Polycrylic in the same spot twice (you can easily see where it was).

If you're having trouble keeping the shelves lying flat while drying, use tape(avoid putting it directly on the wet Polycrylic).

(It should still be on wax paper, drying, when you do this)

 How did I get the shelves to sit in my fridge like that?

Just cut the pointed ends off of some toothpicks, glue them to the sides of the fridge(evenly spaced), 
And you have shelf runners!

Materials List;

If you're having trouble finding these things in stores, or you'd rather just buy them online-I've looked everything up and provided links to products on Amazon. When possible, I linked to the specific items that I have used, and would recommend. If I couldn't find what I was looking for, or it really doesn't matter what brand you use for this project (is anyone picky about their Q-tips?), links will lead to a general list of things, to help you find what works for you.

aluminum wire
jewelry wire clippers
jewelry pliers
Polycrylic, 1/2 Pint, Clear Satin
wax paper

 (Just a heads up. Regardless of where you get this stuff, if you buy anything on this list to make these shelves, you will probably have tons of left over materials. I use this stuff all the time but even a 1/2 pint of Polycrylic can last for months. Save what's left and use it for your next miniature project)

I hope this tutorial clears thing up, if there's something that needs further explaining-let me know (I'm kind of new at this tutorial thing)

And if I've somehow inspired you to make something because of this post, let me know, I'd love to see it.


Looking for more Tutorials and other useful info?

Mini Wire Shelving Tutorial


Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 1 

Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 2


  1. Thanks for the great Tutorial and the tips Kyle! xx

  2. Thank you for this great tutorial. It's a wonderful tip for bounding metal wires.
    Hugs, Drora

  3. Thanks for the tutorial! Cant wait to try it.

    1. You're welcome, sorry it took me the whole week to get to it-wasn't planning on that myself.

      Let me know how it works out for you.

  4. Fantastic tutorial thank you. Thanks for the great tips.
    Hugs Maria

  5. Very cool tutorial. I will definitely try out the sealer.