Building with Saint Joseph.

compiled by Catherine Fournier

Saint Joseph was a carpenter, and undoubtedly Jesus began working with him in the workshop at a very early age. Perhaps at first, the Christ Child practiced hammering pegs into holes Joseph drilled for Him. (There were no nails) Perhaps he sanded pieces of wood, or practiced using a handsaw. Whatever He did, it can't have been long before Jesus and his father built something together.

It may have been something similar to this simple project, a small shelf. Mary would have hung it proudly on the wall, and placed … what? … ;on it. A lamp? A small jug or vessel? In our rooms, we can use a shelf like this in every room for a small statue, icon or crucifix.


  • 19" 1" x 10" board for shelf. This can be a glued up board.
  • 15" 1" x 10" board for brackets. This can be a glued up board.
  • 16" 1" X 6" board for back
  • (6) 1/2" diameter wood plugs
  • (4) 1" No.8 flathead wood screws
  • (4) 1 1/4" No.8 flathead wood screws
  • (4) 3 3/8" Shaker pegs or other hooks (optional)
  • (2) 9/16" x 1 11/16" keyhole hangers with screws


  1. The shelf unit is made of 1) a solid shelf held with screws hidden with wooden plugs onto 2) shaped side brackets with keyhole hangers to fasten it to the wall and 3) a plain back with Shaker pegs for hanging other items. The shelf is 19 inches wide and the brackets are 16 inches on centre apart, so that the shelf can be hung on wall studs.
  2. Using one of the patterns below, (depending on what equipment you have) make a paper pattern for the shelf brackets. Lay it on one end of the board and trace it. Flip the pattern over to make it fit on the remaining board. Make sure the grain of the wood runs 'up and down' on both pieces, and that the corner is square.
  3. Cut out parts of the shelf accordingly.
  4. Sand the cut edges, round them if you wish.
  5. On the board you have cut for the shelf, mark a few points 1 1/2 inches from each end. With a soft pencil (so as not to mark the wood) join the points together to make a line. Measure between the lines to ensure that they are 16" apart. Mark a small line crossing your first line 2 inches from the front and back of the board on both ends. These four small crosses are where the screws holding the shelf to the bracket will be placed.
  6. Drill counter sunk holes through the top of the shelf at the marks. A counter sunk hole is larger at the top, so that the screw can go below the level of the wood, and then be covered and hidden by a wooden plug.
  7. Mark a line down the centre of the top of each bracket. Cross this line with a small mark 2 inches from the front and back of the top of the bracket (these correspond with the screw hole on the shelf.) Drill shallow pilot holes at the marks.
  8. Attach the keyhole hangers to the back of each bracket, approximately 1/2 inch from the top of the bracket, cutting out a small mortise (shaped hole) if necessary to make them flush with the surface of the bracket, so that the bracket hangs flush with the wall.
  9. Glue and screw the shelf to the brackets, lining up the pre-drilled holes and sinking the screws below the top of the shelf. If you are using pine, be careful not to overtighten the screws in the soft end grain of the bracket. Check that the brackets are square to the shelf.
  10. Measure the distance between the shelf brackets and trim the back piece to this measurement. Sand the cut edges lightly.
  11. Place the back piece between the two brackets and decide where you want it to go. It can go up against the shelf, or a bit lower, leaving a space between the shelf and the top of the back piece. When you have decided, mark the top of the back on both sides.
  12. Measure and mark 1 inch and 4 inches from this mark on both bracket sides, 3/8 inch in from the back of the bracket. Drill countersunk holes through the side of the bracket at these marks, and corresponding pilot holes on the ends of the back piece.
  13. Glue and screw the back piece between the brackets, lining up the pilot holes and being careful not to over tighten the screws.
  14. Mark and drill holes for Shaker pegs if using. Glue them in place.
  15. Allow the glue to dry, and finish your shelf as desired. Paint, varnish, shellac, oil, stencilling are some of the options.

Hang your shelf and place a statue on it. Perhaps a statue of Saint Joseph.

This shelf was adapted from a pattern from:

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