Built-In Shelves PT4: DIY Gallery Rail for Under $20

DIY kitchen builtin

Hey, hey! So I’m back with part 4 of the kitchen over-door built-in shelves. In my last post, I  mentioned that I had yet to stain the shelves and the “counters,” trim the baseboard, and decide what to do with the top shelf.


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A post shared by Studio McGee (@studiomcgee)

That was until I came across this Studio McGee image on Instagram, I was blown away that there, right in front of me, was almost the same project idea!  But one thing that stood out, besides that vibrant green paint color, was the pretty brass rail on top.  When I brought up that idea on Instagram, about 80% of you agreed that I should add a rail to my project, so I went online and started searching, and then my friend Erin (Live Pretty on a Penny) gave me a link to Paxton Hardware.  They have the rails everyone wants, but I wanted to wrap this project up quickly and needed it like yesterday (I’m so impatient!)  So rather than order the gallery rail on their site, I decided to try creating a DIY gallery rail.  


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A post shared by Corey Decker (@sawdust2stitches)

I spent some time googling ideas for a DIY gallery rail, but I was surprised that there weren’t many posts online for them. One that caught my eye was from Casey Home Co., she added one to her daughter’s sweet bedroom.  And then I remembered another I saw on Instagram from Sawdust to Stitches, which was super clever, using Chess pieces. When I saw this all I could think was GENIUS, and that it was the perfect solution!!!!!

diy gallery rail

So I ordered some chess pieces right away, got them the same day, and got to work trying to create a DIY Gallery Rail.

I ran to Home Depot and picked up some 1/4″ dowels. I chose 1/4″ dowels to be sure that they were to scale with my 7′ shelf.  If I were doing this on a smaller shelf, I may have used a 1/8″ dowel.

Here’s What I Did:

Decide on Layout:

So the first thing I needed to do was decide on a layout:

Although most of the gallery rails that I see have multiple posts, I found that after I laid mine out,  I preferred fewer posts, because it looked less busy on the shelf. So I decided on 3 posts in the center and then two smaller ones on the ends, attached to the wall.

Drilled Holes in Posts

Next, I needed to find something that would act as a jig (or something that will hold my chess piece in place while I drilled.)  I ended up using my silicone dish drying rack, lol, as my chess pieces/rail posts, fit perfectly in the grooves.


I used a 1/4″ drill bit to drill a hole, carefully in the center of the “post.”  (I did this over my sink, but am showing this on the floor for this tutorial)

Once my hole was drilled I tested it out with my dowel.  If it’s too tight a fit, drill through a few more times, making sure to run the drill close to the edges of the hole. I also had to drill holes in the bottom to allow for pegs to insert the posts into the shelf. This was tricky, so I had to be very careful.

Lastly, because I chose the “Pawns” for my end posts (to be attached to the wall), I had to drill a hole in the tops of them.  My idea was to attach them to the wall and my cabinet (where my rail would butt up against, more on this later).

And naturally, I had to test them out.

Not Bad!

Filling and Sanding the Posts

diy gallery rail

Because my posts are solid wood, a few of them chipped while I drilled my holes, so I touched them up with wood filler and then sanded them with a nail filer once they were dry.

Choosing a Finish

While most gallery rails that I’ve seen are shiny brass, I knew that look wasn’t right for my rail, seeing how the hardware on my built-ins are antique brass.  So I tried to create a finish that coordinated nicely with my knobs.  I tried 1 with Rustoleum metallic spray paint and one with just European Gold Rub ‘n Buff, and then a third one with spray paint and Rub ‘n Buff dabbed on top.

DIY GAllery Rail

In the end, I decided to use the 3rd option, but later took it one step further and brushed on some black paint to give them an antique finish.

Built in shelf gallery rail

This helped get the color exact color I needed. And then I duplicated this process for the wooden dowels.


Now it was time to put them in place. I cut tiny pegs from the dowels to place in the bottom holes of the posts.  I marked a 1/2 in from the edge of the shelf to drill holes for the pegs to be inserted.

I drilled the hole from the bottom of the shelf and later filled the holes with wood putty and touched them up with paint.

Once all the holes were drilled, I filled the posts (chess pieces) with wood glue and placed the pegs inside the posts, and then placed the posts into the holes in the shelf. The overflow of glue was enough to keep them in place on the shelf.

But before the posts dried, I inserted the dowels/rails into the posts. It’s important not to wait for the posts to dry to do this because you may need some wiggle room to get the dowels/rails in place.

After lots of trial and error, trying to drill through the end posts to get them into the wall and cabinet, I ended up just glueing them to the wall and the cabinet.

DIY Gallery Rail

And that was it.  It took me about a day and a half to get the rail done, but it was totally worth it.  If I ordered a real brass rail it would have cost me about $200, and my DIY version cost me less than $20!! Score!!!!


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  1. January 28, 2023 / 9:46 am

    Wow… just wow! What an amazingly creative project and they look like real brass!

  2. Andrea
    January 28, 2023 / 9:51 am

    This! Is why I follow…amazing style & creativity, no huge budget or catalog of sales! Can’t wait to see them styled!

  3. May 22, 2023 / 12:36 pm

    I appreciate the emphasis on the versatility of scalloped home decor.

  4. May 15, 2024 / 7:15 pm

    This is awesome! I have been looking for a DIY version that was doable and not expensive! Going to try!

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