DIY Brass Decorative Gallery Rail for Shelves

February 24, 2023

DIY "brass" gallery/tipping rail for a shelf (for way less!).

I've loved the look of these delicate brass gallery rails for years! They're usually installed along the front of shallow shelves as a pretty decorative accent, and they prevent items from sliding off the shelf. 

These gallery rails are great for shelves with limited space, like the skinny shelving I added on the side of our fridge that holds platters and cutting boards. They're often used on bar shelves for glasses and bottles as well. 

You know I love anything brass, especially a beautiful little detail like these posts and rails. I knew I wanted to incorporate them into our basement kitchenette, but the real brass options are not cheap! 

I ended up creating my own version that I think looks pretty great, and functions just as well!

Last I left you, I shared the butcher block countertops, sink and faucet that I installed in this space: 
gray cabinets, walls wood counters

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The next project on my list was the tile backsplash. I chose this dark gray marble looking porcelain tile with gray veining from Lowe's: 
dark gray marble tile Lowe's
Since these were so inexpensive (I spent less than $80 on the tile), I splurged on the sticky tile setting mats I love so much  for the installation:
adhesive tile setting mat

They make the tile install so much easier and quicker, with much less mess! They do cost more than mortar though, so you pay for the convenience. 

I shared how to use these tile setting mats to install a tile backsplash -- be sure to check out that process if you're interested in some tiling tips!

After the tile was up, grouted and caulked along the countertops, I installed a long but shallow shelf right on top of the tile backsplash:
DIY wood ledge above tile backsplash

I used poplar wood for this project knowing my plan to drill into it. I usually use pine, but pine is softer and more prone to splitting. 

This is the same design as the DIY picture ledges I've shared with you many times:
wood picture ledges with frames

They only take three pieces of wood, but for my latest version I only used two -- the back piece (that I attached to the wall) and the bottom piece. 

I priced out the brass posts and rails for my long shelf (it's nearly nine feet long) and the total was going to be $200! I'm all for splurging, but I kept hesitating to order them...figuring I could make something similar for way cheaper. 

Then I saw this post by my friend Carli, and the wheels started turning. I went to the craft store to see what wood pieces I could find to make this work. 

I found a pack of these wood peg men (they look like the old Little People toys) that are about 2.5 inches tall at Hobby Lobby, then grabbed three of these metal rods at Lowe's. 

To make this DIY version work, I needed to be able to drill a hole straight through the wood pegs. I tried it out just holding one and drilling into it, but I couldn't get the hole quite straight enough. 

So instead, I made a little holder/jig for my little men. :) I nailed a few scrap pieces of wood tightly around one so it fit snug in there: 
DIY holder for drilling holes in small pieces

I wrapped them with painter's tape to avoid the wood splitting at the entry and exit of the drill bit. 

The height of the hole needs to be consistent on all of the pegs, so the rail is level across the finished shelf. I marked the same spot on each one and used a 1/4 inch drill bit to create the holes: 
drilling holes in small wood pieces

Once the little men were all finished, I made sure the holes were a consistent height:
wood peg "men" gallery posts

The one on the left was my test piece, and I didn't end up using that one. 

metallic champagne brass paint on wood

A couple years ago I compared a bunch of brass spray paints, and this one was one of my top two picks. It's a warmer, darker brass tone and looks so good on this project!

Because these are wood, I did a light sanding of the pegs before the final coat so the wood grain would be less pronounced. It definitely helped to make them look more like solid metal. 

After cleaning the metal rods, I sprayed those as well:
sprayed brass metal rods

I think spraying those took longer than installing the whole dang thing. Spray a little, dry, turn. Spray a little, dry, turn. 😂 I recommend just holding them and spraying half at a time. 

When everything was dry, I took everything down to the basement to figure out my spacing. I had seven pegs, and two of those were placed at the ends. So I had five to space out equally in between. 

I used a small drill bit to make a hole in the bottom of each peg:
drilling into wood pegs

Take some care to not split the wood as you go. The key to doing that is going slooooow as you drill and starting with smaller bits and working up to larger ones if needed. 

I used that same small bit to put my initial holes into the ledge, and then followed up with a slightly larger one: 
drilling into wood with bits

For this project, I would err on making the hole plenty big for your screw so it doesn't crack your wood as you install the pegs.

I installed the screws from underneath the ledge, into the bottom of each peg. 

Again, be patient and go slow as you attach the poles. I didn't have any issues at all with the shelf or pegs splitting because I took my time and drilled holes first.

I held up each metal rod to see where I needed to trim them down, and then used the metal blade on my oscillating tool to cut them. It only took a few seconds to get about halfway through the rod, then I snapped the excess off. 

If you plan to do this project and will have to make a lot of cuts, this inexpensive hacksaw is a worthwhile tool to have on hand. 

Once they're all installed, the rails aren't going anywhere! It is incredibly secure and will hold up well to the frames and boards I have on this skinny shelf:
DIY brass tipping rail on shelf

You could also use wood dowel rods for the rails, but they won't be quite as sturdy, especially if you have more than a food or so between the posts. 

We LOVE it! We had friends over this week and I got so many compliments on my cute DIY tipping rail. :)

It took a little work, but I saved more than $180 doing this on my own. The three rods were $12 and the wood pegs were $4:
ledge above sink with metal rail

If you get up realllll close, you can tell the "brass" posts are wood, but it would take some inspection. Unless you're an expert on brass gallery rails, I don't think anyone would think a thing about them being wood anyway. ;) 
faux brass gallery rail

Just a few more projects to finish up and share in here, and then I'll do the full tour of this space:
small ledge above backsplash

It was SO worth the time creating my own version of this gallery rail project! Now I'm thinking of where else I can add these around the house. I just love the little decorative detail.  

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  1. The railing and shelf add so much to the wall. Everything looks so nice. What a wonderful basement space.

  2. I love your determination to spend less but still create a beautiful project. You are so inspiring! I made the shelves for my Grandma brag wall and filled them with photos of my grand girls. Thank you!,

  3. Flippin' brilliant! That looks so good and it adds so much for so little cost. I also appreciate your detailed instructions and step by step pictures.


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