Monday, June 26, 2017

Our DIY Death Star Shelf Changes Colors! Come See!

Here's something fun John and I've been meaning to build for a while now:
A Death Star Funko Pop Shelf!

This wasn't actually for us - no WAY we have that kind of free wall space - but for our friend Steph, who is cuckoo for Funko Pops. She gets new Star Wars ones every month, and initially fell in love with this shelf from The Sew*er, The Caker, The Copycat Maker:

Isn't it gorgeous? That one requires soooo many cuts, though - super labor intensive - plus John and I really wanted to incorporate some lights for that extra wow factor.

So instead we decided on a simple silhouette with jagged sides, which we would then back light with color-changing LEDs. The whole thing took a day and a half to build and paint, and cost about $60. More than half that cost was for lights you can find cheaper online, though, so your cost should be closer to $45.

John's mounting system holds the shelf away from the wall a few inches, which allows room for the lighting hardware and that glorious glowy goodness. 

Sadly I don't have a template to share with you, since John made this up as he went along, but I can walk you through the build photos and show you how to make your own.


- (1) 4x8 sheet of 1/2 inch MDF, cut in half. (One half will be the Death Star silhouette, and the other will be the shelves.)
-  (1) 16-foot LED light strip with remote, like this one:

These are the same kind of lights we used in our steampunk circle shelves. They're only $15 on Amazon, but we were in a rush, so we paid $35 at the local electronics shop. (Boo.)

You'll also need:
- Wood glue & short wood screws
- Hot glue gun & hot glue (to attach the lights)
- Painters' Tape or masking tape
- Table saw 
- Jigsaw
- Router
- Primer & gray paint

Since we had to transport the unit in the car, John built ours in two pieces, with the seam behind the middle shelf. If you're building yours onsite, though, you can keep your circle in one piece.

So, start by drawing a 46 inch circle:

(You could go up to 48 inches, but our wood was a little banged on the edges.)

Use a compass or a small bowl to mark the smaller circle at the top left.

Next use the painters' tape to mark out your shelf spacing:

We made the top shelves a little farther apart, to accommodate larger Pops.

Next use more tape (preferable something an inch or two wide) to mark out the jagged edge:

 You can see the clip art we used as a reference, but we mostly just winged it.

Trace everything with a pencil, then remove the tape:

Now the awful part: go out in the 90 degree, mosquito-infested heat, and cut everything out with the jigsaw. While you're at it, cut the shelves, too. (No process pics here because I graciously allowed John to do all the hard stuff. :D)

Our shelves are 3 inch wide MDF strips, but be aware some of the extra wide specialty Pops (like Luke's land speeder) won't fit on 3 inches, so you may want to go wider.

Again, ours is in two pieces. You can see here how the middle shelf covers that seam:

Next route all the edges except the jagged side. If you don't have a router, hit the edges with a palm sander to round them a little. (This is technically optional, but it looks more polished this way.)

You could just use wood glue to attach the shelves (it's more than strong enough), but our wood was a little warped, so John had to use a few screws, too.

Once the glue's dry, spray on some primer and then apply a gray satin top coat:

 We used a small mohair roller to paint ours, but spray paint's another good option. Just watch out for drips on that jagged edge!

Once the painting is done, it's time to flip the unit over and install the lights. The lights have an adhesive backing, but you'll need that hot glue to help bend them into shape around the circle:

You can see John added extra pieces of wood under the hanger and on the bottom to give the unit more distance from the wall. The hanger itself is hard to describe, so here's a visual aid:

The bottom piece is not attached to the shelf unit, and gets screwed into the wall (into two studs.) The top piece IS attached to the shelf unit, and slides into place on the lower one. This system is super strong and secure, and makes hanging the whole unit a breeze. 

(A-ha! Apparently the hanger is called a French Cleat. Thanks, commenters!)

Even with harsh sunlight on it, the color LEDs look fantastic:

  And the remote lets you change them to all sorts of pretty colors:

Although the blue wall paint makes the yellow LEDs look bright green. Heh.

After dark is when the shelf REALLY shines, though:


How's that for a geeky night light, eh?

The remote lets you dim the lights, too, so they're less bright/overwhelming. Or there's a flashing option, if you want to throw a disco dance party. :D

We calculated our shelf can hold around 42 regular size Pop figures. Steph has 32 on there now, so she has a little room to grow.

Also, if our silhouette design is too simple for you, you could always paint in some panels and detailing on the Death Star - or paint it solid black, or pink, or whatever strikes your fancy. Make it your own! Then send me pictures!

Hope you guys enjoyed our latest build! Now I'm off to start sketching our next idea. Mwah. Ha. Haaa.


  1. Ooo, pretty! Think this concept would work for a TARDIS?

    1. I bet it would. Awesome idea!

    2. Absolutely - a TARDIS might even be easier, since there are less angles/cuts. If it were me, I'd put the shelves in each of the door panels. It'd give you less overall shelfage, but would look SUPER cool.

  2. Looks awesome! I can see this working in all different shapes!
    Also, I believe that kind of hanger is called a French Cleat.

  3. I actually really like the solid grey -- makes those figures really pop!

  4. Nice work. That mounting system is called a French Cleat, and is a great system.

  5. Nice! Simple but amazing :) Your friend is lucky.
    Also, I have never been a first commenter.
    -cries, thank you everyone.

  6. SO GOOD! thanks for sharing your crafty creations. xo

  7. Awesome job Jen & John!

  8. I really really like the silhouette idea. It is striking!

  9. Hi Tonks!!! Hey, nice work by your humans! :-D

  10. I think the LEDs on the back look like a horseshoe crab...don't be jellies...but this shelf is in my house...also, John and I used electrical tape to hold down the LED stripping while we hot glued

  11. Gorgeous! And I actually FAR prefer your silhouette style to the "inspiration". LOVE IT. :D

  12. You guys are soooo creative! Suggestions for a Harry Potter theme? I suppose a broom stick would be easiest, but wouldn't hold as much. Hogwarts would be too tricky.

    1. A crest of your house, the Knightbus, a lightning bolt, the Leaky Cauldron sign.... Obviously, I am a fan lol.

    2. A cauldron!

    3. A Diagon Alley inspired storefront?

    4. Golden Snitch? Sorting Hat?

    5. My first thought is a phoenix, rising from flames - and then of course you'd have to leave the lights on red and orange. Hmm... [starts eying wall space in the steampunk room]

  13. So amazing. I'm totally going to have to find a way to make something like that for the boys, they have too many figures and not enough shelf!

  14. I wish I could have shown you my husbot's face when I showed him the shelf. I think I know what our next project will be!.

    Also, it's unfair that the captcha asks me to prove I am not a bot. I always think 'But I am! I am a FoEbot' now.

  15. I prefer your plain grey one to the original - it was too busy and takes attention away from the figurines. And your 8-bit-like cuts on the side look really cool!

  16. What an enjoyable display for any SW fan. Thank you for the behind the scenes look at the french cleat. Looking forward to what other Epbot fans create and post on the FB page with this newest inspiration to get our creative juices going.

  17. Boy, you both can open up an ETSY shop and make money. You both always step up your game in each and every creative thing you do. Jeez..not a huge Star Wars fan but this is just so way cool; I'd want one. Godsmacked; really.

  18. Totally random and apropos of nothing, I'm a little jealous of the Dewback. I had no idea that was a Pop option. Totes adorbs!

  19. Husbot and I like yours better. We like that it has clean lines and focuses the attention on the figures.

  20. i really love the minimalist design here. Part of me though also likes the panels from the one shown. I could see a compromise being that instead of cutting all those pieces, simply painting a shade or two darker grey for the panels would work. Too bad I am so dang lazy...

  21. Hey, I've known your wood is a little warped for years! Hehe! This is usual. xoxoxox

  22. I think I just found my new father daughter project! Now to try to translate this to the Spiderman symbol since those are the pops my husbot collects.

  23. This is epic, I wonder if it can be expanded to hold a book collection?

  24. I love the idea of making this as smaller accent piece/nightlight. If I made the circle 24 inches instead of 46/48 inches would the 16 foot lightstrip be way too long for the smaller piece? Can the lightstrips be cut for smaller lengths?

    1. I'm pretty sure it CAN be trimmed (but double check with Google before you do), or there are also 8 foot light strips out there. I did a quick search on Amazon and only found ones more expensive than the 16 foot one we used, but I bet BangGood has some cheap options.

    2. Thanks Jen! Maybe I could fill in the middle with the extra strip and make it super bright!

  25. I think it would look extra fantastic with small strip lighting along the shelves to illuminate the figures on the shelves when the room lights are off.

    (Please note that is EXTRA fantastic, on top of its already established fantastic-ness.)

  26. All I see is something else to dust, but man, I love the idea! Alas, I'm allergic to housework and therefore dusty things make me sadface.

  27. Just wanted to give a shout out to the creator of this shelf! Thanks for the inspiration! I went ahead and copied your homework and made a few tweaks and made one for my wife's figurines. Just finished it up today and mounted it :)

  28. This is fantastic! What kind of screws did you use to hold the platforms? I know mdf is sometimes prone to split.

    1. I think John pre-drilled the holes, then used basic wood screws, nothing special. The pre-drilling prevents any splits.


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