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Blu,

You're not going to find a piece of wood 16 to 20" wide, except for plywood. Home Depot will cut down a sheet of plywood to whatever size you want, for free.

The problem with plywood is that you have an exposed edge, which is ugly and prone to chip out. At HD, you can buy laminate edging that you can literally iron onto the plywood to cover the edge,

Be sure to get a 3/4" thick, high grade sanded plywood. Pine is cheap, but hardwood such as birch or oak will be much nicer and will take paint or stain better, Even with pre-sanded plywood, you'll still need to sand it down to the final smooth finish.

If you just want to install a single shelf, you'll need some kind of bracket to attach it to the wall. Look around the HD website to see the various types of shelf brackets available to suit your tastes. Yes, the brackets should be screwed into the studs. How many brackets depends on how long the shelf is and how the studs are aligned where you want to install the shelf.
 
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