Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Shelf Shall Rise

The bookshelf building project has been stretching into quite the major undertaking -- as shown by the fact that my last post (on how to cut even shelves) was fully two months ago. Some of this has simply been lack of time to work on the project, but it also took a good 14+ hours of work to get all the shelvs and the uprights through three rounds of sanding, and thus ready to take a good smooth finish

I took Friday off work to put some major work in on the project: because the books are piling up on the floor and MrsDarwin has told me I can't buy any more until I've finished the shelf.

The shelves were sanded and ready to go, so the next step was to cut the uprights even, which I did with the helps of a square, clamps and the circular saw. The uprights stand 7' 1" high. On the bottom, I cut out a space for it to nestle up against a baseboard, and also a two inch curve in the middle, so it stands on 2.5-inch-wide legs with the baseboard cut-out in the back.

I'd borrowed a router from a friend at work so I cut grooves for the shelves to rest in, about 1/8in deep. I was seriously worried about cutting them at different points on the two uprights, so I clamped them next to each other on my workbench and routed them both at once. The tricky part at this point is getting the shelves spaced right. You have to account for a two inch clearance on the router from the guiding edge to the edge of the bit, and then the bit is cutting a 3/4in groove. As a result, the shelves are not exactly the heights I'd meant. The first two came out a perfect 12in, but the next two came out to 10 3/4 instead of 11, and one that was meant to be 10in came out as 9 1/4 and so on. Still, they look moderately even, and books fit on them, which is the important thing.

Once I had my grooves cut, I drilled three nail holes down the center of each groove. The grooves thus serve three functions: provide extra support to the shelf, provide a channel for the wood glue, ensure exact placement of the nails so that they always go exactly into the center of the shelf.

That's where things stood as of Saturday evening. Sunday, we cleared all the furniture out of the dining room after church and started assembly. I'd thought a lot about how best to tackle assembling the shelf, and I ended up deciding that it was best to assemble it ladder-fashion, starting in the middle and working out. In the picture on the left, you can see it with three shelves in.

The tricky thing with assembly is that there's no good way to clamp a 42" wide bookshelf, so the we'd put glue in both grooves, set the shelf, and then drive the nails in order to hold the shelf in place tightly for the glue to set.

Since I'm dealing with real wood rather than ply here, and since the African Mahogany in particular tends to re-warp a little bit after being milled, some of the boards had a slightly curvature (either lateral or horizontal) that we had to deal with. The biggest issue was with the top couple shelves, by which point we set it up on it's side and had MrsDarwin put all the weight she could on the upright in order to hold in flat and tight while I nailed it down.

On the right you and see the shelf as we left it last night. The top is clamped down against its supports while it dries. Later this week we'll be putting the back on it and routing a curved edge along the top shelf and the outside edges. Last of all comes finishing, which after several experiments looks like it will be done with lacquer. So we're probably about a week out from having a finished shelf.


Anonymous said...

They're looking good....maybe when you finish with those, you could start working on an ark....sounds like you guys have been getting way too much rain.
A blessed week to all of you...

Jim Janknegt said...

There is a good way to clamp long shelves. It is called a pipe clamp. You buy the clamps which come in pairs and then buy a pipe as long as you want and attach the two clamps to the pipe. I use them to build big stretcher bars for canvas painting. They work really great and aren't too expensive.