Bookshelf Woodworking

Where to begin – part 2

I shall continue with my first big, indoor project.

In Part 1 I had decided to build a shelf unit against a wall in our end-room, next to a nice new wood stove. by the end of Part 1 I had produced a plan for the unit, bought the wood, cut slots for the biscuit joints, and applied a couple of coats of wood dye. Now, I can assemble.

Biscuit joints are basically formed by taking an oval of wood (the biscuit) and gluing and sandwiching it into a pair of grooves cut in the two bits of wood being joined. I put two biscuit joints into each pair of planks to be connected, and held the wood together using sash clamps until the glue had set. I had 4 sash clamps in all, and so could work on two joints at a time. It was a long slow process watching various L-shapes and T-shapes appear, then seeing these come together as boxes, and then joined boxes, and finally a completed structure. The bigger it all got, the heavier the unit became and the harder it was to complete each joint. But eventually it was all complete and lying face down on the floor in front of the wall.

Now the problem was, how to fix it to the wall? The unit was quite strong, structurally, but not strong enough to take the weight of all the books. My plan was to use hidden shelf supports. I found some pins that were about 25cm long, and threaded to be secured into brick. They would stick out of the wall by about 15cm, and had two rubber collars on to fit a 1cm diameter hole. Drilling deep holes into the shelves would then allow the unit to be pushed onto the pins and supported with the pins hidden by the wood.

This bit would be tricky, so again, much deliberation was needed to make sure each pin was in the right place in the wall. The rubber collars were slightly offset from the centre of the pin, and could be rotated around. This allowed for a few millimetres of error to be corrected as the unit was mounted – not much leeway but it helped. The collars also meant that the pins were not a constant diameter all the way down. This was very important and useful for the mounting, as it meant I did not have to keep the unit exactly parallel to the wall as it was pushed onto the pins. When the pins were half-way into the holes, their collars held the wood tight but the pins could sit at slight angles and could tolerate the unit being twisted a little as it was mounted.

Eventually, with much pushing, shoving and walloping with a rubber mallet, the unit was it place. I left it so that the backs of the selves sat about 6 mm away from the wall, so there was room to hide wires for the stereo, and for lamps and so forth (and hopefully would make repainting the wall a little easier when it’s time to re-decorate.)

A final strip of wood gave me a plinth below the bottom shelf. I made a small drawer behind a third of this plinth, which now holds the sorts of things that get forgotten about until someone says “have you looked in the drawer?…”

Anyway, it’s still standing, and very much a part of the room now. It has plants and pottery tangled up with the books, and, surprisingly, we seem to always know which shelf a particular book is on when we need it, which suggests that we look at it and use it regularly. I went on to build another, smaller shelf unit to go on the other side of the wood stove, but I’ll save that for later, to give me something else to write about.



By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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