Sometimes, the ideas come from finding a particular piece of wood.
In the last blog post I talked about how I built a small cabinet to hold shoes (books). I needed some boards that would be quite wide, stable, but not too expensive. I found that pine furniture board did the trick. Alongside this, the DIY Superstore also stocked similar boards in oak. For some reason the name was changed to Hobby Board, but the effect was the same – in some ways these were better because the board was already pre-oiled and ready to use right away. I figured there would be a few things I could make from this.
We needed a new bookshelf (we always need bookshelves). There was space for one in the hall, below the window. The oak hobby board looked very much like the parquet flooring, and would fit nicely with it. Meanwhile, at the other end of the hall, in the stairwell, there was a large expanse of wall that we kept saying should have a mirror on it, though we had never found one the right size or style. The hobby board suggested I might be able to make one myself.
Tackling the shelves first. I needed a plan and it was time for some maths. Hobby board comes in two widths; 20cm and 30cm, and a choice of lengths from 85cm, 115cm and 175cm. The windowsill is about 120cm wide, so I could make the shelves out of 115cm boards with minimal to no wastage.
Now for a bit of thought. The shelves don’t need to be that deep to hold the books, so 20cm width would be just right. However, I wanted the top to overhang the sides by a bit. The top would need to come from a wider board. As it happened, I also wanted a plinth across the bottom of the unit, below the lower shelf. I would need an additional long thin strip. How about if I bought a 30cm wide board for the top, and cut down its length to make two pieces, 21cm wide and 9cm wide? Perfect.
The shelves would need to be shortened a little, to allow a 1cm overhang at either end and to allow for the thickness of the wood sides, so they would be cut to about 109cm long, which would be fairly straight forward.
The windowsill is about 80cm above the ground, so if I made the shelves stand at around 70cm they would fit nicely underneath. So I chose 85cm boards for the sides, and cut them to fit appropriately. The plinth plus the thickness of the wood in the shelves gave me about 60cm height for books to fit in, so I could make two shelves each with about 30cm of book-height. Books are about 18 to 25cm tall (I know, I’ve just measured some!) and so this height would be fine for the majority.
Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph the shelves as they were being cut and assembled. Sorry about that, I didn’t think I’d be waffling on about them a few years down the line. You’ll just have to imagine the fun I had trying to keep a straight line with a jigsaw down the length of the top shelf. I got away with it though, which was a relief as I was to depend on the same technique for the mirror.
The shelves were to be assembled and fixed with cam locks. I was well practiced with fitting these by this time, and they’re sturdy. I was still a little concerned about them being able to withstand a shifting weight without being skewed, however. I thought about adding a panel to the back to provide some additional rigidity, but decided not to here – in part because they were going up against a dark wall and I didn’t need the extra fill-in, and in part because I was trying to build them quite quickly and didn’t want to get the router out to dig recesses for the back board. Lazy, I know. So, I found some Flange Brackets to screw between the undersides of the shelves and the sides of the unit. These place a small triangular brace of metal across the corners underneath the shelves and give the additional rigidity.
And that was pretty much it. I finished these shelves over one weekend. My wife filled them with books even more quickly. I need to build another set. I will always need to build more bookshelves.
Now for the mirror. We had space at the bottom of the stairs for a wide, full-length mirror. This ought to have a substantial frame to give it a proper sense of scale, and to me the hobby board looked ideal. Having just had practice at cutting down the length of a board while building the shelves, I had settled on a design that took two 20cm wide boards and cut them down the middles to make two sides, and a top and bottom, each about 9-10cm wide. I had room to use the longest, 175cm board for the sides, and could use an 85cm board cut to about 70cm to make the ends.
From my experience of cutting the top and plinth of the bookshelf, I knew I would not be able to make a cut that was 100% clean, and this time I wouldn’t be able to hide uneven edges against the wall and under the bottom shelf – this time the edges would be in view and would be looked at often (which is kind of the point of a mirror I suppose.) I would need to plane and sand the sawn edges a little to get them properly straight and true. So, I decided to make the frame 9cm wide. It would mean two cuts down the length of each board, but would give me room to manoeuvre for those edges.
This time I would need to use the router. The mirror glass would be placed in the back of the frame in a recess that would let the frame sit flat. I decided to make two stepped recesses in the backs of the pieces, the second would hold a panel board over the back of the mirror glass, sandwiching the glass into the frame. I could them pin this panel board to the frame to hold the glass in place without having to put any pins near the glass itself.
Routing the sides would be easy as I could make the recesses run the whole length of the wood. Routing the top and bottom would be a little more tricky, as I didn’t want the groove to be visible on the outside edge of the frame. I would need to stop cutting the recesses short of the ends of each board. Then I would need to do something about the curves that would result, since the router has to cut a rounded end in its path. I took a chisel to the round ends and squared them off so that they would not affect the glass or the back panel.
Again, sorry for the lack of pictures of this construction. Next time…
I assembled the mirror frame using Biscuit Joints. These need clamping, which was not a trivial task as the frame was almost 2 metres long. Fortunately I have a couple of Clamp Head Sets, which are basically the important bits of a sash clamp separated off and designed to fit on a strip of wood. Find a long wooden batten, drill a couple of holes in it and you have a sash clamp of whatever length you need.
A local hardware store supplies mirror glass cut to fit any size. So, with a quick trip to town the mirror was complete. I am happy to be the owner of a VW Campervan, so transporting a huge mirror was made quite straight forward by putting the bed down. I attached the mirror to the wall using brackets that screw into the back of the frame and stick out at the sides to allow wall screws to fit. These look quite acceptable and have proven sturdy enough.
I’m sure I will get the chance to use Hobby Board again sometime. It’s quite cheap (especially compared to an oak plank), easy to cut, sturdy, doesn’t warp, and looks quite presentable with little effort. It’ll do.