Bookshelf Woodworking

Where to begin – part 3

No job is ever finished.

I began this blog with the story of how I created a set of bookshelves to go in our end room. The shelves filled up a third of a wall, between a new wood stove and the back door. I didn’t think it would be wise building anything around or above the stove itself, but that left the other third of the wall free for new things. I imagined a similar bookshelf to fill up the space.

Thanks to a somewhat random eBay purchase by a friend, our son took up playing the drums. His drum kit now fills the lower part of this area, so a new shelf unit on this side would need to be mounted high to keep clear of the kit. No matter, PowerPoint was to hand.

This shelf unit would be built to hold music and music-related books. We are all music fans in the house, and all play instruments (or pretend to at least.) So the shelves should be sized to fit the material we’ve accumulated. I anticipated that we would collect a few bits of sheet music, that probably couldn’t be filed away that easily so I designed a set of low shelves specifically to hold loose A4 sheets. These would not be heavy, so I decided to use some thin hard-board for these, and to allow them to be adjustable to grow with the sheet music collection that would build up.

The construction followed the random design, and same assembly pattern as for the main bookshelves, described in earlier blog posts. If you missed those posts and you’re interested, you can catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 through these links.

As before, the first step to the build was to order the wood. The unit would be built from Poplar, stained to look a bit more like oak. PowerPoint had given me the number of pieces and the lengths and widths of each. My friendly local woodstore duly obliged.

These planks were then labelled, and grooves cut to make up the biscuit joints. At this time, I drilled holes at regular intervals up the sides that would support the adjustable shelves (f, g and j in the figure above.) These would accommodate the shelf supports.

Then the pieces were stained to match the other bookshelf.

And so, on to assembly. I was using biscuit joints again, so there would be lots of gluing and sash-clamping, and various L-shapes, T-Shapes and boxes began to appear.

One thing about biscuit joints; in theory, with the wood neatly machine cut to nice exact edges, the pieces should assemble nice and square. However, the squareness of the joint does depend a lot on how carefully the pieces are clamped together. Clamps exert pressure at a point, and if that point is not on the centre line of the join, the pieces can get slightly twisted, and set a few degrees off a right-angle. A good-sized set square helped a lot to ensure the pieces were square when clamped together.

As before, I used the same hidden shelf supports as for the bigger shelf unit (the ones that worked, not the type that failed when building the Maths Shelves for my son.) After much drilling I had a pattern of pins sticking out of the wall and a corresponding pattern of holes in the wood.

The unit could now be mounted.

Now I needed to make the adjustable shelves. As mentioned, these would be made of hardboard which is essentially lots of thin sheets of wood laminate bonded together with each sheet rotated 90 degrees from the next. This crossed-grain gives stability to the board, reducing the likelihood of warping and greatly increasing its strength. The thinness of the laminates presents a small problem though, which is the tendency of the bottom layers to splinter when it is cut. This can result in untidy and splintery edges. I learned a neat technique for keeping edges sharp though; clamp a second, scrap piece of hardboard along the underside of the piece and saw through both. A saw blade basically cuts wood by pushing sharp points into it to split the wood fibres. However, when cutting board, the bottom layer of the laminate has nothing to support it, nothing to push back against the sharp point. So the saw is as likely to bend this layer as to cut it cleanly, and the bent laminate could snap at some other point rather than along the line you want. A bit of scrap secured underneath the piece that you want will provide some push-back for the bottom laminate, preventing it from bending and allowing the saw to cut it right on the line.

So now I have my adjustable shelves. A coat of wood dye to get them to match the unit, and we’re ready to start filling it up with music books.

We need more music book shelves already…

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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