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Personal update

Posted by is9582 on March 30, 2014 with No Commentsas

Hello all,

I know I’ve been somewhat inconsistent posting articles as of late, but I’m unfortunately having back issues, similar to what I had in 2012. They are going to fix me up in the next week or two, so there is a decent chance I’ll have some periods of time where I may not have any articles posted. I’ll do my best, but please understand if there are some lapses in material.


Lee Laird

Add personal touch to floating shelves

Posted by is9582 on March 30, 2014 with No Commentsas , , , , , , ,
A few months ago my wife and I stopped to check out some things at The Container Store, and while there, saw something that looked very useful. I know, I know, that could easily categorize just about anything in that store. Well, the specific item we saw was a kit that attaches a shelf to a wall, with two screws, two long wire cables and connectors. The store had a number of different shelf materials hung throughout their store, and while a few seemed interesting, they really didn’t look like something we’d put in our home. 
We bought one of the kits with the aforementioned parts, as well as a ready-made shelf that looked like some curly maple, but as nice as it looked from a distance, my woodworking senses got the best of me. I had some Walnut in my shop that had been hanging around for quite a while, so I decided to measure their veneered shelf to get an idea how much I’d need. After this measurement, I took my stud-finder to my wall and found the distance between centers. Now I had my “real” requirements. 
The size I went with was approximately 26” L x 10” W x 3/4” thick. This last measurement turned out to be the most important, as the brackets that connect to the shelf, slide over the edge and there are no fasteners to keep them in place. As you might imagine, the thickness of your shelf is somewhat critical, as a thousandth of an inch too thick and its a no-go. If you go too thin, the brackets can slide around and it just doesn’t feel right, at least to me. They give a small range of thicknesses, but I enjoy making the pieces fit as if they were made for one another. 
For this shelf, I happened to have a piece of the Walnut that was just under 11” wide, while measuring 26” long. The board was a bit under 1” thick, so I needed to bring it down to a nice fit. (One thing to mention, is the fact that they also offer a second size that works with wood that is between 3/8” – 1/2” thick, in case your already have materials in that range, or if you just prefer a thinner look.). To get started on adjusting the thickness of my board, I started out by measuring the opening of the brackets in the kit, and set my marking gauge to that dimension. I decided which side of my board I’d use as my upward face, and then marked the needed depth from that side. I scored a line around all four sides, so I could know exactly when my plane reached the final depth. For this type of adjustment, I grabbed my Jack Plane with it’s cambered iron, and set the iron for a somewhat thick shaving. I certainly didn’t want to have my plane set for a .001” shaving, as it would take all day just to remove almost .250”. If you are already comfortable with your planing techniques, then you can just get after it, but if you still like some hard feedback, grab a pencil and mark across the board in a regular pattern. These pencil marks are what will provide a bit of guidance, so you can tell exactly what area your plane is working, and potentially sections you might have missed. It’s relatively quick to make the pencil marks, and none of it will remain when finished. 
When you get down close to your lines, either shift over to a smoother plane set for a light shaving, or just back off on the iron in the Jack so you don’t accidentally shoot past your mark or create some tear-out. When the whole surface is down to your line, make sure to test your brackets at the four points where they will fit on the board. Don’t ask me why I’m telling you this (wink, wink), but know that it could prevent you from going through the steps of applying a finish, only to find the thickness of the board was actually just slightly thick. Once you have the thickness confirmed, I knock off all of the sharp edges and corners, with my very sharp block plane, but you could also handle this with some sandpaper. The final surface for both faces can also come directly from the plane, or you can sand up through 320 grit or higher, depending on what you want. As the grain on this board was all over the place, and with that comes some tear-out, I followed up with some sandpaper. 
While Walnut can be very good looking, just as it is, I like applying an oil finish, to give it some depth and if you use one that has some solids in it, a bit of protection. I’m not trying to go for a gloss surface on this project, so this type of finish is both easy and good looking. I rag on a layer of finish, and then with a dry rag, wipe off the excess. After two coats, I let it dry completely. I follow that up with some paste wax and a little light buffing, after it has a chance to dry. That’s it and the depth of the color is dramatic against an off-white wall in the living room. 
The top shelf is the first I made, while I wanted to show how they look together.
After the first shelf was up for a month or so, I was requested to add a second shelf below the first. This time I didn’t have any boards that were both wide and long enough, so I had to glue up a panel. The main difference was in preparing the two mating edges, so they were square to the faces, straight and almost completely flat. You’re probably wondering why I wouldn’t make them exactly flat, and I have a good reason for this. When I get the two adjoining edges as flat as I can, I take a couple of passes with my jointer plain set for a light shaving. I start with the iron about 1/8” – 1/4” in from the end of the board, and take a shaving to the other end, again stopping about 1/8” – 1/4” from that end. After a couple of passes the plane stops cutting. At this point, I know for sure I have no bulge along the length of the two edges, which would cause problems. Now it is time to take a full through shaving, all the way from one end to the other. If the first pass is full width and a continuous shaving the full length, that is the last pass I take. If the first is not, I take a second, which is enough 99% of the time. When the two boards are held together, with finger pressure, you should see no light anywhere along the seam. Get any clamps you may need for your glue-up, and set them nearby. Apply some yellow or white glue to the edges, and after setting one board on the other, slide them back and forth along the edge, which tends to make the glue start to grab a little quicker. Using your clamps with light pressure, keep the boards aligned as best you can, so there is less wood to remove for a flat pane. From this point on, the same basics are applied until you have your finished shelf. 
This is a closer view of the shelf I made from two boards.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this project, and it might provide an idea how you can take store-bought and personalize it. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Lee Laird