Once Upon a Wall Shelf

I’ll save you from another moan about my lack of money as it certainly doesn’t have to halt your productivity, when it comes to working with wood. If it’s suitable for what you intend to make or build then, there are many options available if you’re wanting to get your hands on some ‘free’ wood. Some people prefer to break up old pallets, for example, which can be great for outdoor stuff. You might have to work a bit harder to carefully salvage what you can, de-nail it and then to clean it up a bit but, there are rewards to be gained in the long run. This time though, I’ve opted to recycle a piece of furniture I made back in the summer of 2005, when I was just beginning to discover the ‘workshop‘ that had been lurking around the back of our house for over a year…

Actually, this was the first project I completed in my own workshop (which I still occupy, to this day). How I wish I had some photos of the space back then… It really was such a contrast to today’s ‘shop… While it was dark, there was also lots of SPACE! I used to manage quite well with just a few decent power tools and a cheap and nasty table saw (no planer/thicknesser; all timber bought in as PAR). I often wonder it would be like to go back to those roots… Maybe I will, some day.

But, Power Tool Woodworking is for another post, a different day and hopefully not for another year or so just yet! Let’s get on and take a look at what I’ve been working on, now that I’m back in action…

This is the beginning of the bathroom box I recently talked about making, as a way of getting me back in to the neglected workshop and on to bigger and brighter things. I’d been using it as a makeshift ‘side table’ for my desk, until I decided to run it quickly through my bandsaw (no screws or nails to worry about) so that I could start afresh with this pile of stained wood – I think it was a tung oil finish, which will darken most lighter woods like this.

So, there was plenty of good wood in the three main shelves and, even the top and bottom pieces creating a ‘back’ [sorry, my mind’s failing me with its lack of terminology right now…] could still be ripped down and made parallel to give me some narrower stock to work with. At this point, I wasn’t sure of how or where I could work with the sides, where ends of the shelves were still glued in to the grooves, with about 8in of clean timber in between each.

Next, I ran each board through my planer/thicknesser (now, just a thicknesser) to skim 1mm off each face and to expose the prime softwood beneath. Most PAR timber machined from 1in thick stock will finish at around 20mm so, I was still able to hold on to a good 18mm of thickness before doing anything more. I usually prepare my own timber down to 19mm, because I’m a bit stubborn and pedantic like that… 😀 19mm (¾in) over 20mm, just as 38mm (1-½in) is preferable to a nice, even 40mm. Working close to imperial measurements, despite being brought up in the metric world! 🙂

A day earlier, I built myself an effective box joint jig (for cutting finger, box or comb joints) to use on my router table, following the .PDF file and SketchUp drawing available with the video footage on Steve Maskery’s excellent DVD, Workshop Essentials: Volume 10. I still can’t find the video I was looking for last time but, this jig really is quite ingenious. In my experience, the difficult part in making any finger joint jig comes when making the second cut through the fence – if you’ve made even a simple one before, you’ll know what I mean – as this must be a precise spacing away from the first cut; usually equal to the diameter of the cutter you’re using. Again, these isn’t easy when you find yourself living in a metric nation that still sells router cutters by the fractions of an inch… But, Steve’s jig allows for both ease of setting and fine adjustment whenever they’re required.

There’s even the facility for dust extraction and a guard to help keep your fingers away from the spinning bit.

…Not that the former worked particularly well with my current setup. Very little air seems to find its way from the Dust Bucket through my recently installed system of pipes and to the tool-end of the configuration… It works okay on my mitre saw, as the majority of the dust is sent up the chute anyway. It is something that requires investigation though – hopefully, this’ll spur me on to filming a short video of my workshop extraction setup. Lots of sweeping up was required, afterwards!

As I learned here, you want to be careful when making the final cut on set of components, as you are effectively ‘climb cutting‘, with the timber passing the cutter in the same direction as which it is rotating. I tried to use the jig going backwards but, that still seemed to result in a large amount of breakout on one shoulder, as you can hopefully see, above!

Still, the joints came out very neat and tidy otherwise and they slide together and interlock nicely. No gaps and they’re not so tight that all the glue escapes as you try to bring the parts together. I forgot to mention this earlier but, I end up using a 5/8in (15.9mm) twin-flute straight cutter. I don’t own an 18mm or anything close enough. Neither did I fancy using a ¾in (19mm) bit to create short, fat fingers (no-one likes those…). I quite like how much joints are slightly longer than the are in width and it looks pleasing to the eye, I think.

Before I could think about gluing up [I’ve missed a step on belt-sanding the faces, somewhere…], I need to rout some grooves to accept the base boards. These were cut using a ¼in cutter in my DW621K router. It’s a ¼in router but I bought an 8mm collet for it some time ago that allows me to use bits with a slightly thick shank, which results in considerably less chatter and high-pitch noise when you’re routing. It makes me wonder why we don’t just abolish ¼in cutters and accept 8mm as the new minimum standard! These grooves need to be stopped at each end (I didn’t fancy dropping on to the router table), or else they’ll be visible once the box is assembled.

To fit in to these grooves, I machined a good quantity of short boards, which would span the narrow width of the box (not its length). This meant I could I could cut each by carefully resawing those short sections in between the shelf grooves on the side panels I’d put to one side earlier:

I began by divining the width of each board in to two halves on the bandsaw. Then, over on my sliding mitre saw, I cut away the shelf ends and dowels, ready for more resawing. This time, I would divide them in to two equal thicknesses before feeding the very short lengths straight through my thicknesser – I’m very fortunate in that the feed rollers on my machine are very close together, meaning that I can safely plane short lengths like this. On many other thicknessers, you’ll find that the feed rollers are at least 300mm/12in apart, centre to centre, which is what dictates the minimum length that the machine will accept without firing it back at you. I could’ve left them longer and cut them down to length later but, I feared that each length would ‘snap’ at the weak points where the grooves were previously cut.

This is where I’d like to have a drum sander though… My boards each fit snugly in to the grooves I cut earlier but, they still have that ‘rippled’ machine finish and really require sanding before I could think about polishing them in any way. But, if I do that then, it’s likely to affect how well they currently fit in to these grooves… If I had a drum sander [oh, dear – I’ve already opened eBay in another tab!! :roll:], I could finely sand each board to finished thickness that would require very little effort. But then, pine is also very ‘gummy’ and resinous by nature, which would affect the lifespan of my abrasives.

There’s still some way to go on this and, although I may still be able to salvage some timber for the central divider and handle, I won’t have enough wood for the lid, which will most likely have to be resawn from some other softwood that I happen to have lying around. In the mean time though, I need to finish cleaning up my new surface planer and I’ll probably need to find a buyer for the table saw/router table station, before I can work on this one comfortably again.

There’s almost supposed to be more frosty weather on the way but, I won’t mention that!

Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Once Upon a Wall Shelf

  1. You could always look at making a drum sander….. Plenty have!
    The ‘drum’ is made up from lots of discs of MDF, which are easily made on the router table, or bandsaw with a circle cutting jig (I assume you have one of those- if not, that should be your next project, especially as it only takes a few minutes!)

    The discs are all glued together to create the drum. There are plans around for home made drum sanders. Probably at least one set by Wood Smith magazine.

    Very coincidental your project reclaiming timber from an old one. I have been writing on exactly the same topic last night, and it would have been up today if not for a technical hitch (getting a Keynote presentation off an iPad!)

    1. That is a good idea. However, all the plans I’ve seen have the drum part sorted and, even extraction but, I’ve never seen one that also incorporates a power feed of some kind.

      This reminds me that I was looking at building an edge sander before Christmas… Hopefully, I’ll be able to do one or the other, later on this year.

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