Cookbook Shelf Units #8: Biscuits, shelves, prefinishing, final assembly, HOORAY!

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Blog entry by Greg Guarino posted 12-22-2014 03:49 AM 1781 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Sanding Lots and Lots of Small Parts: My Solution Part 8 of Cookbook Shelf Units series no next part

I’m finally finished, but I’ve fallen behind in the blog description.

Biscuits for the uprights:
Each upright “leg” consists of a 1×3 and a 1×2 joined at a right angle with a small shadow line. Biscuits seemed like the right method:
Cutting the Biscuit Slots

Biscuit Slots

Then I did a dry fit:
Dry Fit: The Frame Dry Fit: The Frame

Everything went together well enough, so I decided to glue up the “ladder” sides. Although I tend to prefinish everything before gluing, I decided it would be too time-consuming to prefinish the 48 parts that make up the four ladders. This turned out to be a mistake. Using gel stain in all the inside corners was very difficult.

Gluing up the "ladder" sides


The chrome rod I used to spread the glue around the hole was actually intended to hold “for sale” or “vote for Jenkins” signs on suburban lawns.

I used wedges and small blocks (screwed into a sacrificial work surface) instead of clamps to hold the parts together while the glue set. First I set up two straight edges at a right angle to keep the ladders square.
Ladder Glue-up

Next I masked off the joint areas in preparation for finishing the parts.
Masking the Joint Surfaces Before Prefinishing

Each of these units will sit in a corner, so only two sides will be easily seen. I spent some time selecting the faces I liked best for the fronts and visible side. Then I dry fit the front and back frames:

Test-fitting the front and back frames Test-fitting the front and back frames

As an aside, I find myself reaching for handscrews more and more often – to be used as a sort of portable vise. After numbering all the parts, I sanded the joints flush with a ROS.
Sanding the joints flush

Making the shelves

I found some “quarter sawn” plywood on Ebay. I attached solid edges to the fronts and back of each:
Adding solid wood edges to the shelves

... and trimmed them flush, and further trimmed them down in thickness with a router:

That last bit may seem strange, but I don’t have a planer, and hadn’t found any stock thinner than 1/4”. Having said that, if I had to do again, I’d have cut the shelves a little narrower and left the solid edges 1/4” thick. After seeing it, I think I like the look.

One more dry fit, with the shelves:
Trial assembly with shelves Dry fit with shelves

Making the tops
I don’t have a table saw, and I’ve had less than inspiring results with miters on my miter saw in the past. I decided to set the saw up as accurately as I could (with squares, drafting triangles and a Wixie box), and then build a mitering jig. The one shown here was the first iteration. I rebuilt it better, and added two more toggle clamps, but this gives the basic idea. Perfection? No. But better than I’ve ever done.

Mitering the Edge Pieces for the Tops

I cut the biscuit slots and glued up the tops:
Gluing up the first top

Gluing up the first top

Gluing up the first top

First I needed to set up the shop. All of the frame pieces will potentially be visible on both sides, so I needed a way to hang them all to dry without touching anything.

The ladders hung on hooks:
Staining: Setting up the shop

The front and back stiles hung from (temporary) dowels:

And I built a rack with finish nails spaced at intervals which went into the dowel holes on the uprights. This kept them suspended slightly off the bench and a half inch apart:
Staining: A rack to hold the uprights

The shelves sat on, well, shelves. But temporary ones. I attached shelf standards to the uprights of my steel tool shelving. I put shelf brackets in them when I need finishing racks.

I used General Finishes “Candelite” stain:


And then three coats of General Finishes Gel Varnish, followed by some light buffing:
Buffing the Finish

Masked Joint Areas

There are pieces of quarter round molding to hold the shelves in place, but I decided to use pocket screws as well. I cleaned up the “hanging chads” around the pocket holes with a rotary drum sanding bit. As can be seen, I did not stain the bottoms of the shelves. No one over 4 years old should ever see those surfaces. :)
Drilling the Pocket Holes for the Shelves
Cleaning up the Pocket Holes

After a long mental debate, I decided to glue the front and back uprights to each ladder first, then do the rest of the assembly:

Glue-Up Glue-Up

As I had to do one side first, then the other, I used multiple small clamps to begin with:

For convenience, I stood the whole assembly on its side, held up by larger handscrews:

... and glued on the second side:

I removed the handscrews and laid the unit on a flat surface to check for any twisting. Then I flipped it over to begin removing the squeeze-out from the inside corners:

Then I removed (most of) the small clamps and replaced them with longer ones that spanned the whole width of the assembly. This was to free up the many small clamps for use on the next assembly.

I’m afraid that I found the final glue-up too fraught with anxiety to take photos. :) Maybe on the second unit.

I fastened the shelves with pocket screws, holding them in with clamps (handscrews, natcherly) so the screws didn’t dislodge the positioning as they went in.

Then I fastened the top, again with pocket screws. I used small combination squares to help get the overhang even all the way around:
Fastening the Top

And then … quick as you can say “six months in the making” ... I carried the first unit to its new home:
One Unit Complete!
One Unit Complete!

One more assembly to go!


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