A simple shelf for my mother-in-law's plants

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Project by Charlie Kilian posted 10-16-2017 04:45 AM 1237 views 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

A few weeks ago my mother-in-law asked my wife to help her build a shelf for her plants. They planned on picking up a sheet of common board from one of the big box stores, and using my circular saw, drill, and some metal corner braces to put a simple raised shelf together.

I would have felt bad if they’d walked out of my workshop with a bare shelf screwed together out of common board. With such a simple project, I thought it would be a shame if my MIL didn’t get something at least a little nicer. So I asked for the dimensions, and this is what I came up with. Instead of common board, I used red oak. And since they were originally willing to settle for so much less, it was a great project to try out a trio of new techniques.

First was a new wood filler technique. My original plan was to fit the long shelf into a dado on each of the sides. I decided it would look nicer if I used a stopped dado so you couldn’t see the slot from the front; then I decided to do the same thing on the back. So the dado became a mortise. The shelf had its corners cut out to fit into the ‘double stopped dado’ aka mortise. This worked pretty well, but after it was all glued up, two of the corners were left with a fairly noticeable gap. Nothing too terrible, but I figured this was a good time to try a wood filler technique I’d recently come across. I took a scrap of red oak left over from the project, and sanded it on my belt sander to produce a small pile of fine saw dust. Then I mixed it with blonde shellac. The Saws On Skates article that gave me the idea for the technique said to mix it until it could form a ball, but I found it worked a little better if it was a little wetter. I am very happy with how well this worked. It’s more forgiving than epoxy. The working time is easy to control by adding denatured alcohol and/or shellac as necessary. And the consistency can be tweaked by adding more saw dust. You can see the results in the far corner in picture 2, and also in the near corner in pictures 1 and 4.

Second, I used my plug cutters for the first time. In addition to glue, my mother-in-law specifically requested that it have screws for strength. I didn’t want to leave it with visible screws heads, so I cut plugs from the left over scraps and glued them in place over the screws. The face grain blends in well to hide the screw holes (picture 3). It’s a much tidier look than the end grain that a dowel would have shown.

Third, I finished it with Watco danish oil. This was my first time with this finish. I’ve been meaning to try it for a long time, but hadn’t yet found the right project for it. I have always liked how red oak looks when finished with danish oil, so it was an excellent time to try my hand at applying it. It’s just about the easiest thing you could hope for. It looked great after two applications.

The project, though simple, turned out really nice. It was nice enough, in fact, that I regret leaving the end grain exposed on top of the sides. If I were doing it again, I’d find a way to hide it.

Special thanks to my wife, Sarah, for helping with the finishing, and especially for doing the tedious and dirty work of collecting sawdust so we could try the wood filler technique. And, as always, for taking the beautiful pictures of my projects. You make me look good. :)

1 comment so far

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Jim Jakosh

26400 posts in 4260 days

#1 posted 10-17-2017 02:44 AM

Nice plant shelf!!


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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