rustic bookshelf / end table set

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Project by jamsomito posted 05-16-2018 07:31 PM 1066 views 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project can be described by 4 words: happy wife, happy life :) This set of shelves had requirements. Other than obvious size requirements dictated by our home layout, they “needed” to have side x-bracing, backs on the two shelves, and look gray and/or weathered. I wouldn’t have chosen any of these criteria, but happy to have a project, away I went.

Everything is red oak.

Originally I wanted to make the shelves and tops solid wood, but I found a nice piece of 3/4 oak veneered ply for $20 in the scratch and dent bin with nothing wrong with it besides some scuffs on the back side and decided to save the money (and the boards) for the next project, so shelves became ply. I made a tongue-and-groove joint for the trim on the tops.

This was my first attempt at dowel joinery and I have to say while the journey was rocky (I cheaped out on a jig), I’m impressed with the strength and rigidity of the final pieces. If you want to read more about my jig and issues with it, see my review of the milescraft jointmate here:

These shelves hide a dirty little secret. Instead of a proper rabbet or some other kind of joinery for the shelves, I just cut up some strips of old plywood I had laying around and screwed about 3000 screws into the rails and bottom side of the shelves. I cut the shelves to a perfect fit, so they’re in there nice and snug and it squared everything up and made them nice and sturdy.

I did, however, make a rabbet for the backing, flush to the rear rails. The back was just 1/4” oak ply. I glued this on to the sides and the rear rails, and secured with some small brad nails to dry.

Done, right? Wrong. Still had to do the X’s. I couldn’t figure out a way to do this repeatably on either the miter saw or the table saw, so I resorted to holding them in place, marking, and cutting by hand. I just used a hand saw and chisel for the ends and the half-laps in the middle. I made things harder on myself by having the midpoint of the X’s go to the corners instead of an edge, so I had to cut two sides to the ends of each piece. This added some time for sure. I just used some glue and brad nails to secure the ends to the corners, and snuck a small trim screw in one piece to the middle shelf before gluing the mating x-brace into place.


For finish, I stained with Weathered Gray by Varathane, their fast-dry stuff, then their Sunbleached color on top as kind of a white wash. It had a big learning curve. I was able to get a good cover on the 3rd piece (saved biggest for last), but I’m not happy with the first two because it got real splotchy on me. You can read my struggles with this stuff here:

After staining, I did 4 coats of wipe-on poly satin. I like the finish, just don’t like the color. But the wife loves it! So I guess that means I’m ok with it too.

Finally brought everything in and loaded them up and the kids pulled everything off in a few minutes. It’s gonna be a great addition :)

4 comments so far

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6069 posts in 3212 days

#1 posted 05-16-2018 10:55 PM

Some nice work you built. If the wife likes it, it is a great color. LOL

As for your joinery did you try a miter sled for the Tablesaw? One of many ways to handle the issue. Bonus on the jig is you can make perfect picture frames anytime so it is not a one and done jig.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View jamsomito's profile


556 posts in 1229 days

#2 posted 05-16-2018 11:15 PM

Are you talking about the mitered trim on the top panel? I just used my miter gauge on the table saw,
and they came out pretty good for my standards. But I really want to build a sled. A project for another day.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3669 days

#3 posted 05-17-2018 06:59 PM

These are all very nice pieces. Congratulations

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View WattWick's profile


3 posts in 804 days

#4 posted 05-30-2018 08:00 PM

These came out great! Nice job on the cross sections as well. My wife is also a big fan of grey so I completely understand “happy wife, happy life”. I did a wire spool coffee table build using a similar Weathered Gray and she loved it.

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