Open Shelf - from scraps

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Project by MJCD posted 05-22-2022 04:55 PM 544 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Open Shelf – Scrap Project

We all need Scrap projects… hopefully, ones that provide function and have some form. The difficulty in working with scraps is that they come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s never a confident sense that you have enough of the right species, in the necessary lengths and widths, to get from here to there.

I post this for the purpose of adding another consideration to your Shop Projects Options.

General: The Open Shelf
My granddaughter needs a shelf for clothing bins; to this end, something open and bulletproof. I chose remnant Cherry – for posts and shelf trim, plywood for the shelf, and Purple Heart for inlay material. The dimensions are 6’ tall, 4’ wide; 5 shelves and 6 posts. The finish is Zinnser SealCoat (2 coats) and Deft Interior Urethane (2 coats) – I’m progressively less satisfied with the SealCoat, as anything short of spraying yields unsmooth surfaces – my sense is that the drying time is too short to allow the coats to sit-down and level-out.

From a design perspective:
Posts: 6‘ x 2” (nominal) square; these are inset into the shelves leaving about 5/8” shelf overhang (see picture). Each of the 4 sides has a ¼” Purple Heart inlay. Each side has the edges relieved, though a tight quarter-round would work. The design calls for the shelves to rest onto Pins (via a matching mortise) emanating from the opposite sides of the Posts. I used Festool Dominos (for pins), and the Domino tool to cut the accepting mortises. The Pins are self-made at about 40mm long.

My wife designated the shelf spacing, and this led to the layout mark-up for the Domino mortises. The exact location of the Post and Shelf mortises dictate the resulting Post setback.

Shelves: the shelves are 48” wide, 16” deep, and approximately 1.25” thick. I used remnant ½” plywood, which is inset into a Cherry perimeter frame – an interior rabbit (forming a trough) is then milled. The plywood is both pin-nailed and glued into the trough). I created a 1:1 template for the 6 Post cut-outs – this is important, as the cut-outs need to be exactly aligned (stacked), for each of the 6 Posts. The template guide was cut to accept a standard Porter Cable guide bushing. After making the template, I marked the cut-out locations, removed most of the waste with a jigsaw; then used the router template guide to make precise, smooth cuts.

The glue-up is a bit of an event: The initial phase of the glue-up has too many moving parts for one person to manage – a second person is very helpful for about 15 minutes of assistance. Essentially, the Posts need to be held upright while the Shelves are clam-shelled onto the Posts’ protruding Pins. As the final shelf is lowered onto its matching Pins, it is important to use reference squares (Posts to Shelves) to ensure the build dries square and level. I used 4 squares: two front to back, 2 side-to-side.

The Festool domino allows for precise repeatable mortises – a requirement for this project. For those who are more adept at routers and router tables, I’m sure you can develop a repeatable process.

This shelf is an easy build, and can transform shop scraps into something quiet functional. I’m disappointed in the plywood choice, though. The wood has not held-up well in the shop environment – I’ve had it for a long time, as my work is almost exclusively hardwoods – there is a lesson here, for me.

I used Titebond Liquid Hide Glue rather than the standard T3, due to the longer open time – this worked as planned.

Again, I post this for all of us who religiously save our cut-offs.

Every one, Do Take Care… and Take it easy on others.

6 comments so far

View BB1's profile


3305 posts in 2340 days

#1 posted 05-22-2022 05:29 PM

Great project! Looks very sturdy and a neat looking design. Appreciate your comment that the glueup was “a bit of an event” as that seems to be true of all my projects, even the simple ones!!

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

10487 posts in 2074 days

#2 posted 05-22-2022 06:22 PM

That’s a good-looking shelf for formerly being a pile of scraps. As for SealCoat, it’s shellac, which means all of the benefits and shortcomings of shellac. Good is that it’ll stick to anything, and it can serve as a primer for any other finish. But yeah, it dries fast, and Zinnser mixes it thicker than I like my shellac mixed. I use a 1.25 pound cut (2 oz of flakes per 22 oz salsa jar) for all my normal uses, and that’s thin enough that I can brush it on, and if I use even a little care, I can get a pretty good leveling. And if not, it’s thin enough that the next coat will level out the previous coat. But it builds pretty slowly mixing it that thin. And a lot of people don’t like mixing their own shellac from flakes.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View BurlyBob's profile


10769 posts in 3757 days

#3 posted 05-22-2022 06:51 PM

That’s really nice.

View MJCD's profile


628 posts in 3863 days

#4 posted 05-22-2022 11:56 PM

Thanks for the follow-up…

My shop temperature ranges from damn cold to damn hot; my sealer performance seems to be more predicated on the time of year, rather than the quality of the sealer and my diligence in application.

I had better success with the Deft Sealing Lacquer..,. though, the VOCs and smell will drive you out of the shop. I do stay clear of waterborne sealers and first-coats, as this simply nullifies my surface prep (raising the grain). I need a better solution – I’m concerned that if I spray the Zinnser it will dry in the gun.

View swirt's profile


7779 posts in 4463 days

#5 posted 05-25-2022 01:59 AM

Very impressive results from “scrap”. It came out great.

-- Galootish log blog,

View MJCD's profile


628 posts in 3863 days

#6 posted 05-26-2022 01:37 AM

Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

One downside to scraps work is that many of the pieces are substandard – large, perhaps structurally unsound, knots; grain variations that you’ve cut around when looking for the good wood – usually, this is the stuff of Christmas Firewood.
I make my own Domino Biscuits, so I usually keep any long cut-off piece.

With a bit of care and better wood, this could be made into a Fine furniture piece. What I’ll offer is that the plywood be traded-out for a supported hardwood panel (perhaps at 3/8” thickness); tolerances at the Posts/Shelves be tuned-in, and the inlay size be reduced (from a 1/4” to 3/16th of 1/8th).

From a processing perspective, the project relies on identlcal components (the Posts, Shelves, and Domino placement) – so it does present its challenges to the maker.

Everyone, Do Take Care

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