Redwood (mostly) bookcases

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Project by ferstler posted 08-11-2012 08:38 PM 2023 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Normally, I do not do much large-scale woodworking in the summertime.

I live in north Florida, and my shop is small and so I do a lot of work out on an adjacent work deck, and so the heat and humidity (and sometimes quick-growing summertime showers) can put a damper on projects. I can do work in the air-conditioned shop, and that is what I partially did with the bookcases that I decided to take a chance and build during the hot, humid season. There were times when I was wondering if I had made the right timing choice.

A retired professor friend of mine is ending his hobby with model trains, and so he is selling them off and also selling off hundreds of feet of redwood display shelving that he put up in 1980. I purchased 260 feet, and probably will purchase more down the line, as I come up with the available storage space. He still has about 600 feet of this now rare wood.

Anyway, the tops and bottoms of the bookcases are double thick, with the visible surfaces .75-inch redwood, with the layer underneath being mdf. Edge-trim moldings are redwood also; 0.75 inches thick. The sides are double-thick (1.5 inches) mdf, and the shelves are 0.75 inch mdf. The redwood was given a fast stain job with Minwax red oak (fast, because waiting too long for the stain to soak in makes the stuff turn almost black), and the top clearcoat was Minwax spray-on satin lacquer. In most of my past projects (some of which are related on this site) I used Minwax poly varnish, but that stuff dries slow, and I appreciate the speed with which lacquer dries and can be recoated. The visible results are about the same, and the decreased durability of the lacquer (compared to poly) is no big deal with bookcases.

The side panels and shelves were given three coats of Rustoleum dark walnut satin spray, with two more coats of Rustoleum gloss clear coat. (Home Depot does not carry the dark walnut in glossy.) The result was pretty good, although it is a job to get the edges of mdf sanded decently smooth. The front edges of the sides were covered with beveled redwood trim strips. The style of the bookcases matches that of an audio equipment cabinet I built for the same room a while back, which was also reported about on this site. For the cabinet, however, I used cedar instead of redwood, which looks surprisingly similar once stained.

The side panels of the bookcases have their outer layer solid mdf, with the inner second layer done in sections that left grooves for the mdf shelves to fit into. The shelves are held in place by Kreg pocket screws and PL construction adhesive. The tops are held in place by Kreg screws and PL adhesive, and the bottoms are held in place with conventional screws from below, also with PL adhesive. Bottom standoff boards, doubled at 1.5-inches thick, and somewhat smaller in width and depth than the redwood bottoms, are edge painted in black and affixed to the bottoms of the units to allow the redwood bottoms to “float” above the floor.

I calculate that the bookcases (the tall ones are 48 inches high, 44 wide; and the middle one is 60 inches wide and 36 high) weigh in at 130 pounds each. Because of this, I did not assemble them out in my shop, but instead brought the individual, cut and finished (and properly sized) boards into my AV room and did the final assembly work there – just like a kit. The shop lacks the space for assembly, anyway, and if I got some “volunteers” to help schlep them to the house they would probaby get dinged up. The backs of each unit are 18-inch masonite sheets, painted dark walnut, and brad-nailed and glued not only to the tops, bottoms, and sides, but also to each shelf. Even without the back panels the units were absolutely rigid, but with the panels in place they are bulletproof.

The TV on top of the middle one is a 56 incher (for a size reference) and those tall things in front of the bookcases are speaker systems that I built (and reported about on this site) a while back. Those are finished in pine, and a future project will involving pulling the components out of them and giving them a thick redwood covering job to get them to match the style of the bookcases.

Note that the left and right ends of the bookshelf array on that wall (the corners) are empty. I am currently building tall, cylinder-style subwoofers to fit into those areas. (I built even taller ones for my main music system a while back, and I reported on that project at that time; these new ones will be a similar design.) Once complete, I am hoping to have me a good-looking arrangement at that end of the room.

Overall, the bookcases do what I want (give me more shelf space) and most importantly, my wife likes them.

Howard Ferstler

2 comments so far

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3889 days

#1 posted 08-18-2012 02:21 AM

You treaded the redwood with the respect it deserves, beautiful job and I feel for you enduring the heat wave of 2012 down in Florida.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5547 days

#2 posted 08-18-2012 03:02 AM

Howard, these look great in your room. I like the lacquered black shelves with the redwood. They look like they’ll hold a lot, and when your speakers are complete and placed, it’s going to be a very impressive wall display. Nice job!


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