Shop's Log #10: Red Oak Cat Shelf

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Blog entry by terryR posted 05-09-2014 11:06 PM 6334 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Split Nut Driver Part 10 of Shop's Log series Part 11: Pipes 4 and 5 »

Hello Everyone, time for another blog from The Farm…

In addition to the goats, pigs, and chickens, The Wife and I also have too many cats on this place! LOL. Four cats live inside with us, plus one in the barn, two live in the back yard, and at least two frequently visit for food.

I guess I take after my Dad who was known as “The Cat Man” by the local vet’s office…I just love cats. The barn kitty hangs with me in the shop when I’m working, the other outside cats always want food and affection, and the inside cats rule our house.

If you have cats, you probably understand! :)

We already have a 6 foot tall cat “tree” covered with carpet in the living room, so the cats will TEND to scratch it instead of the furniture. And we have a handful of cat “shelves” attached all over one wall, intended for them to climb and frolic upon. Great for entertainment, believe me!

When my wife showed me this photo from the web:

...I wanted to upgrade our ugly cat shelves immediately! Nah, I wasn’t interested in paying 250 Euros plus shipping, just give me a hint on how to joint the things together! LOL.

No, I’m serious…I’m new to joinery, and have no experience on how to decide which joint goes where. I know how to build junk, but want to learn to built nicer stuff. Even furniture for the home. More reading needed…

In the meantime, I asked one of my buddies here on LJ’s that builds furniture what to do. He suggested, based on usage, rabbets, screws, and glue. Cool, I can handle that…

First, I needed a panel from which to cut the three pieces that I would need…the backboard, the shelf, and the support. I like the look of Red Oak, and had some extra in the shop, so oak it is.

...trying hard to arrange the boards so that hand planing is easier later, but who put all these knots in the wood? Bummer.

Into the heat canopy overnight (see how old this build is!) for the glue to cure.

And then, it’s time to flatten each piece I cut off the crappy panel I glued up. Must practice panel glue-ups. For now, it’s time to practice flattening…more…

Once flat and square, I started cutting a rabbet on the actual shelf portion of the build…using a method I had read The Schwarz use. He showed starting at the far end of the rabbet, and working your way backwards to prevent the fence from slipping on the 45. Worked for me!

I also cut the ends of the board to prevent the up-coming dado from showing…thanks to Paul Sellers for the tip! Um, no. He didn’t just drop by the shop…But, I own a few of His books. :)

After flattening the second piece of oak, I scribed a line where I wanted the bottom of the shelf to fit. And after a bit of chiseling, offerred the rest of the rabbet to the backboard for laying out the top of the dado. Another Sellers’ trick explained MUCH more clearly in his writing!

Notice the nasty tear-out on the ‘top’ of the shelf? Yeah, I sorta gave up trying to smooth the top of this piece since it will be covered with carpet. Plus, the grain of the oak was just laughing at my No.62.

A lil check for square…

Check out the blue bucket in the right of the photo…very valuable piece of shop equipment! It catches the rain when it leaks through my hurricane-proof building. No, I’m not joking…

Next, the small support that holds up the 7-25 pound cat that jumps on the shelf. I hope this is enough! I WENT to engineering school, but didn’t graduate. :)

Gotta give the little LV Detail Rabbet Plane nine thumbs up. Great at small clean up duties! Although a bit finicky to fettle due to the one-piece lever cap and handle.

Next, you can see the dado being created for the support under the shelf…

...chiseling to break up the wood fibers, then cleaning up with the 271. What a sweet plane! :)

Almost there…No special joinery between the shelf and its support; just glue and screws since it will covered. In fact, I had already planned to install THIS shelf at about a 7 foot height in our living room, so it will be difficult to inspect the actual joinery and finish. Smart-huh? The next one should be prettier! :)

A quick trip to the scroll saw to make up for all my time flattening with planes…

...then the disc sander to make the curves a little nicer…

And, after assembly, and a heavy coat of oil/wax, this one’s ready for the house…

Honestly, is it a piece of Fine woodworking? Of course not! But, it’s not a complete piece of poop, and is actually much nicer than our current shelves. I learned a bit, got a workout, and had fun on top of all else.

Hopefully, everyone will notice the funny cat on the shelf, and not the tear-out or beginner joinery. LOL.

So, across the road, and into the old home we go…sorry for the mess. I simply used carpet tape to attach one of the cat’s favorite piece of shaggy to the shelf, and drew instant attention from the grey tuxedo…

Penny gave my work a quick inspection from every angle…

Nope. She wasn’t getting on it! Smelled like oil, and the joinery is a hack!

Once attached to the wall (the reason for the large backboard…to capture studs), she gave it another brief look. How could any ‘normal’ cat resist such a lofty position?

But…no cat has been on this damn shelf since I built it! I cannot believe it!

I’ve perched stuff up there precariously, covered it with magazines, adorned it with half open boxes, placed my fleece shirt on top of the carpet, I even placed an open jar of catnip on it, but cannot get a single cat in our house on the thing.

Crazy cats! There is the cat’s tree in the left corner, and there are two more shelves below this photo that they use to get to the top ones. Notice the cheapo Borg shelf supports and mdf that spans the doorway behind miss Penny…they love that shelf.

But, not the one hand-joined.

Guess it’s not rabbet season…

Comments and suggestions are always welcomed…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

20 comments so far

View Brit's profile


7689 posts in 3227 days

#1 posted 05-09-2014 11:57 PM

I bet they’re all over it as soon as you go out the room Terry. :o)

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3688 days

#2 posted 05-10-2014 12:27 AM

i built a huge fancy bird house that won a contest here on jocks, but ya know what, from what i can tell, there are hardly any birds in the thing, and there are like over 20 different places for them to go….so, birds cats…they go where they want , when they want…get one of those cameras that take pictures when it detects motion…you might see something different…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Mean_Dean's profile


6965 posts in 3532 days

#3 posted 05-10-2014 12:47 AM

Nice looking cat shelf! Of course, maybe that’s the problem—it’s too nice. Maybe they like things more rustic!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View terryR's profile


7471 posts in 2693 days

#4 posted 05-10-2014 12:48 AM

Yep, the critters certainly have their own methods.

Andy, you’re probably right. They probably sleep there all night until I wake and grind coffee beans!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View ShaneA's profile


7082 posts in 2983 days

#5 posted 05-10-2014 12:58 AM

Cats just seem to have a mind of their own. I bet if you didn’t want them on it, you wouldn’t be able to keep them off. If you make a few more like the inspiration set, they will prolly come around. Should be sturdy enough for sure.

View Brit's profile


7689 posts in 3227 days

#6 posted 05-10-2014 01:02 AM

Of course you could always put barbed wire on all the other shelves Terry, then they’d probably think your shelf was a des res.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View terryR's profile


7471 posts in 2693 days

#7 posted 05-10-2014 01:37 AM


Yeah, Shane, if I keep a few boxes stacked on the floor, unevenly, that’s the next noise when I leave the room!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3688 days

#8 posted 05-10-2014 02:13 AM

get an old lamp and put it up there, something that wont break, but i bet if you put something up there showing them that its not for them, they will get up there and curl up right next to it…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Scott R. Turner's profile

Scott R. Turner

267 posts in 3573 days

#9 posted 05-10-2014 03:03 AM

It’s well-known in the cat community that they don’t like the smell of red oak.

Well, it could be true.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16124 posts in 3003 days

#10 posted 05-10-2014 03:06 AM


-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View CFrye's profile


10657 posts in 2224 days

#11 posted 05-10-2014 05:52 AM

Great shelf, Terry! Of course I’m not a cat. Jim said put some sardine oil up there. When you’re looking at the empty shelf try to remember how much fun it was to build and tell the cats to bug off! Thanks for sharing.

-- God bless, Candy

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 2015 days

#12 posted 05-10-2014 08:46 AM

For all of my cat furniture I played with my cats around there, get them excited, chasing the toy and they will follow that thing on the shelf, let them “catch and kill” the toy on the shelf and if you tire them out enough in the process they’ll do a quick grooming and fall asleep on the new shelf.

Also the question might be also in the carpet, although you said it was someone’s favourite? Cats are quite territorial, so you might consider getting rid of the carpet and leaving it bare, so it doesn’t have any specific cat’s or any other animals scent on it. That probably is part of your issue there as well.

Of course, nice shelf none the less.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View bowtie's profile


990 posts in 2730 days

#13 posted 05-10-2014 10:26 AM

good looking shelf, maybe when the new smell is gone? If you have a laser pointer maybe they’ll chase the red dot up there.

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View terryR's profile


7471 posts in 2693 days

#14 posted 05-10-2014 01:07 PM

Lots of good ideas…thanks! I think replacing the old carpet may do the trick?

Or replacing the cats? LOL.

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View AnthonyReed's profile


10103 posts in 2825 days

#15 posted 05-12-2014 05:39 PM

Nice work Terry. Cats are fickle and contrary by nature. Were you able to cipher what their objection was?

-- ~Tony

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