Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Wall Shelf Completed

Some of you may have already seen this on The Wood Haven a few weeks ago but, for all you other woodworkers out there, I recently finished an Arts & Crafts or “Craftsman“-style wall shelf made from solid English oak offcuts I’d had lying around for a while.

This is something I mentioned previously in another blog post while I was working on the design. In the end, I didn’t quite have enough oak (without buying more) to do the tapered sides I was after but, I’m pleased with the end result and it gave me a chance to try out a couple of new ideas… Which may or may not work!

Going right back to the start; my main goal was to replace was to replace and reorganise this monstrosity:

(Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the wallpaper, for the time being! :-()

…Melamine-faced chipboard at its finest! 😛

One idea I was keen to try on this project was the inclusion of a narrow, contrasting strip of timber [brown oak – what else?! 🙄 ;-)] where I had to join narrow boards to make up the full width of each shelf.

This particular shelf (which happened to be the middle one) featured an interesting area of spalting, which I certainly didn’t spot while staring at the oak in its saw state. I couldn’t avoid this, given the limited supply of timber for this project so, it had to be included (I see the middle shelf as being the least-visible of all three). This is why, on this particular shelf, that the rear-half of the board comprises of two narrow boards jointed together. It’s not a clever grain match, I agree. But, again, I think you need to appreciate that I was determined to work with a shortage of materials…

From top to bottom, the width of the strip in the centre of each shelf increases slightly (so, it’s at its narrowest on the top).

Although this feature is no longer clearly visible with all the junk that’s now piled on top of these shelves, I still feel this is a feature that ‘works’ and it’s certainly something I would be keen to explore further in future projects. Sometimes, you can end up in a situation where you need to join two boards together to create the required width [three might look too narrow and almost ‘mass-produced’; you may not have the facilities to plane and thickness a wider board].

How else would you avoid the blatant centreline in a situation where it isn’t feasible to book-match two boards from thicker stock?

Speaking of centre-lines; where I haven’t added a strip of brown oak in between the two boards that make up each of the two sides, I have offset that joint by about 10mm… Well, I was aiming for 10mm but, after accidentally cutting too much off the width of wider boards of each end, this offset become closer to 15-20mm!

My aim, here, was to ‘fool’ the eye. It is something I have done before [see the Cherry Bookshelf Project] and, while I think it kind of works, I’m still not entirely convinced. Certainly, on this piece, the discrepancy between the width of the two jointed boards is too much.

Moving on to the jointing methods…

Rather than using biscuits or housings to fit the three shelves to the sides, as I have done many times in the past, I decided I would try a second attempt at the wedged-through tenon joint – you may recall my initial attempts at this when I built a Wall Cabinet at the end of college in June.

In order to save time, I used my router to cut the through-mortises; completing each with several shallow passes from each side to just over half the thickness of the timber, in order to minimise burning and reduce premature wear on the ¾in cutter. But, while the cutter gave me the perfect, parallel width for the mortise walls (sides), it still took me a couple of hours squaring up each and every corner. Now, I’m sure I really saved much time against chopping all these out by hand…

Looking back, I’ve since realised that I could’ve left the corners “radiused” as they are, above, and machined my own Dominoes from scrap wood instead. I’d still have to build a jig or figure out a way of cutting corresponding slots in the ends of each shelf but, I think it would have been quite ingenious, if I do say so myself! 😀 I do think it would’ve saved a lot of time spent chopping away with hand tools and, I also believe it would’ve been faster than rounding off the arrises of each tenon, using either a rasp or maybe a chisel…

In this project though, the tenons were machined to thickness on the router table, taking about 1.5mm off each face [22mm thick shelf gives a 19mm thick tenon]. Then, each tenon was marked out and ‘divided’ using the bandsaw with a back-stop set in place to prevent me from cutting too far.

In the photo above, you’ll note the 1mm slots being cut for the contrasting wedges that’ll be added as the unit is assembled.

Wedges were to be cut from brown oak and I’d also decided that I wanted the ends of the tenons to protrude about 3mm from the shelf sides, with chamfered edges. Unlike last time, I decided to do most of the chamfering before gluing up yet, once the wedges were in and the adhesive was dry, I still managed to scratch the surrounding surfaces with edge of a sharp chisel, while carefully paring each wedge flush at a near-45° angle… Next time, I think I’ll just trim them flush!! 🙂

Before I could start finishing, I had to include a means of hanging the unit from the wall, for which I decided to use a keyhole cutter to rout out a T-slot recess that’ll sit firmly over a screw-head protruding from the wall:

Well, here it is in-situ, along with a couple of other photos I haven’t shown you already:

I used Osmo Polyx (matt) to finish this off; applying three-coats liberally with a clean cloth and wiping away the excess immediately. I also carefully denibbed with 400g abrasive paper in between each coat although, due to a sudden drop in temperature, that first coat took a few days before it had dried properly (something for us all to bear in mind, with the seasons that lie ahead… :-S).

Thanks for reading.

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3 responses to “Wall Shelf Completed

  1. Lazy Larry 16/09/2010 at 21:10

    Very nice through tenons…

  2. Fran 21/10/2014 at 19:21

    Nice to see something without a yellow finish! I’ve just applied a test of polyx Matt oil to one of my newly sanded kitchen door.s Hoping it dries a lot lighter than it looks when initially applying. I think it will!

    • Olly Parry-Jones 22/10/2014 at 19:26

      Hi Fran and thanks for commenting!

      What are your kitchen doors made from? I used to find that Osmo would dry lighter than many other oils but ultimately, even the lightest of woods will darken (to a certain extent) as time passes.

I welcome your thoughts.

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