Vernshome Make


Hardwood Shelves



This area under construction

Shelves Being Used

Making this set of shelves was not easy. Never mind that they were made of pre-planed boards that did not even need to be cut to length (and I'm too embarrassed to say where I bought 'em). The difficulty here is that I had no idea what I was doing. It turns out that a few pieces of scrap wood makes a good teacher.

Shelves Being Used

The design is quite simple, and just about anyone could do it with a little patience. The wood I used is three 3-foot pieces and two 4-foot of 3/4" x 7 1/4" (after planing) and four 3-foot pieces of 2 1/2" x 1/2" (again after planing). Only the uprights need to be cut to length depending on the desired height. Mine are about 3 1/2 feet tall. This one is white oak, but any hard wood should work.

The only tool that I used is a router with a home made router table. Three or four bits are needed: a 1/4" round for the 1/2" pieces, a larger radius for the 3/4" boards if desired (I think I used the 1/4"), a straight bit to cut the tenon for the small boards (1/2" or less) and a dovetail bit of around 1/2".

The first step is marking the boards. The dimensions that I used are here. Mark lines on both uprights for the top curve, the shelves, and the small boards. Start with the shelves. You will want to make some test cuts on scrap wood to set the depth of the dovetail. The depth should be approximately 3/8". The goal is to get a strong joint without weakening the upright.

Dovetail Joint

Clamp a guide to the upright and move the router from the back of the board along the guide. Stop 3/4" before what will be the front. Stop the router and slide it back out. Cut the rest of the dovetail slots. Now comes the fun part. Mount the router on a router table and get out your scraps. Set the fence about 1/2" from the closest point of the dovetail bit. Move the piece flat along the fence with what would be the length of the shelf sticking up. Rotate the piece and cut on the other side of the same end. You now have a dovetail shaped mortise that will probably not fit the slot in the upright. Adjust the bit height and fence position and try another piece. Once you get a perfect fit, you can cut both ends of the three shelves. Next, you will need to cut up to 1" of dovetail off of the side that will be the front. The dovetail should fit into the groove without hammering. Cut all of the dovetails and dry-fit the shelves.

Oak Shelves

Now locate and mark the slots for the small boards. Mine are designed to hold DVD's without anything protruding past the front of the shelves and with about 1/4" of the top corner sticking out the back. Unless you have a 1/2" router bit, you will need to make multiple passes. Like before, clamp a guide piece to the board to make a straight cut with the router. The holes do not have to be perfect, but MUST be the same depth as the dovetail.

Again, dry fit everything to make sure it will go together. The rest of the work is all cosmetic. Draw a curve at the desired top height of the upright with a radius less than or equal to the width of the board. An easy way is to tie a piece of string to a pencil and hold the string near the back of the board. Draw a line with the string taut and it will be a perfect curve. Cut the board with a band saw or table saw. I cut mine with the router using a coffee can as a circular guide. Routing perpendicular to the grain is difficult and tends to burn the wood.

Oak Shelves

Now we are done with the hard part. Using the router table, rout half rounds on all of the front edges and every edge of the small boards. Now simply add a small amount of glue to the grooves and fit it all together. No clamping is needed because the dovetail joints will hold the shelves tightly. It is concievable to build these without glue, but the result will be less sturdy. Now simply sand the heck out of it, finish it (I used honey), and brag to your friends.

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