Thursday, February 21, 2008

Big Boy Room - Making Bookshelves to Fit

We're nearing the end of the great transformation of Sam's room as one of the last parts has finally gone into place - the new bookshelves. Joy and I decided that we wanted to put bookshelves on either side of Sam's bed to give him a place to store all his toys besides the floor of our house. We've been working on clean-up time and this seemed a next logical step - not only do we clean up, but everything has a certain place where it needs to go. The only problem with this idea? The space left to us is only about 2 feet wide and we wanted bookshelves that fit exactly.

Enter the need to create new bookshelves.

I decided to make a simple box shelf out of pine since the load the shelves would carry would not be the several feet of hardback books of last fall's built-in bookshelves. Over two feet, pine won't warp and since it is so soft, it is fairly easy to work with.

The wood decided, I measured out plans. 2 feet wide and 6 feet tall fit the wall nicely. I went and bought pre-cut lumber that was a foot wide (which actually meant about 11 1/2 inches actually) and 8 feet tall as well as two sheets of plywood. I bought the 8 foot lumber because when I cut it down to six feet, I ended up with a shelf pre-cut each time.

One of the choices we had to make was whether or not to use movable shelves. Joy wanted to make them adjustable so they would fit Sam as he grew, which I thought was logical, so I also bought metal track like you see to the left along with brackets to hold up the shelves. This meant an extra cut when I was preparing the shelves - I had to make two dado cuts in each side of the casing. I decided to put them relatively close to the edge, as you can see, so they are disguised a bit when you look at the finished piece.

With that choice made, I also had to decide whether or not I wanted these shelves to sit directly on the floor, so the lowest shelf was basically even with the floor, or if I wanted the bottom to be a bit off the floor. While I liked the idea of a flush bottom, just to help Sam get his toys on and off, I liked the look of the raised bottom better and so decided to raise the bottom shelf off the floor by an inch and a half and then make that bottom shelf a fixed one to provide support and stability to the entire cabinet.

That really left only one more decision (I love these types of shelves because they are fairly easy to put together) - the top. I knew that Joy wanted to have display area on the top of the shelf, so I needed to make it a bit decorative. Wanting both to use the same lumber I had bought originally and not make too many extra cuts, I decided to make the top extend out from the sides of the shelves by an inch on each side but be flush at the front and back. To give it a bit of a decorative edge, I used a friend's router table and ran a simple curve around the sides and the front, as you can see to the right. I then attached the tops by countersinking them and filling the holes in with wood filler so you cannot tell where those screws went into the wood, giving Joy the nice, smooth display space she wanted (not that Sam or anyone else my height or shorter will ever see up there.

To give a last bit of stability to the bookshelf casing, I cut the plywood 1/4 inch less than the width and height of the cabinet and attached it to the back using nails about every 3-4 inches, making sure to square the cabinet before nailing. This action really made the piece sturdy.

Then, over the course of two weekends, I conditioned the wood (since pine is so soft and I wanted an even finish), stained it to roughly match the bed that was already in the room, gave it two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane, and took it up to Sam's room:
So far Sam loves being able to access his toys and books that cover the shelves already and we like having said toys and books out from under our feet all over the house. We'll see how long the clean-up lasts once TK arrives, but so far so good.


Jaime said...

Whee! Looks amazing. You are quite the woodworker, and I got to be the first commenter to say it!

Andrew said...

Thanks, and just imagine that this is the room you guys stayed in when you visited in December!

Anonymous said...

Vwey nice work indeed, Andrew! Impressive, actually!


Martin said...

Nice work. Did you make the dados with a handheld router or on the router table? What was your total budget for material?

We're in the process of moving and I *know* we'll need more bookcases.

Andrew said...

I actually borrowed a friend's table saw and he had dado blades so we could easily run the boards through. For the top, he had actually rigged up a router table that made that process easier.

For the entire project I was under $200. The wood was about $130, the brackets were around $20, and the stain and sealer about $10-15. A little bit cheaper than Target shelves and since they are solid wood they won't buckle like pressboard tends to do.

As for more bookcases - I think that's going to be a constant refrain in our lives as well.