We aren’t short of books in this household, but we sure as heck are short on bookcases.
We had built quite a few bookcases into the eaves of the half story on our previous home, in addition to a few freestanding bookcases. Still, we had more books than storage, so books were crammed into corners and stuffed into boxes. Our new house had zero built-in storage, so we were really at a deficit. Even after my mother passed along an antique glass-fronted bookcase, which she had decided was too fragile to remain in her home.
My hope/goal for 2010 is to feel officially moved in, and this “living out of boxes” lifestyle will come to an end. (I’m still missing some essential kitchen items, which I suspect are hiding in vaguely-labeled boxes in the basement, but I digress.)
Bookcases are the next front in this war. So what do I want in a bookcase?
- I want it to be sturdy. That instantly throws out bookcases from Pier 1 or World Market.
- It doesn’t need to be furniture grade finished. Because they are going in the basement.
- It needs to be modular, and easy to add more.
Enter Bookcases & Shelves from the editors of Woodsmith, published by August Home Publishing. This booklet contains a nice set of projects from low-cost and crude, to fine carpentry. The cover pronounces that they are “Easy-to-Build”, “Back by Popular Demand,” and “Success Guaranteed.” How could I pass this up?
I decided on the modular storage system on page 45. There are a few necessary tools that the average homeowner probably doesn’t have laying around. But then this isn’t the average home. We already owned a miter saw, drill press, and—since last fall—a table saw.
I needed a router for this. And yes I already owned a router, but A: it was misbehaving on the window project, and B: it would work best if it were mounted on a router table, which I don’t own. Since the cost of buying a table is 2/3rds the cost of a combination table/router, we decided to buy an entirely new router in a table/router combo.
I also needed to buy a new belt sander, since my 20-year-old+ belt sander burned out toward the end of the window project. So it goes.
This type of book (a conglomeration of articles published in past issues of a magazine) has several pitfalls. Chief among them is that the supplies they say are easy to acquire at any local lumber yard, may have been true twenty years ago, but not today. And I found this to be the case.
The specified lumber is “Ponderosa Pine,” but it’s just “Pine” or “Whiteboard” at the store. It could be Ponderosa, or Fir, or any number of wood types.
And one of the boards it specified was a 1 x 10, but this was not a dimension my local lumber yard carried. Fortunately, they asked me to rip a 1 x 10 down to two narrower boards, which I could get if I bought and ripped a 1 x 6, and a 1 x 4. Before I made this adjustment I stopped at a different lumber chain in a neighboring town while there on other business, and they did carry 1 x 10s.
We started working on this the first Sunday it began to warm up following the Great Blizzard of '09-'10. And when I say “warm up,” I mean that it was sunny, the wind was minimal, and the temps were in the 20s. Yes, it was still cold. But at least it wasn’t brutal cold.
As to why I was working on this in January, it’s actually easier to slot this task in now, than later in the year when yard work will become a priority.
We don’t own a truck, and we can’t fit many boards in our car at a time, so we made two trips to Home Depot on Sunday, with a pause in between trips to route that set of boards. Needless to say, I was covered in saw dust during trip #2.
We ripped away on those boards, then crammed everything back into that garage bay so we could pull our car in for the night. And then it required not one but two steaming mugs of Bailey’s to warm up.
On Monday we bought the 1 x 10s, and then went back to the original lumber yard to get the rest of the required 1 x 6s. These would eventually become the shelf slats. It was a no ripping Monday. But I did put down salt to try to diminish the treacherous ice sheet just outside that garage bay that the “ripping receiver” (aka Michael) had to traverse. So that’s something. By the end of the day Tuesday, our original pile of dimensional lumber had been transformed into this:
That doesn’t look like that many boards, does it? Here’s the same stack at a different angle:
This was actually the wood for not one but three bookcases. I know we will need at least three, and it’s actually a lot faster cutting the three at once because I didn’t have to retool the equipment as often. Retooling means that I am adjusting the equipment to cut the boards to a certain length, depth, or shape.
Wednesday was miter saw day. Many of these long boards needed to be cut down into approximately 15" segments. The exact dimension varied according to the purpose of the board, but you get the idea.
I started this around 11 a.m., and with taking two breaks—one for lunch, and another a warm-up (because it was in the 30s)—I finished a little after 4 p.m. That’s a significant amount of time standing in front of the miter saw making cut after cut after cut. And by the end of the day I had these two piles:
There are smaller boards stacked between the stacks of large boards, too. Like I said, it took all day.
The next step involved using my dado blade to make half lap joints so I can begin assembly. How exciting!
To be continued...