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This shelving unit was commissioned for the gallery at Autodesk Pier 9 in San Francisco. It was created to showcase a diverse range of maker-style projects made in house by artists, Instructables staff, and Autodesk employees alike. (And the shelving itself had to look cool too.)

I've always liked the appearance of architectural drawings with thin white lineweights, so I came with the idea of making one in steel and plastic. In order to set thin 3D lettering on to a piece of steel and have durability, I cut out paths in the steel with a waterjet machine and inset the lettering.

The choice of the weathered steel and polished stainless was to make it look industrial, but sophisticated. The polished surface also created a reflection that made the shelves 'disappear'.

The text and drawings were copied from my personal notes during the course of building it. I wanted to build the entire unit first, then transcribe my notes on to it. It would be self-referential and pay homage to the process -- a perfect fit for a office full of Makers!
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Step 1: Cut and pre drill steel for the frame

Picture of Cut and pre drill steel for the frame
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I used steel channel (1-1/2in x 1/2in) for vertical spines, and solid rectangle (1in x 1/2in) for the horizontal shelf mounts.

Step 2: Weld framework and mount

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I MIG welded the steel framework together and mounted it on the wall

Stacking the pieces together ensured they would be properly aligned, although I did have to use some brute force to fine tune them on the wall.

Step 3: Dry fit shelving

Picture of Dry fit shelving
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I placed the 1/2in MDO shelves on the frame and drew a pencil mark underneath for reference.

I glued and nailed bottom sections to add strength and thickness, then placed them back on the frame and made sure there was plenty of clearance.
mart!1 year ago

very nice results! how about fitting lights behind the steel panels to light up the letters?

johnwhitmarsh (author)  mart!1 year ago

I tried placing lights behind it, but the plastic (HDPE) is too opaque. Any suggestions on a more translucent (and white) material?

lexan or plexiglass? you could give it a white-ish look with a quick sandblast...

WOW!!!!!! ....... just ........ WOW!!!! :)

jeandr1 year ago

Very creative use of CNC machines, it will leave many wondering how the explanations of the shelf building was done.

thomastron1 year ago

very creative and well executed!

cw871 year ago

Beautiful! Just curious.... what was the total cost and man-hours involved?

johnwhitmarsh (author)  cw871 year ago

off the top of my head, probably $1700-$2000 in materials. Hours, probably 2-3 days to build the shelves without the lettering, and probably 80-90 hours for the lettering.

debrajk1 year ago

Looks tedious, but awesome.

deff_boi1 year ago
absolutely brilliant