Making a Shelf Out of a Single Board - My First Project in the Techshop Woodshop




Introduction: Making a Shelf Out of a Single Board - My First Project in the Techshop Woodshop

After I'd taken the basic safety course for the Techshop woodshop in SF, I was ready to knock out some basic projects to get some practice on the tools before trying anything more complicated.  My first project was making this simple shelf out of a 7-foot board.  Making a shelf can be a good first project if you're just getting into working with wood.

In our kitchen we had an overflowing pile of cookbooks and a tiny nook that was just right for a shelf.  I got this large pine board for cheap at MacBeath Hardwoods in Berkeley and set about turning it into a shelf.

Here's how I grade my work in the end:
As a learning experience: A
As a couple's bonding experience putting together the shelf: A+
As a final shelf: B+ (we'll get to that later)

As they say in the world of Instructables written in part to get a free class at Techshop, "I made it at Techshop!"

Step 1: Get a Board!

Went to MacBeath Hardwoods in Berkeley and picked out a board.  Just got a simple pine board - looking forward to mucking around with the many amazing kinds of hardwoods they specialize in.  This guy was 7' by 1'.  I wanted to end up with a shelf for cheap so I just got the one board for less than $20.

Step 2: Design Your Shelf

I doodled a bit to figure out how I'd cut the board up and eventually settled on this design.  It was a fun exercise in making sure I used the whole board and didn't have to do any extra cuts.  One thing I would change in hindsight is the beveled edge for the corners.  Not many shelves have a beveled edge when you look at them - turns out that's because it can be a pain to actually assemble.

Anyhow, the dimensions in my doodle ended up being the cuts I made.  Given the size of my board and my design, I ended up with six pieces, with each piece having one identical buddy that matched it.

Step 3: Cut the Pieces to Size!

To cut the pieces to size, I used the compound miter saw.  This left me with three lengths of the board, each different from the others by an inch or so (per my sketch).  I won't go too much into how to actually use the tools (as I'd like this instructable more to be a source of inspiration for other first-time woodworkers at Techshop or elsewhere), but I will say this: Don't cut your fingers off!

You can't see it in the photo, but I used the compound miter saw to put a 45 degree bevel on the lengths that would serve as the frame for the shelf.

Step 4: Rip Those Babies in Half!

My next step was to rip each of the three pieces down the middle. I could have done this in one go on the table saw (before using the compound miter saw) but I didn't feel 100% comfortable feeding a seven foot board into the table saw just yet, so I broke it down into three lengths and cut each one individually.

Again, I don't want to belabor the basics of using a table saw, but I will say this: Don't do this drunk!  My dad's buddy Randy did some drunk woodworking when I was a kid and things were never the same. Nuff said.

Step 5: Make a Shelf-notch Thingy (technical Name Notwithstanding)

This step was really the coup-de-grace of my shelf building career up to this point. I don't know the technical name for this, but I cut a notch out of the sides of the shelf into which would fit the horizontal shelves themselves.  To do it, I used the table saw, a sled, and some trial and error to cut out just the right amount of wood.

You can get an idea from the photos what this entailed - I penciled in where I wanted to cut a groove in the vertical sides of the shelf, then using one of the sleds at Techshop on the table saw I cut out about a 1/4 inch groove into which the horizontal pieces of the shelf could fit.  It took a few passes on the table saw, with attention to how high the blade was set.

Thanks table saw!

Step 6: Using the Drill Press, Because It's There

This step may have been a little superfluous, but I had the drill press and the bits, so there you go.  I probably could have just sunk a screw directly in with a hand drill, but oh hum.

Using the drill press, I pre-drilled some holes in the vertical sides of the shelf to prevent the wood from splitting.  I would have liked to pre-drill some holes in the shelves themselves, but I couldn't figure out a jig that would let me hold a two foot board vertically to drill a hole straight into it.

Technical note: Don't drill into your hand!

Step 7: Shelf Assembly!

Now to assemble these pieces into a glorious shelf to hold my girlfriend's cookbooks for eternity!  

We put a dab of wood glue at each joint, and with a lot of huffing and puffing (sort of like a game of Twister combined with sticky fingers from the glue and a dash of power tools) we assembled the shelf!  I used a power drill to put two screws in each joint - maybe didn't need them, but oh well.

This is the point where my beveled corners got hairy.  It took a lot of cajoling and putzing around to get the bevels to line up with each other, and in the end one of them is still a little bit off.  My dad ("expert" wood worker that he is) says that's why shelves often don't have beveled corners.  For my next shelf, straight corners!

To finish it off I put a coat of poly on it and covered it in books.  

The end

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    Tip 2 years ago

    This is probably very late advice, but you need to have at least one angled brace to keep the whole thing from collapsing to one side or the other. A triangle is the strongest shape. That's why you see little triangles or a brace angled at 45' in the corners of a lot of square projects.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    more often than not, simplicity is far better than complicated.

    I read what you wrote, saw the pics, & the only thing I can say is, I can not wait to see your next awesome project! : ) You did great! Now if I can just get off my lazy butt, maybe I will use your "ible" to make one of my own. lol

    TY for sharing.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    *** I meant "Rip those babies in half" metaphorically, like King Solomon.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm impressed that you used those milled slots (rebates, rabbets, or through dadoes) on your first project. I've done plenty of those, but anymore I usually just use a butt joint, and put a skirt under the back edge of the shelf to keep it from racking.

    Glue-ups are generally stressful. For years, I disregarded the advice to dry-fit everything before slathering glue on 100% of both contacting pieces. But after learning the hard way, I dry fit everything now.

    Gel stain works really good on woods prone to blotching, like Pine, Maple, and Poplar. Wipe it on, wipe it off, hit it with some spray lacquer, you are good to go.