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