Introduction: "Oak Tree" Bookshelf

To welcome our son into the world with style, we created an oak tree themed bookshelf in the corner of his room. The trunk is equipped with a little hidey-hole knot perfect for keeping little secrets. We also added a hidden channel to inset a LED strip to act as a nightlight or decoration - The colors can be set in accordance with the current holiday.

We used a mixture of 2 x 10, 2 x 8 and 2 x 6 boards to give the shelves a more varied and organic feel. The trunk of the tree is made of 2 x 10 while the roots are 2 x 4 material.

Supplies

Construction Materials:

  • 2 x 10 (2 boards 8 feet long)
  • 2 x 8 (1 board 8 feet long)
  • 2 x 6 (2 boards 8 feet long)
  • 2 x 4 (2 boards 8 feet long)
  • 2 x 3 (1 board 8 feet long)
  • 2 x 2 (1 board 8 feet long)
  • 3" construction screws
  • 1.5" construction screws

Tools:

  • Table saw
  • "Japanese" saw
  • Miter saw
  • Band Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Angle finder
  • Power Drill/Impact driver
  • Counter sink drill bits
  • Drill bits
  • Extended Screwdriver Bit
  • Stud Finder
  • Chalk Line
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Finish Nails
  • Finish Nailer
  • Clamps
  • Sandpaper

Other Supplies:

  • Pencil
  • Grid Paper
  • LED Strip of choice
  • Lithograph pad (or other stamping method of choice)
  • Lithograph cutting tools
  • Wall Touch-up paint
  • Accent paint
  • Wood Stain of choice
  • Wood Finish of choice
  • Wood Glue of choice

Step 1: Starts With a Sketch and a Stud Finder

Step Supplies: Stud Finder, Pencil, Chalk Line, Tape Measure, Grid Paper

With your trusty tape measure, record the eligible wall area that you have to work with in your desired space.

Once measured, sketch out an approximation of how you'd like your tree to appear within that space. The grid paper is useful in maintaining any angles or irregularities in your trunk, so be sure to sketch something to a consistent scale. We planned the bookshelf to wrap around the inside corner of the room. When spacing the shelves, keep in mind that quite a bit of work will need to happen underneath each shelf, so leave enough room to install the angled supports.

After marking where the studs are located and highlighting them with our chalk line, we finalized where the shelves could be placed. Be careful to make sure each shelf spanned at least 2 studs.

Drafting software would be really helpful here to create a more accurate vision for your project.

Step 2: Creating the Trunk

Step Supplies: 2 x 10 board, 2 x 4 board, Miter saw, Jigsaw Table Saw, Angle Finder, Tape Measure, Wood Glue, Clamps, Power Drill, Drill bits, 3" Construction screws, Chalk line, Sandpaper, Stain of choice, Finish of choice, Accent Paint

Using your to scale sketch as a guide, find the angles that you will need to cut the ends of your 2 x 10 with your miter saw. Be careful measuring the lengths of the boards and take into account the surface area along the adjoining faces of the 2 x 10 lengths. More complicated angles are possible, but not without proper planning. The 2 x 4 root system should be cut using the same angle/measurement transferring methodology we used for the trunk.

Once you are satisfied with the look of your trunk pieces, lay them out and take a final look before we take the next "Creating The Trunk" sub-steps.

The Hidey-Hole Knot:

Create a template of the Hidey-Hole you'd like to place in your trunk and trace it into your trunk in the appropriate location. Using your drill bits and jigsaw, cut along your traced line. Once the hidey hole has been cut out, you will need another piece of wood to create a U-shaped lip that will cover up the bottom of the hidey-hole and prevent items from accidentally falling out. Once that's glued into place, we can call the Hidey-Hole complete.

LED Strip Channel:

If you plan on including LED lighting around the trunk of the tree, you will need to cut a channel into the perimeter of the trunk. Using your table saw, you'll need to rip a 1/2" x 1/2" notch along where the trunk meets the wall. This way, once you nest the LED strip into place, it won't be visible from the outside thus creating a nice floating effect.

Glue and Screw:

Once all of the preparations are completed for the trunk pieces, you'll need to affix them to one another. This part gets tricky because the organic shape of the trunk can't be squarely clamped together. Caul boards and clamps are helpful to keep everything coplanar. After we drilled some pocket holes into the backs of the pieces, we applied wood glue to the adjoining faces, and used the 3" construction screws to hold everything in place.

Prep for Wall Placement:

Once the glue dries, and the trunk is one solid piece, you'll use the chalk line to mark where the stud will line up on the wall. Along that chalk line, you'll drill 4-5 counter sunk holes so it's ready to hang on the wall. We also designed for a shelf to notch into the trunk near the corner of the room. This requires a notch to be made both in the trunk as well as the corner of the shelf so that the LED strip can travel through the channel uninterrupted.

Staining and Finishing:

Once all our holes are drilled and notches notched, we can start the finishing.

We sanded from 60 grit up through 220 grit sandpaper.

We opted for Varathane's Early American stain since we had it left over from another project. We felt this allowed the grains to pop without being too dark, and communicated "wood" well. It is also helpful to stain everything in the same session to maintain uniformity in the results. I found that I overshot some shelves and undershot others in the stain depth when staining in separate sessions.

Once the stain dried, we hit it with a few coats of Tung oil finish, but again, this can be any finish that is preferred.

Hang on the Wall (Assistant needed):

It is easier to mark off where the back of the hidey-hole knot is located and paint that before hanging the trunk. That's where your accent paint comes in.

Using the 3 inch construction screws through the counter-sunk pilot holes, you should be able to hang the trunk on the wall along the selected stud identified within your sketch. If you don't have a second pair of hands to help with this step, you can find some spare boards to rest the trunk on while you hang it.

Attaching the LED Strip:

Once the trunk has been hung, you will be able to put the LED strip into place and make sure everything is working. Make sure the length of the strip is correct i.e. matches the outer perimeter of the trunk. The LED strip should have an adhesive backing, so you should only need to remove the adhesive covering and press the strip into place. I found that the adhesive was not strong enough in certain sections where gravity was working against us, so to reduce drooping, I drove finish nails partially into the trunk and used pliers to bend them such that they gently hold the LED strip in place.

Step 3: Creating the Shelves

Step Supplies: 2 x 10 boards, 2 x 8 boards, 2 x 6 boards, Pencil, Band Saw, Miter Saw, Power drill, Drill bits, Extended Screwdriver Bit, 3" Construction Screws, Sandpaper, Stain of choice, Finish of choice, Level

The shelves are a refreshingly easy step. Most of the work is in ensuring that the boards that you select from the lumber yard/big box store are up to snuff.

Cut Your Boards to length:

Cut the boards to the lengths that you have decided in your scale sketch of the tree shelf from Step 1. Remember - each shelf will need to span at least 2 studs.

Cut in your sweeping patterns:

In order to achieve a more organic look, we cut a curved sweeping pattern into the ends of the shelves. We found that a band saw worked well for this, but a jigsaw would work just as well. Be sure to leave any shelves square that will be in the corner of the 2 walls.

Mark Your Shelves (Assistant needed):

Once your shelves have been cut to length and shape, you will need to mark them to know where to drill in your holes for affixing the shelves to the wall. To find the right spots to drill, hold the shelves up to the wall where they will end up in the final tree-shelf. Once held in place and level, mark where the center line of each stud intersects the shelf. (It is helpful to have another set of hands during this sub-step, but not absolutely necessary.) Identify which side of the shelf will be the bottom as it's hanging on the wall and make sure this is where you mark the spots to drill in the pocket holes.

Drill in Pilot Holes/Counter Sunk Holes:

Now that your shelf boards are marked, you can start drilling your pocket holes. You will need to make some judgement calls at this step as some sections of your shelves will be too shallow to drill a pocket hole into where the sweeping pattern has cut away material near the edge of the shelves. In those cases, you will be able to drill your counter-sunk pilot holes straight through (perpendicular to the wall-side of the shelf).

Staining and Finishing:

Once all our holes are drilled and notches notched, we can start the finishing.

We sanded from 60 grit up through 220 grit sandpaper.

We opted for Varathane's Early American stain since we had it left over from another project. We felt this allowed the grains to pop without being too dark, and communicated "wood" well. It is also helpful to stain everything in the same session to maintain uniformity in the results. I found that I overshot some shelves and undershot others in the stain depth when staining in separate sessions.

Once the stain dried, we hit it with a few coats of Tung oil finish, but again, this can be any finish that is preferred.

Hang the Shelves on the Wall (Assistant needed):

Using the 3 inch construction screws through the counter-sunk pilot holes, you should be able to hang the shelves on the wall along the selected studs identified within your sketch. A second person is necessary during this step to ensure that the shelves are level as you're hanging them in place.

The shelves will stay on the wall at this point, but they are not sturdy yet, so hold off on placing anything on them until the next step is completed.

Step 4: Creating the Angled Supports

Step Supplies: 2 x 6 boards, Pencil, Band Saw, Miter Saw, Power drill, Drill bits, Extended Screwdriver Bit, 3" Construction Screws, 1.5" Construction Screws,Wood Glue,Sandpaper, Stain of choice, Finish of choice, (Angle finder)

This is a fun step, but it takes a while. We still need to create supports to firm up the shelves. In keeping with the organic theme of the project, the supports are angled to give them a more tree-like feel.

Cutting out the Support Shapes:

2x6 supports for the 2x10 and 2x8 shelves

Start with a set of 6" to 10" lengths of the 2x6 board. Mark a diagonal line from corner to corner on the length. Using the band saw, cut along this line. Rinse and repeat until you have the number of the supports that will be required. (Each shelf should have a support for each stud that it intersects with on the wall.) We'll call these our blanks.

2x4 supports for the 2x6 shelves

The same process as above, except start with 4" to 8" lengths of 2x4 board.

Angling the Tops:

The thicker end of each blank will be the top. The back of each blank will be the original edge of the 2x6 or 2x4 board.

In order to cut the tops of the blanks at an angle, place them on their backs and hold them along the fence of the miter saw and set the angle to 45 degrees. Be sure to count up the number of blanks needed for each direction - you will need to set the miter to the other 45 degrees for about half the cuts.

If there are any supports that need to be cut at angles other than 45 degrees at the top, you will need to make sure you mark the required angle and reproduce that angle on the miter saw also using the angle finder.

Varying the Bottom Ends:

Once that top angle is cut, you can make an optional cut at the bottom of the blank for some visual variety. This will not affect the functional strength of the support. I didn't have much rhyme or reason for this step, I just didn't want all of the supports to be square.

Marking the Supports:

Once you have all of your blanks cut, you will take them back to the wall where they will be installed. For this step, I developed a basic numbering system to identify where each blank would end up on the wall i.e. under a parent shelf. Make sure each blank fits on the wall under its parent shelf. Once you establish the placement, mark where the stud intersects with the center of the blank while it's being held in place. This will be where you drill your counter sunk pilot holes.

Drilling Counter Sunk Pilot Holes:

At this point, the blanks should have been marked where they will be screwed into the studs - those holes will need to be drilled straight through (perpendicular to the back of the blank). In addition to these holes, you will need to drill 1-2 holes through which screws will affix the blanks to the underside of the shelves. These holes will need to be drilled vertically (perpendicular to the angled top of each blank).

Staining and Finishing:

Once all our holes are drilled, we can start the finishing.

We sanded from 60 grit up through 220 grit sandpaper.

We opted for Varathane's Early American stain since we had it left over from another project. We felt this allowed the grains to pop without being too dark, and communicated "wood" well. It is also helpful to stain everything in the same session to maintain uniformity in the results. I found that I overshot some shelves and undershot others in the stain depth when staining in separate sessions.

Once the stain dried, we hit it with a few coats of Tung oil finish, but again, this can be any finish that is preferred.

Glue and Screw Supports Into Place:

In order to make this process a bit easier, I screwed the construction screws partially through the blanks to reduce time spent reaching for screws and making sure I was lining them up properly.

Once the blanks are prepped, refer to your numbering system and make sure the blanks are in the right places. I used wood glue to keep the tops of the supports affixed to the bottoms of the shelves. Keep a rag handy to wipe away any excess glue.

Use the 3" construction screws to screw the supports into the studs (perpendicular to the surface of the wall).

Then use the 1.5" construction screws to screw up into the bottom of the supported shelf (vertically).

At this point, the shelves will be very sturdy! (I verified by testing my weight on my shelves - I weigh about 200 pounds for reference).

Step 5: Filling in the Branches

Step Supplies: 2 x 4 boards, 2 x 3 boards, 2 x 2 boards, Pencil, Table Saw/Band Saw, Miter Saw, Finish Nailer, Finish NailsSandpaper, Stain of choice, Finish of choice, Angle finder, Touch up Wall Paint

This was a time consuming step to say the least, but the results are well worth it I think. We ended up straying from our sketch a bit for this step, so it was more tedious than it had to be. You can save yourself a lot of time by creating your scale sketch more accurately.

Ripping the Boards:

For this step, I took the boards and ripped them into thirds along the wider side. Between the 2x4, 2x3, and 2x2's, this gave me a variety of widths to work with in creating the branches. This will allow for a wooden texture and weight without compromising too much shelf space.

Cut to Approximate Length, Fine Tune, Fit Into Place, Rinse and Repeat:

Once your boards have been thinned, you can start filling in the branches.

The process I found most effective was to cut the branch to the approximate length first - being sure to leave plenty of material as some branches end up being cut at pretty long angles.

Once to their approximate lengths, I used the angle finder as a way to effectively capture and reproduce the desired angle onto the desired branch section. Getting these angles right so that the pieces fit tightly was a slog and required a lot of trips to the garage to make and adjust the cuts. If you can set up a cutting station in the room you're working in - I would recommend that.

Keep in mind that you can always remove more material, but once you cut away too much, there's no going back. Be sure to sneak up on the cuts and angles.

Once you're comfortable with the fit of the piece, mark where it belongs in the tree, and set it aside.

I used the thicker 2 x 4 boards at the bottom of the tree and worked to the thinner 2 x 2 boards at the top of the tree. Also, making notches around the existing shelves and supports creates a lot of visual interest, but it is time consuming, so plan accordingly.

Staining and Finishing:

We sanded from 60 grit up through 220 grit sandpaper.

We opted for Varathane's Early American stain since we had it left over from another project. We felt this allowed the grains to pop without being too dark, and communicated "wood" well. It is also helpful to stain everything in the same session to maintain uniformity in the results. I found that I overshot some shelves and undershot others in the stain depth when staining in separate sessions.

Once the stain dried, we hit it with a few coats of Tung oil finish, but again, this can be any finish that is preferred.

Finish Nailing the Branches Into Place:

Once the branches are dried, using your marking system, make sure everything fits where it's meant to. You can now use your finish nailer and nails to hang the branches in the right places. (I used our air compressor and 1 inch brad nails to great effect.) These are not structural elements, so they don't hold any weight. 1-2 nails per branch is plenty

Wall Clean Up:

After the branches are in place, use the touch up wall paint to fix any marks you've made in the wall and cover up the chalk line if it won't erase. You're just looking for a clean backdrop for the leaf step.

Step 6: Don't Forget the Leaves

Step Supplies: leftover 2 x 4 boards from previous step, Lithograph pad (or other stamping method of choice), lithograph cutting tools, Accent Paint

If you're using a different stamping method - this is where that comes into play.

Choose a Leaf:

For a bit of additional flavor, I chose a leaf from our back yard for this step. I believe it is an oak - but it is possible that the leaves you choose are quite different.

Trace and Cut Leaf Into Lithograph Pad:

I used a sharpie to trace the leaf on to the Lithograph pad. Next, simply cut away all of the parts of the pad that are not what you want to transfer with the stamp. (I am a novice in this area, so I'm sure you'll be able to find a better tutorial than this elsewhere.) Then glue the pad to a bit of 2x4 scrap for rigidity.

Transfer Paint Stamp Away:

Use a small foam roller to transfer your trim paint of choice to the stamp you just created. Be sure to stamp several times after each time the stamp is reloaded with paint. The variation of stamp coverage is due to the first stamp being more full than progressive stamps.

Step 7: Filling the Hidey-hole Knot

Get Creative with Your Hidey-Hole Blank!

I am currently in the process of attempting to learn wood carving. I have created several wooden blanks using the template that we created earlier to define the shape of the blank. Into these blanks I will be carving woodland animals like Owls, squirrels, crows and lizards so that our son can have fun choosing what animal wants to live there for the day.

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