Solid Oak Wall to Wall Shelves


I undertook this project in Ocean Springs, MS last year.  This was a fun, if time consuming project.  Thankfully, the customer, a bibliophile, knew exactly what he wanted.  He provided me with some examples from magazine cut outs and internet pictures of what he wanted.  He didn’t want pressed particle board shelves with plastic laminate cladding that is so prevalent in the cost effective, mass produced modern era in which we all live.  I suggested solid oak as an excellent material for both durability and aesthetic appeal.  I suggested making the whole wall like a large oak bookcase, or cabinet, but he liked the simplicity of the metal bracket supports.  In the end, I have to say that I agree.  The project was done completely on site, in the customer’s back yard.  I started with 16-20′ lengths of 4/4 oak (that’s four quarters, or about 1 inch) The overall width of each board was greater than 10″.  To make the boards, I snapped a line from end point to end point along the crown of the board, then cut along this line, removing the bow (some were only bowed about 3/8″ while others as much as 1-1/2″).  I found the shortest width of the board by measuring across in several places and ran it over the table saw to this measurement.  I then passed all the boards through a bench planer. (I forgot my ear protection that day and the worksite was under a rather large low ceilinged porch along side a brick wall, and it made my ears ring for a couple of days)  All boards were planed to 3/4″.  All exposed, forward edges were rounded over using a 3/8 round-over bit on both sides to give a bull-nose detail.  Then all I did for most of a day was sand, sand, sand first to remove any tooling marks, using 60-80 grit, then working my way up to a finer 220 grit sandpaper.  After installing the metal brackets into each available stud along the wall, I took about a 6′ scrap piece of plywood cut to the dimensions of the shelves and scribed the ends to the end walls, and then transferred these to the shelves, after getting running measurements wall to wall.  This gave me a gapless fit.  I placed the shelves on their brackets one at a time and made sure that they all sat flush against the bracket stands.  Where they didn’t, a few passes with hand plane and some sanding was in order until it all sat flush against the bracket stands.  Then it was a couple of days of staining and finishing.   As the stain and sealer was drying, I took the time to remedy the various nicks and gouges in the end walls from fitting the heavy and cumbersome shelves.  Once the shelves were installed, I put a black screw through the hole in the bottom of each bracket to prevent the shelves (and possibly all their contents) from sliding off.  The customer was very pleased with the results.  I can imagine them full of books!

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