Custom DVD Shelf Build
Custom DVD Shelf Build DIY Project
I have a rather large collection of DVDs, Blu-rays, Playstation One, Two, and Three games. I had a DVD shelf or two on the walls at the old house. When I moved last year all these got boxed up and left boxed up for the past year while I pursued other projects around the house. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu I had plenty on tap for my viewing enjoyment. I finally got enough free time and money saved up to build my shelving for all this stuff and showcase it in the main media area as I had intended. I drew these plans up almost a year ago and finally they have become more than just plans. They’ve become a nice reality.
This guide will show you how to make your own custom DVD shelves. By making these myself I paid about half of what I would have paid if I had bought them prefabricated, plus these are made out of better materials. There is no particle board to be found here. I’ve been working with wood since I was a kid so I’ve collected some tools for this sort of thing, though I haven’t had a huge amount of experience with joinery and cabinetry. You will need some tools for this, but nothing hugely expensive. I have neither the room nor the money for large shop tools like high end table saws, planers, or jointers.
I haven’t built shelving of this scale before and I learned a few things as I worked. I’ll do my best to show how I did things, alternate methods that can be used if you don’t have the same tools, and how I would do things differently in retrospect based on what I learned in the process. So let’s get started.
First of all, here is my original set of plans. I just mocked this up in Photoshop since I have a passable understanding of that program. I haven’t done much with CAD or even Vector graphics.
As earlier noted, I learned as I went so some things changed on the fly. For one thing I modified the overall size of the project to fit my intended area a bit better. I ended up shrinking the width just a bit and extending the height to account for the bottom shelf sitting on top of the lower cross-support instead of in behind it. Here are my hand scribbled modifications.
First of all let’s start with a list of materials needed for this project.
I built this set of shelving out of poplar. Poplar is one of the softer varieties of hardwood. It’s harder than most pine, but not by a lot. I find that it takes stain well, is more stable structurally than pine, and costs a fraction of what other hardwoods like oak do. I would not recommend this for high wear surfaces such as a table top or the top of a desk. For shelves with light weight objects such as DVD cases though it works wonderfully. Please be aware that poplar can get very green in color. While there are also very white pieces available as well you’ll have to do a lot of picking through the bins to find all white wood. If you are going for a light or natural color on these shelves then poplar may not be the wood of choice for you. Darker colors as I am using turn out beautifully.
- 7 pcs – 1 in. x 12 in. x 8 lf. (actually need about 6 full pieces and one 4 lf length)
- 2 pcs – 1 in. x 2 in. x 8 lf. (actually need about 12 lf total)
- 1 pcs – 1 in. x 4 in. x 8 lf.
- 1 pcs – 4 lf. x 8 lf. x 1/4 in. thick plywood for the back. (I used a clean faced birch subfloor similar to Luan)
- 1 qt stain of choice if you are staining.
- 1 qt of clear coat of choice. I recommend an oil product so the plastic cases don’t stick once it’s cured. (may take more depending on how many coats you apply)
- 1 gal of paint thinner for cleanup.
- 1 brush 2 in. or 2-1/2 in. if you are working straight from the can. Brush should be natural hair such as white china bristle or ox ear hair.
- 1 tube moisture cure urethane construction adhesive such as PL Premium.
- 1 bottle wood glue such as Titebond (original)
- 1-1/2 in. x 3/8 in. dowels.
- 1-1/4 in. pocket hole screws finely threaded.
- 3/4 in. blue painter’s tape.
This should cover most of what you need. I’ll cover some optional items during the course of the guide.
Cutting the Lumber
The first thing I did was mark and cut the lumber. As previously mentioned I don’t have fancy planers and jointers so there isn’t much prep to do on the lumber. I was just being careful up front to choose lumber that is as straight as possible. Even though I hand picked all the wood there was still some cupping and warping as well as slightly off sizes to deal with. This is just the nature of wood.
First I cut the best two boards I could find down to 6 ft. 7 in. for the sides of the DVD shelf. I used the better boards for this as they will be the most visible parts of the shelf. Then I clamped them together with bar clamps to keep them straight before marking the location of the shelves.
I started from the bottom by marking the cross-supports which are the 1 in. x 4 in. pieces. The true dimensions on these are 3/4 in. x 3-1/2 in. because they size lumber before it is planed and jointed, which removes a fair bit of material. The supports were marked up from the bottom 3-1/2 in. to the bottom of the lowest shelf and 1/4 in. in from the edges because I was recessing the support slightly to make it look better.
From there I laid out a series of marks for the other shelves. Each shelf is 3/4 in. thick and I left a space of 8-1/2 in. between each shelf to give room for larger box sets to fit and to have some finger room above the cases to pull them out. From the bottom of the side pieces you I made my marks as follows.
- 3-1/2 in.
- 4-1/4 in.
- 12-3/4 in.
- 13-1/2 in.
- 22 in.
- 22-3/4 in.
- 31-1/4 in.
- 32 in.
- 40-1/2 in.
- 41-1/4 in.
- 49-3/4 in.
- 50-1/2 in.
- 59 in.
- 59-3/4 in.
- 68-1/4 in.
- 69 in.
This gave me all the marks for all the shelves. I measured and marked on both outside edges of the clamped boards. I used a long straight edge to mark the lines and a framing square to help make sure they are straight, though this can be a little off if then are not jointed perfectly straight from the mill. Next I marked for the cross-supports at the top. This was done just like at the bottom except I marked down 1-1/2 in. for the different sized lumber. I still marked 1/4 in. in from the edges to recess these boards.
Once this was done, I left the boards clamped together and prepared my router to create dadoes in the lumber. Dadoes and grooves are basically the same thing. The difference between the two is that a groove runs with the grain of the wood and a dado runs across the grain. I cut a 3/4 in. wide by 1/4 in. deep slot in the board that the shelves and supports would plug into.
To do this I put a 3/4 in straight cut bit in the router and set my depth by measuring and testing on a scrap piece of wood. Then I measured and tested the distance from the edge of the bit to the edge of the router base. This gave me a measurement which I could use to clamp a straight edge onto the board at the right distance to get a good even cut with the router by running it’s base along the edge of the straight edge.
I used a 1/4 in. shaft palm router. It’s the only one I own currently. It’s a bit small for the job and cutting a 1/4 in. deep dado with it was a little tricky. A larger router would work better for this. Alternately you can run the dadoes in two passes, one at an 1/8 in. and one at 1/4 in. to create less stress on the router. That’s a lot of extra clamping though. The choice is up to you. You can also use a dado blade on a table saw, but you need a pretty big saw with a large table to handle the length of the boards and you need to cut them one at a time without the clamps. These came out well despite my blade needing replaced or sharpened. You can see how a piece of the shelf board pops right into the dado.
In retrospect I would have cut hidden dadoes instead of full dadoes. Hidden dadoes just mean I’d have stopped the cut before reaching the front facing edge of the board, probably at about 3/4 in. from the edge. Then I’d have cut a 1/4 in. by 3/4 in. notch on the front corner of each shelf so when they plug in the face it looks like two solid 3/4 in. pieces of wood meeting. By doing full dadoes you can see the slot for the DVD shelf from the front when they are assembled. This could also be hidden with a facing board all the way around the edge of the front face of the DVD shelf as most book cases have. I opted against this in the design specifically because I want to be able to slide DVDs all the way in to the very edge. A facing would force me to take out DVD from beside the ones hidden by the face board in order to get to them.
You can see the issues that would create.
Let’s look at the cross-support cuts a little closer.
You’ll notice that the edges that are clamped together are left with a 1/4 in. piece of wood on the face and the outside edge have the piece removed. The inside edges are the faces of my DVD shelf. The 1/4 in. is left here as a finished edge. The outside edges are the back of my DVD shelf. The 1/4 is removed here to account for the backer board lapping all the way down the back of the DVD shelf and across this bottom support.
The next thing I did was clamp a long straight edge down the back edge of each side panel and use the router to cut a 1/4 in. off the edge, still at the same 1/4 in. depth. This gave me a recess into which the backer board would fit later.
The next step was cutting the shelves. These cuts are fairly simple. I used a speed square and a circular saw to cut about a half inch off a board to ensure a straight and square end. Then I measured 44 in. for the length I wanted the board to be and used the speed square and circular saw to cut it to length. I got two shelves out of each 8 lf. board
After this I ran them all through a small contractor table saw to remove 1/4 in. from the long edge. This was so the boards were the same width as my DVD shelf is deep, accounting for the groove I cut to allow for the backer board. If you don’t have a table saw it is possible to use a router with a fence attachment to remove this material or a clamped straight edge and a circular saw.
I also cut my cross supports to length. I needed two pieces each of the 1 in. x 4 in. and the 1 in. x 2 in. boards all cut to a length of 44 in.
That left me with only two more pieces, the top and the back.
Now the top needed to overhang the front of the DVD shelf to give a nice finished look. Unfortunately the board I had for the top was the same size as the boards for the side so there was no overhang to be had. That means I needed to add to the width of the board. I did this by joining a piece of the 1 in. x 2 in. board onto the edge of the 1 in. x 12 in. board.
To start with, I needed to cut both of these boards to a length of 48 in. minimum. This is my desired final length. It wouldn’t hurt to cut them a bit long if you have extra material. This way you have room for error and they can be trimmed to the correct length later. I cut mine at about 50 in. Next I had to worry about alignment. I wanted to make sure the boards lined up perfectly when I joined them so I didn’t have any odd looking lippage. To do this I used a doweling jig and dowels. You can also use a plate (biscuit) joiner for this. I wanted a nice even spacing to the dowel and for this length I chose to use four of them. I measured in 3 in. from my finished ends (so 4 in. since I have extra length of 50 in. I’ll trim 1 in. off of each end later). Then I measured in another 14 in. from each of these marks to get two more dowel holes. This was very close to an even spacing.
Once the measuring was done on the larger board I clamped my doweling jig in place and drilled the hole 7/8 in. deep. You do this by sliding the bit through the jig and measuring the bit that protrudes on the other side. Then you tighten the stop collar around the bit to provide a depth stop when you drill. I’m going for 7/8 in. to allow some room for error. I was using 1-1/2 in. dowels so half of that is 3/4 in. Allowing and extra 1/8 in. on one side helps ensure you seat the pieces firmly together.
The jig made sure the hole was centered on the board. After that I used center points in the dowel hole to line up the second board. These allow you to directly transfer the hole location from one board to the other. It’s more accurate than measuring again.
The next step was to glue the dowels into place and to glue the edge of one of the boards with Titebond wood glue. I then pressed them together using the dowels to align them and clamp the two boards over night. I made sure to clean up any excess glue before it dried. A little residue is fine as I was giving it a good sanding. Too much, too deep into the wood will prevent stain from penetrating the wood.
Once this dried over night I removed the clamps and cut it down to a 48 in. total length. Then I used my router to add a decorative edge to the front and sides while leaving the back flat. Choose a bit that fits with your other furniture style.
Note that I made sure the joined edge was on the back of the DVD shelf were no one will see it. This is a stronger joint since it doesn’t overhang the front and it hides it in case your joint doesn’t come out well. In my case the two boards were slightly different in thickness and even after sanding it was noticeable. This is the downfall of not having a planer.
Before continuing I’d like to note that I cut pocket holes for screws to attach the sides to the top and to attach some of the supports. I forgot to take photos of this part but here is a photo of pocket holes on a similar project I completed last year.
I have a Kreg jig for this that simply clamps to the board after you set the thickness of your materials on it. It comes with a special bit that drills the hole at the correct angle.
I cut two hole on the top of each side panel just like the ones pictured here. I also put a row of four across the back of each of the larger cross-supports that go in the bottom. The smaller cross-supports are too small for pocket holes. Instead I drilled a small hole straight up through those and used 2 in. long finish screws to screw them to the top. Finish screws are thin screws with a small head so they are minimally visible once inserted.
The next thing I did is dry fit part of the DVD shelf so I can get the carcass pretty much in place and mark the top panel for dowels. I put a few of the pieces together using a few pipe clamps and a ratchet strap.
Once that was in place I carefully placed the top onto the shelves and lined it up flush with the back. I had 1-1/2 in. from the side panel to the edge of the top on both sides. Then I penciled around the inside and outside of the vertical pieces. Once again I drilled four dowel holes for alignment.
You can see one of the dowels didn’t line up correctly so I had to be careful with fitting that one. It was getting late and I was too tired to be working on this. If I were in my right mind at the time I never would have marked the top for dowels first. I should have drilled the side panels and put the center marks in the sides before carefully placing the top. This would have been much more accurate.
Here I drilled the corresponding dowel holes in the side panel. Note that I drilled these holes 1-1/8 in. deep and the holes in the top panel 1/2 in. deep. Since the top is only 3/4 in. thick some of the length of the dowel had to be shifted further into the side panel.
That wraps up the cutting phase for now. The only thing left is the back panel, which I could have cut at this point, but I opted to wait until the shell was assembled and measured more accurately for a tight fit. Once I had my final measurement on this I marked it off and used a straight edge and circular saw to cut it down to size.
All of my boards were ready for sanding and finishing now. I gave all of the boards a good sanding with an orbital sander and 80-grit paper. Then I hit them again with 220-grit to make them nice and smooth. I softened the shelf edges by hand with a medium grit sanding sponge. Power sanding these edges would round them over too much and make the exposed dado joint look loose on the face. I also hand sanded the routed edges on the top so as not to round them off too much as well. Once all the sanding was done I vacuumed the dust up and wiped it all down with a cloth saturated in paint thinner to pickup any remaining dust. Many people use tack clothes for this. I avoid them because I feel they leave a waxy residue behind.
I left it all to dry out over night in preparation for staining.
Staining and Finishing
Before I actually begin staining there was a bit more prep work to be done. The majority of this build was to be held together via an adhesive bond. In order to attain the best bond possible I needed to make sure that my joints stayed free of stain and clear. Wood adhesives work by bonding wood fibers together. Those fibers can’t be bonded if they are sealed by stain and finish. To avoid this I taped off these areas with blue painters tape. This prevented too much finish from soaking into the joint and ruining the bond.
I also taped the top panel inside the lines I traced out for dowel spacing earlier. This joint was where the side and the top glued together and needed to be bare for the adhesive to bond as well.
Once the taping was done I was ready to start staining the pieces. To make this easier I drilled holes and inserted screws in the ends on most of the boards so they can be hung between saw horses. This way I could flip the boards and do all sides at once.
Staining was one of the easier steps in this project. I used an oil stain so it didn’t flash dry too quickly like water based stains do. To apply it, I simply dipped a clean white rag (t-shirt material) into the tin and wiped the product onto the board. I went over it a couple times while still wet to make sure there was plenty of stain soaking into the board for an even coat of color. This was important since I was going for such a dark color.
Here are some photos of the pieces after staining. You can see the screws in the ends of some of the boards.
Once all the pieces were stained I left them to cure out overnight. Some stains may require a longer dry time for a full cure. The one I used was a rapid cure. It says you can clear it an hour after application. That’s a bunch of crap. If I had tried to do it that soon I’d have ended up wiping color off because the clear I used had the same kind of solvents in it as the stain, which would have reactivated the partially cured stain and caused it to let loose.
The clear I used was a polymerized tung oil varnish. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to work with, but I was going for a certain hand rubbed look with the finished product. Other types of clear are fine. Polyurethane, which is also a form of varnish, is the most common product used and will work just fine. There are various other types of varnish as well that will work. I’d stay away from true oils like 100% tung oil or boiled linseed oil. These have their uses, but aren’t great for what we are doing. These types of oil never truly cure completely. This makes it easy to repair them latter as wiping another coat on will blend right into the old product, but it makes them less durable for the kind of sliding traffic we are putting on these shelves. The oils from these can also leech into the material setting on them so definitely not great for something like a book shelf. If in doubt just use polyurethane. Lacquer could be a good choice here too, but it’s best to spray lacquer if you want good results and you better have ventilation and respirators to use it. One last thing to note is that YES you do need to clear these shelves. Stain is a color coat, not a finish. Stain alone will provide very little protection and will not wear well. You also risk color leeching into whatever you set on the shelves. Stains have a very small amount of varnish in them to act as a binder, but do not form a good durable film.
After blowing any stray dust off the pieces with my compressor I used a natural bristle brush to start applying product. In this case I used a white china bristle brush. China bristle is just pig hair. White hair is finer than the black hair variety and will leave a better finish in clear coats. Ox ear blends are good too since they are a softer bristle and leave a good finish for this. You can use a synthetic brush such as nylon or polyester for this as well, but the natural fiber gets along better with oil and will be easier to clean up without damaging the fiber with the solvents we are using.
Here are some photos of the product being applied. You can see how much difference the clear makes against the stain alone.
Once the pieces had received a coat of clear I let them cure at least three days. Twenty four hours should suffice for most finishes such as polyurethane. In the case of the finish I’m using it actually took at least three to four days to cure hard enough for sanding. Ideally I should have left it a week, but I was impatient. Some other finishes, such as lacquer, flash off so fast you can actually sand them within a couple of hours.
Once the clear was dried, I sanded it lightly with some fine wet or dry paper. I used 600 grit for this stage and rubbed it down again with a green abrasive nylon pad. Green is usually pretty aggressive, but when used very lightly it works well here to pick up any leftover boogers left by sanding. Three days was not really enough of a cure time and sanding gummed up the paper pretty quickly here.
Notice how the boards were nicely dulled , but you could still see some sheen on them that wasn’t present with stain alone. The next coat of finish would stick nicely to this dulled finish.
Once the sanding was done, being very careful not to over sand and damage the color layer, I wiped it all down with a cloth dampened in paint thinner once again to remove dust and residue. Once that dried for an hour or so I applied a second coat of clear. That required another three days of cure time before continuing. At this point you’ll have to start thinking about whether more coats are needed. For a polyurethane two or three coats should be plenty so long as the finish has come out smooth and you are happy with the result. The product I used builds thinner than poly and would require a minimum of three coats to get a good result.
After the second coat was cured I again sanded and padded it, though this time I moved up to 1000 grit paper, which is even finer than the 600 I used last time. I was aiming to get progressively smoother results as I sanded and also to remove less clear while doing so. I ended up with four coats total. I stuck with 1000 grit between coats, but changed to a gray nylon pad between coats three and four. The gray pad is less abrasive.
At this point, depending on what finish you are using and what look you are going for, you may be done with clearing the project. In my case, I was going for a hand rubbed look so there were some additional steps to be covered. Before we get into that though, let’s talk about finish that doesn’t come out as smooth as you like and why it happens.
So you have two or three coats of finish down and are calling it done, but then you notice that there are a couple of problems. First you can feel a little roughness to the finish and aren’t sure what happened. You may also be able to see some issues when the light falls across the piece at an angle. Unfortunately this is all part of using an oil finish. There are three things that tend to cause this.
First there can be debris in your clear. New tins of clear that are thoroughly stirred generally don’t have this issue, but it can happen, especially if the tin has been on the shelf for a while. It’s also more common with duller finishes. Gloss doesn’t have nearly the debris in it because it has no flatteners in it. To make duller finishes they add a flattener to gloss to dull it down. I’ve seen old tins of product have a thick layer of gel in the bottom of the tin where all the flatteners have settled and clumped. To avoid this issue you have to first make sure you don’t have old product. If you have that thick layer of gel and it isn’t stirring in, don’t use the product. Exchange it for something newer. Secondly, it’s never a bad idea to strain the product through mesh before starting application. This is a pain, but it helps eliminate debris. Natural varnishes are often in need of this. These products are made from vegetable oils and after being exposed to air the first time they are prone to getting debris quickly and often will have to be strained. Another source of debris can be the brush you are using. Always comb a brush and vacuum it before you begin application, especially if it’s been used before. Used brushes tend to build up particles of old finish. Oil clear is difficult to completely clean out of a brush. It’s also a bad idea to wipe your brush on the lip of the tin when you dip it. This squeezes debris out of the brush and contaminates the whole batch of product.
Once debris has been eliminated you have to consider how you are mixing your product. Clears should be stirred, period. Never shake clear. Shaking introduces bubbles into the finish. When you brush product on it creates some bubbles as well, but shaking can actually make it so bad it’s foamy. Sometimes I have to shake older tins of clear to get the flatteners mixed in thoroughly, but if I do I have to leave it overnight to settle out before application. You should also avoid foam applicators for this reason. Foam makes more bubbles in the finish. Some people swear by foam applicators, but my opinion is to avoid them. Oils dry slow enough that a lot of bubbles in the finish have time to dissipate before it cures, but the less you start with the better.
The third most common issue is environmental variables. This is the hardest to control. Don’t work in dusty places and don’t work outside. Oils dry slowly and there is plenty of time for dust and debris to settle on the finish and stick to it nicely. I try to keep my shop very clean (blatant lie) and even run air filtration when I clear, but I still end up with dust in the finish. This is one reason I’m hand rubbing this project in the final stages of finishing. This will help smooth out the final finish. Pretty much any professional woodworker will tell you that dust in the finish is just part of the game. It’s impossible to completely avoid.
In my case I ended up with a pretty smooth finish on this project. It wasn’t perfect though. I could still feel some roughness where dust settled in the finish. I also had a couple drips to deal with. Drips are a real pain. When using a slow drying oil they are also inevitable. On these shelves it didn’t matter much that clear dripped over the back edge of the board. It did matter on the front edge, which would be exposed. When this happens you have to use a hard rubber block with fine paper on it to smooth out the drip. You may not be able to get it perfect. Over sanding will damage the color coat. Edges like this are really tricky because they are narrow and hard to sand flat. You’ll end up wearing through the color on the edges where they shift from one plane to another before getting the drip sanded out of the middle. It’s best to avoid drips as much as possible. During application I always come back after about thirty minutes and wipe the edges of the board with a cloth dipped in the clear to smooth out any drips and runs. You have to be very careful not to mess up the finish doing this, but it helps a lot. Even doing this I was not able to avoid them all though. I did my best to make them less noticeable.
I’ll note that waterborne finishes and lacquers tend to flash off so fast that they do not have time to pick up much dust from the air so they are easier to control as far as environment is concerned. Lacquer will require the right application method and plenty of ventilation to make it feasible. Waterborne finishes just don’t block well enough for this application in my opinion. I don’t want plastic DVD cases sticking to the DVD shelf. Make your own decision about which finish is best for you.
Now that we’ve covered the problems you are likely to run into, lets continue with the final part of the finishing. Since I got some roughness in the finish I had to start with fixing that. I didn’t want to damage my final layer of clear, but I was going to have to sand it again to get the dust smoothed out. Thankfully when I say there was some roughness, I was being dramatic. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice this. It wasn’t like rubbing your hand over sandpaper. It was more like when you rub a cloth over it you could feel it snag on something every so often. This was minor and didn’t take much to remove.
To smooth out this finish I broke out the 2000 grit paper. This is extremely fine. One pass over the board will start clogging the paper with dust it’s so fine. For this you should always use a hard rubber block to keep the paper as smooth and flat as possible. Lightly move the block in very straight passes all the same direction. Let the weight of the rubber do the work. Do not apply pressure. Check your surface after each pass to see if the roughness is gone before making another pass. The less you have to do the better. Also wipe the surface between passes to remove any dust or debris. At this point even a speck of debris can gouge the finish. Some people will wet sand at this point to get an even smoother finish. By using some mineral oil or water with the wet or dry paper you can provide a layer of lubrication that enables a finer cut and keeps the paper from clogging as much. However, it also cuts more aggressively and can damage the finish is you aren’t very careful. I personally don’t use this method as I’ve never had any luck with it on wood. It tends to work better on harder flatter surfaces such as metal.
That is what I had after the sanding with 2000 grit. If I held it at an angle in the light it still had a good satin sheen to it. 2000 is so fine it’s almost impossible for the human eye to see the abrasions it leaves. You’ll have to assess your own project, but you may not need to continue any further at this point. If the finish is now smooth and looks good to your eye, there is no need to continue with hand rubbing it. Hand rubbing will result in a waxier look to the finished product.
Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I continued with the hand rubbed look. For this I needed some other products.
Don’t judge me. The drugstore was the easiest place to get mineral oil. And the bottle lies. This stuff is horrible. Yes I tasted it.
Rotten Stone is basically a very finely ground limestone powder. It feels like talcum. This was my final level of abrasive. It’s far finer than even 2000 grit paper. There is anther product called pumice stone that is basically finely ground pumice. This is often used between the sanding phase and the rotten stone phase, but with 2000 grit paper I didn’t feel it was necessary. The mineral oil was my cutting lubricant.
I tried to use the two products together right out of the package but that didn’t work the best. The mineral oil is very thick. I decided to thin it with paint thinner just the slightest bit to make it more fluid. That worked much better.
I soaked a rag in the oil mixture and dumped a little rotten stone onto the board. I very carefully worked the oily rag through the powder, rubbing in long passes in one direction. This took time and patience. Once I felt I had the piece thoroughly rubbed down I wiped it off with a cloth soaked in thinner and let it dry out. At this point I had to decide if it needed more rubbing. This is a very touch and go process. Once I was satisfied, I rubbed it again with dry rotten stone and a dry rag. This buffed the final finish. You could actually use something like a car buffer for this with the correct pad.
Here is what I ended up with.
Now it was time for the really tricky part. I needed to assemble all these pieces and avoid damaging the finish all at the same time. Yuck.
This is the first step. I ran a bead of PL Premium construction adhesive in the dado for the bottom shelf. Once I had inserted the shelf into the dado I used a speed square to keep it square to the side panel. You’ll need four hands or a helper for this. While holding that steady I used a block, the unfinished piece you see in the photo, to mechanically fasten the bottom shelf to the side. I screwed the block into the side using 1-1/4” pan head screws in holes I had pre-drilled through the block. These were just long enough to give good hold but not long enough to come out the other side. I then used 1-1/4” pocket hole screws in the pocket holes I had pre-drilled in the block to attach it to the shelf itself.
Now that the bottom shelf was fairly stable, I attached the cross supports that go below the shelf. Again I ran beads of PL Premium in the grooves and dadoes as well as on the top edge of the supports where they joined with the shelf itself. I carefully clamped these in place, making sure the keep the shelf square to the side panel. Once clamped, I used pocket hole screws in the holes I drilled in the cross supports earlier to attach them to the bottom shelf.
Now I needed to run PL Premium in the dadoes for all the shelves on the side piece that was laying flat. Then I had to carefully stand each shelf in place in the dadoes. Unless you are Kali herself you are going to need help for this. To help keep everything straight I measured spacing as I went and tacked a very thin strip of wood between shelves as a temporary brace. This allowed my helper to only hold onto one shelf to keep them all standing.
Now things got really tricky. I had to glue the dadoes on the other side panel and set it into place, getting each shelf board in its dado and also inserting the top cross supports all at the same time. This takes some maneuvering and I had to pop that temporary brace as I went to get each shelf to pop into place.
What a royal pain this was. Also notice how nothing seemed to be falling into place. That’s because wood twists and cups and warps. It started out good and straight, and I even let it acclimate in the shop for a week before starting, but by the end of finishing it had changed just a bit. This made it not fit quite so well. I had to wrestle it into place and get it clamped tight. Once I got it clamped it still wasn’t perfect, but before I could fix that I needed to stand it up. Doing that without the shelves falling out was not easy. Ever little twist as you raise it changes how well the clamps are holding their position. I finally got it upright with the help of three people. This was more difficult than usual due to the size and weight of the project.
Once it had assumed the full upright position I had to knock it about with a rubber mallet to get all the boards lined up in the dadoes correctly and get it clamped tight to keep them in place until the adhesive cured. I also had to glue and screw the top on to help straighten it up. It isn’t shown in these photos, but I used a corner clamp on a couple of shelves to help square the whole thing up. The carcass was clamped together with pipe clamps, which were thankfully much cheaper than bar clamps because I needed a lot of them to keep this all clamped tight. I added more than what is pictured here. I also shimmed it up off the floor until I got the bottom shelf level. This all helped keep the thing as straight as possible until it cured. Keep an eye on your joints for the next couple of hours. Urethane adhesives like PL Premium expand a bit and can foam out of the joints a little. This needs cleaned with paint thinner while it’s still pliable. If it cures it’ll be a monster to remove without doing damage to the finish. It wouldn’t hurt to wipe the whole thing down with paint thinner. I know that enough adhesive got on me while moving this thing around that I was leaving sticky fingerprints on the finish that had to be quickly removed.
Once this monster had cured overnight I was safe to remove the clamps. At this point I spent a couple hours trying to figure out why nothing seemed square. The uprights were plumb and the whole unit was level, but the shelves were not square to the sides. This seemed to defy explanation until I realized that the shelf boards had some cup to them as wood was wont to do. It was very minor cupping and was to be expected, but it made my square look like the shelf was all out of whack. Now it was time to attach the back.
I very carefully laid the unit down on its face. Then I checked it once again to make sure the carcass was square. With the cross supports it was staying pretty straight. When the back went on it would lock the whole thing in place so I had to make sure everything was square before attaching the back. I laid the back in place temporarily and carefully marked where the shelves hit on the edges. Then I snapped a chalk like for each shelf so I knew where to staple the back once it was in place.
After removing the back again I ran a bead of PL Premium across the back of each shelf board, and down the groove on the edge of each side panel. I also ran adhesive on the top and bottom cross support.
After very carefully laying the back into place again, I used my pneumatic stapler to staple it every six inches or so with 3/8” long staples. This pinned it all in place until the adhesive set. It also allowed me to stand it back up immediately. I needed it standing so I could clean up any glue that oozed on the front.
Again, I left it overnight to cure. The next day I had my finished product.
This thing was a monster. I’m not sure what it weighed, but it took three people to carry it upstairs and set it in place. I got to do it all over again for the other side of the entertainment area too.
Now that both units were in place I decided they were too tall and narrow to trust that they wouldn’t tip over if someone grabbed at them the wrong way. I decided to screw a small ledger board onto the wall and into the studs. Then I ran finish screws through the top cross support in the back of each unit and into the ledger board behind them. This attached them to the wall and kept them from ever tipping over. Just make sure to cut your ledger smaller than the width of the shelf so it stays hidden. This looks better and keep your shelves in your possession should you ever sell the house. Technically if it’s attached to the wall this way then it’s considered part of the house, but so long as no one notices…
Here are a few finished shots and photos of adding all of my collection to the units.
I’ve filled them up pretty quickly since they were built. I’m estimating that each unit has about 400 lbs of stuff on it now. It’s been several month since the build and there is no sagging or movement in the shelves. They are rock solid and I am very happy with the result. Now I just need to make some more. This never seems to end.
I hope this has been helpful and entertaining. Let me know if there are any questions I can answer. Thanks for reading.