The shelf unit
I matched up the boards, taking grain direction into consideration for easier planing later on. The boards are even in thickness and they should be fairly flat once glued, but I always plane the surfaces before I apply finish. Nothing beats a hand planed surface!
I started by jointing the two meeting edges together. If you fold the two pieces like a book and plane the “spine”, when you “open” the book those edges will match perfectly. And if you are out of square by a degree or six, it won’t matter! Because if one edge is 91°, the other will be 89° – 180° in total. That’s the theory, anyway.
Here I am jointing two boards held in the vise while the previous two rests on the bench.
I used a small clamp to hold the two boards together at the back. The vise holds the boards and applies tremendous force, so I did not need any more support for this operation. I made this a spring joint in order to get the best joint possible long-term.
For this project I am using Titebond III, as I wanted a waterproof joint. If we are going to place a plant in the shelf, or wet gloves or something, I don’t want the glue to fail. I laid a bead of glue on one board and rubbed the joining surfaces together, evenly distributing the glue along the joint. No need for fancy glue spreaders, rollers, disposable brushes or even a finger. Lay a bead, rub the boards back and forth and apply pressure. And as you can see, the squeeze-out is very even across the boards except for where I wiped the glue to feel the edges for “flushness”.
Yup. Dead flat, no gaps. Look at the reflection – if the lines meet across the whole width, everything is flat. A nice trick in a situation like this where it is hard to use a light source behind the ruler and/or you cannot get down low to sight for light.
A couple of hours in the clamp later, and the boards were ready for the next step. I cut the boards to rough length, then squared two edges on the shooting board. My Stanley 5 1/2 is great for this, as the mass and size of it helps a lot. I would LOVE a shooting board plane, but they are frighteningly expensive!
I cut two of the pieces slightly longer to form a rectangle. As you can see in the next picture, I had a crack in one of the boards I glued up. This then dictated the depth of the shelf unit. It was a deliberate choice, as I don’t want a very deep shelf.
Sadly, that knot on the right hand piece was lost in the process. It would’ve made an interesting element, but on the bright side I won’t have to mess around with epoxy. I am not too fond of that stuff.
I planed all the wide surfaces with my Record 04 smoothing plane. I have an ever so slight camber on the iron, and it produces glass smooth surfaces. However, some of the boards had grain going both ways across the length of the board, and that can be a challenge. But in such occasions, I have a neat little trick: I stuff shavings down the throat and apply pressure. I also have the cap iron REALLY close to the edge of the blade – just a sliver of silver. A gnat’s nadger. This prevents tearout extremely well! It also helps to give the blade a few swiffa-swoffa on the strop so that it is very sharp, and I take very light cuts.
I cut the pieces to final width on the band saw and planed the edges smooth. The grain was pretty wild on two of the pieces, but you’ll see my little trick in action here too:
Before I cut the pieces to width, I removed a nicked corner on one of the boards. Having a fine tuned band saw is of great help! The strip I cut off here is 0.7mm (about 1/32”)!
With that out of the way, it is time for dovetails. Next page!