The picture frame shelves

Pictures of grandkids ornate most homes of grandparents. Hanging those pictures though – that can be a bit of a beast. Simple picture frame shelves is a good solution – unless you like the pasta strainer look for your walls…

My mother in law has pictures of her grandkids on the wall, but needed a better way to display them than just hanging them up. I had a plank of white oak that came from a tree I cut down next to the barn on the farm they owned (now owned by my brother in law), and I thought it would be suitable for some picture frame shelves. As a bonus, the wood brings a bit of the farm into their apartment.

The plank was initially a reject. A mishap while milling the log resulted in a wavy surface, and I decided to clean it up before I proceeded. I saved the plank from the kindling pile since I saw I could get some thin planks out of it.

I started by chopping off the ends , as there were big splits happening. I cut a few centimetres inward of the split, which removed them completely. By the way, the white paint was put on to keep the ends from splitting. You won’t eliminate splits that way, but it reduces them greatly. If you are interested, I’ve written an article about milling and drying your own lumber.

The next task was to mill the board down. Since it had both cup and twist, I decided to rip it down before running it through the thicknesser. Getting a 20cm wide by 190cm long board flat and twist free means filling the chip collector bin fast, and Iā€™d be lucky to get a thin piece of veneer out of it. Toothpicks would’ve been a more likely end product!

Thin strips, on the other hand, would be quick to clean up.

With that out of the way, and the planer/thicknesser switched off, silence was again restored in the shop. Until the sound system kicked in, of course. Some ZZ Top accompanies woodworking just beautifully…

I got three wide strips and one narrow out of the board. Pretty flat and almost twist free, nothing I could not correct during glueup. The next day, I wondered whether it was white oak or some sort of banana oak I had on my bench!

Oh, well. As they say in StarwarsTrek: Improvise, adapt and compensate. Or something. Clamps solves problems. I clamped the bananas slats and secured them to the bench. I then planed one edge so that it was dead flat and square to the sides.

Since the slats seemed to have a nautical attraction (would’ve been perfect in a boat), I decided to not pursuit the 170cm long shelves I initially had planned. In stead, I decided to make 4 smaller shelves. Which actually turned out to be a good idea, as they now can be placed asymmetrically on the wall, in stead of two distinct lines. No railroad tracks, although having lots of grand children over for visit must feel like being hit by a freight train sometimes. A freight train of hugs. šŸ˜ Gotta love that!

I then proceeded to plane the slats to width. First job: mark both sides with a marking gauge. Then you know where to plane to, and the edge will be dead square. If you pay attention, of course.

I planed two slats together – it is a lot easier to plane a square edge that’s effectively 20mm wide in stead of just 10 (slightly less than 7/16”). And here’s a trick for you: your fingers are amazingly sensitive. You can feel the difference between a smooth surface and a surface with ridges 13 nanometers high. You can feel the ridges of your fingerprints – just rub your fingertips VERY lightly together. Y’all done? Okay, let’s move on. If you think you need better accuracy than that, you should take the hamma’ in the next image and whack your brain into coherence. With the white side!

So I feel the underside of the two planks and tap the one I feel is “low” (it is actually higher) until I cannot detect any ridge or the ridge is barely detectable. This of course requires that the two surfaces are planed prior to doing this. By planing the two boards together, down to the lines I made, I got two planks of identical width and with all sides square to the adjoining ones. Easy-peasy.

By the way, see the two faces of my Thorex 712 R persuader/nudger? The white side is nylon, and it moves A ThingTM about 10mm. The grey are rubber, and moves Said ThingĀ® 1mm. It’s a fantastic tool!

The next job: shooting the ends. With a plane. A hand plane.

You make a shooting board, place the plane on its side (one of two times where a plane should rest on its side. The other one is to act as a support while dovetailing). I first shoot 3-4 strokes with the reference edge towards me and a finger between the plank and the shooting board fence on the left side. This create a small chamfer on the exit side when I shoot the edge square.

I then flip the board so that the reference edge rests against the shooting board fence, and shoot the edge until the chamfer goes bye-bye. Done right, you get no splits or tearouts. In the next image, one more pass did complete the job. There’s a smidgen of a chamfer left on the far corner.

One shoot later, and the result of the procedure can be seen here:

Quarter sawn white oak with all edges dead square to all the adjoining ones. Look at the pores in the end grain and the medullary rays – gorgeous! Something you’ll never see if you try to sand that edge.

I then glued two boards into a L shape using a straightedge as a little helper.

I then watched glue dry for 30-40 minutes, and removed the clamps.

within two hours, I had two shelves ready. One needs a coffee break!

I made two of the shelves with continuous grain pattern – always try to do something new.

The next day, it became clear that some monkey business is going on in my shop. Banana related at least. Because the square and nice shelves I made – they warped, baby! Just slightly, but…

Fun thing though: Remember I had only 3 slats? Not enough material for 4 shelves, so I dug out a piece of oak from the lumber rack, one I had prepared earlier (relax, this ain’t no cooking show!). A beautiful piece of real quartersawn white oak with medullary rays like ripples in a sand dune! Gorgeous! I ripped it down and glued it – and it stayed dead square.

A good lesson in what wood does once you put a sharp edge into it, and how stable dry, QS white oak can be.

On the next page, I’ll try a trick to straighten the twist somewhat by building tension into the shelves.

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