Rosemine’s wall shelf

Daddy, can you build me a shelf for books and knick-knacks? When your 5-year old daughter ask you a question like that, you oblige. Let’s build a shelf for Rosemine and Lilly!

Rosemine (5) and Lilly (3) shares a bedroom, and they haven’t had a shelf for books and other small stuff before. When you discover – and collect – treasures e-ve-ry-where, good organization is very important!

I thought about it and decided it might be a good idea to limit the amount of books the kids can keep on/in the shelf. They have a lot of books which is stored in another book shelf elsewhere. We do have a rather large house, so the kids don’t usually play in their bedroom and thus does not need a lot of shelf space there.

In an effort to keep their bedroom relatively uncluttered (which is harder than keeping a dozen whine corks simultaneously submerged in a tub of water wearing boxing gloves), the design needed to meet two criteria: storage for a few select books and place for treasures, knick-knacks and some of the needle felt things she requests from my wife all the time. Originally I thought that there should also be a place for her Sonos speaker, but that might be better off mounted on a bracket next to the shelf, than perched on a shelf. 3-4 kids going ballistic tends to make stuff fall down…

I made a quick sketch and submitted it to her for approval. The go-ahead soon came through. I took some final measurements, grabbed the sketch and booked shop time.

I had a big piece of laminated fir hobby board (project board, hobby wood, planed & assembled kindling blanks, what ever you call it) which I thought would be perfect for this project. I am going to paint the shelf white so that the girls can decorate it lager on. No need for any fancy wood, but it needs to be sturdy. The quality of the wood is such that I don’t expect, shall we say, high-end furniture quality. I am not going to compromise on strength and build quality, but it’s going to be a “paint grade project”. Meaning that I’ll be happy to slap some putty on the thing to make it look perfect if I need to. A small gap or uneven joint may fly below the radar if the wood grain shows – such errors may be hidden in the twist and turns of the wood. Paint the thing, and you’ll spot everything from a mile away!

The hobby board is 18mm thick, 30cm wide and 2.4 meters long. It will just about yield everything I need. I will have to rip the parts down since I want a 20cm deep shelf unit. Some of the off cuts will need to be glued to make the horizontal divider.

Here’s a quick tip for you: using a combination square to mark the cut line by placing the pencil in the small groove used for locking the ruler down to the square body. If you do this, the line will be dead on accurate without compensating for the width of the lead.

Marking the cut line

I started by cutting all the parts to length with my Spear & Jackson 9500 panel saw. I then ripped 10cm off of the parts on the band saw.

I shot the ends square and planed the sawn edge smooth. The length of my no.7 was a great asset to reach the edge of the boards. I might have to make a bigger shooting board though…

With all the parts squared up, I could lay out the dovetails. I am using a 1:5 ratio for these. The 20cm wide joint got 4 pins.

After I cut to the lines, I removed the waste with a chisel. You could remove the bulk of it with a coping saw, but chiseling out does not take long. We would’ve needed to do some cleanup with a chisel anyway. Not much time to save, really.

A bit of twatting later, and the pins emerged nicely.

Since I just got a brand new burger flipper / pizza spade – my Ashley Iles 50mm / 2’’ bench chisel mkii – I wanted to take it for a spin! I wanted to recess the bottom of the shelf into the sides to conceal the inside corner of the joint.

Some paring action to establish the rabbet – having this big piece of sharp steel made this a very easy job. Very controllable!

I set up my router plane for a 1mm cut by resting the sole of the plane on a steel ruler and tegistering the cutter off of the board below.

I then cleaned up the rabbet to an even and exact depth.

I traced the pins and cut to the lines with my Veritas dovetail saw.

A quick test assembly – dead square and perfect fit straight off the saw!

Rinse and repeat for the other side, and two dovetailed joints were done!

The top shelf will be recessed into the sides, with two through tenons. I made a knife wall, deepened it and marked the opposite wall using the actual shelf piece as a reference. This will give me a dead tight fit.

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