Essentially I was tasked with creating an organizational system of 100 shelves with lockable mailbox or mailboxes, on wheels, that could be labeled in order to provide information to various small groups in my church.
OK, well I volunteered and pushed for it because I really wanted to gain the experience in making something this big and set my mark. And have pictures to prove it.
Design was this: 7 rows, 15 shelves each, wide enough to hold a DVD, tall enough to hold a few sheets of paper rolled up. Then came mailboxes - 5 needed I only provided 1 door - made the other 4 doors but my wife had a baby so that will be installed in a month. And then wheels of course - the thing had to be on casters to easily move it around.
Problems I had to solve: 1 Make it in such a way that kids won't want to climb the shelves, and 2 Make it so it won't be front-heavy and tip over.
Construction began with 4 sheets of 3/4" oak ply - had to get a fifth one as well because I forgot about the top and bottom. Each sheet provided 2 "sides".
I first cut the squared out shape with a circular saw on horses I made. I found it a lot easier to use 2 8-foot long horses made with 2x4 dry pine. These also doubled as side and back supports for the table saw later on, and assembly supports for the final 300+ lb project.
The curved bottom was cut with a 1/4" blade on my bandsaw. I drew the curve freehand, cut the first shape, then traced the curve onto the next piece. Tip is to cut inside the line, not on the line, for the template-drawn pieces. I'm not perfect so I then mated them by clamping together and sanding with a hand belt-sander with a 60 grit to remove material quickly.
I decided more stable construction would be dadoes for each shelf. I used 5mm oak ply for the shelves. Though it's very wavy/flexible as one 4x8 sheet, as a bunch of cut up shelves, each shelf proved to be very straight and rigid. I began cutting these with a router, but each pass took so long it took me 3 hours to cut enough grooves for 15 shelves.
I then picked up a radial arm saw which has been recalled for safety as I later found out - ah! on Craigslist for under $100. It took 2 hours to get to stay straight and maintain proper depth, but it was worth it. From then on each shelf set was done in a mere 20 minutes - 10 minutes per side. It was easier because I didn't have to set up the guides over and over again. It's probably easier with a router on rectangular shelves where you can use a jig to cut the dadoes. The curve had me at a loss until the radial arm saw. Of course there was tear-out, but no-one is looking that closely, and I just sanded it down.
For the shelves, each tiny face is actually primed and painted 2 coats with latex paint, followed by polyurethane on top for protection and uniformity. I painted the shelves by clamping in sets of 25, as tight as possible, at the front, and painting in broad strokes. Painting each shelf face individually would have been murderous.
Some paint did bleed onto the surfaces of some shelves, but I found it to be surprisingly easy to remove with 120-grit sandpaper on my palm sander, and a medium speed setting. I made nearly 100 shelves, so I needed something to move along quickly lest I die of the boredom of repetition.
Prior to assembly, I edge-banded the face of the columns/supports. This hid the dadoes and created a beautiful smooth face, even over the curve which I was pleased with. Invaluable was the Band-It, but I still needed a chisel on some of the hard-to-reach curved parts. I used a $19.99 iron I purchased at a local drug store and it did the job - maybe not as quick as an edge-banding iron, but for 1/2 the price, if not more.
Assembly was HARD. That's probably why I broke 100 hours on an otherwise easy to moderate project the moderate part is the curvature on the shelf bottoms, and perhaps the edge-banding and molding. I needed to make sure I could fit each shelf, and attach each column/support at the right point, maintaining level, plumb, etc. Nuts! I ended up using a shelf 3 lines in from the top and clamping - then gluing and nailing the tops in. The I took a shelf and did the same practice on the bottom.
After that I inserted and clamped a shelf in the middle of each column and somehow slid/lifted/rolled the structure now about 200 lbs back into the garage for shelf gluing.
Inserted each shelf with glue on it and made sure it didn't blow through the front edge-banding covering the dadoes. After a row was done, I took scrap plywood and nailed it with a 16 ga nailgun into the back of the project, then unclamped that section and moved on. The nailed plywood served as a clamp, because I don't have 5-foot long clamps. I did clamp 2 24" clamps together in the front as well.
After everything had been sitting for a day or 2, I came back and cut the back - more 5mm oak plywood got another sheet. I removed the nailed scrap clamps and thank God - everything stay put. Then I nailed the back in to every single row. I used a sheetrock T-square as a nail guide for each column/support, since the project wasn't on a level surface but it was square. I had thought of a chalk-line but need a level surface for that to work.
Final was 1 coat of shellac for coloring - adds beautiful depth to oak and brings out grain, then 2 coats of satin polyurethane.
For the door you see in the final pic, I cut 2 half-inch pieces of oak at opposing anges, routed the slot in the top part, glued and nailed 16ga the 2 together, then sanded so it looked like it was one piece of wood save for the wood putty marks, and added a handle and lock. I cut the lock hole with Rockler's 7-piece forstner bit set.
I needed 2 other guys and a landscaping trailer to finally transport this to the church, where you can see it's much appreciated. It's three times heavier than it looks at least there is no risk of it toppling unless a linebacker goes for it.
Time to Build: 101-300 Hours
Rockler Parts Used for This Project:
- Band-It Edge Trimmer
- 7-Pc. Forstner Bit Set