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After spending  a few hours over several  evenings during the week cutting, pre-finishing, and trimming out 19 plywood shelves, and another evening cutting to length and installing the metal shelf brackets, I had everything ready for installation today.  Actually, things were ready Friday afternoon, when I spent a couple hours lugging some book boxes up the two flights of stairs to the loft and unpacked several boxes worth of books on to the new shelves.

Then, during the day today I continued, bringing box after box up from the basement and unloading the books onto the shelves.  I found that I needed one additional shelf for the very top of each of the three sections; fortuitously, I thought I had just enough plywood remaining to make one more of each shelf length.  Perhaps later, we'll find a need to reorganize and add additional shelves, but for now the shelves were full with books that had been stored in boxes for over two years in some cases.


Since the beginning, we'd planned on having bookshelves taking up most of the large wall in the loft.  Various time constraints, mostly because of projects that took precedence, prevented any action on the bookshelves for more than a year after we moved in.

Increasingly, though, we tired of having our books boxed up and generally inaccessible.  Plus, it was getting tiresome looking at the barren and unused loft space.

After making some basic measurements and finalizing a concept in my head, I finally found some time the week before last to head out and purchase some of the materials needed to build the bookshelves.  I planned a fairly basic construction to suit the overall concept of the house:  pine standards and trim, with plywood shelves for strength.

Last weekend, I worked in the shop to build and pre-finish the shelf standards from 12" wide pine boards (11-1/4" nominal).  The work was straightforward:  mill dados in the boards as necessary to flush-mount basic brass adjustable shelf brackets, sand the new wood, and apply two coats of the same satin-finish polyurethane that I used throughout the house.  This work, along with milling and prefinishing some trim pieces, occupied a few hours over the weekend and was generally unexciting and uneventful. But I needed to do the preparatory work in order to have the basic pieces ready for installation.

So with the basics all ready after last weekend, I spent a good bit of yesterday and today installing the vertical shelf standards and a pair of fixed shelves in each of the three bookshelf bays.  After determining the positioning of the two fixed shelves--necessary for structural integrity, but I didn't want them to unnecessarily interfere with the proper spacing of adjustable shelves--I milled dados across the boards at the appropriate heights, for the shelves to slide into for support and strength.  Then, having determined where each vertical piece would go on the wall, according to the stud spacing, I cut them to the proper length so that the tops would follow the angle of the roof pitch above.


I installed pine cleats on the wall, nailing and screwing them into the studs, and then secured the vertical supports to the cleats with more nails and screws.  At the bottom, I made relief cuts to allow the pieces to pass around the baseboard molding.   Then, with these pieces permanently installed, I could measure for the exact widths of the fixed shelves and return to the shop to cut them from some 3/4" fir plywood.  Once I'd cut the six shelves, I applied two coats of poly to each side, one side on Saturday evening and the other side Sunday morning.

When the poly was dry, I installed the shelving with glue and nails, slipping them into the pre-milled dados.  Afterwards, I installed solid pine trim over the edges of the shelves and vertical supports, measured for the adjustable shelves that I'd yet to build, and cleaned up.  The bulk of the construction was now complete, and we both looked forward to having the new shelves lined with books.

Next:  I'll build and install all the adjustable shelves and their brackets, and we'll fill them with books.  Soon.


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Photos and Text 2006-2015 by Timothy C. Lackey.  All Rights Reserved.

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