Me, My Shelves and I

The cabinet project is moving ahead, and the end appears to be in sight…

Of course, this is when things get trickier. More refined. Every single boo boo stands out.  So I have to be on my game, otherwise that’s what everyone will notice when they look at the project.

Next up are the shelves for the bookcase units and the desktop that spans the two banks of cabinets.

The plywood that Paul selected is some very cool stuff. It has great grain, and it blends very well with the solid cherry, so it looks like the shelves are made out of one piece of wood – the ideal situation.

When you build plywood shelves, you have got to keep a few things in mind. How much space you will allow the shelves to ‘float’ side to side in the cabinet, how deep they should be inset inside the case… those basic aesthetic considerations.

Mechanically, though, you have got to consider how well the shelves will stand up to the weight of the objects placed on them. As you place a heavy-duty load (such as books) in the middle of a shelf, you will start to notice a sag in the shelving material. How much will it sag?  Well, there are a couple of ways to figure it out.

Sure, you could just build the shelf, load it up and hope everything works out … nah.  I don’t think I can handle getting an angry call from Paul in the middle of the night because a shelf full of family photos fell to the ground.

I imagine I could do a bunch of complicated math, but I was an English major… so math and I don’t do well together.

Fortunately, there is a great utility out there called the Sagulator.  Designed by the folks at Woodbin woodworking, the utility allows you to compute how much your shelves will sag under a load before you build them.

In my case, I selected the plywood option with an edging strip of solid cherry. Figuring a load of 40 pounds per linear foot (given as a standard load for a library shelf), I came out with a total of .02 feet for the total of the 24 inch span. Since the eye can detect a deflection of .03 feet per linear foot, I’m doing pretty well.

The desk span is essentially another shelf that will bridge the base units. Since it will be nearly three feet long, I decided that perhaps I should beef up both sides of the desktop to make it even sturdier. Again, it’s a simple piece of cherry plywood with a 3/4″ wide by 1.5″ tall solid cherry edge. I glued the edges in place, using biscuits to keep it aligned and provide some additional reinforcement.

Later, we will drill a hole for a grommet to allow monitor and keyboard cables to come up from below. Once the glue dries, it will be ready for some finish sanding and installation.

And, yes, that’s it. The desk shelf is the last piece of the project I will have to build (Although I will need to mill a little bit of molding…)

We’re getting closer!

3 thoughts on “Me, My Shelves and I”

  1. That shelf edging is smart and it’ll look nice.
    Can’t wait to see the finished project.
    Thanks Tom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.