December 7, 2017
Welcome back! Today’s journal note is a bit of a departure from the MPLowell Photography activities, it’s kinda in the vein of ‘Grandfathers Cooking’ site I originally started and migrated to my current photo website. I will continue to mix it up a bit for those brave souls that actually read my journal, you all do, right?
Anyway, I thought I would share a quick note on a little Christmas project I did this week for some of our smaller grandkids. We have a bunch of grandkids, ranging from adults to little ones, they are all special of course! It’s a bit, how to, Grandpa’s activities and some photos thrown in to show a few steps in case you may want to create one for your little ones.
So, my father was always building something in his spare time mostly on weekends to stay out of the way of us six kids running all over the place. Dad did lots of projects, mostly woodworking ones for our home. I would help him now and then as I grew up, so I guess some of his knowledge and teaching actually rubbed off a bit. Thanks Dad.
The idea from the better half the other day was to create a small bookshelf ( small kids size) that they could keep and use for their books they have here at our place when they visit. It gets the books out of a dresser and down to their level for them to hopefully interact with and access easier to help as they gain more reading skills.
I had a few red oak boards laying about in my little shop, so the other day I went to work to create a small book shelf for them. I have most of the tools needed and only had to buy one more oak board (1x3x6) to make up for what I could not salvage from my shop wood stock.
The dimensions are approximately 24” high x 20“ wide by 12” deep. Just enough space for some of the books we have in the ‘spare / grandkids sleep over’ room, with space to add more books along the way. The 1×12” pieces are set at 4” from top and 4” from bottom with a 1×6” added to the top to create a little cubby that kids like to put things in at times.
Measure, Cut, Glue, Peg and Final Assembly
As I mentioned I used red oak boards, 1”x3”x6’ (qty 2); 1”x 6” x 6’ (qty 1); 1”x 12” x 6’ (qty 1) available at your local lumber store or in your own shop wood shop stock. They can be somewhat pricey (select good clean warp free boards) but using these select boards will ensure this project lasts for a good long time.
On this project I did not use any nails or screws, yup went old school! Just used wood glue and wood pegs, channeling Dad and ‘Norm on this Old House’ I guess, plus I had never done that process before so thought this was an easy test and it worked just fine. For the 1×12” and 1×6” pieces I used 1/4” doweling and for the 1×3 boards I used 3/16” doweling. Those pegs and regular wood glue made a real strong bookshelf. Three dowels about 2” long for holding the 1×6” (qty 6) and 1×12” (qty 12) pieces, two dowels about 1 1/5” for the 1×3” (qty 16) pieces.
NOTE: For this project (and many countless others mind you) I used my wood clamps (sliding photo) of varying sizes. If you don’t have any add them to your Christmas wish list! Four footers are good all-around use, maybe a few shorter ones too if you can manage. They are a good investment and are a must when working on any kinda project in your shop or garage or home. Be careful in cutting and sanding all the pieces and always use safety glasses!
Measured out your cut list depending on the size you want to use, reference the pictures and keep it fairly symmetrical then align and clamp your 1×12”s and 1×6” boards in place to your dimensions, check squareness and final check before drilling. Drill using a ¼” bit three holes spaced evenly through the 1×6” board into the 1/12” shelf board. I use a piece of tape wound around the drill bit, so you know how deep your needing to drill, not too far in or your doweling will get lost!
It’s also good idea at this point to mark each board so you’ll know what side they match up too once your ready to glue and peg, also pick a front and back and mark those too. Just a small pencil mark works, you’ll sand it away once final assembled. Once you get them drilled unclamp and clean out any sawdust in the holes, rough areas by the holes and then get your pegs and glue ready.
Align your boards back up, matching your marks and once your sure of the alignment take off one side, add wood glue to the areas and assemble again. I then use an awl or a drill bit to make sure all the holes are aligned then add the wood pegs. Pound them in, then saw off flush with the board face. Repeat for the other side.
Now align the 1×3” boards the same way, making sure they are flush and straight and drill two 3/16” holes spaced evenly into the 1×12” shelf boards, both sides, top and bottom. Again, mark the boards before disassembling. Repeat the clean, realign, clamp, glue, peg like you did prior as noted above. Finally align the 1×6” board for the top and drill, then clean, realign, clamp, glue, peg. I then re-clamp the bookshelf along the main surfaces to ensure a good hold for everything and to squeeze out any excess glue. Clean up glue as needed, trim any remaining pegs flush and then let sit overnight to cure.
Sanding and Finishing
Take off your clamps from last night and inspect your work, if it’s all good start sanding! If you used good ‘select’ or ‘choice’ red oak the boards you won’t need too much sanding. I used my belt sander (80 grit) to quickly sand pegs surfaces on sides and top, also the legs bottom to ensure its all level, just a few swipes, not too much, belt sanders have a mind of their own at times. Then I use my small orbital sander with 100 grit, then 150 grit, then 220 grit as needed to get a nice smooth sanded surface. I also rounded all the edges and corners in addition, to ensure smoothness for the little ones.
I then wiped the entire bookshelf to remove dust, I used paint thinner and cotton cloth, (tack rags are better, but I did not have any laying around the shop. I did get some more the other day!) I let it dry overnight to let the fumes dissipate. Next day, I used 440 grit to finish it off, then wiped it down again to remove any remaining dust.
For this project since I used red oak which I like the red wood color, I decided not to stain or use any sealer or varnish. Instead I used ‘Butchers Block’ conditioner which is a natural grade food mineral oil and natural carnauba and beeswax product you can find at any hardware or lumber store. Its natural and safe for everyday use.
I usually have this around in my shop to treat and condition our wood cutting boards. (If you have not done this to your cutting boards try it soon, it’s a great product and will keep your cutting boards in very good shape and free from contaminants. I’ll add a link in a few days on doing this DIY process).
The ‘Butches Block’ conditioner works like any oil sealer and it lightly allows the true red oak wood grain to remain and preserves naturally the bookshelf. Add it liberally and let it soak in for a while then rub off excess.
You can certainly use your choice of oil, stain, sealer, or varnish. If you do stain use a light one to preserve the nice red oak patina of the wood. Same goes with varnish or sealer, use a non-colored one. Also, if you do the following wood burning step, do this work before you stain or use any varnish!
Here is my result with just the butchers block oil used, it adds a nice color and protection for a long time and if it every looks old or dry I can reapply anytime but the should last a long time. As shown in the final picture, I went ahead and also used a wood burning iron to carve ‘Grandkids Books’ on the top. Do this work before you stain or use any varnish! It’s a nice touch and makes it a bit more homemade, if your kids / grandkids are helping you at this stage let them design it.
When using wood burning irons (available at any hobby store) try a couple of times on a scrap piece of wood and use some glove to protect yourself. When you’re ready, write the phase or names on a piece of masking tape. Align the tape where you want on the shelf (I did the top) to use as a simple template for your memento phase. Press through the tape and burn the wood once you’re sure you have the outline at least remove the tape and finish off any spots that need additional wood burning.
Let dry completely for a day or so and then place in your grandkid / kid’s room and load up the books! Enjoy, use good safety practices and have fun !