Testing my skills with some new custom-built furniture, part two

Guest room radiator

After just about a week of work, the full radiator cover/bookshelf combo is finished and installed. I think I started buying materials last Monday or Tuesday, did a little bit of the work during the week late at night, but did most of it over this last weekend. This post is part two. Click for part one here.

I’d have to say that I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out — especially considering I’d never really attempted something like this. Of course, since we planned to paint it all along, it’s a lot less demanding than something that I’d stain or clear coat, but it was a good first attempt. Rachel wanted it painted white, mostly because it’s a little more airy that way. A 7.5′ tall bookshelf would be much more imposing for the room stained in a dark color.

So where were we? In the first post, I had finished the radiator cover for the most part and it was ready for painting and the screens, but the shelves were unfinished.

I started with two pieces of 1×12 clear pine for the sides of the shelf. Since I wanted the shelves to be exactly that depth anyway, that prevented me from having to rip plywood down with long straight cuts sans table saw. So I already had two straight factory cut edges on the front and back. My plan was to cover that plain edge with trim, divide the space into three shelves (one fixed and two adjustable) with the bottom of the bookshelf (the radiator cover) serving as a fourth shelf.

Radiator bookshelf plan
Yes, that’s the “plan” on a pad of “Butt Rub”  paper, the best seasoning from Arkansas you’ve probably never had.

Before assembling anything, I went ahead and drilled the holes for the adjustable shelves inside each side. There are fancy rigs out there with depth-controlled bits and templates for doing this, but I just measured carefully with the side pieces lined up side by side and drilled very carefully with a 1/2″ bit for the movable shelf supports. (You can also use a piece of pegboard with holes at regular intervals to do this, but I didn’t have any of that either.)

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For the fixed middle shelf, I got a new 3/4″ dado bit for the router and routed a channel on the inside of each side about 1/4″ to 1/3″ deep. It’s best not to go any further than a third into material lest you weaken it too much. After checking to make sure it would fit the 1×12 shelves properly, I was ready to put everything together.

I had already cut the bottom of the shelf assembly when making the radiator box — that way I ensured that it would fit the top of the box exactly, and allowed me to drill the holes for dowels. The bottom and the top just went on with countersunk screws on the outside (top or bottom) of each. For the middle shelf, I couldn’t think of a good way to properly seat that shelf with any strength without going through the outside. So I counterbored some screws and covered them with wood caps on the outside. After sanding them down and painting them, you can’t even tell where they are.

I added a brace across the back on the inside at the very top so that I’d have something strong to use to screw the entire thing to the wall to keep it all from toppling over should a crazy child of mine go climbing up the shelves one day. Knowing my child’s genetic makeup (i.e., me), that seemed a smart eventuality to prepare for.

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I cut a piece of sanded 1/4″ plywood to use as a cover for the entire back, which also adds some strength.

Back of bookshelf

I put a small strip of leftover 3/4″ plywood across the top to push the crown moulding out a little bit from the face so that I could run trim on the sides all the way up to the top and meet a straight surface.

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After that, there was just the crown moulding to add on the top and the trim on the facing sides. I’d never done crown before, and let’s just say that I do not have whatever spatial gift it is that allows one to easily visualize how even just the simple miter cuts need to be made to do crown moulding. Lots of scratching my chin and turning the wood around and saying “if I cut this piece here….then….um….”

Let’s also say that it was wise to purchase about twice as much as I needed for this job. Once the trim and moulding went on, it was finished, save for filling the nail holes, caulking the joints and painting it all.

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After a night of priming and a late night of painting on Sunday and Monday, everything was painted and ready for assembly.

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I screwed the pieces of screening that I had cut into the inside of the box. You can see I went a little pocket hole crazy on the inside. It was my first time. I got carried away. It happens.

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Oh, and a note on cutting this metal screening: I was initially using metal snips which were bending the ends as they cut, but I discovered that a metal cutting blade on the jigsaw worked really well with a piece of wood behind the screen supporting it. Without it, obviously, the jig saw would just bounce the screening around everywhere. Just push the blade into the wood a little, keep the screen down flush against the wood and then just feed or pull the screening toward the blade so the screen does the work and the saw stays still — like a band saw, basically. Worked like a charm.

Moment of truth, dropping the box on top of the radiator.

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Fits perfectly flush and straight against the wall, though because of the sag in the floor joists away from the wall on the left, I ended up taking the box off and trimming off 1/4″ on the left side to account for the slope in the floor. That way the whole thing stays level.

Before putting the shelves on, I went ahead and used the brad nailer to attach the trim around the rough facing of the bottom of the shelves, since I wouldn’t be able to get to the left side once it’s installed.

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After that, I picked up the top half and laid it down on the box. Dowels and holes (with glue awaiting) lined up perfectly for a snug fit. I still have these pocket holes that I’m thinking of just filling without screws. The whole thing is really sturdy and the radiator box is mounted to the wall as well as the shelves, so I’m thinking of leaving these un-screwed so that I can more easily take this thing apart if I have to get to the radiator for some reason.

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With the shelves back in place on the adjustable supports and the trim all finished (minus a few brad holes to fill), the whole thing is complete.

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At long last, a final shot of the installed piece of furniture in the guest room. Looks pretty sharp.

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And as always, the before/after of the space.

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Can’t wait to bring a couple boxes of books up from the basement and start getting our books organized. The final rough cost on the entire project was about $135, though some of these materials are leftover for the next one.

  • $45 for 3 1x12s. Made the three shelves and the two sides.
  • $35 for 1 sheet of 3/4″ sanded birch plywood. Made the radiator box and bottom shelf.
  • $8 for crown moulding
  • $5 for beaded shelf edges
  • $10 for cove moulding
  • $15 for 1/4″ sheet of sanded plywood for the back and the top.
  • $15 for metal screening
  • $2 for shelf pins
  • Already had the trim for the facing sides of the shelf

And speaking of the “the next one” I test fit this one in the front entryway and discovered I could replicate the measurements exactly and it would fit like a charm. Though we’re going to potentially make the shelves into closed cabinets here instead.

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Looks like I’ve found a new product to put into regular production for the Old Rowhouse.

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