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Library Addition

May 30, 2011
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Two weeks since the last post – things have been a little slow at the BAB, so this three-day weekend was a good opportunity to get back to work on finishing up our projects.

We have a blank wall that we planned to install cabinets or shelves when we designed our space – it’s basically the opposite site of the kitchen wall. We’re calling it our Library. We weren’t sure what kind of shelves we’d install – IKEA fixtures was our backup plan. (The same was true for our kitchen cabinets.)

This is a perfect example of how we’d like to complete a lot of our projects: we had a general idea of the problem that needed to be solved, but we wanted to remain open to the solution and see what came along.

Back in the fall we found a pile of wood at Selkirk’s modernism auction. I was first drawn to the wood because I recognized it as rosewood – East Indian Rosewood I believe. A particular favorite of mine, it is now a rare exotic wood, and these were beautifully figured examples. I spent about 20 minutes figuring out how all the parts fit together.

Pile of rosewood parts

Once we knew that they assembled into a modular system of base cabinets and wall shelves, we bid on it and won it. I was impressed by the quality of the construction; though there was no label, stamps or signatures, so I think it was a custom creation but professionally made. A unique feature was that the vertical pieces were trimmed in 3/4″ solid rosewood with a curved profile while the rest was rosewood veneer. The design was vintage – Sue & I thought it was from the 50’s or the 60’s.

There was also a bunch of triangular pieces – they are shelf brackets.

Rosewood bracket to support shelves

The project started with cleaning of all of the pieces, and checking for cracks or chips and anything else that needed repair. There were a few nicks and dings that I touched up with some dark stain. The inventorying would also give me the opportunity to rank and prioritize pieces so that any defects could be placed out of sight.

A solid-edge trim piece had fallen off – that needed to be glued back. And we had an excess of shelf pieces, so for two shelves, I cut the rosewood edging off, then cut out a 3/4″ strip to make the shelf narrower, then glued the face strip back on. (I was planning to add those two inside the base cabinets, and they were originally too wide to fit.)

Re-gluing solid edging

Reduce width of shelf

Face glued back

First assembly was one of the base cabinets. Pictures follow below – see the captions for descriptions.

Started with the two vertical side pieces. (Right side is missing a trim edge.)

The pieces connect via metal recessed slots; they fit over screws in panels. (Screws need to be correct height too.)

Connect the three horizontal pieces (top, middle shelf, and bottom)

Connect the other vertical side piece, then hammer the pieces tight.

Back panel fits tightly inside the frame.

Back panel fastened with little screws; panel helps keep the cabinet square.

Base cabinet from the front, ready for doors.

Base cabinet ready to hang.

After that base cabinet was completed, another one needed to be assembled. Then the two would be connected in the middle with more horizontal shelves. In order to minimize how much the fully-assembled three-cabinet-wide base needed to be carried, I moved all of the parts to the Library wall.

First – a picture of the blank wall.

Library wall before cabinet installation.

Screws added to the inner sides of end cabinets.

Middle shelves connect the two end cabinets together.

Then Sue helped me flip the whole thing over so that I could install the final back panel.  The back panels really help strengthen the entire system and it was a lot easier to move as a unit once that was installed.

Base cabinets in place ready to hang (still needs a few doors installed).

I didn’t mention yet but these base cabinets were designed to be HUNG on a wall, not sit on the floor in front of a wall. And I couldn’t put the pieces on the wall one-by-one, because the back panels could only be attached from the back side. So I had to precisely measure where the hanging slots are on each base cabinet, and then transfer those dimensions to the wall. So I laid out all of the marks onto blue painters tape.

Blue tape on wall for marking screw locations.

Some of you are probably wondering how I plan to just fasten all of this shelving to drywall. Well, fortunately, we planned ahead with this wall and there is plywood installed over the entire width and height of the wall. Then there is the drywall on top of the plywood.  We did that because we did not know what kind of shelving we were going to end up with, and for about 20$ worth of sheathing, we can hang anything anywhere now.

Another trick was that the entire base unit needed to be hung all at once on all of the screws at once, and all of the screws needed to be at the right distance from the wall so that the key slot secures the cabinets tightly. (If you look back at the pictures of the first assembly, you can see the key slot hardware pieces on the verticals.)

A shim used to set screw height.

So – I had to figure out the correct screw height by trial and error with a scrap of wood (and a screw in it), then find a piece of scrap wood or anything that was the right thickness, which I could then use as a “shim” under the screw heads on the wall – so I could now set all of the screw heads to the same height.

I’d like to say it was as easy as lifting the unit up and aligning it with the screws. But it wasn’t. Cuz you can’t see the screws as the cabinets get close to the wall.  So I measured the approximate distance that the bottom of the cabinet would be when installed, and then set up some concrete blocks on the floor, added some plastic sheeting as protection. Then Sue & I lifted the whole thing on top of the blocking, and I could shim it up little by little until I could feel the screw head aligned with the slot hole. And then it took some pushing and lifting; finally after 30 minutes, it was tight to the wall.

Bottom cabinets hung on wall.

Now that the base was completed, the wall brackets needed to be laid out. I wanted the brackets to line up with the verticals of the base cabinets, so the same lines on the walls were used to located the screws for the brackets.

Screws in tape

Tape removed

(You might have to click on the little pictures a couple of times to see the screws.) The idea behind the tape is pretty simple – it made it easier to mark the locations on the wall, and then it just peels away. I used black sharpie marker instead of pencil because it shows up a lot better – my eyes aren’t what they used to be!

Unlike the base cabinets, the wall shelves COULD be installed in pieces, since there are only two components and the shelves slide in between the brackets.

Key slot hardware on back of bracket.

I needed to use a shim on the bracket screws too so that the screw heads are at the right height. But since each bracket was installed by itself, it was pretty easy to make small adjustments and make them REALLY tight. The hardware has inclined sides on the slot, so that when you push down on the bracket, it is drawn even tighter to the wall.

I didn’t hammer them down tight just yet, I pushed them on just enough to hold them in place; I wanted a little wiggle room so that when I was sliding in the horizontal shelves, I could nudge the brackets back and forth a little. Each bracket also needed a couple of screws in each face to hold the shelves. Again, another shim so that they are at the right height.

All brackets ready for shelves.

I don’t have any pictures of me wrestling with the horizontal shelves, but it only took another 30 minutes to get them all lined up and installed. I think the wall is just a little off from being flat, so I couldn’t push every shelf to be right up against the wall – so the middle shelves have just a slight gap at the wall. Once all screws are aligned with respective hardware, then I could use a block of wood and hammer the brackets down to make them super tight.

I took some close-up pictures of the wood grain – the rosewood veneer is just amazing. It is bookmatched, so combined with the figuring, striking images and patterns are created.

Figuring on cabinet doors.

Figuring on the shelves.

I dug out a box of books from storage to put something on the shelves just so that there was a sense of scale in the photos. Unfortunately it wasn’t labeled on the outside so I ended up with things like our ASL dictionary, a Julia Child biography and my Griffin and Sabine series.

Final photos:

Our Library wall completed!

Looks great next to our Public Library doors!

Sue and I are very happy with the results – our inexpensive solution (we paid just over $200 at the auction) is both functional and beautiful, it fits the space perfectly, we’ve re-used some unique vintage fixtures that previous owners must have been very proud to have as well.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Maurine permalink
    June 8, 2011 12:23 pm

    Beautiful, Tom. Somehow, though, I don’t think it will hold all of your combined libraries. I don’t always understand all of the techniques of assembly that your describe, but I can certainly appreciate the finished product. Mom

  2. Susan permalink
    June 1, 2011 9:12 am

    Absolutely Beautiful! Your talents continue to impress 🙂

    • Tom permalink
      June 2, 2011 2:37 pm

      Thanks Susan; to quote Thomas Crown (1999 version): “It seemed the right size for the space.”

  3. Rick Peterson permalink
    May 31, 2011 6:14 pm

    WOW Tom, the shelves look GREAT.
    You and Sue are sure making the B.A.B. into a nice home. Can’t wait to see it.

    • Tom permalink*
      May 31, 2011 10:46 pm

      Slowly but surely, we’re getting there. thanks Rick.

  4. Tom Finan permalink
    May 31, 2011 6:34 am

    That is absolutely stunning. First piece I ever restored (with a lot of help) was a bevel-doored arts and crafts wardrobe that I bought as a pile of lumber at an auction.

    • Tom permalink*
      May 31, 2011 10:46 pm

      Thanks Tom. I bet it felt great finishing that wardrobe.

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