One of the more interesting parts or this project was the actual assembly, which I described in a previous post. And to button it all up, I should post a time lapse of this process.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to finally have all those books out of the boxes! No more running down into the basement and rummaging through boxes for that one reference book or article that was needed.
And thanks again to our friend Steve, who lent a helping hand when I needed them most!
A lot of work went into the preparation of the individual library shelf components. It was time to put everything together.
We started by setting the vertical support onto the shelf base. Spacing was absolutely critical to make sure everything would fit. Because of that, I didn’t opt for measuring, which can be notoriously inaccurate. Instead I used the finished shelves and pilaster strips to space and position each vertical support.
This was one of those jobs where an extra pair of helping hands was priceless. I was lucky enough to have our friend Steve stop by to set up the supports with me, get them attached, and help me with placing the top deck.
With the top deck in place, I could go ahead and install the LED puck lights. These were intended as downlights across the front of the shelves. But more about that later. Following the lights, I installed the pilaster strips that would hold the shelves.
I could finally get to my little treasure, the antique front panel. And I deliberately used the words “treasure” and “antique,” because while I was preparing and installing the panel, I had to remove a couple of wood spacers, and every single nail I pulled from the panel, even the tiniest finishing nails, where of the forged, square type.
There was not a single modern, round nail in that piece. We got a hint that this piece was really old from the rolled glass in the doors. And the forged nails were further evidence.
After placing the shelves, we got our impression of what the library would look like. Needless to say, we liked what we saw.
To seamlessly blend the front panel with the rest of the shelf assembly, I placed small discrete pieces of trim around it.
I also had some extra trim pieces milled that I used as trim on the front of the top deck. This way I could cut any glare from the downlights, and hide the cables and transformers that were resting on the top deck.
With the finished product in my sight, I felt that all the careful preparations and planning that went into this piece were worth it!
Although I shouldn’t call it a finished product – because the most important thing was still missing: the books.
After I had the shelves planed and sanded, it was time to mill them to their final size to fit into each of the shelf compartments.
The last of the finishing touches was the lacquering of the shelves. As usual, we had our indoor air quality (IAQ) in mind and used a water-based, VOC-free product.
To mount the shelves, I opted for a pilaster and clip system. It was the least obtrusive option, not taking away or distracting from the wood, and offered maximum flexibility in terms of adjusting the shelf height.
It was then time to move everything into the library room in preparation for the final assembly.
There is always the unnerving moment when you get to test if what you have measured fits with what you have built. In my case it was the question if the shelf base would fit as planned.
If it does, the rest of the shelf system would fit right into place. And thank goodness, the base did fit.
We milled the shelf base differently from the horizontal shelves and the vertical shelf supports. This is because the base has to be built sturdy as it has to hold a lot of weight.
We had some old growth two by fours that didn’t lend themselves to either a rift or quarter-sawn cut. Instead, I cut them to length and milled them down to a uniform size so that I could glue them together in sections to form the smooth base.
I also glued together the milled pieces for the horizontal shelves. But they still needed planing down to a uniform surface. Given that I had forty shelves, this was a lot of work. The question was would I be better off using an electrical plane or the good old-fashioned smoothing and jointer plane?
After a short episode of a little trial and error, I abandoned the electrical plane in favor for the smoothing and jointer plane. It may have taken me a little longer but the results were superior to the electrical plane.
An alternative to planing is using a belt sander. Well…let’s say that I retired that idea real fast. If you have ever used a belt sander you know why. If you haven’t, be advised that it is real easy to put big gouges into your boards with a belt sander that are almost impossible to repair.
But I did use a random orbital sander to add the finishing touches to the shelves and shelf supports.
About the same time as the idea of a library emerged, I learned about the value of old growth lumber and how it is sought after by furniture makers. Old growth lumber was harvested from pre-settlement forests and has beautiful dense grain. It was also milled to different dimensions. For instance, old growth two by four studs do actually measure two by four inches.
Because our house was built in 1902, all the original framing was old growth. Some of that old growth had to be replaced during our deep-energy retrofit. I did, however, made sure to hold on to all the old growth material we removed because it was the perfect source material for our library.
I did not plan to build the library shelves out of two by four studs! That would look a little bit to clunky for our taste. Instead my plan was to mill the old growth into the right sized pieces which we could glue into boards and use for shelving.
But there was a science to the milling. With the help of friends, I learned a lot about wood grain and different wood cuts. For instance, a rift and/or quarter sawn cut would give us the most beautiful grain structure and deliver dimensionally stable lumber.
Prior to running the old growth across the table saw we looked at the end grain of each stud to determine how best to cut it to get a rift or quarter sawn cut.