Bookshelf: Prototype Finished

After about four coats of varnish, I felt it was time to rub out the finish and call this project complete. There were many reasons, not the least of which was that we’ve run out of places on our other shelves and need to put something in service immediately. For rubout, I used the steel wool/rottenstone sequence, both lubricated with mineral oil. I’ve always been happy with the way that turns out.

Here’s the view from the left side:

Viewed from this side, it’s got “flames” (the cathedral patterns on the sides) and “racing stripes” (the sapwood strips in the back panel). However, viewed from the left side, the flames aren’t visible, other than a tiny little sliver on the inside right:

This is about all I could do with the yellow-poplar that I had on hand. I struggled for a while to figure out an arrangement that didn’t look totally horrible, and it turned out to a certain degree. I wouldn’t say that it’s something I would repeat. Actually, there are lots of things I wouldn’t repeat, so let’s start with the top:

Aside from the fact that I should have taken a couple of swipes with the smoothing plane on the top before glueup, I’d say that the dovetail contrast here tries, but does nothing. The very top should be a clean rectangle. Next time, I’ll use half-blind dovetails or even fully-blind mitered dovetails. Half-blind dovetails will mean giving up the mechanical strength advantage in this application, because I’ll have to put the tails on the sides, but with this much glue surface, it won’t pull apart any time soon.

The other thing that I will change in my next bookshelf project is the stretcher along the back shelves. I wanted to put the stretchers entirely below the shelves in this project and rabbet the shelves to the stretchers, but I didn’t have enough width in my shelf boards to do so. I am, however, very happy with the strength that the stretchers provide.

Then there is a question of the wood. In this project, I was trying to get rid of some of the stock that I had on hand, but next time, I’ll pick lumber specifically for this project. But which kind? Shelves can be big, and big shelves are heavy, so I don’t want to use something like oak, maple, or that beech that I have on hand, because they’re just too much. Cherry is a good choice because it is both durable and somewhat light, but I’m wary of using too much of it (not to mention that it costs a bazillion dollars a board-foot around here). I actually liked yellow-poplar for this, and while we’re talking about woods that are more prone to dents, I may as well mention the various pines and douglas-fir. And there’s stuff like paper birch, butternut, and sweetgum. Who knows? The only thing I know is that I’m trying to avoid darker woods.

For the moment, though, I have other projects to do, and so, here’s the prototype being taken for a test run:

And you can see that form follows function here, as the “racing stripes” won’t even be visible when the shelf is full. Hee.

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