Tutorial: DIY Bookshelf holds Vinyl

My last bookshelf sold at the March Hip Thrift Second Saturday event. I also had a specific request to build another to hold vinyl. As luck would have it, I had exactly enough material to build one nearly identical but with taller shelf spacing.

If you like it, I have good news: the original requester has not been in touch, so this new shelf is still available. As I mentioned in the last post, the record-shelf has been assembled for awhile but apparently needed time to settle down before being painted.

More good news: it's a good starter project if you want to work on some basic woodworking skills. To complete this DIY project, you will need shelfstock, a single bi-fold door, fence slats, and fasteners. Paint or other finishes are optional. Useful tools: speed square, tape measure, carpenter's pencil, safety gear, circular saw, jig saw, drill and drivers / bits, countersink, and brushes or spraygun.

Always start by cleaning, organizing and syncing the pieces you plan to assemble. Shelfstock is squared on both ends and cut to match the shortest length. Mark square lines with a speed square or carpenter square, then carefully cut with a reliable saw. These boards are squared on both ends and cut to a uniform 28 inches.
(Hey look, it's that nifty oval table before it got painted!)

Once the hardware is removed from the bi-fold door, all pieces are uniform and ready to be altered and assembled. First, material is cut out from the bottom rail to create feet. With a speed square pull lines angling inward. I used 12 degrees. With a jigsaw, cut precisely into the corner and stop.

Leave plenty of room to freehand a curve to the top line, starting the saw with the blade already inside the existing kerf. Again, saw into the corner and stop. In this case, the top line is sawn left to right.

Cut out the last corner from right to left. Repeat for the second shelf support.

Determine shelf spacing by considering what you'd like the shelves to hold and sketching to achieve your own concept and a visual harmony. Mark the bottom of each shelf across the inside face of the front and back stiles of the shelf supports. In this case, once the bottom shelf is marked out, you can add marks at 13-1/2 inch intervals: 12-1/2" vinyl + 1/4" clearance + 3/4" shelf thickness. 1/4" is a very tight clearance and requires great precision. 1/2" to 1" clearance is preferred.
On the outside face of each stile, mark (+) for drilling 3/8" above the lines marked on the inside face. The back stiles can be drilled in the center, but the front stile should be pulled slightly (~1/8") to the back since the face of each shelf will not fall flush with the front face of the front stiles. If the shelves were deeper than the stiles, they would stick out past and this would not be necessary. Pilots are drilled for a loose fit but leaving plenty of cover to hold screw heads. Then a countersink is used to ensure uniform depth when sinking the screws. Piloting and countersinking can be done in one step if you have an adjustable countersink bit.

Lay out the bookshelf face up and choose where you would like to place each shelf. This is especially important if you use reclaimed materials. A shelf with a defect on the bottom side can be placed near the bottom where it will only be seen while you do yoga. A shelf with a defect on the top side can be placed at the top of a tall bookshelf where it will only be seen every three years when you dust off the ceiling fan and/or chandelier.
 Right-handed instructions: Insert a screw fully into the pilot so that the tip is flush with the inside of the front stile. Facing as shown, use the left hand to stabilize the bottom shelf and line up the bottom of the front edge with the mark on the inside of the front stile. Use the right hand to drive the screw in with reasonable force, being sure not to angle the screw in such a way as to blow out on the front, top or bottom of the shelf. Twist the back of the shelf into place with the left hand still on the front edge. You can use a foot to brace the back edge but always be sure to keep hands and feet clear of the area where it is possible for the screw to blow through the shelf unexpectedly. Do this along one side before beginning the other.

 Fence slats are laid on their sides to determine the extent of twisting, cupping, bowing or crowning. For this project, crowning would present the largest problem. When laid as shown below, a stiff crown will stand out by raising up in the middle significantly more than adjacent boards. If the crown is placed upside down, the piece will rock like a seesaw. If you encounter a board with a bad crown consider replacing it with a tamer piece of wood. But don't be afraid to force one into place - factory milled wood is never perfectly straight.

Now the entire unit is flipped to face down. Each shelf is already secured with four screws. Remember to lay out the backing in advance before getting too far and noting a problem too late. The application of backing provides cross-bracing and stiffens the positioning of the frame, so be sure you have enough play for adjustments.

TIP: the flange of a speed square can be used to provide a uniform gap between planks. This is very useful when building a deck.
I didn't follow my own advice, centered this gap on the back of the top and bottom shelves, and attached the middle slats before laying out the remaining boards. Since this bookshelf is 2 inches narrower than my last, I need to run the backing without intentional gaps - they must sit tight to avoid ripping down the plank on each outside edge. Good that I caught it when I did - I only had to remove four screws and attach the two boards again with no gap. After the two center boards are on, check the four inside corners for squareness with the speed square. Rack the frame as needed when you attach the third and fourth slats.

Based on the quality of the upcycled wood at my disposal, I decided painting was the best option. I started with a greyish base coat. It was much lighter than it appears in the Goop below.
The base coat is shown in progress. The shelves had previously been hit once with watered down white left over from painting another project earlier.
This is about all I can show of the painting process - don't want to give away my secrets! But seriously, have fun with it, experiment, don't be afraid to take risks. If you don't like the result, you can just paint over it.
Between here and the finished product:
*watery spray (purple gray)
*air spray disturbance
*back spray through the gaps
*heavy orbital sanding
*clear coats

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