Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quick and Dirty Shelf

This project wasn't so much a work of fine furniture as a DIY project with handtools.

It is another project in the house with the beam that I posted about recently.

I wanted the shelf to look nice, be durable enough for a bathroom, and take the minimum of shop time to construct. This is what I came up with:

Like usual, it took quite a bit longer than I anticipated, but it still was a quick project.  There is no glue and no fasteners.  This shelf stays put because it is in a nook supported by three walls.

Shelves are rabbetted in to the supports.

Since it is a bathroom, there is a good chance that standing water will wind up underneath the cabinet.  Knowing that wood sucks up water through the end grain, I decided to take a page from my old workbench and make feet with long grain to eliminate this problem.

One of the biggest experiments with this project is I tried out a new finish.  I read about it in a Fine Woodworking article from a while back.  It is Spar Varnish sanded in wet and wiped off.  I thinned it with a solvent for the first coat, sanded with 120 w/d paper (the article said to start with 220, but I didn't really do any preparing of the surfaces like I usually do:  I just took the plastic off of these boards and slapped the finish on).

I still had a lot of this thinned finish left, so instead of wasting it, I used it with 180 for the second coat.  It looks nice, and I think I'll leave it at this.  Except, there is a little bit of the slurry that didn't get wiped off of the shelves properly, so I probably will go over those parts with one more coat at 220 and call it good.


  • Helping out friends can be rewarding.
  • A nice project doesn't have to be complicated.
  • Things always take a lot longer than I intend (especially in my shop).
  • This spar varnish (Bootslack auf Deutsch) is a pretty good looking finish that isn't that difficult to apply in this way.  It dries quickly, too!


  1. Looks good. I like the quick joinery and reliance on the walls for support.

    1. Thanks, Dyami. When she told me she wanted some shelves, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw where she wanted it. No fancy joinery required!

      (except the dadoes and the through tenons).

  2. I have an Arts and Crafts shelf like this on my to-do list for daughter #1. I like the long grain idea for the feet. The shelf looks good.

    1. Thanks, Ralph.

      The feet were fun to make, and fairly easy, once a layout was drawn on.

  3. I've used that finish several times (FWW#154 '02) (right at the beginning of my FWW days). It takes a while, but leaves a great surface if you follow the 3-4 coats of wet sanding. (I was actually working on a post last night that referenced this method, and thought it maybe sparked your comment here, only now I remember I haven't published yet)

    1. Great minds must think alike!

      My finishing regimen usually included BLO or wax of some sort or another. This is the first time I have used a varnish, I think I like it. Simple and straightforward.

  4. Those feet look really good.
    Fine project (as always).
    Brgds Jonas