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Alcove shelves/cupboard design

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Wouldchuk

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Hello all,

My sister requires a built-in cupboard with bookshelves above to fit in an alcove in her living room. The width is around 900mm and depth around 380mm so not huge.

She wants a wood finish, which in my mind is slightly awkward in that the floorboards are knotty pine, the skirting boards are a dark stained pine, the fireplace immediately next to it is another sort of stained wood, then on one wall there is a teak sideboard, in an opposite alcove a traditional French polished bureau, and just to top it off, Oak door and an Oak desk! :roll: Finding something that fits with the room isnt easy - I do have a lot of Ash that I could use, although not convinced that the light finish will fit - question to follow on that in a mo.

For the shelf side supports/uprights, these are to fit the depth of the alcove (380mm) and go from the top of the cabinet to the bottom of the cornice at the ceiling (1160mm) obviously. I was going to use 18mm Ash veneered MDF with a solid wood lip to finish the cut, and i would rout a double bead on the lipping as a feature. These would be fixed to the alcove walls and carry the shelf brackets.

The shelves themselves, 18mm Ash veneered mdf, with a solid wood lipping with a moulding to relieve (Ogee or somesuch i suppose).

The top of the cabinet, onto which the sides of the shelves will 'stand' is to be solid wood, as a means of me practicing making such a table-top - it would extend slightly out of the depth of the alcove, with the cabinet beneath.

The cabinet carcass i was thinking of MDF again, sides, back, base.

Finally, a solid wood face frame onto the carcass, using Ash for the rails/stiles and the doors, which would be a simple shaker style frame/panel - the panels will need to be veneered MDF (7mm). I'd like to apply a moulding into the door frame possibly.

I will design in a 'pedestal' as such, raising the base of the cabinet off the floor with a bit of a recess under the doors.

Does that make sense? God i wish i could use SketchUp!
(hammer)

Questions:

1) does the above sound sensible?

2) Im trying to use MDF for shelves/supports for stability of the size and to cut cost/work of using real wood for that amount - i've not used veneered mdf much - is there going to be quite a noticeable difference between the finish on the veneered panels and the applied real wood lippings?

3) I am assuming that 18mm MDF for a shelf 380mm x 880mm is strong enough not to sag.

4) Does anyone have any good suggestions for adustable shelf supports - i'd rather they were as unobtrusive as possible. There will be four shelves in total so these could be a single unit, or each shelf could have its own flexiblity. I need to do some research on this but any suggestions welcome.

4) How thick should my lippings be onto 18mm panel - obviously they need to be deep enough for the moulding, but should i look to go 10mm, 20mm etc?? I was thinking of moulding a wide board on router table, then ripping that lipping piece off on the table saw, moulding the remaining board, ripping etc -is that the best technique?

5) Finish - if i wanted to darken the overall effect of the Ash, bringing it down in a more Oak-like look, what is the best way to achieve it on a piece of this size? Im hoping there is a simple wax product which i could use, rather than try staining for the first time!

Long post - but hope you can help. :)
 

Benchwayze

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Woodchuck,

I won't comment on your design, as it sounds like you know what you are on about.
However, staining ash never gave me any problem, other than any knocks or dings can show the lighter timber underneath.
You could try Liberon paste wax, which comes in varying 'wood colours'. Ash also takes waxing very well, although elbow grease is called for.

HTH
 

Jacob

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Doesn't seem a problem to find an appropriate wood/colour as clearly anything goes. If you want everything to match, paint is the only way!
I'd use real wood for the shelves at least as it is much stiffer and more durable than mdf. Any great load on mdf shelves will eventually produce a permanent sag.
People do like buying hardware :roll: but there are lots of simple all-wood ways of making adjustable shelf supports. Simplest is short dowel pegs in holes in the sides, 2 at each shelf end sticking out about 10mm, more or less. 1/2" dia typical, but bigger or smaller according to load. As many pairs of holes as you think you need adjustments. That will do it but there are ways of refining this simple system - shaping the pegs, having locating recesses in the shelf ends (which can hide the pegs to some extent), using nice bits of hardwood, etc etc.
Ones in my possession are very old with just pine 10mm dowels for pegs, which look original.
 

AndyT

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Just thinking about the shelving part. It sounds as if what you have in mind is flat vertical boards fixed to the sides of the alcove. That will only work if the walls are true - which they rarely are, whatever the age of the house.
An alternative approach (which I'm sure has been described on here before, with pictures) is to build a simple three sided box of veneered mdf which is slightly smaller than the alcove, so it can be fitted onto battens which can be made square and planar. Then you cover the front edge with a face frame, scribed to the walls. You can make that face frame overlap by half an inch or so on the inside too, which will hide your shelf supports.

A few other thoughts: you ask whether the veneer will match the lipping; in my experience you can get a decent match quite easily in ash - though I wasn't trying to change the colour. It will depend a bit on what is going onto the shelves. I'd think they would be ok if not fully loaded with encyclopedias, but you could try the online 'sagulator' http://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator.htm to check.

I'd also advise you to think hard about whether the shelves really ever will be adjusted. If you can decide in advance where they need to be, permanent fixings can be simple and strong. Also, if you do build a box with a back, you can put a batten across the back edge which will help the stiffness; as would a stout lipping on the front which can be thicker than the mdf board.
 

Chrispy

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If you go down the MDF + lipping road make and fix the lipping first then run your mouldings, glue on the lip over size and trim flush and then rout your moulding to suit.
 

Wouldchuk

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Excellent thanks.

I shall look into the liberion wax colours and do some testing to find a suitable match. im hoping that if i make my lippings 20mm x the 18mm thickness of the MDF the join wont be too noticeable. Chrispy - thanks for the alternative method - that sounds more sensible. Take the whole shelf to the router once the lipping is fitted. =D>

The thinking now is for the cabinet to be painted, with a real wood top, then wooden shelves above. This will help lesson the impact visually and make it easier to blend in yet another different sort of wood into that already cluttered room. Also cheaper, and gives me more room for error in the construction (bit of filler here... lick of paint there...tumtetum...!)

On consultation, the shelves are almost certainly just for DVDs and paperbacks so pretty lightweight load and I'm hoping then that the veneered MDF should be strong enough without sagging. There wont be huge cookery books or encyclopedias - just rubbish RomCom movies knowing her! :lol:

Like the idea of a number of holes with moveable dowels, with a recess in each shelf for them to locate in - this gives flexibility, I expect two, maybe three, in each end will be strong enough support, and when the shelf is located onto the dowel it will be hidden. They are highly unlikely to move them around in my opinion, but she wants the choice.

The verticle sides do cause me more concern - It took some head scratching but your post makes sense AndyT - that may need to be figured in to the design, so thanks for that. I will double check how wonkydonkey the walls are first. But a real wood, thin face frame would do the job. Maybe a batten around 10mm thick, adjusted so that the sides are square/planar - then 18mm mdf sides, all covered with a 30mm faceframe, into which i could rout some sort of detail - maybe sunken beads etc. Hmm... #-o

Easy question here - i will be using a DeWalt hand-held circular saw to break down the sheets, using a home made sawguide (doorboard), as i dont have a table saw for this. What is a good blade choice?

I've not worked much with veneered mdf and last time i just used the standard blade supplied with the saw (it is a course, general purpose blade) and of course all the cuts were ragged and i had to fill all the joins.... What would a good blade be to replace it so that i dont end up causing loads of tear-out in the veneer?

A fine cut - number of teeth? Any suggestions much appreciated.

Tim
 

AndyT

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Just to keep on adding options... when I've bought veneered boards in the past for something big (eg an ash wardrobe, or lots of shelves) I had the timber merchant do the major part of the breakdown on their panel saw. Not only did it mean that I got a perfectly clean, straight edge; it was much easier to get the boards home without a van.
 

Benchwayze

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Wouldchuk":1amo9dry said:
Easy question here - i will be using a DeWalt hand-held circular saw to break down the sheets, using a home made sawguide (doorboard), as i dont have a table saw for this. What is a good blade choice?

I've not worked much with veneered mdf and last time i just used the standard blade supplied with the saw (it is a course, general purpose blade) and of course all the cuts were ragged and i had to fill all the joins.... What would a good blade be to replace it so that i dont end up causing loads of tear-out in the veneer?

A fine cut - number of teeth? Any suggestions much appreciated.

Tim
Tim,

The best bet is to get the supplier to cut your pieces to size. But if you have to do the cutting yourself, you'll not have much grain direction to worry about. I am not sure, but I think you can buy special blades for MDF, but if not, I would use a combination blade.

The main thing is, when using a hand held circular saw, put the material 'show-face' down avoid tear-out ruining the finish.

Also I know many pro workers use these saws freehand, but I have a pal who lost a thumb that way, due to the saw twisting in the cut. So using a guide is going to be your mantra it seems? :D

Best of luck

John :)
 
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