I was invited to participate in this challenge that required me to make anything using a single board, and I said yes because there was one project that came to mind: the beautiful Kulma framing shelf by Martina Carpelan.
Martina’s shelf is €95 and undeniably flawless, and you should check out her shop if you just want to buy. Thumbs up.
A few years ago, back when I was making and selling rustic picture frames as an Etsy side-biz, I became pretty proficient at planning measurements to make the most of the reclaimed boards I had inventoried. When the boards are consistent front and back (same finish, same texture), it’s easy to use this method to plan for mitered cuts. Measuring for mitered cuts is a little more complex than it would be if you were slicing straight cuts with the chop saw (if you’re not careful it lends to more waste), but nice joints have a certain appeal and look more professional. I do most of this planning as a sketch on paper–or on a paint stirrer–to visualize how to simplify the cuts and minimize waste.
The notes on the stick you see above served as my cut list for this shelving with mitered inner corners. I cut the pieces from a single 1x8x8 poplar board. If you’re not into the complexity of mitering, you can execute a similar piece with butt joints (forming the right angle by butting two flat-ended pieces to create an “L”). I suggest cutting the following pieces from your board to construct with a butt joint:
You might wonder why I didn’t miter all of the joints (notice above that the vertical pieces are just butted); I know from previous experience (making this couch arm wrap) that strong compound joinery is really hard if you’re not a pro at splining, which I’m not (yet). I used metal brackets for that project to make that project secure (namely because they would be hidden), but for this project I didn’t want any exposed hardware that would detract from the clean lines and natural wood construct.
Desire to avoid using metal brackets and screws means that this shelf was assembled with biscuit joinery (no nails, no nail gun, just wooden tendons, wood glue, and clamps).
The tool/material list:
Make the cuts as outlined above, paying special attention to the mitered angles. When the mitered edges are cut and line up perfectly, trim the straight end of the boards at the same time so they are perfectly even in length.
My palm router is one of my favorite tools, and testing a new bit is like Christmas morning. The keyhole bit is one that I hadn’t tested yet, so I clamped a piece of scrap to maneuver the palm router at least a dozen times while I got comfortable with the motions. For the most part, it was pretty easy, and I’m glad I know how to do this because it would make installing all kinds of floating shelving and heavy items a lot easier. Of course, as it would go, the holes plunged into the finished cut boards were way wonkier than I would have liked because I’m human and I probably got too confident after having carved 10 perfect holes in a row in my scrap and the universe had to re-ground me, but they are still plenty strong, just not as pretty.
The strongest biscuits in my workshop are #20 (2-5/8″ x 1″, adequate for the heaviest projects that will be under greater stress). I used the joiner to cut in spaces for two at each joint. Consistency is key when you’re cutting joints that need to line up vertically and horizontally. My technique–lining of the joint, using a pencil line to mark perpendicularly over the joint where I want the biscuit to be embedded, and then lining up the joiner at a measured and locked depth to bore in at those pencil marks– has been foolproof.
Less is more when it comes to wood glue; I dripped a small dab into each cut biscuit space, and a precise “finger smudged layer” of glue along the edge of the board itself before plugging in the biscuits and forcing the pieces together until death do them part. The fit in this case was pretty RIGHT ON on the first attempt, and it really didn’t require much clamping, just enough to keep the two boards level while the glue dried.
Connections aren’t always so smooth, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with my own skill set, and because the board sometimes has an ever so slight natural curvature to it, even when you spend twice as much buying it from a millwork where it had just been planed to perfection. Woodworking is a beautiful thing, but I’m not a pro, and sometimes a rubber mallet comes into play to get those joint to conform to my expectations. Whack. Put a little piece of scrap between the black mallet and your good board to avoid black smudgies, and to distribute the force of the blow.
You can catch a peek at one of the wonky keyholes from this angle, and better see how the biscuits fit into position to join the shelf pieces together without screws. Do what you will, just make sure it’s all clamped together tight, and square, while the glue dries to lock the biscuits in place.
Most of our “good clamps” are missing, which is probably because our basement workshop just got reorganized and I didn’t make a key and map of where I put everything… so I got creative.
Once the glue had dried, I went over every joint and edge with a palm sander, which corrected any places where you could feel and see if a board was a half-a-millimeter out of position.
I tested a few stains to determine which finish I liked best for my finished shelf. “Natural” won out; not too yellow, not dark, and brought out a lot of the beauty of the poplar’s coloring.
As I said, it was my first time using the keyhole bit and also my first time trying to hang something using a keyhole, and it worked quite well. The way in which the hole was bore plays a big part in the overall positioning of the screws in your wall, and to mark exactly where the screw would sit, I flagged with a very direct arrow made of tape.
Heavy-duty wall anchors are a must-have if you’re not going into a stud, and these babies hold 50-lbs each. When you think about using these anchors for other projects, the screw usually goes through the item (a bracket, for instance) and then into the anchor, so I knew that if the screw protruded out by 1/4″, I could hook the screw into the keyhole on the shelf, and expect it to remain rigid and strong.
I really hate messing up when it involves putting holes in my wall, and putting unnecessary holes in flawless wallpaper in my entryway would bring out a whole new level of rage. For planning purposes, I began by leveling the shelf in the corner, marking where the holes would need to be for both screws, and tapped two tiny brad nails into the wall to double-check the positioning and level. Smart move; the left side was a hair off, and I was able to correct it before installing the heavy-duty anchors.
It’s a pretty good feeling seeing the shelf hung on the wall, looking and fitting so well. Note that you may need to tighten the screws into the anchors a little bit more based on how deep the screw fits into the keyhole. Remove the shelf, tighten up a half/full twist, and try again.
As an entryway feature, the shelf gives us a place to drop our keys; extra space is being used for our stash of thank you notes and stamps.
Check out more projects from this One Board Challenge – here’s everyone who participated:
Great furniture finds at ordinary garage sales make me want to fist bump everyone in my path, which is exactly what I did when I found these gems:
I passed by them initially as they sat covered by old VHS tapes and assorted Wii gadgets figuring that they were small tables being used to display merch, but at second glance saw a tag that said make an offer and then quickly entered that rollercoaster/vortex that best describes the emotional side of garage sale shopping; hovered my entire body over the tables like a lion over her kill while I did speedy research in an effort to ID the items on my phone to gauge value. Quickly realized they were amazing finds, named my offer calmly to hide my outrageous level of excitement from the seller and other shoppers, begged the seller to hold them for me while I left to get more cash and a Jeep with more space to carry them, and then flailed about in glee and ran out of that sale like I was escaping a wildfire.
Garage sales are fun, no?
Bedside tables hadn’t even been on my list of items to replace/upgrade/buy; we had still been using the CB2 Harvey tables that I found a few years ago, a set that I still really like a lot no matter how many times we slam our elbows into the corners and curse when our phones metallically sound off when left on ‘vibrate’ mode. The finish has held up really well over the years, and despite lots of wear, no dings, scratches, or chips.
As timing would have it, we just upgraded ourselves to a new king mattress last month and it wasn’t until I put one of our new walnut tables next the bigness of that bed that I realized how dwarfed those two red tables really seemed in comparison. The bigger tables are a much better fit for the size of the bed, and for the overall scale of our large (and still relatively empty) bedroom.
Researching the tables themselves took me down a windy rabbit hole. The word “Heritage” is marked on the inside of the drawer, which to many furniture enthusiasts would imply “Drexel Heritage” or “Henredon Heritage.” I found several of these items on both eBay and auction sites claiming to be from the Drexel and/or Henredon family of products–walnut, similar markings, comparable size, lines, and shape–though none of them were an exact match for this table’s design with its tray top.
I suspect but obviously can’t say for sure that many of those listings aren’t completely accurate, because the product photographs don’t clearly depict the logo branding inside the drawers matching what you would see on a legit Drexel Heritage or Henredon Heritage product. Probably not the seller’s fault–if their products had the original stickers inside the drawers, they might realize that the tables were from American manufacturer Paine Furniture Company.
Going further down the Paine Furniture Company research path, I did find somewhere that the manufacturer did have a Heritage line of products (circa 1960), and that line appears to have some similar features as these two tables, including the Walnut construct, labeling (as shown two photos above), and lo-and-behold, the same wooden handles.
The tables themselves aren’t flawless, but they’re solid as can be. There are a few small (dime-sized) areas of water damage, and a few scratches along one lower edge, but nothing that can’t be dealt with, and considering that I already tipped a glass of water onto it, I suspect it’ll see worse and am reminded of why I like to buy inexpensive garage sale items instead of brand new. When I brought them home, I cleaned the set gently with a damp rag and Murphys Oil Soap which helped to lift dust and polish them up, but for now I don’t think they need extensive refinishing.
At first glance, we expected that the walnut would contrast too much with our natural maple floors; we’ve been trying to keep our buys to a blonder wood style, venturing as dark as oak but not much deeper. The walnut actually coordinates well with some of the darker streaks in the natural maple flooring, so the contrast really isn’t anywhere near as eye catching as if the tables were a darker brown.
The garage sale scene has been excellent this year. I promise a recap of some of my favorite finds soon!
We’ve been living outdoors since the temps climbed to a tolerable place, and it’s been amazing, even better than last year now that our youngest, Hattie, has mobility and the freedom to explore, wandering curiously and freely. The short, visual summary of our springtime: clearing brush with codeman, sparklers, transplanting, painting watermelons, searching for chipmunks, bike upgrading, b-holes, not letting a little rain stop us from getting our chores done, and more.
I’ve been making lots of small improvements to the treehouse that we were building at this exact time last year. The bulk of the decor has left up to the kids, meaning that right now there are clay pots filled with dirt and transplanted weeds, an abandoned wasp nest, sticks, and mysteriously, a collection of dead moths. For safety and appeal, other changes have taken place too. Check them out:
When it comes to sourcing galvanized piping that’s often used for natural gas lines, I’m sure you can find better pricing if you shop around, but I went for convenience and picked them up at the hardware store. There are two ladders leading in and out of the house, and though the kids can scale them like chimps without, the handrails are an inevitably nice addition for safety and make it much easier for me to climb up and down.
Composed of two 1/2″ pipes, two 1/2″ elbows, two 1/2″ x close pipe nipples, four 1/2″ flanges, 8 washers, and 8 1″ lag bolts, these things are so solid that I could do acrobatics on them. Here’s to hoping the kids don’t realize that.
I decided to leave the flanges and elbows au natural metallic finish, but laid several thick coat of golden yellow along the length of the pipe.
All of the pieces were hand-tightened, and save for the cordless drill, the drill bit I used to predrill the holes for the flange bolts, and the hex bit I used to attach them, it was a tool-free endeavor.
With a long rail attached into a stud on the wall of the structure, and a second secured into the handrail, these simple additions literally make it possible for grandma and grandpa to scale the ladder and chill with us up inside that little house.
My parents measured our heights on the back of our bathroom door; Pete’s parents have all of the grandchildren’s measurements on the kitchen doorway. I knew I wanted a place in our home to do the same, and spontaneously decided that the treehouse was the perfect space to document it because it’s tall enough to measure against for their entire life (the entry is 6′ in height). In this location, the marks are sheltered from weather under the awning, and likely to stand for many, many decades. Putting spare paint to work!
Technically, I bought all of the chalk, and then moved this chalkboard from Julia’s bedroom at the old house into a new space in the treehouse. It’s a simple piece of MDF which is definitely not suitable for being outdoors in the weather, but underneath the roof, no moisture enters, so unless humidity gets to it over the years or some animal makes a nest between the studs behind it, I think it’ll be fine.
Good chalkboard erasers proved to be extremely hard to find in local stores (they’re dinky and smudgy and completely sucky for the most part I can only imagine because someone out there decided they needed to invent and mandate use of “allergy-friendly dust free” erasers) but I shopped around, and do recommend these heavy-duty dense felt erasers if you’re in the market. They’re badass and super efficient, just like the ones you’d remember having to de-dust against one of those reverberating chalk dust vacuums in elementary school; anyone else have a similar flashback?
See above? That’s a big piece of plywood over the hole in the floor which is for the ladder that leads up through the floorboards. That hole has kept us on high-alert. It was always my intent to create a trap door of some kind to control the entryway, but logistically I had some ideas to work through in my head.
The solution was quite simple, and executed in less than an hour. Four pieces of scrap 1×6 deck board (one trimmed to 3.5″ wide to fit the space that was slightly narrower than 4 boards at full width), screwed into two pieces of 2×3.
When I measured and built the trap door, I sized it so that an inch gap would be left along three of the edges, solely to help prevent fingers being slammed if the door is pulled (or dropped) shut when someone’s fingers are gripping the opening. It’s truly terrifying to consider the number of ways our kids and their friends could get hurt on any given day, at any location, doing anything, but guillotined fingers are high on the list of things I’m not equipped to deal with.
The fourth side of the trap door rests flush with the 6″ galvanized T hinges.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that a trap door floating on its hinges is the most solid surface to stand on (the side without the hinges is inarguably springy), so for reinforcement, the door falls against mending strips that are at angles on two corners from underneath. I also added latch that provides some additional steel reinforcement from above with the help of 8 screws, but really serves to help with toddler-proofing, and gives us the option of adding a lock for added security as Hattie gets stronger and more daring.
The new trap door received a coat of stain to match the rest of the treehouse. Stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the house, which is (probably permanently) coated with a fine yellow pollen powder after enduring its first springtime. Pollen’s brutal, man.
Backyard entertainment at its finest. This was early in the process, so just consider it a peek at something I’ve been working on for DIY Network. :)