Mounting Shelves and Pictures on Walls

Since moving into our new house last year, I have hung dozens of pictures and shelves. Okay, maybe not dozens, but very likely a dozen. Every time, the challenges are the same: what is the best location, where are the studs, and is it level?

While not immediately obvious, we always do reach a consensus of where best to hang the shelf or picture.

I am also fortunate to have a trusting family that doesn’t second-guess my ability to mount things level. However, I have certainly hung more than one where my “helper” is peering over my shoulder at the level and reminding me that it’s slightly slanted.

“Thanks, but why don’t you try levelling this a round clock?”

Not only is this not helpful, but it actually makes the process more aggravating. Sometimes I want to use the level in a very different way from which it was intended.

Besides that, I find playing “find the stud” is irritating enough (I’m pretty sure that whoever framed my house was an M.C. Escher fan). Instead of a stud finder, I need a pair of X-ray goggles. Or a treasure map.

While I’m still saving up for X-ray goggles and searching for that map, I have found a solution to make finding level easier, and I recently got to try it mounting one of my #WSBO wall shelves. Check it out: the First Guess Gravity Gauge.

Working Efficiently in a Small Shop

It can be a challenge to work efficiently in a small shop, but I have arranged the equipment in the space of a 1-car garage to allow me to build with components up to five feet in length without having to rearrange. In fact, the only machine that is on wheels is my 13″ thickness planer.

Most of the things I build involve components not longer than five feet, so work goes very smoothly. Some machines have the capacity to work with stock greater than five feet as they sit and I sometimes take advantage of that, and other times I use a hand-held tool instead.

I have written an article for Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine that will appear in a future issue describing my layout, the benefits, and why it works well for me. If you work in a shop with limited space, I think that you’ll find the article interesting.

This time-lapse video was recorded during the Wall Shelf Build-Off, and illustrates my workflow in the shop, and how I use the limited space that I have. Duration: (10:18)

For more pictures of my shop, check out this post: Welcome to the New Shop.

Results from the 2017 Wall Shelf Build-Off

Well, the ballots have been tallied and that means it’s time to award some prizes.  Although there were not as many entries as I had hoped for, the shelves built were well-constructed, innovative, and certainly well made considering the two day time limit. This made it tough for judges to decide which shelf was the best of each category. Several categories were decided by a single vote.

Sponsors and Prizes

First, I’d like to thank the generous sponsors who have provided the prizes. Please use the links below to learn more about the sponsors and their products.

Judges

I would also like to recognize the judges who took the time to carefully review the shelf submissions and cast their ballots.

Prizes

In addition to every prize awarded, each winner also will receive a 360 Woodworking Fanatic Membership!

Click on any image to read more about the shelf design.

By Category


The winner of this category is certainly no stranger to innovation when it comes to furniture. The award of Most Innovative Design goes to Judson Beaumont and Straight Line Designs.

For their efforts, Popular Woodworking will be sending them a copy of Contemporary Furniture: 17 Elegant Projects You Can Build.

11a


This very creative and original design, carefully crafted, earned Danny Siggers’ shelf the title of Best Concept.

His design has earned him a Kerfmaker from Bridge City Tool Works.

6b


With a very resourcefully-built and arguably wacky design, the shelf built by Brian Prusa edged out other shelves in the categories of Best Use of Materials and Most Off-the-Wall (Figuratively Speaking) Design.

His floating live-edge shelf earned him a copy of Build 25 Beautiful Boxes from Popular Woodworking and a Set of 4 Bench Dogs from Time Warp Tool Works.

brian-prusa


I don’t think it’s a surprise to any of us that the wild-looking wall shelf with lots of curves and bent laminations won the prize for the Most Ambitious Design. Eric and his daughter Hailey’s design also earned the title of Most Inspiring Design.

Coming your way will be a 2-year Print or Digital Subscription to Popular Woodworking, and a Woodpeckers Mini Square from Ultimate Tools.

4b


Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice Awards.

Ballots were scored as follows: 3 points for each #1 vote, 2 points for each #2 vote, and 1 point for each #3 vote. With 171 ballots cast, the maximum number of points that a shelf could score was 513.

Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice #3 goes to Danny Siggers, whose shelf got 21.5% of possible points. The prize for this category is a 1-year Digital Subscription to Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine.

danny-siggers


Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice #2 goes to David Barlow’s shelf with 30% of possible points.
He will receive a copy of Vic Tesolin’s book, The Minimalist Woodworker: Essential Tools and Small Shop Ideas for Building with Less.

david-barlow


Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice #1 is awarded to Eric and Hailey Zuehlk, whose shelf attracted 38% of possible points  and earned them a signed copy of Ron Hock’s book, The Perfect Edge.

eric-hailey-zuehlk


There were three individuals who accurately predicted the top three Flair Woodworks Reader’s Choice. We broke the tie, and the award of a 1-year Digital Subscription to Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine goes to Eric Zuehlk’s brother, Brian. Clearly that family has good taste!

Judges’ Top Picks

Coming in Judges’ Honourable Mention, with 13% of the points from the judges is Matt Kummell’s shelf with impressive angled joinery and eye-catching metal inlay.

Time Warp Tool Works will send him a set of 4 Bench Dogs for a job well done.

matt-kummell


Receiving 16% of points from judges, the Judges’ Runner Up is…me and my “Hashtag” shelf for displaying carved letter blocks.

I will be declining the prize of a Kerfmaker from Bridge City Tool Works, since I already own one.

chris-wong


And, taking the Judges’ Top Shelf award with 24% of all awarded points by judges is that wicked design by the Zuehlks.

Well done – Green Buddy Distributors will be sending you a Grex AOS368 Angle Random Orbital Sander.

eric-hailey-zuehlk2


Remember that you can view all the Wall Shelves built during the #WSBO two day build on this page. Thanks to everybody who participated and voted. See you next time!

Subscribe to my blog using the form at the bottom of the page to receive updates from me.

Prizes for the Wall Shelf Build-Off

The Wall Shelf Build-Off is next weekend. Can you believe it?

A Pep Talk

If you’ve been hesitating to register because you don’t have a design, I’d encourage you to register today. Nothing like a little pressure for inspiration – even if it means heading out to the shop next weekend without a clear idea of what you’re doing.

Even though I’ve been doing lots of thinking and sketching, I still haven’t settled on a design. Remember that the event is about getting out in the shop and just making something – not about making a masterpiece.

Sign up for the Wall Shelf Build-Off!

Sponsors and Prizes

I would like to extend a big “thank you” to everybody who volunteered a prize for the #WSBO. I am especially grateful to have so many prizes available to woodworkers outside of North America!

Please use the links below to learn more about the sponsors and their products.

If you would like to contribute a prize, please contact me directly.

Now, where did I leave my collection of sketches…?

The Wall Shelf Build-Off: January 28-29

Everybody is Invited to Participate!

The purpose of the Wall Shelf Build-Off (#WSBO) is to encourage woodworkers from around the world to simultaneously build a project in their own workshops and share the process online January 28 and 29, just like the Shop Stool Build-Off that I hosted four years ago. I expect to see many returning participants and lots of new faces.

#WSBO Rules are Simple:

  1. Build a wall-mounted shelf during the weekend of January 28 – 29.
  2. Share the process online via social media (#WSBO), blog, and/or forum.
  3. To be eligible for prizes, pre-register, then submit your entry by Tuesday January 31 (see below).

#WSBO Pre-Registration

Use the form at the bottom of this page to pre-register.

Start Thinking About a Shelf Design

You can work from plans or you can design on the fly. You can use wood, metal or even some other material. One great thing about a wall shelf is that the design possibilities are endless. Check out my Pinterest collection of wall shelf ideas if you need some inspiration.

Two Days to Build your Wall Shelf

I hope to finish my shelf in one day, but the build-off will carry on through Sunday for those who require more time.

After the shelves are complete, I would like to share everybody’s work here on my blog.

We had a lot of fun and had a lot of participation four years ago with the Shop Stool Build-Off, and I’m really excited about this year’s Wall Shelf Build-Off!

Submitting Your #WSBO Entry

To be eligible to win a prize, send an e-mail to FlairBuildOff@gmail.com by end of day Tuesday, January 31 containing:

  1. one or two photos of your completed wall shelf (please label the files using your name – mine will be titled ChrisWong1.jpg and ChrisWong2.jpg);
  2. overall dimensions of your shelf;
  3. a list of the materials used; and
  4. a link to where you shared your build.

You can also include:

  1. a sentence or two about your greatest challenge during the build;
  2. up to 300 words about the shelf, your inspiration, construction techniques etc; and
  3. a suggestion for the next Build-Off.

Pre-Registration Form

wsbo-registration-closed

Understanding Material and Joint Strength

Guaranteed Success Can Be Bad

Being scared of failing can steer us towards taking extra precautions to better the odds of success. It makes perfect sense, but it’s a shame because when things are over-designed and over-built, we often do not have the opportunity to observe the actual strengths of the components involved.

Ash Chair Prototype

Understand the Materials, Techniques, and Tools You Use

Forget cosmetic appearance – the real beauty comes from the strength within. The true beauty of ash, despite its strong grain lines, is its strength and flexibility. These physical properties allow components made from it to be shaped more aggressively. Likewise, fine-grained hardwoods allow us to cut finer details, including joinery and carvings. For these reasons, it is important that the maker have a good understanding of materials when matching them to the design.

Cribbage Table 1

I made a series of stopped cuts in the stretcher of “Beware of Step 27”, then wedged the sections apart and drove them into mortises in the legs.

Learn By Doing

As with most things, you can learn about things including the physical properties of materials, and strengths of different joints from books. It’s an excellent place to start, but a terrible place to finish. Books and pictures do not adequately convey the strength of a certain material or joint. Descriptions such as “good load strength and medium hardness”, or “an excellent joint for a drawer” do not actually tell you how it will fare in the real world. Videos are slightly better, but are still a poor replacement for hand-on experience.

Seek Failure and Learn

The best way to learn is to experiment yourself. Seek failure. Here’s a simple exercise I use to learn the strength of the materials I use. A project always yields some offcuts. Instead of cutting over-length offcuts to fit in the firewood box, I first try to break them.

Small pieces, I may try to fold with just my upper body strength, larger ones I may try to break over my knee. But for most offcuts, I set one end on the ground and the other on a block of wood, then stomp on it. It is impressive how strong wood is. Quite often, the wood will kink or bend before it fails.

Apply Your Knowledge to Your Designs

We can apply our knowledge of the materials and joints we use to the things we build. Remember that in most projects, the piece of wood taking load, whether it be a table top, chair stretcher, or drawer bottom is wider if not thicker too, and is hopefully not the subject of somebody stomping on it, trying to break it.

I think that this exercise will build your confidence in material strength, and possibly get you thinking about using materials in more daring ways.

Butternut & Ash Side Table

I recently completed this small side table and it has already become a much-appreciated addition to the home. With a table top about 10″ x 18″, it has proven itself to be compact yet stable, and suitably sized to hold a book, or a dinner plate and drinking glass.

 

ash-butternut-side-table-low

Followers of my blog may recognize the top as a slice from the same piece of ash that was used in the doors of Insanity 2.

ash-butternut-side-table-high

The form took a while to realize, and I had fun mixing straight lines and convex shapes.

The butternut base is joined with bridle and lap joints, and the teardrop ash top is joined with a pair of floating tenons and a little glue.

Welcome to the New Shop

Since moving three months ago, I have settled nicely into the new shop that is a one-car garage.

Here are some panoramic pictures to give you a feel for the space. Click to view full-size.

Shop Panorama E

Looking East

Looking South

Looking South

Looking West

Looking West

Looking North

Looking North

All the machines are more or less permanently positioned, and the overhead door is not used (it was last opened to move in the machinery).

Most of my work is done in the triangle between my sliding table saw, drill press, and workbench. That area is the most well-lit, with light provided by two fluorescent light fixtures which, combined, have five of eight bulbs installed. If I need an assembly table, I set up a pair of saw horses and a table top as seen here.

North End of Shop

The dust collector usually lives in the corner behind the table saw, and a flexible hose is run between the table saw, bandsaw, jointer and planer as required. A switch to the left of the bandsaw turns on the dust collector.

South End of Shop

My routers, along with their bits and accessories, are stored in a rolling cabinet next to my drill press, and frequently used drill bits reside on top.

Router Cabinet

Most other tools are stored in the drawers under my split top workbench (the other bench slab is standing up on end in the north-east corner).

East Bench Area

Rarely used equipment, such as my bench grinder, is kept on a rolling cart under the table saw. This area can accommodate 8′ long material, and may become a wood storage location in the future.

Table Saw Area

Currently, I have the area behind the doors at the north end of the shop dedicated for wood storage, as well as the adjacent north-east corner, which accommodates long narrow material. The three doors open into a single space.

Wood Storage Area

And, yes, I reclaimed my shop stool.

“Sharpening” Carbide Insert Cutter Heads

It has been a long time since I installed Byrd Tool’s Shelix carbide cutter heads in my Delta DJ-20 8″ jointer (May 2009) and DeWalt DW735 13″ planer (June 2012). The videos showing the installation of the cutter head in my planer have been viewed almost 75,000 times!

Although the machines still produced tearout-free cuts, they did leave ridges behind and I suspected that changing to fresh edges would lower the noise level and reduce the strain on the motors. I had not rotated the cutters until now.

Byrd Shelix Cutter Head Basics

The machined cutter head had tapped holes to received machine screws, each of which locked down one squarish carbide cutter. A registration ledge machined into the head automatically aligned the cutters, so “sharpening” the head was as simple as loosening the screws, rotating the cutters 90 degrees, and retightening the screws.

Each cutter was marked in the corner, and all were positioned the same way out of the factory so it was easy to tell which cutters I had rotated.

Byrd Shelix Cutters, Marked.JPG

Rotating the Cutters

The screws securing the cutters on my thickness planer required almost as much force to loosen as I could apply with the screwdriver and Torx bit supplied by Bird. A few were looser than others, so were easy to remove.

DeWalt DW735 Shelix

When I rotated the cutters of my jointer, and I found that the machine screws there were considerably tighter.  I was able to loosen some using all of my strength on the screwdriver, but resorted to using a Torx bit on the end of a 1/4″ ratchet to break them loose. It was nice to have two Torx driver bits available (one came with each cutter head) so that I could have one on each tool to expedite the process.

Delta DJ 20 Shelix

In order to rotate each cutter, I found that all I needed to do was back off the screw three revolutions. In a couple of instances, I found that a bit of debris got lodged between the cutter and the registration ledge, so I actually needed to remove the screw and clean the cutter.

One of the great features of this type of cutter head was that the cutters are self-indexing, which eliminates the tedious task of setting cutter heights with measuring tools. However, the cutters did need to be reasonably close to their final positioning to self-align. If not close enough, the cutter got hung up on the registration ledge and the screw wasn’t able to pull it into place. Continuing to tighten the screw could have broken the fragile carbide cutter.

Once I saw the cutter drop into place, I tightened the screw as tight as my grip on the screwdriver allowed. Then it was onto the next cutter. I rotated the cutters one row at a time.

It took 16 minutes to rotate the 40 cutters of my 13″ planer (4 rows of 10), and 20 minutes to rotate the 40 cutters of my 8″ jointer (5 rows of 8).

Shop Stools/Bar Stools

The kitchen island in my new house was calling for a pair of bar stools. My shop stool that I completed in the Shop Stool Build-Off found its way there during the move, and with the chaos reigning in my shop, I was happy to let it live there.

Shop Stool

My shop stool

A second stool was in order, and it looked like it would be a while still before the shop is in any sort of shape to work.

Fortunately, I recalled that, a little while after the Shop Stool Build-Off, I had tried again to make the crossed-leg stool which I had originally attempted but due to a miscalculation, wasn’t able to pull off in time.

Shop Stool Build-Off Design

Attempt #2 was already together, but needed some attention. The joints didn’t fit quite as well as I wanted and hadn’t been glued. The seat needed to be cut to shape, and the legs needed some finishing touches.

My goal was to make it into a usable stool – I had more important things to do and didn’t want to spend the time required to bring this stool up to the level of “fine furniture”.

First, I glued the legs into the seat. To avoid having to drive them apart and back together (they were a tight friction fit), I applied Veritas’ Chair Doctor Glue to the joint’s seams and let the watery glue seep into the joint. When the glue was dry, I cut the seat round with my jigsaw.

Shop Stools High

Although the stool was usable at this point, I couldn’t resist taking it further. I tilted my jigsaw (the whole saw, not just the base plate) and trimmed the edge of the seat to line up with the angled legs, gradually bringing the jigsaw back to plumb so the edge returned to square. I did this in both directions – clockwise and counter clock-wise at each leg, so the seat’s edge effectively twists and untwists as it goes around. I faired the edge of the stool with my random orbit sander, starting with 24-grit, and progressed up to 120-grit.

Shop Stools Low

Finally, I scooped out the seat with a carving gouge, sanded the surface smooth and even, and softened the edges.

Shop Stools Mid

So much for a “basic” stool – I just couldn’t resist adding a few extra touches. Know what I mean?