Monday, August 19, 2013

Building Built-In Bookcases: Part Three


I wanted to title this post as "My Wealth On Display" or something along those lines but didn't for the sake of keeping these three posts on building built-in bookcases kind of similar so other's may find them in the future. But more on that wealth later.

At our old houses, I stained the bookcases walnut in color because the room had no other woodwork at the time. I ended up putting wood crown molding and building a fireplace mantel and staining all that walnut too. It was alright but because of the lower lighting conditions, the wood grain was all but lost in the darkness and I always felt that was a shame. After staining my workbench an antique cherry color, I loved that rich reddish brown color and felt that it would be a good color to stain these bookcases. It would halfway match our free-be piano that my wife got years ago and also the railing of the stairs. Since the crown molding was already painted white, I wasn't too concerned about matching that.

When I went to the store to pick out some stain, I was amazed at how much stain technology has come along since the last stain I bought a decade ago. Not only are there more choices, but there were different formulas for different types of surfaces, i.e. vertical, overhead and flat. There was also choices in stains and gels. Finally, they now have stains that are a stain and polyurethane all in one bottle. I was tempted to buy that latter stuff but wasn't sure how it would work. Anyone else out there used that stuff and can add your two cents worth? In the end, I went old school with what I knew best and got gel stain and ordinary polyurethane.

After applying the finish on the bookcase, I can say two things. I should have gone with ordinary stain and not gel stain. Gel stain has to be wiped off after a few minutes which means twice the overhead work of doing the underside of the shelves. My arms would only let me do four or five compartments before my arm was numb and my shoulder feeling like it was separating from the rest of me requiring me to take a breather. I thought the gel stain would be easier to control from drips when working overhead and perhaps so but since I was staining all surfaces, I don't think it really mattered. Second, the gel stain really didn't get the wood quite as dark as I would have liked and wasn't conducive to multiple coats to achieve a darker color like stain would have been. But in the end, I'm pleased with the result.

On my previous bookcase, I didn't polyurethane the wood over the stain. Because it is a low wear surface because I'm not constantly sliding books across its surface, I didn't need too. This time since I was going with a lighter color, I applied polyurethane mostly to give it a gloss appearance and to cause the wood grains to pop out a bit. I liked it much better than the stain because there is no constant stirring required and it is just brushed on with no additional work. I put two coats on the upside of the shelves where the books rest and one coat on the sides and back. I didn't put any on the underside of the shelves. After two coats, I did a light polish with steel wool and called it good. I am happy with the results.


As you can see, I got my library collection finally unpacked after over a year of sitting in boxes. It is like seeing old friends again after a long absence. Most of the shelves are only a single row deep but a few of them are two rows deep.

I have several shelves of non-fiction books that I have read and which I consider classic books that I loan to other individuals who I think might enjoy them as much as I did. I have several shelves of books in my to-be-read column when I get a chance. That sounds like a lot of books but I'm the kind of person that likes having a selection to choose from. Sometimes I'm in the mood for some historical introspection and sometimes I'm in the mood for some cold weather exploration. I like having a choice. There are probably a half dozen shelves of reference material that come in handy from time to time on various projects and aspects of my life. There is a few shelves of fiction literature that I used to enjoy reading but has gathered dust for the last 15 years or so. I figure someday when I get caught up on all the very entertaining true stuff to read about, I can go back to reading fiction again. There are a few shelves that contain collections of authors whom I enjoy reading. There is a shelf for my oldest daughter where I stock books that are becoming age appropriate for her and a couple shelves for my wife though she reads only on rare occasions.

As you can see, there are a few knick knack items up but we have another box of them yet to unpack. I just ran out of steam before getting to them and besides, my wife has a better eye for those kinds of things. One last related project is to install some sort of track lighting in front of the bookcase to improve things. Right now there is a single can light at the base of the stairs that is really the only light source in the area. But I'm saving that project for later when I get more weather sensitive things completed.

I have already spent a fair amount of time sitting on the bottom steps of the stairs gazing at my now completed bookcase. I feel a sense of immense wealth when I see the books on those shelves. There are thousands of hours of good memories and far away places I  have explored on those shelves and maybe a thousand hours yet to read. People are always amazed because I seem to know a little bit or perhaps a lot more than they do on a myriad of subjects. It isn't that I'm smart but because the source of that ability sits on those shelves and I enjoy seeking out knowledge in them. This winter when my fireplace is up and running, I surely do plan on starting a nice fire and increasing my knowledge even more. You can take everything but my books and I'm still a rich man. Take my books and I'm as poor as can be.

8 comments:

edifice rex said...

Ooooh, that looks really nice!! you did a great job. I'm waiting on my cabinet guy to come measure for some built in bookcases I want. And yes, I know, I could do it myself but he does such a nice job and I have so many irons in the fire now.... I can't wait to have them installed though and all my books out where I can see them! I can totally relate!

Ron said...

Looks great, and shelves sure are nice. I hope to do many more shelving projects here over the years.

malor said...

You did an awesome job. You inspire me. Now if I can onl inspire my husband to make something like this, I'll be happy...

warren said...

I've been absent a bit but you surely have been busy! I'd say you are displaying true wealth very well!

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - Sometimes you have to pick your battles. I fought this one but am hiring my fireplace done. It all has to do with time and comfort level of whatever you're working on.

Ron - I have two shelving projects done and another one coming up. I can still think of another possible future shelving project that isn't even on my list yet!

Malor - I love working with wood so it didn't take a lot to get me to do something like this. It is also my second time of building bookcases like these which made it a lot easier.

Warren - Thank you and might I say, I've been very busy too and have a lot of blogs to catch up on including yours.

roaring40 said...

They are gorgeous, truly.

woodysrockyridge said...

Very nice work Ed! Last set of bookcases I made were stained before installation. I found it very easy to do the shelves and 1/4" plywood back separately. Working on the floor kept my arms from falling off. I would have preferred to poly ours though. The stain alone did not make the grain pop like I had hoped.

Ed said...

Vince - Thanks.

Woody - I thought about doing that but since I was cutting dados and gluing the shelf ends, I opted not too. Also playing a role was that my garage is not the best place to do a lot of finish work. Perhaps if I had a nice beautiful barn with lots of area to work in, I might have made a different choice!