Splinters, Blood, Sweat, and Cheers.
A good story is not without adversity. Last week I began my journey to build a ladder bookshelf into something that closely resembled this. I was hoping to pull off a seamless look using wood pegs and glue but that proved to be slightly more difficult than I realized. IKEA I am not. After a few shouting matches with myself and some wonderful cuts on my hands, I decided that maybe I should aim lower as I am not a master carpenter just yet.
Fast forward to yesterday, after an awesome visit to the Santa Monica Pier, I was energized and ready to get back to work. I stopped by the local lumber yard and picked up some materials:
2 – 1″x4″x6′ pieces of pine for the ladder arms
1 – 1″x6″x6′ piece of pine for the bookshelves
1 box of 1-5/8″ woodworking screws
1 bag of 3/8″ wood caps
1 3/8″ drill bit
The new plan of attack was to simply screw my shelf together and cover the holes with wood caps. No glue. No pegs. No anger.
The first thing I did was measure out my shelves. As I bought 6′ pieces of lumber the idea was to have shelves that were 18″ wide and 6″ deep. I began measuring and drawing my lines to saw, however; when I reached the end I realized the fantastic people at the lumber yard gave me 71 1/2″ instead of 72″. Not to worry! Since I am super smart, and great with math, I settled on shelves that were 17 3/4″ instead. After some sleek cuts from my borrowed table saw (Thanks Eric!) I had 4 shelves measuring 17 3/4″.
Since the bookshelf is supposed to lean like a ladder the next part was to cut an angled edge on the shelves. This way when the shelves were set in place they would be flush with the ladder arms.
After some more math I decided that a 10 degree angle would work best. I did not want the bookshelf to stick out too far from the wall but, at the same time, I needed it to accommodate at 6″ shelf fairly near the top. A quick adjustment to the saw blade and I had my angle cuts.
Since I was done sawing I did a little victory dance since all 10 fingers were still intact. The next step in the process was to set the highest shelf in place on one ladder arm.
I set the ladder arm at an approximate 10 degree lean against the wall, slid the shelf up until it was close to the wall, and drew some lines for approximate drill marks. I am actually drawing inside-out lines. The face of the ladder arm above is actually the outside. I simply needed an approximation.
Now with my approximate lines I drilled two holes with the 3/8″ drill bit about halfway through and then went all the way through the wood with a 1/16″ bit. For the remaining shelves, I separated them by 12″ (most hardcover books are about 10″ tall) and drilled similar holes. Continuing on, to get the same drill holes on the other ladder arm, I simply clamped the two arms together and used my 1/16″ bit to drill small guide holes.
The next part involved screwing the shelves into place and ensuring that they were level. I had also noticed I had ample room at the bottom of the shelf and added a 5th with a leftover piece of pine I had from my mistakes earlier in the week. The shelves were now in place and I hammered in the wood plugs.
Skip to sanding and we have ourselves a ladder! While the shelf needs some more sanding (and probably a layer of black paint to match the bedroom) the results are precisely what I was looking for.
In all this was a fairly simple project to do at home. I had minimal tools and a small space to work with but the final product was exactly what I wanted. Now I will try to repeat the process using higher quality wood and hopefully create something suitable for my TV room as well.