I’ve done plenty of DIY home improvement projects that included some level of minor woodworking, but this was my first attempt at a piece of “real furniture”. It is a leaning ladder shelf of which I found the plans for in an old copy of Woodsmith magazine. I thought it would be pretty simple for my first piece as I am a novice woodworker. Needless to say, it threw many challenges my way!
The ladder consists of 10 “rungs” that are set up in pairs of 2 that help to secure each of the 5 enclosed shelves. It leans at a 10-degree angle against the wall; so I had to cut the top, bottom, and back (at top) to 10 degrees, as well as each of the dados for the rungs. I made a jig for my router that I could reference against the sides of the ladder to cut all of the dados.
There are 5 enclosed shelves of 3 different sizes: the bottom being the largest; the middle 2 slightly smaller; and the top 2 being the smallest. They were constructed using locking rabbet joints and have a 1/4″ birch plywood panel floating in a groove along all 4 sides. The locking rabbets were probably my biggest challenge of the project (these were a first for me). It took quite a while for me to get an accurate setup on my little job-site Ryobi table saw for each of the cuts. My test pieces came out nice, but as I was cutting all of the shelf parts, it must have tweaked a bit because the pieces were fitting extremely tight. I ended up finessing the fit on each of the parts with a chisel. The locking rabbets aren’t perfect, but I’m satisfied with this being my first attempt.
I ended up using poplar for this project; I wasn’t quite ready to work with a nice hardwood just yet. The ladder and rungs were milled to 1″ from 5/4 rough stock. The shelf parts are just over 1/2″ thick milled down from some 3/4 S4S stock from my local home center (I didn’t think it would make sense to mill down a 4/4 board to 1/2″). For the finish, I started with General Finishes gel stain (Georgian Cherry) and followed up with several coats of satin Arm-R-Seal. I ended up staining the bottom panels of the shelves prior to assembling them so that there would be no chance of any unfinished wood being exposed.
In the end, I was quite pleased with the final outcome. I learned many lessons that I will be able to apply to future projects, that’s for sure.