So, in response to my previous post – I’m only working on the right side of the closet design and I only have 6 shelves at the moment instead of 7.
The wood I ended up getting was “Whitewood” which seems to be some kind of spruce or pine. It’s pretty light and soft. I got it because it was pretty cheap and the width was perfect so I didn’t have to do any ripping. I did end up getting a circular saw but there was a massive snow storm so I had to work indoors. Luckily, I didn’t get plywood because cutting this softwood by hand was enough work for me! So for six shelves, I had to make six cuts which would have taken about 5 minutes with a circular saw. Instead it took a couple hours since I’m a newbie, I had a crappy saw, and I was doing a lot of learning along the way. In the end, I’m glad I did it by hand if only for the learning.
Since it’s too cold to stain outdoors and I don’t have a real shop, I went with a water-based stain. I’ve read mixed reviews about water-based stains but I can say (as a person with no oil experience!) The water-based stain was a pleasure. Clean up is simple and I have no fear of ruining anything around me. I gave the shelves a pre-stain, then two layers of Minwax American Walnut stain, then two layers of Zar satin finish. Sanding in-between, of course.
Things I’ve learned so far:
1. Cutting straight by hand in 3D is hard.
2. Lowes sells some pretty crappy wood so check all your boards before you buy. I got a pretty warped one.
3. Using wood to support the wood shelves is A LOT cheaper than using metal L brackets.
4. Even if some sides of your wood will be hidden, stain them anyway because you may change your mind.
5. Pre-stain is quite helpful
6. When wiping the stain off, sometimes that “wood grain” is actually streaks from wiping!
7. Water-based finishes dry fast…sometimes a little too fast!
-- Matt - Brooklyn, NY