500 CD Shelf Unit: Step By Step

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Blog entry by Greg Guarino posted 03-23-2014 02:50 PM 1872 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project started out as a spreadsheet rather than a drawing; a series of measurements and calculations starting with the dimensions of a CD jewel case and the envelope of available space for the unit. This yielded dimensions for the dado placement for the shelves. I don’t have a table saw, so the rip cuts were made with a circular saw and straight edge.
The Beginning: The Measurements

I used a couple of pocket screws to fasten the uprights together temporarily.
Temporarily Fastening the Uprights to Each Other

Then I laid out the dado positions:
Laying out the Dadoes.

Next I routed out the dadoes with a jig I made for an earlier project. I inserted a piece of scrap in the first dado to make it easier to slide the workpiece to each new dado position.
Routing the Dadoes

The uprights with completed dadoes (now separated again)
The Uprights with Dadoes

I wanted to inset the back, so I used a rabbeting bit to rout a 1/2” x 1/4” deep rabbet in each upright:
1/2" Rabbeting Bit

The Uprights with Rabbets for the Rear Panel

The first dry fit:
First Dry Fit

I found, to my disappointment, that the shelf lengths were a tad less precise than I would have liked. I clamped a makeshift scrap-ply extension to my miter saw and used a speed square as a stop. Now the shelves were nice and uniform, if maybe an eighth shorter than I had planned. :)

Another lesson learned.
Trimming the shelves to length

Edge banding next:
Applying Edge Veneer

Applying edge veneer to the shelves

Shelves with edge veneer, before trimming

Trimming and easing the edges:
Trimming the edge veneer.

Easing the edges

Next: Prefinishing the parts.
I predrilled and drove finish nails into the ends of the shelves. This allowed them to be suspended on long ply scraps so I could finish both sides.
Nails to support shelves for finishing

Shelves laid out for finishing

I decided to try a home-brew of BLO, gloss poly and Mineral Spirits. People seem to have pretty strong opinions about this. :) In the end, I was pleased with the results. This is the first coat:
Prefinishing in progress

Trimming the uprights to final length:
It’s a good thing I saved this for this late in the project; I decided to alter the design a bit.
Trimming the Uprights to Length

The Glue-Up
Getting 13 horizontals into their dadoes – with everything square – within the working time of the glue makes a novice like me nervous. I decided to clamp down guides to keep the first side, the top shelf and the bottom shelf square before I applied any glue. I also drew lines on the assembly table (a hollow-core door on sawhorses, actually) during the dry-fit that helped me to position the shelves in approximately the right alignment to mate with the second upright during the glue-up.
Setting Up the First Upright Plumb

I used an absurd number of clamps for this :)
Clamping Square

It may have been overkill, but all that prep made the process smoother than I had dared to hope. So much so that I even took a photo or two:
The Glue-Up: 4 Shelves in

Adding the second upright:
This was a little tricky. I got the first four horizontals in their dadoes and applied a loose clamp, then continued working my way to the other end.
The Glue-Up: Lining Up the 2nd Upright

Then I applied the rest of my motley collection of clamps. It looked like a Foosball Table.
The Glue-Up (or Foosball?)

I used shim wedges and a long piece of ply scrap to apply pressure to the bottom edge:
Wedges and a long piece of scrap to apply pressure to the bottom of each joint.

Cutting and fitting the face frame trim:
Cutting and Fitting the Trim

Cutting and Fitting the Trim

Fitting the Trim

Cutting and Fitting the Trim

Pocket holes to assemble the face frame:
Drilling Pocket Holes

Assembling the face frame:
Assembling the Face Frame

I positioned the middle slat with the face frame clamped to the unit:
Adding the Middle Slat

And put in two of the screws with it clamped in place (a right-angle drill attachment came in handy here):
Screwing in the Middle Slat, in Place

Then a little sanding:
Sanding the Face Frame

As the holes would never be seen, especially once the shelves were full of CDs, I decided to give myself a break and attach the face frame to the unit with pocket screws:
Drilling Pocket Holes for Trim

Drilling Pocket Holes for Trim

Fastening the top trim (the unit is 77” tall, so very few people on Earth will ever see these screws)’
The Top

Cutting the (prefinished) back panels to size:

Cutting the Back Pieces to Width

Cutting the Back Pieces to Length

Marking the screw hole locations (the spreadsheet numbers were very handy for this):
Marking the Screw Holes

Finishing the trim and outside surfaces:
Set Up for Finishing the Trim and Outside Surfaces

Finishing in progress:
Final Finishing in Progress

Final Finishing in Progress

CD Shelf Project: Done


2 comments so far

View konaman's profile


79 posts in 3048 days

#1 posted 03-23-2014 02:59 PM

great build photos and nice work

View MT_Stringer's profile


2817 posts in 2648 days

#2 posted 03-23-2014 03:12 PM

Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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