I decided to use solid maple for the top slat on each barrister box.
So what I’ll have is the two plywood slats with the solid wood edging that form the base, with a solid piece of Maple in the middle.
I’m doing this because I’m a little concerned that the plywood shelves could start to sag a little bit over the years. There is the solid 5/8 edging that would help, plus the rear slat rests on top of the rear brace. Both of these elements would help a lot, but just to be extra sure I decided to go solid maple with the top slat.
This pic shows how when assembled, the rear slat is supported by the back brace.
So to start, I mill up the solid maple for the slat to the exact thickness of the plywood using my jointer to flatten one face of a 4/4 board and then running it through the planner to get it to the proper thickness.
I placed a straight edge across the pieces and made sure that the solid maple slat was just a fraction thinner than the ply, I did this because it could cause a serious problem if the center slat was slightly thicker, because this would cause stress on the 1/4 ply that covers the base, it would also cause the sides to not sit flush. By making it slightly thinner I can allow it to act as an additional support to help with the load if needed, and if not, it will not cause any problems.
To get the slat to fit perfect in its space I use my adjustable stick to set the stop on the miter saw. (I use measurements as little as possible as you will see. I think its always better to cut to size.)
I did cut this piece about a 1/16 short to allow for seasonal wood movement and to make fitting the stacks together easier. (Be careful here though you want as little slop as possible or else your vertical trim pieces on the front will be out of alignment.)
A slight diagonal edge is also applied to make it easier to fit the pieces together. I use a coping sled with a backer board to do the short ends.
This is the first time I’ve worked with solid maple and I’m really enjoying it! It’s very hard and dense but it machines beautifully.
To attach the sides the base I have a square plywood box that I use to clamp the pieces together to get them lined up for the screws.
This allows me to get everything lined up perfect before I drill the holes for the screws.
I like using screws because this allows me to build and assemble the entire project before sanding and finishing, then when its complete, I simply disassemble, sand, and finish, then re-assemble. This makes the finishing not only easier, but also improves its quality.
Let me take just a moment to talk about the screws. One of the things I enjoy most about woodworking is using high quality tools and materials. I like what Krenov said, “I don’t love working—its working well that I love.” When I work with the highest quality tools and materials I feel like I’m “working well”. Believe it or not, for me this even applies to something as mundane as the screws! If you have never tried McFeely’s square drive screws, (www.mcfeelys.com) I challenge you to try them on your next project, I promise you will never go back to the cheep big box store screws. I know it sounds nuts, and my wife even makes fun of me when my McFeely’s Screw Catalog comes in the mail because she can’t believe such a thing as a screw catalog even exists! But if working well makes you enjoy the craft more, I encourage you to work well in even the smallest detail, even the screws!
Next I cut the back brace to size and cut the rabbits into the ends that fit into the sides. I also make a rabbit across the bottom that will hold the 1/4 plywood back in place. The plans call for this piece to only be 1 1/2” wide, but by increasing it to 3” wide you can save some money on plywood because instead of needing 14” pieces you will only need 11” pieces. This allows you to get 2 out of each 2’x4’ piece. The plans also call for just a 1/8 slot in the edge of this piece, then they have you put a small rabbit into the edge of the ply that fits into the grove. I prefer my way, it seems more solid and secure.
Remember the pieces of plywood that I cut the exact size of the 1/4 plywood bottom? I’m using those pieces to line up, and get the correct size for this piece, and to help with its installation.
To locate the position of the top slat I use the fourth base, (the one with no ply on it that’s used later for the cap assembly.) to find the exact position.
This slat has to be attached with small 1” long screws so that the screw length doesn’t interfere with the track for the door pins. I’m not at all comfortable with this design, a very small amount of these screws are biting into the sides. I’m sure that at some point during the life of these barristers, someone will attempt to lift an empty, or worse, a full barrister box by this top slat and it will just pull right out.
If anyone has any ideas on how this could be attached more securely I’d love to hear from you!
So, with the top slat, and the back brace all attached to the sides and the bottoms, I stacked them up and they fit very well with no gaps or leaning, so I’m very pleased!
Next, I’ll put on the backs, and begin building the bottom base.
-- Craig, Springfield Ohio