Making a log shelving unit

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Blog entry by ~Julie~ posted 11-23-2010 07:23 PM 1948 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I needed to make a shelving unit to hold some signs and things at a craft show I was attending a few weeks ago. I’m just getting to posting what I came up with.

I wanted something that was easy to take in the vehicle and put together at the show and then take apart again to come home. I also wanted to use some old logs and make it in a rustic style.

Something like this but without all the X’s:

(from: online source that I can’t find, but it cost $1518)

So basically I would make two “ladders,” one for each end and then one large cross across the back to hold it from twisting. Then I would just sit barn board planks on the ladder rungs.

I had 4 logs, or branches that were very straight and just over 5’ long and with a diameter that ranged from 1 1/2” – 2” . This is what I would use for the ladder uprights, or legs. I don’t even know what type of tree these came from.

The rungs are to be made of maple from trees cut down a few years ago on our property and the branches were stored in my barn for future use. They are about 3/4” – 1” in diameter.

I will use the Lee Valley tenon cutter to shape each end of the rung. This is the same tool I used when I made my log coffee table . It is like a pencil sharpener that attaches to the end of your electric drill. It turns very quickly and needs to be held strongly. I cut a U shape out of a 2×4 to hold the branch and clamp both securely to my workhorse.

Then the cutter is held as horizontally as possible and pushed onto the end of the branch to cut the tenon. I cut tenons about 1 1/4” long.

Since the old barn boards I have, that I want to use for the shelves, are about 5 3/4” wide, I needed rungs that would leave just over that much space between the ladder uprights. That worked out to a rung length of 8” (which includes the tenons on both ends).

Next post… drilling the holes in the uprights…

-- ~Julie~

8 comments so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3012 days

#1 posted 11-23-2010 08:05 PM

Looks like a neat project.
Guess I’m going to have to get one of those tenon cutters to play with. I always hated throwing away some of those nice straight maple branches from my tree trimming.
Thanks for the inspiration on thinking green.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4434 days

#2 posted 11-23-2010 08:45 PM

This is really a very nice looking piece. The “x” braces are a nice look. I agree with Gregn, Tenon cutters have been on my “list” for awhile now, and each time I see a project like yours I wonder why they haven’t been higher on my priority list.

Well done,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View ~Julie~'s profile


607 posts in 3063 days

#3 posted 11-24-2010 01:34 AM

Hi Mark… Thanks for reading but perhaps you read it too quickly! The one with the X pieces is not what I am making, as I said, it is from some online source that I couldn’t remember. I didn’t want the Xs because I find them too much going on, mine won’t have those.

The only negative thing about the tenon cutters is the price!

-- ~Julie~

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2885 days

#4 posted 11-24-2010 01:41 AM

Looking forward to seeing the progress.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2867 days

#5 posted 11-24-2010 10:57 PM

I am working on a ladder gig myself. Great minds. :) Nice blog. I think it might be helpful to note that with a log any bigger than what you show in your photos that clamp procedure could be a bit dangerous. Also, as the blades dull a bit- the tenon cutter catches and it can through the log with alot of force. To clamp my logs I always use a big fat vice that is mounted to a work bench. And even then I have had a log about twist my arm off and I use a big heavy duty corded drill. With very small diameter stuff- the clamp deal might be okay- if the blade is sharp as new- but I don’t think I would ever cut logs using that method- and I have cut like a zillion tenons. I can just imagine knocking my front teeth out when that log comes flying up into my face. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View helluvawreck's profile


31417 posts in 2895 days

#6 posted 11-24-2010 11:09 PM

Kelly, when I hear stuff like that you make me nervous. You need to be careful. You know it? :)

Julie, that looks like a real nice unit that you have built there. It’s very attractive and it sounds like it served it’s purpose well.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ~Julie~'s profile


607 posts in 3063 days

#7 posted 11-25-2010 04:41 PM

Rivergirl, this is a 5/8” tenon cutter, which is super sharp and I had no problems with it clamped that way. I am thinking with the larger diameter cutter and log that you are correct in that I would need a stronger clamping system.

-- ~Julie~

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2867 days

#8 posted 11-25-2010 05:24 PM

I agree with you Julie. :) The little cutters don’t require that much torque, however I have even had a kick out on a smaller log when the blade isn’t as sharp as it could/should be. So BE CAREFUL. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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