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When you think "shelves" what do they look like?

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Forum topic by SalvageCraft posted 01-14-2012 05:20 AM 2156 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


01-14-2012 05:20 AM

Topic tags/keywords: design shelf case bookshelf bookcase reclaim reuse recycle wood reclaimed wood rustic

I have been building a bookshelf for a customer. When she approached me about the job, she said she wanted a bookshelf. I asked a few questions about size, etc, and came back with some design specs and this drawing:

We agreed on the price and I got started. I’ve been sending her progress pics with each development through the steps of gathering reclaimed lumber, cleaning, drying, milling, and finally the assembly.

All was good until I sent her a near-completion pic today (pic taken before bookend braces were added):

She said “it’s beautiful! Where’s the back?”

Now, to me, a shelf if just a shelf, no sides or back (except on this one I was going to add some bookend braces, not in the original drawing). A case, on the other hand, is a shelf that has sides and a back. A cabinet is a case with doors. I thought that’s just how it is.

I also thought that my drawing was pretty clear about showing that the sides and back were open, although now when I look at it, I realize I could have added a rear view and/or expressly written that there was no sides or back to the piece.

I explained my thought process to her and we worked out where the confusion had come in. I explained that adding a back would cost more and take more time, as I needed to gather, dry and mill more wood to match the design. This was all fine, and we’re back on the same page.

So all is well with the customer, and I’m still building a beautiful shelf, with a back. In the future I will be more careful to talk about what is not being built as well!

My question to you all is: What is a shelf, a case, a cabinet? Are my notions in order, or have I just created my own arbitrary definitions of these items?

Thanks for reading!

ps. ~ I’ll post a blog or project about this full build once it is delivered :)

-- Jesse --


22 replies so far

View richgreer's profile

richgreer

4525 posts in 1828 days


#1 posted 01-14-2012 05:30 AM

I think your notions are, essentially, in order.

However, when I think of a shelf, I usually think of something that is secured to a wall. To me, shelves that are contained in a stand alone piece of furniture with its own legs is sort of an oddball thing.

I’m sure the quality of your work is very good. Nonetheless, with the weight of a books on each shelf I would be concerned about this thing leaning without a back and sides or, at the very least, cross bracing.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


#2 posted 01-14-2012 05:38 AM

Thanks Rich! I guess I’m talking more specifically about standalone units like this:

If it is wall mounted or builtin, I’d just call it a wall mounted shelf or a built in shelf.

As for the shelf I built, the bookend braces are diagonal braces, and there are more diagonal braces on the back that aren’t in the above picture.

-- Jesse --

View Chris 's profile

Chris

68 posts in 1108 days


#3 posted 01-14-2012 05:39 AM

I think if you over load this unit your going to have some racking going on. Not enough bracing as richgreer has noted. On a side note I like it. I would liked the sides to be solid with and open back.

-- Chris ~ Central Michigan

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SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


#4 posted 01-14-2012 05:44 AM

Thanks Chris, glad you like the design!
The photo I used above was not a completion pic. I’ve definitely got cross bracing in there to control the racking. I’ll post more pics when I get em!

-- Jesse --

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Chris

68 posts in 1108 days


#5 posted 01-14-2012 05:48 AM

cool … can’t wait to see it when your done.

-- Chris ~ Central Michigan

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SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


#6 posted 01-14-2012 05:57 AM

Thanks WudnHevn! I do use Sketchup for more complicated projects. Point taken about the contracts – though I actually tend to get too detail oriented in contracts (if that’s possible), to the point where I feel like I’m spending too much time on them and need to be doing other things like building stuff! So I’ve tried to resolve that tendency by just outlining things with drawings and emails. Still working to attain that happy medium, I guess.

To me the sides and back are what makes the difference between the terms “bookshelf” and “bookcase”. I’ve got a couple of what I would call bookshelves in the house, but mostly bookcases :)

-- Jesse --

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SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


#7 posted 01-14-2012 06:27 AM

True! Luckily she was very cool about the miscommunication. When she asked if a back could be added to this, I told her it would take more time and cost more to salvage and process more reclaimed material suitable for the design.
I also gave her the option starting over and just building an all out bookcase in regular hardwood ply, but she is really into reclaimed and rustic!
This kinda sucks in a way because I wouldn’t mind having these shelves myself! The frame is made of old tongue and groove fir flooring, laminated together into beams. I ripped off most of the shoulders of the grooved sides, which left a cool kind of a racing stripe effect along all the frame edges. I don’t know if I’ll ever come across similarly patina’ed flooring to be able to do the same thing again!

-- Jesse --

View devann's profile

devann

1735 posts in 1446 days


#8 posted 01-14-2012 06:49 AM

It all depends,

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View SalvageCraft's profile

SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


#9 posted 01-14-2012 09:31 AM

@devann – yep those are definitely shelves! ...no wait, maybe they are racks?!

I’m thinking the most relevant lesson for me here is that a 1 word description of a piece of furniture leaves a bit of room for interpretation. I’ll try to widen my ears next time!

-- Jesse --

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4518 posts in 1134 days


#10 posted 01-14-2012 09:38 AM

I would call your design, shelves. When I hear bookshelf, I imagine either a cabinet with three sides enclosed (bookcase) or a single open shelf.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile

TCCcabinetmaker

925 posts in 1109 days


#11 posted 01-14-2012 09:55 AM

Shelves can come in many varieties. However BOOK shelves typically have sides and a back in order to keep the books from falling all over the place.

You have curios, which are smaller shelves, which may or may not have a back, but tend to hang on walls. Or they can be short free standing shelves, typically however they are shallow in depth.

Open shelves, for placing various things on have no sides or back, are what you had going on here though. They are typically used for electronics, vase and other such decorative sundries.

Then we could get into styles, but it’s best to get to know the customer a bit, go to their house look around and try to define what their style is, or wether they don’t really have one, in which case you try to blend their multiple styles together. Granted I’m a carpenter not a designer, but my customers typically can’t afford designers so…

Honestly though, if it’s a real point of frustration for you, get some books and do some studying. Don’t get so hung up on what the customer syntax, so much as what they are asking for.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View richgreer's profile

richgreer

4525 posts in 1828 days


#12 posted 01-14-2012 04:41 PM

I probably need to amend what I said a little. In my garage I have a couple of shelving units that are stand alone units with no backs or sides. One is made of steel and has some cross bracing. Another is made of plastic.

It is more accurate for me to say that I consider shelves that are contained in a in-the-house, stand alone piece of furniture with its own legs is sort of an oddball thing. Perhaps, without realizing it, I am thinking of a unit without sides or back to be an in-the-garage or in-the-utility room functional storage device.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View doncutlip's profile

doncutlip

2832 posts in 2310 days


#13 posted 01-14-2012 04:51 PM

Here’s some ‘shelves’

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

2765 posts in 1105 days


#14 posted 01-14-2012 05:29 PM

I think your customer, not being a woodworker was not making a distinction between bookshelf and bookcase to her they are the same and have a back. In the drawing that you made it is not clear to me that there is no back. But really a “book storage unit” needs a back. It is interesting how two people can look at the same thing and not see it the same way.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View SalvageCraft's profile

SalvageCraft

274 posts in 1280 days


#15 posted 01-14-2012 06:21 PM

So the general consensus is that bookshelves and bookcases are the same thing, and both have sides and a back. I guess I was designing for a more minimal, stripped down style, and figured the cross bracing would eliminate need for sides and a back. Books won’t fall out the back unless they have round bottoms! I also like furniture that is open and lets more light around the room.

Upon further consideration, I have decided that I like the open design of these shelves so much that I am going to keep them for myself and gather enough additional materials to build her a full bookcase ;)

So the problem now is, what do I call my sideless, backless bookcase? Perhaps I’ll dub this piece “shelf, with books”

:)

-- Jesse --

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