Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
What the Original Build Was Like
Originally, when the house was built over 90 years ago, the space under the stairs was a pantry with access from the kitchen. A previous owner blocked off access from the kitchen and knocked through the brick wall into the living room to create a cubbyhole with an arched opening, and repurposed it as a drinks bar.
About 10 years ago I installed shelving in what was then a cubbyhole under the stairs, at the back of our living room, for our growing DVD and Blu-ray collection.
In the cubbyhole the two features installed by the previous owner, which we wanted to keep, was a built-in, medieval-style drinks cabinet tucked in the corner, right under the stairs, and a rather attractive mirrored wall picture featuring a watermill.
So in building the shelving—made from pine floorboards—I copied the style of the built-in drinks cabinet, and built the shelving around the mirrored wall picture.
Then a few years ago, when we did a major makeover of our living room, I knocked down the rest of the brick wall under the stairs to open up the cubbyhole and create an alcove under the stairs.
DVD and Blu-ray Overflow
Since initially installing the shelving in the alcove under the stairs, our DVD and Blu-ray collection has expanded by about a foot a year—predominantly because our son buys the Blu-ray box sets of all his favourite films and TV series (like Game of Thrones).
Consequently the space I’d left open to showcase the mirrored wall picture became filled with DVDs and Blu-rays: hence the need to retrofit more shelving, to accommodate the expanding collection.
So below is my short step-by-step guide on how I retrofitted two additional shelves to accommodate the DVD and Blu-ray overflow.
Step 1: Design & Planning
I couldn’t just cut out two planks of wood and stick them up because the two main considerations were:-
- The new shelving needed to match the existing in colour and design, and
- I needed to be careful in not breaking the glass mirror in the process of fitting the shelves.
With regards to the first point, the wood on the original drinks bar had been hewed (in medieval style), and in building the original shelving I replicated that style with a jigsaw. So I would use the same technique I used last time to replicate the style in the new shelving.
Last time I colour matched using Jacobean walnut wood stain; which was a near perfect match to the original. However, not having any Jacobean walnut wood stain left, and not wishing to fork out the expense of buying a new pot just for a couple of shelves, I opted to use Rosewood instead; which although a bit more reddish (not so dark) was still a reasonably good match.
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As regards the second issue, after sitting down with a coffee (for a think) the strategy I devised for fitting the shelves, with no risk to cracking the mirror, was:-
- Use bespoke spacers to support the shelves, and shelf supports, at the correct height (and level), while fitting.
- Fit shelf supports on the right-hand side, gluing and screwing them in place; with the two screw holes near the front, well away from the glass, and
- Screw the shelves in place on the other side, where I had access.
The reason for using shelf supports on the right-hand side was because of restricted access.
Having decided on the approach I would use, I then made and fitted the shelves as described below.
Step 2: Measuring & Cutting
Using the principle of measure twice and cut once, to minimise risk of error, and using pine floorboards to make the shelves:-
- Accurately measure the width of the gap, where the shelves are to be fitted.
- Carefully measure and mark that distance on the plank of wood with a tape measure, square and pencil.
- Cut the wood to length.
Step 3: Hewing the Wood
In medieval times, before the advent of saws, wooden beams were shaped with an axe, which gives a very distinctive irregular look.
The previous owner had shaped the edges of his built-in drinks bar with a hewing effect, and when I built the DVD shelving I copied that effect to match the style of the shelving with the drinks cabinet.
However, trying to shape the edges of a shelf with an axe, to give a hewed effect, isn’t easy.
So the first time round I emulated the effect by using an electric jigsaw by running it along the edge of the wood at a 30 to 45 degree angle in a wave like action; and then repeated the process on the underside. Therefore I used the same technique to create a hewed effect on the two shelves I was making.
Once I’d hewed the wood to shape I gave the new shelves a quick sanding with an orbital sander and wiped them over with white spirit to clean them of sawdust.
Step 4: Wood Staining and Polishing New Shelves
With the new shelves hewed to shape and cleaned of sawdust with white spirit:
- I applied two coats of a wood stain to closely match the original shelves; leaving a couple of hours between each coat to dry.
- After the second coat was dry I quickly hand sanded the shelves smooth, and wiped them clean of dust with white spirit, and left to dry.
- After another half hour I applied the third coat of wood stain and left overnight to dry.
- The following day, I generously rubbed beeswax into the shelves, working in the direction of the wood grain, and left it for 15 minutes before rubbing the wax to a shine.
In parallel, I also wood stained and polished the two shelf supports, which I quickly made while I was waiting for the first application of wood stain on the shelves to dry.
I always use furniture polish containing beeswax rather than silicone, because silicone is an oil and not a wax e.g. the wax is long lasting, durable and protects the wood, while the oil isn’t and unlike the wax, attracts dust; so with furniture polishing containing silicone oil you’re forever re-polishing.
Step 5: Making the Shelf Supports
While waiting for the first coat of wood stain on the two new shelves to dry I quickly recycled a piece of old beading, salvaged from the surround of our old windows when we upgraded our double glazed windows a few years ago.
To make the two shelves supports:-
- I measured and marked out the wood, with a tape measure, square and pencil.
- Cut them to length with a mitre saw.
- Drilled the two pilot holes, for screwing, in each support.
- Then wood stained and polished them with beeswax, along with the two shelves.
Step 6: Making the Temporary Spacers
The purpose of the temporary spacers is to:-
- Ensure the new shelves are fitted at the correct height and
- Temporarily support each shelf while it’s being fitted.
The advantages of using the spacers are:-
- A simple and accurate method of ensuring the new shelves, and shelf supports, are fitted at the correct height without struggling to hold the shelves in place by hand, while also trying to keep them level with a spirit level and mark off on the side support with a pencil where the shelf should be fitted, and then
- Not having to struggle with three hands (which I don’t have) to screw the shelves in place, while at the same time trying to hold them in place and keep them level.
I used a piece of scrap 4mm (8th inch) plywood to make the spacers, as follows:-
- Marked and cut one piece of plywood to the length that equalled the height of the gap between two shelves, and
- Marked and cut a second piece of plywood to the same length, less the height of the shelf supports that I would be using on one side of the shelves.
Step 7: Final Fit
With the new shelves, shelf supports and temporary spacers completed, it was time to fit the shelves, as follows:
- Remove the DVD and Blu-ray discs from the area where the new shelves were to be fitted; and from the adjacent two shelves where I would need the space for screwing the shelves in place.
- Also temporarily remove one of the adjacent shelves; for better access.
- Using the shorter of the two temporary spacers to support the shelf support on one side while I glued and screwed it in place.
- Then using the other temporary spacer to support the first shelf while that was screwed in place.
- Finally, repeating the above two steps to fit the second shelf in place.
With both new shelves in place it was then a matter of putting all the DVDs and Blu-ray discs back in place.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Arthur Russ
Arthur Russ (author) from England on July 02, 2020:
Yep, I remember being taught the “page to a day diary for forward planning”, which was used in several of the jobs I did. We called it the “B/F” (Brought Forward) system in the Departments I worked in; and it was a very effective tool too.
Liz Westwood from UK on July 02, 2020:
It sounds like we had similar training. I joined the civil service midway through the Thatcher years. I also have a 'to do list' which I now keep in a page to a day diary for forward planning. Paper and pen are never far away!
Arthur Russ (author) from England on July 02, 2020:
Yes: It’s all part of my civil service training (old school civil service, pre Thatcher days). I was trained in the civil service to ‘Plan & Schedule’ my work in the short (daily), medium (monthly) and long term (yearly); and to create the ‘Plans & Schedules’ from ‘To-Do’ lists.
I was also trained on how to effectively and efficiently prioritise the tasks on the ‘To-Do’ list; a simple method of prioritising each task as either ‘Urgent’ and or ‘Important’ e.g. anything not urgent or important can simply be binned e.g. not done. Urgent tasks must be done quickly, Important task should be done when you have the time to do them properly (quality time) and any task that is both urgent and important must be done immediately.
It’s these ‘skill sets’ which I’ve applied to my home life in retirement, and as part of creating my ‘to-do’ list, I always have a pen and paper to hand, so if I think of anything during the day, that ought to be done, I write it down. Then every morning I add it to my ‘To Do’ list on the computer, and prioritise it; and then transfer it to a date/time slot on my planned schedules (daily, monthly and for the year).
That way, unlike most people I know, who ‘put off for tomorrow’ what could be done today e.g. they never get around to doing it; I keep track of everything that needs doing, and everything of urgency or importance gets done sooner or later.
Another trick I use; which I was taught in the civil service, are ‘Quick Wins’ e.g. simple quick tasks that don’t take a moment to do, which can be squeezed into the daily schedule, even if they are not urgent.
I was also trained in ‘Project Management’ (Prince2) when in the civil service; so that’s another skill set that I can apply to planning and scheduling my home projects to good effect e.g. the balance between ‘Cost, Time, and Quality’.
Therefore, as you said, I have no problem in finding things to do during the lockdown.
Liz Westwood from UK on July 01, 2020:
Another project well-executed and well-described. You seem to have no problem finding things to do during lockdown.