Greengate Ranch Remodel
Remodeling a Daylight Ranch in Oregon

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Picture Wall #1 - Building the Shelves

Both my DW and I were impressed with the walls of picture shelves we saw in a couple of the PDX Street of Dreams houses. We immediately decided we wanted something similar in our house. This picture shows the one of the examples...

We thought about doing this in our basement family room (as in the show houses), but finally decided to locate it on the stairwell wall. The stairs are on our entry, and we want a comfortable and informal feeling as we come into the house.

The picture above shows the blank wall, and the altered one below shows the concept. I did this in Microsoft Visio to get an idea of the layout and proportions. I still need to replace and trim out the window on the right. The picture rails will line up with elements in the header and sill to maintain clean lines on the top and bottom. The two rails in the middle will be evenly spaced.

If you have woodworking tools, this is a fairly easy project. Note that my DW just painted the wall - its much easier to do before installation.

I made the rails in two parts - the shelf that attaches to the wall the and front trim piece. I decided to use hemlock, since it's easy to work with, takes stain well and is available at Home Depot in 10' lengths (this space is 9' wide). They are shown below with two coats of stain applied.
Things I have learned about staining wood:

  • Take time and sand everything well with 220 grit.
  • Get rid of all the dust possible. I use a stiff wisk broom and then a cloth rag.
  • Mix up the stain with a stirring stick. Keep the stick in the stain and mix it each time you put the rag or brush in it. This keep the solids from settling on the bottom of the can, which can cause the color to become inconsistent over time.
  • Stain the wood twice - it gives a more consistent result with deeper color.
This color is used in our kitchen and on our fireplace mantle as well.

I will attach the shelf pieces to the wall first. Since these are installed between two end-walls, I cut them about 1/4" shorter than the wall width. I will split this to have about 1/8" gap on each end.

The front trim pieces are then attached with glue in the dado and blind nailed. These get cut about 1/8" short to give a 1/16" gap on each end, which is basically invisible against the painted wall.

Here is a diagram of how the assembly will be mounted. The small pieces attached to the bottom of the rails help support the shelf and keep it perpendicular to the wall, and give it a craftsman feel.

As the diagram shows, the shelf piece gets attached to the wall with 2" finish nails (16 gage) that angle slightly downward. These are put at each stud. You could use screws here as well. I am also going to put a small bead of wood glue at each nail.

The front rail gets attached with glue in the dado, then nailed from the backside at an angle, so the nails are hidden. I will use an air nailer for this - hand nailing would not work well.

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