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Building an Arch Top Built In Bookshelf

Building an Arch Top Built In Bookshelf

For this project I built an arched top built in bookshelf from walnut, that is backlit with LED’s


Recount of the video

When I went to the client’s house to measure I took some poster board with me to trace the shape of the arch.  Which I used to create a plywood template

All the shelves are going to be lit up with LED’s so to make a place to hide the LED strip, the outer trim needs to overhang the edge of the drywall about an inch so I measured in from my scribe to account for that inch and then measured for the thickness of the trim

Once I got the sides drawn in I used a compass to transfer the shape of the arc down an inch and then again for the thickness of the trim.

Then to find the angle between the arch and the straight leg of the molding I used my straight and connected the inner and outer points.

I used a razorblade to cut the whole thing out so I could apply it to my plywood so I could cut out a rigid template.

I transferred the shape to my plywood and then went to cut it out.  Since the miter is the most critical angle I cut it first before heading over to the band saw.  At the band saw I made sure I left the line so I could further refine the shape by sanding to the line

Since the shape of the arch is the focal point of the bookshelf I took my time to get it as smooth as possible and to just the right shape.  To be sure I got out all the bumps and dips, I used a little chalk on the edge to highlight where the low spots where and sanded until they all disappeared.

Then of course give it the thumb check at the end. If it feels smooth it is smooth.

If I would have cut the arch out of one piece of wood it would have needed to be a really wide piecev, so I built it out of segments.

As I put them together I paid attention to grain direction so it would look like the grain flowed across the top of the arch, and before cutting the joinery I did a test fit to be sure I had the right general shape.

To join the pieces together, I used my domino and epoxy.  In general I find epoxy on a mostly end grain joint is a bit stronger over standard wood glue.

And of course on anything that is a difficult shape to glue up I use my favorite method, soft pine glue block with a little CA glue.

When clamping it up I clamped both sides to keep even pressure so it would dry straight and flat.

A little tape and those glue blocks pop right off.

I sanded off any excess glue and headed to the band saw to rough out the shape, being sure I left the line

I stuck the workpiece and template together with a little double stick tape and chucked a pattern bit in the router.

Even thou I’m using a compression bit that is less likely to catch, I still start off cautiously away from the corner where it is most likely to  , and ease my way into the cut.

So now I am on to making the sides.  I milled to thickness ripped it to width and cut the corresponding miter for the arch.

To measure the length of the sides, I clamped a 90 degree scrap to the inside edge of the miter so I would have an accurate place to hook my tape to, to do the layout.

I glued the bottom in on my layout line and then with more pine glue blocks I glued the arch to the top.

Once the glue was dry I cut it to length.

Now on to building the shelves.  I used 8/4 material and cut it down to the width of the alcove.

Then I cut a dado down the side of each shelf that would act as a channel to slide over a cleat that will be attached to the wall to support the shelf.

Finally I glued on a front trim piece to create an overhang to hide the LED’s on the underside of each shelf.

While I was in the shop building all the components The client had their electrician come in and chase some wire for the lights and have their painter come in and paint the walls of the alcove with a metallic paint and plaster mix to reflect the light.

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I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

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