White Ash Shelf

Asked to design a single bookshelf to mount above a 42″ TV to add storage for a client with a small apartment, I had several parameters.  It had to be wider than 42″ and mount to the wall independently and “match” existing pieces of handmade furniture from his family farm in Maine.  Having a stock of local White Ash (fraxinus americana) cut last winter and curing in the shop made my material choice easy.  The design was a challenge as I hate to use glue and screws to assemble the pieces due to their limited finality and future adjustment, or maybe its the purity of the piece and materials?  ash shelf render

Above is the design concept and form.  I was planning on using glue to laminate the upper and lower shelf, but in the end the lower shelf was too much and not needed.  The process started with milling and planing the rough boards from Williamsburg, MA.  The 48″ long boards relaxed once cut which gave a slight twist/cup which was fixed by glue laminating for the top shelf and  picked one straight board for the lower cross piece.  The plan to use Ikea style connectors was halted by the limitation of available hardware.  Plan B was born.  Having used dowel connections on a window screen system last Fall made of a Douglas Fir frame and Oak pegs , the Ash shelf was begging to be pegged.  It is tough, they make shovel handles and baseball bat from Ash, and my material is clean with little to no heartwood or knots( I buy it to steam bend, another story).

ash shelf joint

Three oak dowels hold each end together and triangulate to create square diagonal supports.  They went in tight as a button and there is no lateral movement in the piece.  To mount it I decided to expose the wall fasteners rather than a hidden cleat.  By drilling a small hole for the wall screw and then countersinking a larger ring the system is inset and looks secondary.  It seems stronger and more adaptable for future installation, and pure in concept.  Looking at this shelf the viewer can see the full assembly and discover the construction methods utilized.

ash shelf

After dry fit and before final assembly three coats of Vermont Natural satin poly were applied.

ash shelf side

This piece will make a great coat rack in the future?



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