Working the Angles

v bookcase 0820
Sure, it looks fine on paper, but the middle section has been more trouble than it’s worth. The round thing was going to be a separate bookcase, but it’s on hold for now.

Back in the day, that day being when I was writing fiction, I was always wandering around with a story going on in the back of my mind, even when it wasn’t at the forefront. I was always writing, mentally, even if a lot of it never made it to the page.

Blogging has brought back some of that, as in: oh, that’s good fodder, this would work for a topic, even paragraphs easily writing themselves in the afternoon as I am otherwise occupied, never to re-materialize when I need them the following morning . . . but mostly these days I am finding the back of my mind completely given over to angles.

Yes, angles as in geometry, as in a form of math. You are probably wondering, as am I, why I am contemplating such a thing, and why it is occupying so many of my brainwaves that I sometimes stop what I am doing, completely consumed by my consideration of angles.

It’s my woodshop’s fault.

This all started with our decision to quit paying for a storage shed. Lynn’s car got booted from its shiny new garage while I work on winnowing down Stuff. (To be perfectly fair, more of it than she thinks is Lynn’s stuff, too.)

Strides were being made, which is what led to the notion that we could sell books to supplement our income at the shop. But those books needed shelves from which to be sold, and I did have bookcases that were part of the “go away” pile, so two of them went down to Pat’s, and all the books here went on the floor as I abandoned all my planned woodshop projects in favor of yet another bookcase. A bookcase with angles.

It’s completely impractical, and when I’m trying to maximize storage space this does not help, but I wanted to put a large V in the middle of my bookcase, without really knowing how to go about it.

There are two men who own the makers’ space that includes the woodshop. I built my first bookcase under DJ’s tutelage, which involved a lot of nails. And nail guns. And vise grips to remove errant nails. Lots of errant nails. I did venture to him early that my friend Jim Barry recommended screws for everything, but he told me screws would split the 1-inch planks, which are really only three-quarters of an inch thick.

DJ’s schedule and mine are not syncing very well this summer, especially since he doesn’t want to spend his Saturdays hanging around an otherwise empty space just to see if I will come in. I did make an appointment to get instruction on drilling holes to give me adjustable shelves in my bookcase-in-progress. He also gave me a rudimentary explanation of a carpenter’s triangle and all its uses, including finding angles.

It was only a rudimentary lesson, but the next available time I could get to the woodshop was later on a Saturday, when DJ is supposed to be there but isn’t. I figured I’d get as far as I could and try to figure the triangle out on my own.

Fortunately for me, Branden happened to be there, working on his own project. The first thing he did was instruct me to use screws rather than nails. We reviewed the concept of pre-drilling holes and how it’s the head of the screw most likely to cause splits (as he rapidly illustrated the various outcomes on a scrap piece of lumber).

I will say, while I much prefer to put the case together with screws, I can see the case for finishing nails, far less visible than even countersunk screw heads.

And then we moved to angles. Branden told me I could explain the carpenter’s triangle to him, and showed me instead how to set the board at the angle I want, which turns out to be 22.5, and mark it with a pencil. He also showed me how to set the chop saw to cut this desired angle, and he showed me how to pre-drill holes on an angle, so I thought I was good to go yesterday.

Only it didn’t go good at all. No one was at the space except Mel, with whom I took my initial woodshop class. She has moved on to a king-size bed frame with underdrawers, and she confessed her project wasn’t going well. “I keep making mistakes,” she said. Like me, she expects to be a professional at this after one project.

She then pointed to my bookcase and said, “I thought maybe this was yours.” Apparently, my bookcases have a signature “look.” She did add, “I don’t understand what you’ve got going in the middle.”

It turns out, neither do I, and when I got home yesterday and Lynn asked how it had gone, I realized I spent two hours putting six screws in a bookcase. I mean, I did more than that: I split the first board in two places, drilling too close to surfaces, and I had to replace the second leg of the V when I tried screwing into a knot and completely split the board. Oh, and I broke a drill bit off in the depths of the bookcase.

I don’t know that I can accept complete blame for that, because I was using it in the prescribed manner. But maybe I was inadvertently doing something wrong. Either way, now I have to go buy a new drill bit.

And, after all my effort yesterday, I believe I need to rethink my entire V.

I am sure there is some way to connect shelves on either side of the V, but it occurred to me, I have no idea how that happens. I still haven’t figured out the connection for the tops of the V, because Branden’s shim suggestion so far has not worked.

It turns out I can’t just ram any ol’ shim in there, and if they’re too thin they break. I wondered about putting a second angle on the tops of the boards, along the side; I wondered about dropping the height of the V and putting a shelf across the top. And I wondered if I perhaps just shouldn’t scrap the impractical V altogether and just install fixed straight-across shelves.

With only two or three hours available each week to work on this, and using an entire week’s total to put six whole screws into the case, along with mass destruction of boards and tools, this is starting to seem less practical by the minute.

If it was a project I didn’t need right away, I could look on it philosophically as the learning experience it’s been, but I very much would like to get books off the floor and move on to something else way over my skill level. Something other than my signature bookcases.

Before going to the woodshop yesterday, in my mind, the entire thing was going to be done and I could move on to the problematic challenge of all my projects: finding a way to get them home.

Instead, very little worked out as expected, and some of it isn’t going to work at all, at a least not without assistance from either the nail guy or the screw guy, neither of whom is particularly available over the weekend.

Which means, after all this study and pondering of angles, that they may all well go away. For this project at least. There’s always the crawl space stairs.

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