The Official Infoweave Presence of Alex van der Wijst
VANWIJST.COM The new house, the blank wall and the bookshelf building that solved the problem.

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The New House and the Unusable Space.
So first off, the new house: it's cute, isn't it? It's just about everything we'd imagined, minus a front porch. Late Victorian (built 1892), it has survived unscathed through a century of floods and tornadoes in the centre of town. I was immediately sold on the history, the fire brick, the old neighbourhood and the proximity to everything. Jen was sold on the bay window and the fireplace.
But it gets better! A sunporch on the back, facing south for Jen's plants, and a good sized backyard for gardening and playing. We look forward to the springtime when we can make more effective use of the outdoor space. In the mean time, we'll just have to cope as best we can.
Every Victorian house must, at least in these climes, have a Victorian basement. Ours was originally an outdoor access only model, before the back addition was put on. To make more floor space the builders decided to cap-off the stairs to the basement with a trap door, which makes sense up to a point. But now we've got this big white wall space that we can't use at all because putting anything there would mean blocking the trap door. To complicate matters, we've also completely run out of shelf space for all of our books. Two problems in the same room... if only there were one solution for both! Serendipitously, I recently recieved some handsome power tools from my parents as a Christmas/house warming gift. Let the saw-dust fly!
Now, hang on a minute. What was I doing again? A quick sketch of the project and a shopping spree at the local Home Hardware and I had everything I needed to begin. Sure, I could have saved money by purchasing smaller lumber, but I wanted the sturdy look and strength that only 2 x 12s could give. The plan was to span the gap where the trap door was, effectively creating usable space where there was none before. A more conventional book case on the far side would lend stability to the "flying shelf" that would span the gap. Gathering my wits and wherewithal, I went back to the project.
Man, what a mess! My next house is going to have a purpose-built workshop. Mess aside, things are going pretty well. My new serpentine saw is nice, but its bits weren't long enough to deal with two-inch thick lumber. In retrospect I probably should have waited for the store to open the next day to get a longer bit. But, by patiently tracing out the same semi-circle on both sides I was able to cut the curved feet I wanted to support the shelves. Sure, the massive heat build up caused by the bit not venting kinda scorched the "toes" of the feet, but I think it gives the final project a kind of antiquy-distressed look.
The plan for the shelves was for them to sit on supports cut from 1 x 2, themselves held to the frame by attractive peg-holes and dowel. Once I figured out the technique of drilling the holes in both the supports and the frame all at once, it really went quite quickly. The biggest pain? Cutting the dowel into such thin segments, and then sanding all the little ends smooth. It would certainly have been a lot easier to just screw the whole thing together, but I was really after a more rustic look.

In the background you can see the piles of books just SCREAMING for a new home!
Everything is cut to size at last! I used a router bit with the new serpentine saw and rounded all the edges of the shelves and supports, giving the whole thing a more polished look. Now it's assembly time! It was a hassle getting the feet screwed into the uprights since I lacked screws of sufficient length, but I solved that problem by drilling holes up from the bottom and then screwing the screw the rest of the way through with a long screwdriver. Other than that, the only other screws are in the braces and the main lintel shelf.
The initial plan called for criss-crossing braces behind where the trap door would swing, but the shelf was so sturdy already that I considered them superfluous (and they really wouldn't look that good anyway). A little backing on the far side (hammered in with half-inch nails) would add further to the stability without detracting from the look of the piece. Other than that, the only other thing I added was a tiny support midway through the long span to stop the weight of all the books above from making the shelf sag. (The plan called for thicker shelves but Jen sensibly talked me out of the unecessary expense, and I think it looks better with only the upright posts being really thick.)
So that's it, it's done! Well, Jen wants to varnish it but that will have to wait for summer when we can do it outside. Note how the trap door can still open and close without hindrance, and I have all kinds of new book storage capacity. Book store, here I come! Alas, there was not enough room on the top shelf for me to display all my history books chronologically... (and Jen still doesn't have enough space for her chick-lit on the shelf below that...). Either I will have to prune some of the less enviable episodes from human history, or I'm going to need a bigger bookshelf...