DIY furniture

I’ve always enjoyed woodwork – ever since I was introduced to it at school, building simple things like a pencil case and a tray. True craftsmanship is a discipline I find hard, however, so I’ve tended to find quick and efficient ways to make things. I enjoy the puzzle-solving aspect of design as well.

These are two recent pieces – a shoe rack for the front door (we tend not to wear shoes inside), and a long, low bookcase that’s also big enough to store records.

They are built from 3/4″ birch ply – reasonably good quality at $40 / sheet, but tricky to cut without splitting. I use mitred joints for the look – without dowels or biscuits these were the very devil to glue up – and double thickness for the carcass to create a strong outline. The shelves of the shoe rack are 1/4″ marine ply (oukoume), and everything is finished in clear lacquer.

Lacquer turns out to be a very easy finish to apply – brush it on and it dries almost instantly. Use steel wool (very fine – 0000 grade) to polish the surface and keep on adding coats until you’ve had enough.

The downside of lacquer is that it is easily damaged by water – not a good surface if people are going to put damp glasses down, as I have already sadly discovered. At least with a DIY piece I don’t feel bad about sanding it down and putting on more lacquer.


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