Making designer bookshelf, looking for advice on joining wood at odd angles

Hello everyone! I'm looking to construct this bookshelf out of wood:
http://writenowisgood.typepad.com/write_now_is_good/images/2008/03/02/seanyooopus1.jpg
The one in the picture is some kind of structural foam, but I'm thinking good ol' 2x6's. All the angles are crazy though, and I'm brainstorming about the best way to join everything together. I'd prefer invisible joints, but at the very least the joining apparatus should be flush with the shelves. And it has to be strong enough to hold 100-150lbs of books. I can use a flat back piece to fix all the shelf walls together at the back, but they still need something up front. Recessed brackets of some kind? Really strong glue? Better ideas?
I have a miter box, so I can get whatever angles I need to form the component pieces. I'm also planning on painting over the whole thing, so the joints don't have to be flawless. I'm really interested in keeping the front nice and clean like in the picture. I don't have a lot of power tools, just a drill really, so simple is good :) Thanks!
Nathaniel
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On Thu, 15 Oct 2009 01:27:19 -0700 (PDT), NathanielC

If the dimensions of the bookshelf are anything approaching the width of your example, 2x6's will pretty much fill in a large part of the space of the bookshelf maybe making it a design piece but mostly useless when it comes to functionality.
I'd suggest making the sides and top out of 3/4" plywood or 3/4" pine and the 'shelving' out of 3/4" pine. If you're going to be putting 150lbs of books on it, you're going to have to make the dimensions much bigger than the example you've given and the 'shelving' part will have to be arranged so that it's more self supporting.
It sounds like you might be a little new to woodworking and if that's the case then I'd suggest you make it easier on yourself by making the shelving connections, straight 90 degree butt joints and not have them all extending out from the location of other joints, if you follow what I'm suggesting. When it comes to constructing it, I'd make a centre shelf of some un square shape and then add attachment pieces until it's finally fixed in place on all sides.
You'll probably get some other suggestions so take your time and decide what works best for you.
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I would go with 3/4" pine (plywood tends to splinter a lot more than clear pine.
To start, I would cut long strips of paper, the thickness of the material you plan to use. Then, on a large flat surface (a floor would do) I 'fabricate the layout' as your imagination allows it. The front view of the completed unit. Tape the whole model together then cut the corners/angles with an Exacto knife into 'cuts' that are within the parameters of the mitre-box's abilities. No point in cutting the angles into 100-degree angles if your mitre box won't go that far. A cheap protractor from your local office supply store will help you do some geometry. (YAY MATH!) You could start by building the outer shell first. Trace IT onto a sheet, then do the layout of the inside, on the flat, with the paper strips. Or you could download a free copy of SketchUp and do it all in there. Can't be THAT difficult as a lot of the guys in here are using that program *grin, duck and run*
To assemble... if you are getting good joints, just glue, I would try the stuff you can sand. The outer parameter shell, butt-joints and screws...pre-drill, fill the screw-head holes with filler, sand and paint. 150 pounds of books is nothing for that design you showed us.
Good luck!
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NathanielC wrote:

http://writenowisgood.typepad.com/write_now_is_good/images/2008/03/02/seanyooopus1.jpg
Since you are going to paint, use epoxy thickened with Cab-o-Sil, micro balloons or even talc.
Epoxy will be plenty strong and requires no clamping. The problem you'll have is holding pieces together while the epoxy sets (takes hours, not really hard for a day or two). Easiest would be to nail temporarily (drill for nail hole).
The purpose of thickening the epoxy (make it like vaseline) is so it will bridge gaps. If any squeezes out, scrape off and use lacquer thinner to remove any residue right away.
One source... http://www.uscomposites.com /
--

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http://writenowisgood.typepad.com/write_now_is_good/images/2008/03/02/seanyooopus1.jpg
With all the work involved to build that, are you sure you want to put books in there? That could not possibly be good for the books.
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NathanielC wrote:

http://writenowisgood.typepad.com/write_now_is_good/images/2008/03/02/seanyooopus1.jpg
That's the ugliest thing Ive ever seen
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In article

If you can get access to a table saw to cut the angles (or even a handheld circular saw with a rip guilde, although the table saw would be preferable), you'll have a much, much easier time of it than trying to cut them with a miter box.
One thought that comes to my mind is to use a bunch of piano hinges to hold things together. If recessed flush with the surface of the wood, they wouldn't be too obvious, I suspect, especially if they didn't extend all the way to the front. It wouldn't be perfectly clean looking, though, and the divisions would probably have to be laid out to form a rigid truss.
Ordinary wood glue of a good quality and butt joints would, I suspect, be plenty strong enough if the joints are tight and properly clamped. Getting the joints tight and especially clamping them well at all these odd angles is tricky, though. One fairly straightforward way to add reinforcement would be to drill a few of holes through each joint and glue in a dowel once the assembly is done. Planning ahead to make sure you have drill access is, of course, a necessity. Drilling and doweling after the initial assembly ensures that the dowel holes remain collinear.
The idea of thickened epoxy is a good one; but epoxy can be a bit expensive and icky to work with. Looking up information on "stitch and glue" boat construction should prove helpful for making epoxy joints at odd angles. (Fiberglass reinforcement is unneeded for a bookcase, of course, unless you somehow need it to be watertight as well.)
(I do agree with what was written regarding this being rough on the books stored.)
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On Thu, 15 Oct 2009 12:00:53 -0400, Andrew Erickson

If you examine the picture closely, you can see that all the books piled on this shelf are smaller books. I'm guessing the carpenter who designed and built the shelf chose those books for staging and appearance purposes only and not for actual reading use.
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NathanielC wrote:

http://writenowisgood.typepad.com/write_now_is_good/images/2008/03/02/seanyooopus1.jpg
I wouldn't want that thing in my house, and if it was I'd hide it in the pantry and use it to store bags of potato chips and pretzels. I certainly wouldn't put *books* on it.
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Steve Turner wrote:

Got that right--it's not supporting them properly and they're going to end up, well, I'm sure that librarians and bookbinders have a technical term for it but "messed up" is the best I can do politely.
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"NathanielC" wrote:

http://writenowisgood.typepad.com/write_now_is_good/images/2008/03/02/seanyooopus1.jpg
Unless you want to build this simply to be able to say, "I built this", I'd pass and buy one.
The only thing that makes any sense is fiberglass, especially if it is going to be painted.
Hope your trigonometry skills are up to speed since you are going to need them to build the molds.
Coming from the prospective of having built a boat, building this project would be a total PITA.
Don't want to rain on your parade, but building this is not a simple project.
Lew
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In the enlarged portion of the lower right hand corner, I've drawn some lines and numbered three of the pieces. The lines represent where I would cut the boards to give the maximum surface area for adhesive. The rough perspective view to the right shows what the board might look like when cut.
I would use 10 minute epoxy as an adhesive, starting by gluing in board 1, allowing time for the initial cure, then board 2, wait, then board 3. Scrape off any excess before it totally dries. (you can sand any remainder off prior to painting.)
As others have said, I believe the hard part will be cutting the angles accurately.
Hope this gives you some ideas.
Diggerop.
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Yep. Looks to me like you could make a layout drawing on large format paper, then make triangular rods for each joint, and dowel the sides of the rods into the boards. All your prisms would have endgrain showing, but the boards could be in the usual orientation. Finding the correct angles at the board ends, and of the joint prisms, can be done by Cartesian geometry, measuring off the paper layout. A drafting table and T square, or drafting machine, will help.
Is this description clear? It can be analyzed so each three-board intersection is a triangular section plus canted-end boards...
For inspiration, rent the video of "The Five Thousand Fingers of Doctor T" and admire the sets for that fine movie. Nary a right angle nor a straight line anywhere...
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Thanks for the feedback everyone! Especially to everyone whose first piece of advice wasn't to not build it, haha, and ESPECIALLY to evodawg, who at least cracked me up. Short and simple, I like it. Btw, this is what happens when engineering grads finally have enough time on their hands for art projects -- geometric monstrosities :)
I downloaded SketchUp and I'm already hooked on it. I ♥ Google. I also really like the idea of making a to-scale paper model, that should really take the guess work out of cutting angles. Thanks for the figures Digg! They made me realize I can get away with using 90- degree angles for 2/3rds of every internal joint. Cutting it so all boards to join at a common point gets pretty tricky. I played around with the angles my miter box gives me, and there's only one way to get three angles to add up to 360 degrees, and that's two 135's (using 22.5 degree cuts) and one 90 (using either two 45 degree cuts or a 22.5 and a 67.5). This doesn't allow anywhere near the freedom I need to make all of those odd internal joints, so I'll probably go the other route. I'll just have to make sure to put the two 90 degree cuts on the low side of the joint whenever possible to give all all downward forces as stable a support as possible.
As far as the actual joints, I'm leaning towards wood glue and dowels. I'm thinking if I drill the holes a bit bigger than necessary on one side of the joint it will give me the play I need to keep everything at the intended angles. Clamping will be tricky, I haven't figured that out yet.
I agree with everyone that this will be hard on the books that sit on angled shelves, won't do their bindings any favors. I've got a collection of beaters in mind though, so I'm prepared to sacrifice them. Also I'm not buying one because they don't make them anymore, not to mention that they were asking $400, screw that.
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Another possibility is to make finger joints (like the familiar cigar- box box joint). Instead of mating '0101010101' with '1010101010' fingers, you'd be making '010010010010' and '100100100100' and '001001001001' fingers, to make a three-way mesh. Getting a little fancier, you could also radius the ends and drill the axis so when three ends come together, the axial hole down the joint lines up (a bamboo skewer would keep the pieces together while the glue dries).
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