I'm building a narrow-tall shelf for a friend. Using three-quarter inch ply.
It's over 8' tall and about 21" wide. About 7or 8 shelves which I'm dadoing
into the sides. The friend doesn't want a back on it though and I'm afraid
the whole thing may lack stability. What should I do? Tell 'em it needs a
back or it might fall apart? Reinforce with gussets? Or just glue the dados
and hit it with some brads and clamp the be-jesus out of it? Thx.
Perhaps he'd go for a back on the top and bottom 8" or so. Even that would
give a huge support to keep it from racking. Otherwise, I'd not build it
because I don't want to hear complaints later when it shifts to one side and
the joints start to break.
Just wondering - does your friend's wall have a bit of molding where the
floor meets the wall? Might not be able to put the cabinet flush with the
wall if there is molding there. You might want to nick out a bit of the
bottom shelf and sides to allow the cabinet to fit over that molding.
If the cabinet does fit flush to the wall then you might be able to
convince him to put in a couple of "L" brackets inside the cabinet that
would attach it to the wall. 8' is a heck of a tip no matter which way it
On the other hand, if his ceiling is exactly 8' tall the cabinet may be
jammed right in place without worrying if it will tip in any direction.
I was just wondering.
Now, I'll go get coffee.
If you do a base with a front piece slightly inset under the first
shelf and another cross piece at the top (again slightly inset) it will
(in my opinion) look better and have some support to keep it square.
A bigger concern with very tall , narrow cabinets is to give them
enough stability from tipping. If the cabinet is not very deep either
an oversized base or attach to the wall with L bracket is essential.
Unless the sides of the shelf are attached to adjacent shelves or something
that like that, I'd tell him that it will rack and in short time, lean
noticeably to one side. If he absolutely refuses, then tell him you won't
fix it when it starts to lean, he'll feud with you after that and you'll
both end up as miserable old men with a perpetual grudge match going for the
rest of your lives.
Barring all of that, you could go as Ed mentioned or perhaps smaller
triangle support pieces on the back of all four corners. Essentially, it's
simply not going to look near as good as it would with a full back.
Another idea is to do a good plinth, about 150 (6")and put some 75 - 100
(3" - 4") rails under the top and and a few of the shelves at the back.
With the shelves trenched into the ends a reasonable amount this should
give enough support. You can always out a couple fixings through the
rails into the wall.
If she/he won't go for any back at all you could use metal L and T
braces let into the back. Set thwem in flush to the shelves and uprights
then use solid wood edgebanding to cover the whole side you put the
braces on, or brace both sides and cover both.
I'm probably in the minority here, but if this is going to
be set against a wall (i.e. not freestanding), if you set in
the dadoes 3/8 and square everthing up when you glue-up.
you can toe-nail into wall studs from the inside of the shelf
to keep it from racking.
If he wants it freestanding, then you need some gussets or
something like the others have mentioned.
Something this tall ought to have a back.
That said, if you dado deep enough (if it was solid wood I would say to do
sliding dovetails) and screw and glue the shelves in, plugging the screw
holes, with the thing squared up when you affix the shelves, the assembly
will be fairly strong.
This tall and you also need to add earthquake straps of some sort anyway. So
that should help prevent any racking.
20 years ago I built a bookcase out of 2x10's with no back (I still have
it). It has a very noticeable list to one side. The shelves are dadoed
about 3/4" , screwed and glued into the verticals. I wish I had put a back
on it. Someday I'll get around to correcting that error. On the plus side,
I haven't made that error again.
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