Simple shelf from one hardwood plank

When you do “knowledge work” for a living, there’s an inherent frustration in not creating something concrete from your efforts.  Negotiating a case, reading cases to prepare a brief or a motion, appearing in court, all of these things have value to a client, but the value does not manifest itself as a thing you can touch and feel.  Matthew B. Crawford explores this concept in eloquent detail in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, a book Mark Bennett recommended I read and I, in turn, recommend you read.

One of the ways to get that feeling of accomplishment, of making a “thing,” is having a hobby where you make stuff.  I built a workbench so I could have a place to do woodworking.  The first project I wanted to build, a simple tic-tac-toe shelf from Spike Carlsen’s book, Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects: Great Looking Furniture Anyone Can Build, is done now.   

The completion of the project is shown in pictures below.  Total time was probably 3-4 hours, with gaps for the finish to dry.  All that was required was a 1″ x 6″ x 8′ hardwood board (I used poplar).

The raw plank:

Cut down to four equal lengths:


Cut into arcs:

Ready for finishing:

Dry fit:

Close up of the finish:
Mounted on the wall with picture hangers:
With a canister to give a sense of size on the wall:

Less than $30 worth of materials and about 4 hours of work and I have a very nice shelf for our dining room and a “thing” I can look at and think, “I built that.”

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