Shelves without glue - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 03:03 PM Thread Starter
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Shelves without glue

I have no experience (or future) in woodworking, but am just a guy who decided he'd try to build some shelves around the house. I am beyond the halfway point on a shelving project and just “learned” that I was supposed to use glue. I did not use any glue. Instead I used screws (to connect horizontal studs to wall, and shelving to horizontal studs) and 16 gauge nails (to connect shelves to side boards). As I won’t be undoing what I’ve done (I just can’t... not enough hours in the day or dollars in my pocket to restart), I’d at least like to know what to expect.

Will these shelves just begin to fall part over time? Will they last months? Years? Decades? None of the above? I used a pretty decide grade 3/4-inch plywood (blondewood) from Lowe’s for the shelving, and pine boards for the sides. Am I doomed? I sure feel like it, from what I’ve read online. It seems clear that it would’ve been preferable to use glue along with the nails, but I can’t get a sense of how crucial that step was (preference or absolute necessity?). Everything feels sturdy enough, but I'm wondering about the longevity without glue.

The load: this is for a game / activity room, so we’re talking game consoles, DVDs, skates, etc. Maybe books (which I know can get heavy). I have two more units to build on the right side of the tv in order to span the wall. So, depending on your advice, at least the undone shelving units stand a chance of being done correctly.

Looking forward to your thoughts and opinions. Thanks for your time and help.
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Last edited by avidphotog7; 11-06-2017 at 03:09 PM.
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post #2 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 03:23 PM
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First of all, that's a nice looking set of shelves for someone with no experience and no future.
Second of all, I think you'll be fine without glue, to be honest. The screws and nails will probably hold it well enough. And if one works itself loose, just pound it back in.

I built a couple sets of shelves using only nails and screws and they've been fine. One set in our kitchen has been heavily used for 20 years.
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post #3 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 04:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gj13us View Post
First of all, that's a nice looking set of shelves for someone with no experience and no future.
Second of all, I think you'll be fine without glue, to be honest. The screws and nails will probably hold it well enough. And if one works itself loose, just pound it back in.

I built a couple sets of shelves using only nails and screws and they've been fine. One set in our kitchen has been heavily used for 20 years.
I agree, nice job for someone who says hes a novice.
Just FYI: screws hold better than nails. You will be just fine without glue.
I recently tore out some 30 year old shelving that had been nailed in place in a church classroom. It was a major job to demo those shelves. They were constructed with about 3 times more nails than was necessary. No glue, but several layers of paint over the years.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #4 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 08:17 PM
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The glue wouldn't have done much for you as you are gluing plywood end grain and making a butt joint. What size/length screws did you use? 16 Gauge nails through the pine into the ends of your shelves could use some help....add some screws and you will be fine. If you will be adding any serious weight on future shelves dado the shelves into the sides or install some cleats. Don't use drywall screws.

Last edited by JIMMIEM; 11-06-2017 at 08:19 PM. Reason: add info
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post #5 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 08:31 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
They were constructed with about 3 times more nails than was necessary.
I laughed when I read that because that sounds like me. I appreciate both of you chiming in to reassure me. When I started reading about how nails are only used to hold joints until the glue dries, I was mortified. I literally started feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of having to redo what I'd done. I'm glad to know that all is not lost... so thank you for your reassurance.


By the way,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
I agree, nice job for someone who says hes a novice.
Just FYI: screws hold better than nails. You will be just fine without glue.
Funny you should mention that. I intended to use screws to secure the shelves to the side boards. However, on the very first shelf, I put a screw through the pine and into the plywood shelf and it split the layers of the plywood and messed up the shelf pretty badly. From that (admittedly only one data point) I concluded that screws into the side of plywood wasn't a good idea. So I went with (a million) nails. I still use screws for everything else though (securing shelves to horizontal studs, etc.).

Also, thanks for your kind words about the shelves. It has surely been a labor of love, and has taken quite a while (weeks... probably months), but those are the virtues of home projects. Having no timetable has given me the advantage of attention to detail. At a rate of 30/40 minutes after work every few days, I'm guessing I've got a few more weeks before this project is done... but I'll be sure to post a pic when it's complete.

Thanks again.
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post #6 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avidphotog7 View Post
I laughed when I read that because that sounds like me. I appreciate both of you chiming in to reassure me. When I started reading about how nails are only used to hold joints until the glue dries, I was mortified. I literally started feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of having to redo what I'd done. I'm glad to know that all is not lost... so thank you for your reassurance.


By the way,



Funny you should mention that. I intended to use screws to secure the shelves to the side boards. However, on the very first shelf, I put a screw through the pine and into the plywood shelf and it split the layers of the plywood and messed up the shelf pretty badly. From that (admittedly only one data point) I concluded that screws into the side of plywood wasn't a good idea. So I went with (a million) nails. I still use screws for everything else though (securing shelves to horizontal studs, etc.).

Also, thanks for your kind words about the shelves. It has surely been a labor of love, and has taken quite a while (weeks... probably months), but those are the virtues of home projects. Having no timetable has given me the advantage of attention to detail. At a rate of 30/40 minutes after work every few days, I'm guessing I've got a few more weeks before this project is done... but I'll be sure to post a pic when it's complete.

Thanks again.
Predrill when you screw into the edge of plywood. For that matter predrill any wood when the screw will be close to an edge. Nails will also cause splits when close to the edge of a piece of wood. 16 Gauge finish nails are fairly small.....but they could blow through if the don't go straight.
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-06-2017, 10:40 PM
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Those do look quite nice. You sure you don't want to keep making more and more things? Come on mate it'll be fun! Woodworking is wonderful!
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post #8 of 9 Old 11-17-2017, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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I just realized that my initial post is present in two different forum categories. I apologize for the duplicate post. I'm sure it's my fault. Since this version has the most activity, it seems to make the most sense for me to reply here. Thanks again for all that responded. Again, your comments were super helpful. A few additional thoughts...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
I am having a little problem picturing just what you are doing.
Ha. That makes two of us. As I said, I've never done this before, nor am I following any plans. I'm just kind of doing what seems to make sense at each step. The only advice I was given (by a contractor) was to build the units separately, and then combine them. That proved to be pretty helpful... except for the fact that my floor is not level. So, some of the shelves were level when I build them on the other side of the room, but then I had to disassemble and reassemble when I slid them in place and they were sloped. Oh what fun. Luckily I figured that out early on. Anyhow...


Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
Maybe a quick sketch would help
I can't provide a sketch... but I've attached some updated photos. I've made a bit of progress since the last photos. FYI... I hung the tv before I started on the shelves. It was a gamble (I came close to dropping wood or tools on it about a dozen times), but it was the only way I knew to guarantee perfect centering. It also provided me with something the do while I built :o)

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
Whether or not I used support strips across the back depended upon the length of the shelves
The middle section has ridiculous span, so I did use support strips for that. I also have inserts to break up the span. For aesthetic reasons, I also decided to put the support spans on the top side of the shelf, and screw them in (deck screws) from the bottom. I don't know how useful this will prove to be (working against gravity... I know)... but hopefully it'll prolong the sagging process by some years.

Last thing...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
Unless you are doing something that I cannot picture, you have no need of glue.
Hopefully that's still the case after the pictures. With that said, there is one area that I think I'm going to use glue for after all. As I inch towards this part of the project, I realize that I'm a little nervous about hanging a 1x10x8 across the top to cover the void on the top and bottom. The bottom one (part of it is leaning in place in the picture) will obviously be supported by the floor. But the weight of the top one worries me. At this point I'm thinking screws and glue will help me sleep better at night. The vertical edges (where the side boards come together for each unit) will be trimmed also, so the top horizontal plank will also be sitting on that (I hope I'm describing this in a way that makes sense) so that should help also. When it's all said and done (caulked, painted, etc.) the top and bottom will also have crown molding and base boards across it to match the rest of the room. Oh... and the space between the last unit on the right and the wall is intentional. This is on an external wall, so it has horizontal studs. I'm hoping to use the channel on the right (which will be covered) to run wires to the attic space as needed. So, finally... a question: Is hanging 1x10 (pine) planks across the top a bad idea? If so, any other suggestions?

Phew... that was a lot (sorry).

Thanks again for your expertise and insight.
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post #9 of 9 Old 11-19-2017, 02:32 AM
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I only use glue on shelves when the job specifically calls for no visible screws. My experience with plywood is that it bends a bit more than same-sized solid planks under load, so I'd recommend adding some sort of bracing under the portion of the shelf that's immediately above the TV - Lowe's should carry some inexpensive decorative pine corbels and even cheaper metal shelf brackets if added cost is a concern. This can always be done after the fact, if you notice it down the road.
Aside for that, it looks like a job well done to me.
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