Building some fancy lit shelving

Discussion in 'Carpenters' Talk' started by Olimain, Aug 10, 2016.

  1. Olimain

    Olimain Member

    I'm looking to build something like this into an alcove and wondering what the best way of going about it is.


    It's only a shallow alcove (approximately 130mm deep) so my original plan was just to build a 4x2 frame, attach plasterboard then skim over to take me flush with the chimney breast:


    Is this the way this would usually be constructed? The main question is how one goes about recessing the LED downlights - can they be sunk into the 4x2 timber or do they need something thinner like ply? I was thinking something like these

  2. chippie244

    chippie244 Super Member

    I would use 38x63 CLS for the frame clad with 12mm MDF.
  3. Olimain

    Olimain Member

    Thanks for the reply chippie. Only real reason I was going to use 4x2 was that I have a load of offcuts and the depth works out about right (100mm+12.5mm+skim gets me close to my 120mm alcove depth). Plasterer is coming in to skim the boarded partition anyway so I thought it would look good to clad this with PB then skim too for the seamless/built in look rather than painted MDF...
  4. chippie244

    chippie244 Super Member

    The downlighters are designed to lock onto sheet material, it will be hard to get the rounded edges in pb and it isn't really suitable for shelves.
  5. I agree with Chips - MGF all the way.

    Use your 4x2 as the frame by all means.

    I'm not sure how you're going to get neat openings in plasterboard - is the guy going to 'bead' every single edge? That'll make them 'sharp'. Then what will you make the shelf floors and sides from? Plasterboard again?


    I'd personally use the 4x2 to make the side uprights, the top and bottom rails, then probably chust the horizontal above the large bottom opening, the vertical coming up from that to the top, and then just the horizontal above the large centre opening.

    Then I'd mount the MDF front panel, add support beads to the inside around each opening and clad them in more MDF.

    The edges of the openings can be 'softened' like that example by simply chamfering, bevelling or chust rounding each edge, and any gaps between the front and the side panels filled with any decorator's filler.

    It'll involve a fair bit of straight-panel cutting, but a very rewarding job - it looks really nice.

    Matt or satin paint and you're good to go.

    I simply cannot see that being built from p'board.
  6. Olimain

    Olimain Member

    Not too fussed about the rounded edges - maybe if I used a full width 4x2 as the upper side of the shelf, then short (say 6 inch) lengths at either end immediately below it then fix plasterboard to that? Like this:

  7. Olimain

    Olimain Member

    Sorry - posted that before I'd seen DA's reply. Yes I was thinking angle bead on every edge - clearly not the right move! OK so if we go down the MDF route - would normal matt emulsion (the same as on the walls) give me a pretty seamless look? I've only ever used satin/gloss on MDF!

  8. chippie244

    chippie244 Super Member

  9. mr moose

    mr moose Screwfix Select

    Yes but you might need some primer suitable for MDF or it may fur up.
  10. chippie244

    chippie244 Super Member

    Use sanding sealer/shellac/button polish on the edges and sand with fine wet and dry to polish before painting.
  11. Olimain

    Olimain Member

    Many thanks, much appreciated
  12. chippie244

    chippie244 Super Member

    I would make the cladding from strips of MDF which B&Q will cut for you for free and fill the joins with 2 part filler and carefully sand
    tore81 likes this.
  13. I was chust thinking that one of the things that gave that shelving unit it's nice look was the 'soft' edges. If you make this out of p'board and angle bead all the corners - and there's lots... - then it'll end up looking quite harsh and angular.

    And it'll be quite a job for your plasterer.

    Really, this is a job for which MDF is ideal. You can do pretty much anything with it. It's only issue is that the end 'grain' will need more attention that its flat surfaces, but it really is chust a case of sealing and sanding it a bit more, and you'll get it smooth.

    I see the whole constructions as being one large flat front panel with the squares cut out of it. Then each recess is made up very simply from 4 panels each - 2 sides, a top & a bottom. Glued and pinned to make what will be 4-sided open boxes.

    Before installing it all, mount all these 'boxes' to the back of the front panel - use something like polyurethane glue along with supporting beads - anything will do, from 20mmx20mm mouldings to even metal corner brackets.

    Cut you light holes and run your wiring.

    Fill any gaps with filler - 2-part stuff as said before is good (SF make a non-nonsense one which I've used and is perfectly good). Use a filling knife to get it into all gaps and to scrape off any excess. Sanding will then be a minimum.

    Round off the opening edges to your requirement.

    Basically, build it all as one single unit which you then mount into your alcove. Again, either fill any gaps around the edge (perhaps using decorator's caulk here?) or else run a neat quadrant moulding around it.

    Use your 4x2s for something else :).

    If you want the finish to be matt like your walls, then apply matt emulsion straight on. Apply a couple of coats to the exposed edges, allow to dry and then sand with 320 grit. Do this a couple of times and it'll be flat just like the other surfaces (I know - I've built LOTS of units from MDF).

    If you want it 'satinwood' finish, then you'll need to seal and prime especially the edges first as explained above.

    From the pic above, tho', I guess you'll want it matt like the walls? No prob - that will look good.
  14. dwlondon

    dwlondon Active Member

    it somehow looks like mdf.

    but for this i would make up the shelve racks in an mdf unit, prepare the lighting and fix to the alcove. Probably do the painting before fitting the lights. Make sure it all works before proceeding.

    Then make up a face frame in straight cut sections, again in mdf and line with the mouldings. which look like pencil rounded, and unlikely that a plasterer could or would do it.
  15. Olimain

    Olimain Member

  16. Without a close-up of the unit, it's hard to know exactly what 'edge' the openings have been given.

    But that rounded profile you've linked to looks about right.

    However, you cannot use these actual skirtings/moulding here, 'cos the front panel has sections of differing widths. And even if the front frames were the same width throughout, to mitre and join all these moulding around the frame would be a 'mare.

    For this unit to be a visual success, the front panel needs to be seamless and free from visible joins and future cracks. I can only see one DIYable way of doing this - a single MDF sheet with cut-outs.

    It's also the easiest way.

    By all means add some of your 4x2s to the back to strengthen the whole thing and prevent it from flexing. But it'll only need 4x2s around the perimeter and a couple of others in between.
  17. Pollowick

    Pollowick Screwfix Select

    I would use a single sheet of a decent faced, decent quality ply such as Birch ** for the front and the cut out the openings a fraction undersize. Make the individual boxes to size from 12mm for sides and top and 18mm for the base and then fit those individually maybe using a dowel or two. Use something like Gorilla expanding glue - which will leave no gaps.

    When set, use a 6mm diameter bearing guided trimmer in your router and finished the openings. The openings will then line up exactly with the boxes and surplus glue will have been trimmed off too. You will have a small 3mm radius in the corners which can be chiselled out. Maybe bevel the edges, if you wish.

    You could also consider putting hidden cupboards in the two filled areas, use one to house the LED drivers/PSU, and the other for hidden storage. Run the cables for the LEDs between the boxes.

    ** Using Birch ply might seem to be a waste. You can get the lower grades which have the face repairs in as it will be painted. It is very stable, easy to sand, prime and paint - a lot easier than MDF. Much easier to work and given the amount of effort that will go into this, the extra cost will be small.
  18. dwlondon

    dwlondon Active Member

    quadrant mouldings with the radius to the thickness of the mdf. mitred to fit inside the rectangular openings, glued with pva. ordinarily i hold them in place with moulding pins which you can either remove or sink in. sanding all over to make flush and once painted looks like a whole thing.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  19. Oli, do you have access to tools like routers? If so, then Pollowick's idea is a good un.

    (I'd still use MDF tho'... :))

    If not, it'll probably be a case of sanding the rounded edges by starting with rough rasps before sandpaper of increasing fineness, or else adding mouldings as said above. What are you like at mitring?

    Another thing to consider - think about - is whether the walls of shelf recesses should be flush with the front openings, or should actually be inset a wee bit - 5mm, or even a touch more?

    Y'know - the boxes will be slightly bigger that the front openings so's there's a small lip all around on the inside edge (ie - imagine a ball not being able to roll out of the shelf 'cos it hits a small lip?)

    I just don't know what will look best, but certainly having a small lip will be easier to do as you won't have to get the surfaces blended in perfectly. And if you have to sand into the smooth surface of MDF then you'll be giving yourself lots of extra finishing work.

    I'm thinking (but ain't sure) that a wee step might even look beter - get away from the whole thing looking as tho' it was vacuum-formed :rolleyes:

    But, I dunno.

    I would personally definitely make this as a single construction and then install it. There's plenty of height clearance as you can fit a 'skirting' along the bottom to cover any gap as in the original picture. As for width, just measure carefully and trim to get it fitting as snug as possible, but 5mm gaps along the sides ain't an issue as they can be filled afterwards.

    If you go ahead with this project - please do post photos of your progress. We need a good laug... er, it'll be useful for us... :oops:
  20. Pollowick

    Pollowick Screwfix Select

    I used quite a bit of MDF but never really liked it. I have a source of 18mm Birch ply "offcuts" 1500x700 and cheap prices which I have used for quite a bit recently - some varnished and some painted. I found it very easy to work with.

    I think it will look best without a lip - seen quite a few similar fitments and they are all flush/smooth.
    Deleted member 33931 likes this.

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