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Good day all

I want to start building a wooden "shelf" of sorts, the problem is that I have literally no experience. So I have been looking at a bunch of youtube tutorials and asking my stepdad for some help (lately he's too busy) and doing some research.

The design is actually really simple: There are two arching side supports with 3 "shelves" in the middle. 450mm tall, base radius of 300mm

enter image description here

So the cutting of the curves I'm not worried about (I got a stencil and a jigsaw at the ready) what I was wondering was if I could use wood glue and dowels to secure everything together? Or would it be better to stick to screws?

Secondly; I was thinking of using pine, but in my research found out that it is a very soft wood, would this be okay provided it would only carry small light objects (Keys, pens, rubiks cubes, Nicolas Cage bobble head)? What would be a better alternative taking into account that I want to use a light (colour wise, not weight) wood?

And lastly; What sealer do I use? I saw that there really isn't one correct answer for this. What I want is a clear, dry curing layer to protect the wood and keeps its colour. So an acrylic lacquer maybe?

Thanks for helping the noob

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    This is exactly the kind of project that has hooked many woodworkers into a lifelong pursuit of elusive woodworking excellence! There is no one right way so my advise to you would be to start with scraps and try to make a variety of approaches to your joints and elements as practice. I guarantee you will not be fully satisfied, but will learn much more about how you want to proceed with your shelves. Good Luck! – Ashlar Feb 3 '17 at 22:32
  • May we ask what kind of tools you have at your disposal, or prefer to use? Are there budget constraints when it comes to outfitting yourself? I know how I would probably approach this build, and the techniques themselves are pretty straightforward, but I have a very nice table saw and an adequate set of other power and hand tools at my disposal. If you are limited to, say, a screwdriver, drill, and jigsaw, your approach would be different. So pray tell, what tools do you have or would you be willing to obtain? – user1457 Feb 3 '17 at 23:01
  • Well so far I have a cordless and corded drill, jigsaw and screwdrivers. Yeah unfortunately my budget isn't too big, otherwise I would love to get a table saw, router and table, but yeah not at the moment. I was planing on having the boards cut to size by the shop, and then just cutting out the curves and sanding them to refine them. – Dewan Feb 4 '17 at 7:55
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what I was wondering was if I could use wood glue and dowels to secure everything together?

Normally that would be fine but there's a potential problem with the design of this piece because the wood meets in a corner.

Due to the width of some components you have to take wood movement into account if this is made from solid wood as you intend and not from a board material like plywood or MDF.

Wood movement generally
Solid wood absorbs and loses water through the seasons as humidity goes up and down and as its internal moisture level changes it expands and contracts across its width. If the expansion of one piece doesn't match that of the piece it is attached to it's a problem.

You must allow the wood to move or stress builds up and it can cause warping or cracks, either along the glue joints or in the wood itself.

Wood movement here
When two pieces are joined at 90° usually they each expand and contract in the same direction (a classic example being a shelf and the side of the case in a standard bookcase). But here, because of the corner design the grain in the shelves is in the correct orientation with one side panel but at right angles to it on the other.

Because of this you can glue and dowel the shelves to the left panel in your image, but the shelves need to be allowed to move relative to the right panel so some other fixing method needs to be utilised there (and the shelf can't be glue on that side, except in towards the corner).

How you can ignore it
Or you could make your shelving unit from plywood instead and simplify things for yourself. Then you can glue and dowel the whole thing together without worrying about movement.

Secondly; I was thinking of using pine, but in my research found out that it is a very soft wood, would this be okay provided it would only carry small light objects (Keys, pens, rubiks cubes, Nicolas Cage bobble head)? What would be a better alternative taking into account that I want to use a light (colour wise, not weight) wood?

It's not very soft. It is soft, but usually not intolerably so. I should mention there are many different subspecies of pine and some are actually reasonably hard in comparison to the usual stuff you'd buy in a big-box or similar. But even the softest kind is still perfectly usable for something like this, and in fact could be used for a kitchen table that will see regular use (as many such projects posted online show).

And lastly; What sealer do I use? I saw that there really isn't one correct answer for this. What I want is a clear, dry curing layer to protect the wood and keeps its colour. So an acrylic lacquer maybe?

This is as much a matter of personal preference as anything. If you're happy with the cost and application method of an "acrylic lacquer" (I use quotes here because that can be a range of things) then go with it, it'll likely give you exactly what you're looking for.

Note however that you can't stop pine from changing colour due to exposure to light and oxygen. If the finish you use has UV blockers included in the formula those can delay colour changes in wood but the protection is not permanent. Eventually any area of the pine not shielded from light by the items placed on the shelves will darken a little bit and go slightly more yellow, which are the standard colour changes for pine.

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I would seriously consider using plywood and edge-banding, as it's likely to be challenging to find a pine board 12" (300mm) wide that will stay flat, without gluing up a panel. That depends a bit on what you have ready supply of and what tools you have available though.

Dowels and glue should be plenty strong enough, but so would screws and glue, and that would require a bit less in the tool department. Getting dowels well-centered and positioned in the edge of a board is harder than it may look. If your dowel holes don't line up well on both pieces you'll have problems at assembly time.

I'd be strongly inclined to orient the grain of the back panels vertically if you did go with solid wood, as an 18" wide board would be hard to find and vertical orientation would be somewhat stronger in this item (although both are probably more than strong enough).

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