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Industrial Mahogany Bookcase

I designed and built an industrial style bookcase out of solid mahogany and some angle iron.

Alright I know it’s been a while between this post and my last one, but I promise you I’ve been hard at work in the wood shop creating some new stuff for you guys.

I’m on a mission to replace all of my university student Ikea furniture with real adult furniture. I had one of the Ikea Kallax bookcases in my bedroom, I’m sure you’re familiar with it, basically everyone under the age of 30 has owned at least one of them. I’ve been desperate to get rid of it and so I started brainstorming ideas and finally came up with this.

Mahogany Bookcase (40 of 43)

When I started dreaming up this bookcase I had a vision of a semi-industrial look. I wanted something that was only going to look better if it got a little bit beat up. It also freed me to not worry about hiding fasteners and making everything perfect. I wanted it to look beefy and strong, hence the thick wood slabs and pieces of angle iron. I’m not much of a design guy but I think I’m starting to find an aesthetic that I really like.

Before I give you guys anymore glamour shots you’re going to have to sit through a 30 photo guide of how I made it. And DONT YOU DARE skip to the bottom. I have analytics to track for that type of thing.

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Ok so here’s what I started with. I bought 3 pieces of 2×12 Mahogany that were ~7 feet long. I know Mahogany has a reputation as a rich mans wood, but c’mon, this stuff wasn’t cheap! I paid just under $300 CAD for the Mahogany.

Originally I was going to do this build in pine or some cheaper wood, but I took my dad with me to the wood mill and he talked me into using a more expensive wood. You only live once and this is going to be a piece I probably have for the rest of my life! By using a cheaper wood I easily could’ve saved $200 on this project though, so if you  want to follow along at home don’t feel compelled to use the same type of wood.

After I was done being extorted at the lumber mill I went to the local metal super market and bought four, 4 foot lengths of 2×2 angle iron. These cost me $30 CAD.

Finally I went to Home Depot and bought some 4″ lag screws that are painted black for $40 CAD.

For those of you not keeping track the grand total was just a hair under 370 Canadian Gold Loons. Ouch, my wallet! Just have to keep reminding myself I’ll have this thing for a long time…

Mahogany Bookcase (1 of 43)

So I’m not much of an artist, but here is the sketch I started with. Due to my incredibly limited drawing abilities I usually do most of my design work in my imagination, but I often need to draw things out to calculate for material purchases and make sure things will fit.

You may have noticed that this bookcase has an a-symmetrical look. That’s because I’m going to put it in a room with a sloped ceiling, and I wanted to maximize my useful space.

Mahogany Bookcase (2 of 43)

I started by marking out each of my cuts on the big pieces of mahogany. Because I’m going to have to mill this wood down quite a bit I made all of my cuts ~1″ longer than they needed to be.

It might have been a little wasteful but because this is raw wood from a lumber mill it’s all different sizes and needs to be dimensioned before I can use it.

Mahogany Bookcase (3 of 43)

My bigger, sliding, miter saw is on a job site so I had to make use with this little guy that doesn’t slide, and can really only cut about 6″ wide pieces of wood. No problem though, I would just cut as much as I could and then flip the piece of wood over and cut from the other side, joining the two cuts in the middle. Easy-peasy.

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Here’s the mahogany in a bunch of small pieces. Suddenly it doesn’t look like that much wood anymore. Maybe I really did get ripped off at the lumber mill

The larger pieces are ~37″ long. The smaller pieces are ~15″ long. There’s also a 20″ piece that will be the top shelf.

Mahogany Bookcase (5 of 43)

The smallest piece of mahogany was actually 11 3/4″ wide so I had to cut all of my other pieces to the same width.

This allowed me to remove the top layer of wood and expose the pristine insides. By the time I was done on the table saw all of the pieces of wood were 11 1/2″ wide. Plenty deep for a bookcase.

Mahogany Bookcase (6 of 43)

Here’s what the freshly cut wood looked like. In case you’re wondering, yes this part of the process is incredibly satisfying, and I never tire of it.

Mahogany Bookcase (7 of 43)

Ok, ok, so the sides are nice and clean now, but what about the other surfaces of the wood? Good question, here’s what wood looked like up close. Not that pretty, a little too “rough” for my bookcase. Better clean that up.

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I started feeding the pieces of mahogany through a planer to clean up the large flat surfaces.

What’s a planer? Oh right, not everyone reading this is a professional carpenter. A planer is type of saw that removes very thin layers from wood. I would push pieces of mahogany through the planer and a spinning blade removes between 1/64″ and 1/32″ of wood from the surface. It’s a slow repetitive process.

Because it only remove the highest point on the wood, it’s great for getting rid of cupping and other surface deformations on wood. When the wood is done in the planer it’s perfectly flat and square.

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Here’s a photo of some mahogany halfway through the planing process. The spots that still look rough are low points that haven’t been planned yet and the new fresh looking wood are where the high points were.

If you plane each and every piece at the same time you also ensure that all of your wood pieces are the same thickness.

Mahogany Bookcase (10 of 43)

Next it was time make my actual finish cuts. I cut the vertical small pieces to 13 1/2″ long. The horizontal pieces are 36″ long. I cut them on the table saw like this because I didn’t have access to my bigger miter saw like I said before. Cutting like this is kind of tricky and not recommended. If you must do it, use a sled.

Mahogany Bookcase (11 of 43)

After the pieces came off of the table saw I gave them all a quick sand with 120 grit sand paper. They were all incredibly flat, even and square so I was only sanding to make the wood feel “smoother” to the touch. The mahogany took the sanding really well.

Mahogany Bookcase (11 of 43)

I laid out all of the pieces on a table to get an idea of what it was going to look like when it was done. Ok now I’m getting excited! I could see that the project was coming together and I could really imagine the end product.

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Using a couple of clamps I secured two horizontal and a single vertical piece of mahogany. This would be the bottom and second level of the bookcase.

Carefully I measured the location of my fasteners. Because the fasteners are going to be exposed I made sure they were evenly spaced and centered. I decided that 3 large fasteners would be strong enough to hold together each joint in the bookcase. I’ll report back in a couple years and let you guys know if I was right or not.

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I said large fasteners right? I used three 4″ long lag screws at each joint to hold everything together.

When you’re drilling into a semi-hard wood like mahogany with long fasteners pre-drilling each hole is kind of a requirement. If you were to skip this step there’s a very good chance you could snap the lag screws as you screwed them in.

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With three holes pre-drilled it was time to insert the lag screws. I used my heavy duty 20volt impact gun for this job. These lag screws have a hex head, with an integrated washer and are painted black, I think they look pretty bad ass. Well as bad ass as a screw can look….

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On the bottom shelf I switched away from my lag screws and used a normal #14 4″ Bugle headed screw. This allowed for the screws to sit flush with the bottom of the bookcase. Because this bookcase isn’t going to have any feet it will sit flat on the floor, if I used the lag screws they would’ve stuck out proud of the bottom and ended up scratching my floor. I like my floors, so I’m going to avoid scratching them whenever possible.

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Ok it is now officially all screwed together and let me tell you, it’s starting to get hard to move around. This thing is going to be damn heavy by the time it’s all done.

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I whipped out my random orbital sander and sanded all of the joints. I did my best to make sure everything was properly aligned before I screwed it all together, but there will always be small imperfections. The sander can smooth those imperfections out.

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To finish the wood and treat it I used this Danish Oil by Watco. I had it left over from another project and given how much I had already spent on this project I was eager to pinch some pennies. Savings aside the danish oil really give a nice finish. It helps to protect the wood, while also helping to show the grain and give the wood a deeper tone. I did 2 coats with about an hour in between.

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I poured a little bit out onto a throw away rag and gave the whole bookcase a wipe down. The danish oil is pretty forgiving, but try not to apply too much otherwise you may get a splotchy finish.

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So this is basically where the carpentry portion of this project ends. Here’s how the wood looked while still a little wet after its second coat of danish oil.

I’ll leave it for a few hours to dry and busy myself with the next phase of the project. Damn do I ever love the grain of that mahogany.

Mahogany Bookcase (27 of 43)

Enter the metal working portion of the project. Queue Iron Man by Black Sabbath.

I started by cutting lengths of the 2 x 2 angle iron to 17″ long. I needed 8 all together. To cut the angle iron I used my abrasive cutoff saw, which is basically a miter saw with an abrasive blade. Great for making quick straight cuts in metal.

Normally I’d do this outside, but it was freezing out, so I did it inside with a fire extinguisher close at hand.

Mahogany Bookcase (20 of 43)

Two of the angle irons needed to be modified for the top shelf. I had to make small 2″x2″ cutouts on them and it was too awkward to do it on abrasive saw. Out came an angle grinder with a cutoff blade. MORE SPARKS!

Mahogany Bookcase (21 of 43)

Each piece of angle iron had to have 4 holes drilled into it where I would then attach it to the mahogany. I setup a jig on my drill press and went to down on all 8 pieces.

Mahogany Bookcase (22 of 43)

Almost done with the metal! Here’s all 8 pieces after they were cut, drilled and cleaned up.

Mahogany Bookcase (23 of 43)

Now the only thing left to do is black them out with semi-gloss black spray paint. I did 2 coats on both sides. I did my best to battle my impatience and follow the direction on the can, but I’d be lying if I said I waited the full 24 hrs before touching them. Does anyone EVER wait the full 24 hours?

That being said I wasn’t going for a “good” paint job. I didnt want the angle irons to have a flawless finish, I was looking for something a bit rough.

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Alright time to attack the angle irons to the mahogany. To do this I used 1 1/4 lag screws. I held the angle irons in place by hand and pre-drilled each of the holes.

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Here I went with bright silver lag screws to contrast against the black angle irons. I may swap these out for black ones in the future, I haven’t decided yet.

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I worked slowly here, I basically only got one shot at attaching these angle irons right, so I was very careful to double check my measurements and make sure everything was where it should be.

Hey, would you look at that, we’re done! Time to go call for some help because I can’t lift this thing on my own anymore.

Mahogany Bookcase (32 of 43)

Alright time to get this thing out of the shop and into my place. This was no small task. I think this bookcase ended up weighing close to 100lbs by the time it was all said and done. It is solid mahogany after all, so I guess that isn’t too surprising. Let me give you a tour of the final product!

Mahogany Bookcase (39 of 43)

Like I said before I like incorporating fasteners into design. A lot of guys will go to great lengths to hide everything, but I like picking fasteners that add something to the project. I thought about doweling these joints, but in the end I’m glad I just went with the big lag screws.

Mahogany Bookcase (33 of 43)

The bookcase is asymmetrical because of the sloped ceiling in this room. For the photos I moved it out in the center of the room, but when I’m actually using it will be tight against the roof line. This design let me maximize my storage space and gives the whole thing a custom fit look.

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This was my first time working with Mahogany. What a nice wood. It turned out so well. I’m loving the oil rubbed finish. It’s matte and even has a nice smell to it.

The mahogany was soft enough that you can sand it easily but hard enough that I never inadvertently dented wood when I was lugging it around the shop. Good to know I won’t have to be too precious with it in the future.

Mahogany Bookcase (34 of 43)

I’ve been reading this book lately and it’s really been helping me with woodworking projects. Highly recommend it.

Mahogany Bookcase (43 of 43)

If you hadn’t already guessed it about me I’m a little bit of a photography and videography geek. Here’s my poor drone, which has basically been rendered useless by recent law changes here in Canada. I’ve been keeping it in the hopes that things will be different in the future. At least it looks pretty cool on the shelf.

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The bookcase has no legs so it sits right on the ground. In order to protect my floor I did add some adhesive felt pads to the bottom of the bookcase. As an added plus I can now slide the bookcase around easily, instead of struggling to lift it.

Mahogany Bookcase (36 of 43)

That’s it for this project guys. If you have any comments or questions I’ll do my best to answer them all. Thanks for checking it out and, again, if you liked this project my site has a bunch more!

  1. Nice shelf! I also love exposed fasteners … Screw those guys who hide all fasteners. I’ve been kinda blogging similar to you … But I don’t think I can keep up to you! Good job!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith January 16, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      Thanks man! Glad to see someone else is on the exposed fastener train 🙂 I checked out your blog and really like your Hex shelves, those look sweet!

      Reply

  2. […] with a random orbital sander and it will be smooth as a babies bottom.  I did this recently in my mahogany bookcase project where I sanded all of the mahogany before assembling the […]

    Reply

  3. […] show you how I did it as per usual. The lamp is made of solid mahogany that I had left over from my bookcase project. I can never throw away nice wood so I always try and find projects for my scraps. This is one of […]

    Reply

  4. […] I usually do these tool chest articles based on tools that I have used in recently builds. My mahogany bookcase was a popular build and I couldn’t have done it without an abrasive chop saw. Perhaps you saw […]

    Reply

  5. I’m really gobsmacked by this super project! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 8, 2018 at 9:20 am

      My pleasure Bonnie! Thank you for the praise 🙂

      Reply

  6. I love the use of angle iron! Your bookshelf is beautiful. I bet you’re glad you took your father with you to buy the wood! I love the industrial look. Unfortunately, I don’t have several of the tools you used, such as the planer. I will have to consider materials that would work instead.

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 8, 2018 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Mary, ya I’m definitely glad I listened to my dad on that one! One way to skip the planer step would be to buy lumber that’s already finished. Unfortunately the mill I was buying from didn’t have pre-finished mahogany lumber, but I’m sure there are some that do. Feel free to message me if you have any other questions and I’ll do my best to help!

      Reply

  7. Margarite Wilson March 8, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Simply stunning. Great job.

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 8, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Thank you Margarite!

      Reply

  8. Janice Taylor March 8, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    What a gorgeous piece of work! Love the mahogany contrasted with the angle iron for the industrial look. I think I know the answer, but here goes…..would it be possible to do this without the angle-iron supports? I would also love that look…as though it were just the wood and only have heavy stuff on the bottom shelf? . Do you suppose a person could use acrylic lucite (clear) for “ghost” supports in place of the metal to get the look I’m thinking of? Loved all of your projects….amazing!!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 8, 2018 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks Janice! At one point while I was building it I did have it all assembled without the angle irons, while it would probably stand for a little while like that I really wouldn’t trust it long term or with any weight on it at all haha.

      I like your idea of using lucite though, that could definitely work! At one point I thought about using threaded rod between the levels, not quite invisible, but less noticeable for sure.

      Thanks again for checking out my work!

      Reply

  9. Work of art and good instructions. Love the grain on the mahogany too. Great job, elegant.!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 9, 2018 at 11:41 am

      Thank you Therese, you’re too kind!

      Reply

  10. It’s absolutely beautiful!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks DeNatale!

      Reply

  11. Very nice design Zak, you nailed it! I love seeing something unusual and beautifully done!

    Reply

    1. Zachary Matchett-Smith March 14, 2018 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Corinn!

      Reply

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