Welded Bookshelves with Reclaimed Wood Shelves and Drawers

This pair of shelves was commissioned by a client of mine as a gift for his wife. I was given a photo and that’s all I had to work off. So the first thing I did was open SketchUp and began designing.
I wanted to keep the material cost low so I started sourcing used bed frames and reclaimed lumber. The bed frames took a lot of preparation to remove legs, rivets, and caps, not to mention grinding off paint to prepare for welding. Once I needed more bed frames I calculated the cost of frames vs the cost of same size angle iron and the angle iron was a little cheaper not to mention more robust.
The wood was collected locally at an abandoned fallen building that has been around for at least 12 years or more. Nails were plentiful and the surfaces needed a good scrubbing.
When all the metal parts were cut to size it was time to weld the frames. I started with the shelves’ top and bottom frames to get the sizes equal. Then I welded the side assemblies to connect to the top and bottom frames. The whole shelf unit was strengthened and squared with rear cross straps. When all the construction was complete I welded on bolt heads as industrial accents and sprayed a patina solution of acid, copper, and water. This gave the steel a nice initial color before the natural weathering took place.
The bottom units were made in the same fashion less the cross straps.
When all the metal work was finished I began the work on the shelves and drawers. I started with the 12 shelves for the upper cabinets and the 6 shelves for the lowers unit. I milled the reclaimed boards into strips to edge band the maple plywood to add decoration and strength from sagging, though sagging may still happen (can’t fight gravity).
Once all the shelves were complete, I applied a home made stain, called Iron Acetate. It consists of apple cider vinegar and fine steel wool. The vinegar dissolves the steel wool giving the solution an old grey look. When applied to a wood surface it begins to activate with the natural tannin in the wood and the stained surface darkens over time. Since maple doesn’t have much tannin I had to introduce tannin to the wood. I did that by making strong black tea and wiping it onto the surface. Once dry, the Iron Acetate was brushed on, allowed to dry, sanded with 220 grit, and a water borne finish was sprayed on.
The 8 drawers were made using pinned rabbet joints and the drawer fronts were fit to the openings then attached to the drawer boxes. These were then spray finished in the same manner as the shelves.
Then the whole assembly was put together to see how it looked.

Here is a 3 video Playlist showing the process of the build in slightly greater detail.

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