Metal Shelf of Awesomeness

It all started with a party – getting ready for one to be exact. It is not lost on me that it always seems to take having people before you decide to fix things up. Nonetheless, we had an open house party towards the end of last year and I took the opportunity to deal with the fact that we were exploding at the seams with architectural building models. I’ll admit that as every flat surface in our office became the permanent residence for one model after another, I’d had enough and decided that we needed to do something about it.

And the Metal Shelf of Awesomeness was born.

Metal Shelf design sketch

Since the only real empty wall we had in our office was the one that I stared at every day, I decided this was the only best place for this shelf to reside. It started off pretty simple, I wanted a shelf with some contrast to the existing materials used in our office, that meant nothing white, and I couldn’t use maple (my business partner Michael Malone’s favorite wood). I also wanted this “shelf” to do something other than simply hold something. I settled on metal because, a) I love it, and b) I could also use magnets to help display and store the trace paper sketches I created in bulk.

In the section sketches above, I started with the one shown in the upper right, but quickly decided that since the shelf would be seen from the edge, maybe I should do something to play up the way the two pieces of metal came together.

Up next was the sketch shown in the upper right … but almost as soon as I drew it, I realized that this might be the detail equivalent of hyperbole – awesome, but not required.

In the end, I settled on what detailing with metal should be all about – it’s simplicity. A single piece of metal bent two times.

Metal Shelf Elevation Drawing 01

Since I am me, I wanted this drawn and documented – a task I gave to Landon in our office. I climbed up on the desk and lifted out all the ceiling tiles and dimensionally located all the metal studs in the wall and I asked Landon to design how the countersunk screw holes would be placed and how many pieces the metal shelf of awesomeness should contain.

Turns out it was three.

Metal Shelf Detail Elevations

I had a buddy of mine make this piece for me – he owns one of the most amazing metal fabrication shops you’ve ever seen – Humanetics Precision Metalworks. This is not the sort of work they typically take on but it helps when you and the owner go back to your time in high school.

Metal Shelf Detail Profile

So we made some drawings to help Humanetics know what we wanted and sent them over – I’ve included the basics here so that you can make your own metal shelf of awesomeness. Of course, you’ll have to find your own precision metal works company.

Cleaning the steel shelf 01

Surprise! Did I mention that we were going to install this shelf ourselves? (Of course we were …) Once we picked up the fabricated pieces, we needed to clean them up prior to installation – you could still see all the handling and tooling marks.

Cleaning the steel shelf 02

I wasn’t planning on doing anything extraordinary to this metal in terms of the finish, I just wanted it clean. The process I went through was to clean everything first with MEK solvent, then each piece of steel got a thorough soap and water bath.

Cleaning the steel shelf 03

We have a patio space just off the front door to our office, and this is where I set up shop.

Cleaning the steel shelf 04

Cleaning the steel shelf 05

The difference between the raw unfinished steel and the cleaned up version is pretty striking, and I am a fan of the natural finish of steel.

Cleaning the steel shelf 06

Metal Shelf - The wall prior to Beginning

This is the wall where the shelf was to be installed. We work 9 hour-days during the week and let everyone head out at noon on Fridays, so Friday afternoon was the perfect time to clean the desks and prepare for the relatively simple process of screwing these metal segments to the wall. I will tell you that the worst part of this process was cleaning the desks.

Metal Shelf - installation of the first piece 02

Getting the first piece in place took the longest – making sure everything was correctly aligned and level. Once the shelf was visually where it was supposed to be, I marked where all the screws would go and drilled pilot holes. These shelves, despite their diminutive appearance, were heavy and cumbersome to manipulate, and I wanted to make sure that we would be hitting metal studs at each location.

Metal Shelf - installation of the first piece

Here you can see that we aligned the bottom of the shelf with the bottom of the wood trim of the cabinet that abuts the wall.

Metal Shelf - installation of the first piece 03

Getting the first piece in place turned out to be pretty easy, expecially when you had the help of two other people.

Metal Shelf - Recessed wall anchors 01

We ran into a few snags when it came time to install the second piece of the shelf – our dimensions were slightly off and I needed to install some expansion anchors in order for the screws to do their job. I was happy to learn that out of 30 possible screws, only two needed wall anchors.

Metal Wall Shelf Installed - Final 01

It only took about 45 minutes from start to finish to get al three shelves installed – and the first shelf took up about 25 of those minutes.

Metal Wall Shelf at Bob Borson's Desk

Now that the shelf is installed, I have a spot to put a half-dozen models AND a place to hang up my trace paper. While it might not seem like all that big of a deal, I can’t tell you just how happy I am this this little project was done. I must be honest here, I love using it, it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.1

Bob signature FAIA

1 If you know what movie I was quoting at the end of today’s post, you get a hearty thumbs up and a deposit into Bob’s Bank of Credit. If you don’t know or want to confirm if you were right, click here.


Source: Life of an Architect