Shelf Project

This project came up at work last week as a comission from a coworker to design a shelf that will get a new piece of equipment off her desk. The equipment is a DVD replicator, with a bin that catches finished discs meant to hang off the front of the unit, necessitating that it sit near a ledge. It is fairly large with a big foot print that takes up a sizeable amount of desk space, but cannot be moved very far away because of cables that run to the requisite PC. Also, the front of the unit must be accessed to load it with blank discs, so it must still remain within reach. At any rate, I measured the equipment and began thinking about what kind of shelf would fit the situation best and not be subject to falling down or being in a position that would cause it to get bumped into as the replicator is fairly expensive. Also, I wanted to utilize equipment and materials that we have on hand versus “outsourcing” a lot of parts or fabrication, which means either solid wood (Maple is stocked) or CNC-cut plywood, MDF, or masonite.

Sketches 1
Sketches 2
Sketches 3

My initial thoughts were to have a flat shelf with the usual brackets, possibly with the brackets pointing in opposite directions to allow better access. I checked the adjacent wall for studs to mount the shelf to, and it turns out that they are not in an optimal position for two brackets to line up and still keep the shelf over the desk. Next idea was to offset the brackets so that they would still fall in line with the wall studs, but I felt this was poor choice. A single center bracket should be able to hold the equipment up, provided it has ample fastening. I have some kind of fixation with elaborate CNC-cut forms right now, so this directed my design more than anything. I also reasoned that if the mass of the shelf is reduced to a minimum, that is less weight the shelf will have to support (hence, all the holes cut in every substantial part)… After several thumbnails I decided to quickly draw my favorite in Rhino for a review by the powers that be:

Rendering 1
Rendering 2
Rendering 3

While this shelf is interesting and sculptural, I will say that it is more than what is needed. Depending on how the reactions are, I may work towards something that uses a horizontal piece of ply/MDF for the shelf surface.

Comments? Suggestions?

Pretty hot man. It could be cool if the verticla where of a thinner material than the bracket piece, just to give it some hierarchy of parts. Also, if you had to convert it to a conventional “shelf”, a single piece of MDF supported by fewer verticals would maintain some of the origional aesthetic.

does it fit visually with the environment? Is the basket attached to the replicator?

A more bahaus form language to the parts might make it a bit less whale bonesque.

nice stuff.

I will be worried about the strength. The more cuts you put into the middle spine, the easier it’s going to be snapped.

the ‘whale bone’ aesthetic so soo damn cool though.
especialy in rendering 1.
perhaps soften the edges (as in fillet edges) to give a lighter feel to it. more organic.
But again, very cool.

also like the whalebone. but torsional strength would concern me. assume for a minute she pushes down on front outer left or right edge. downward force turns into a torque. this design isnt optimum for that. might consider two spines. not too far apart. give you strength/stability and retain the look.

agree other comments on softening edges. aso.

those type of structures are best made in cast aluminum. once done in aluminum they can be treated for surface.

but before you do the cast you should model it and do the FEA. i don’t know if rhino does that.

as for design i suggest lifting the comb on support all the way to the top surface. that way you’ll get a clean look and stronger structure. also easier to maintain.

as for construction with wood i don’t recommend mdf. just regular hard wood like mahagony or cherry. you need thicker material at joints. i sugget either giving it a curve or a straight line with an angle. then you could double dowel it (but one is generally good enough) from the top. then if you like you can always add another piece on top to cover the dowels. make sure you raise the comb to final surface intended.

have fun, and good luck.

Thanks for the input!

As for the material choice, I was thinking 7/8" plywood that we build upholstery frames from (CNC cut) with any secondary processes completed in our dwindling workshop. The CNC router leaves some fuzzy edges, so they will be softened a small amount to clean them up, but I like the idea of putting a large radius on them.

One part of the design that the rending doesn’t show is how the parts interlock. Some of the ‘ribs’ will be screwed in place, while others will be doweled and glued. The back plate and vertical also interlock and get anchored to a wall stud in multiple places. I’ll have to see if I can create an exploded version when I get some down time at the office to show the structural details.

The main reasoning for the single centered vertical is so that it can be anchored to a wall stud and still remain centered over the coworker’s desk. The back plate can also be screwed to the wall, but even if drywall anchors are used they will carry much less weight, but probably enough to handle any torsional forces.

It all may be in vain if the project gets shot down - so I may return with a simplified shelf for review at some point!