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  Scribing Shelving  
  There are two common methods for scribing shelving--the ‘tilt’ method and the ‘template’ method. Neither are difficult to learn.

The Tilt Method

  Start by cutting the shelf long, so there’s room to scribe. Most openings are tighter at the wall then at the front edge of the shelf (all the drywall mud in the corners is one reason), but don’t assume anything. Measure both the front and the back of the opening and cut the shelf 3/8 in. longer than the widest measurement.


Tilt the shelf into position—but be sure it’s level front to back. Then scribe one end, and cut along the scribe line, tipping the saw blade just a little so the end is undercut at a slight angle. Cutting the ends at a slight angle ensures a tighter fit because the sharp edges will bury themselves into the wall.

Measure across the opening at the back—right along the wall, then hook the tape measure on the cut end, at the back of the work piece, and transfer the measurement mark to the opposite end.

Next, tilt the shelf back into the opening in the opposite direction, so that the uncut end with the measurement mark is in position against the wall. Spread the scribes from the wall to the measurement mark, then trace the contour of the wall onto the shelf. Cut to the line—again, undercutting the shelf slightly, and the piece should fit perfectly the first time in.

The Template Method

Shelves can’t always be scribed using the tilt method. If the walls are terribly out of square, particularly if the opening decreases dramatically in width front to back, then it’s best to make a template. Installing a bank of shelving on radius walls is definitely a job for a template. Templates don’t have to be cut from a single piece of stock. In fact, one reason the template method is easy is because several pieces of material can be used to form the template. For this wide radius wall, I used three pieces of 1/4 in. mdf, one for each end, and one that spanned the center.
Working alone, it’s easier to hold the small pieces of ¼ in. mdf against the wall and get a tighter scribe. Scribe and cut each piece until it fits perfectly. Use a belt-sander to get right up to the scribe line. Leave the center piece at least 8 in. long on each end for overlap.  


While scribing the pieces, make registration marks on the wall and transferred those marks down onto each template. Use the registration marks to join the three pieces into one continuous, precisely-the-right-length, jig


Trace the shape of the jig on to the shelving. Cut just outside the line with a jigsaw and finish the job with a belt sander.


For multiple shelves, do the rough cut with a jig saw, then clamp the template to the shelf and finish the cut with a bearing-guided template bit chucked in a router.
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