Black Lives Matter Vermont has a storefront in Winooski, where it plans to sell locally made crafts, clothing, and fair trade food products with proceeds funding the organization. I am helping them transform their space through custom carpentry. It’s the perfect opportunity for me to practice my skills while also helping a cause I care about.
Ebony welcomed me into the store and laid out her vision: shopping in the front half of the space, room for relaxation in the rear half. I played with some numbers to translate that vision into several bookcases that would be easy to build and use ¾” plywood as efficiently as possible, minimizing wasted material. Once we had our plan, it was off to the lumber yard to buy the materials I needed.
For a tiny additional charge, Home Depot employees will rip wood products into smaller pieces. I took advantage partly because they make a much straighter cut than I could with my circular saw, and partly because it was the only way to fit the materials in my car. On a nicer day I might have strapped full sheets of plywood to my roof rack, but it was snowing.
To construct the first bookcase, I followed instructions from a This Old House weekend project series. The instructions build the walls two pieces of plywood thick, with the inner piece broken at regular intervals for the shelves. This detail eliminated the need for the tricky dado cuts that some bookcases use for shelving, but it increased the total amount of material I needed. Since the bookcase wouldn’t sit against a wall, I also needed to improvise a back, as the instructions didn’t include one. I used plywood the same thickness as the walls, which turned out to be a dumb choice, adding unnecessary cost and weight. I would have been fine with a piece only ¼” thick. Take that as a learning opportunity.
Once I returned to the store, it took about four hours to cut walls and shelves, assemble the bookcase with wood screws, and attach trim to the front with finish nails to hide the cut edges of plywood. I used ¾” thick poplar trim for the shelves and 1-1/2” thick oak trim for the perimeter, learning that material bills rack up fast when you pay by the linear foot. I made the bookcase the same height as a kitchen cabinet, so Ebony can add a countertop workspace later if she wants.
I’ll be back next week to do some more work. The store holds its Grand Opening on Saturday, February 11, and I’m proud to help make the space functional and beautiful.