Free Plan: Mid-Century Modular Wall Unit
Anissa Kapsales's wall unit features mitered cases combined with a unique hanging system for versatile storage.
Synopsis: Based on a Mid-Century Modern design, this modular shelving system employs a system of angled dowels to secure a variety of cases to the wall. The look of the ensemble can be easily changed by lifting the cases and moving them to different spots on the uprights. This is a big job, but construction is straightforward, using plywood and building the cases with miter joints.
Not long ago, I came across a modular shelving system in a Mid- Century Modern dealer’s warehouse. Danish inventor/designer/ manufacturer Poul Cadovius made a name for himself with these wall units, not to mention a ton of other things he designed. I was immediately taken by it aesthetically, but I was blown away by the unusual hanging technique. The pieces almost appear to float in midair, yet they lock in place with a clever system of angled dowels. You can change up the configuration of the pieces and the look of the whole ensemble by simply lifting the cases and moving them to different spots on the uprights.
Cadovius’s company lived on as dk3, but they no longer manufacture the original system I first saw. I got my hands on an old catalog and made my version of Cadovius’s invention. I kept my design very simple and unadorned, but you can trick out the components in many creative ways. With six cases to build, this is a big job, but the construction is straightforward. I built my cases with walnut-veneered 3/4-in. plywood, mitering the corners and applying solid walnut lipping to the front edges. Each case has a 1/2-in. walnut plywood back glued in, and I felt that this, along with the miters, provided ample strength and rigidity. I’ve built a number of plywood cases this way over the years, and none have failed. For extra security, you may choose to reinforce this joint with splines, biscuits, or l-tenons.
Start with the cases
I started by cutting down the plywood for the carcases, leaving the pieces about 1 in. over width but cutting them to exact length. My bottom cases will almost always be lined up together; therefore I cut the plywood so the grain runs across the top of them, which means the grain won’t wrap around each box. Once you cut the case parts, glue on 1/2-in.- thick solid edging. I milled the edging slightly over the thickness of the plywood and, after glue-up, I used a block plane to flush the edging to the plywood. Once the edging was flush, I ripped all the parts to width with the edging against the fence. then I tilted the blade to a 10° angle and, with the plywood edge on the fence, ripped the angle in the solid-wood edge. Finally I tackled the miters. I used a crosscut sled to trim the edging to the length of the plywood, and then I used an L-fence and a push pad to cut the miters. While at the tablesaw, I cut the grooves for the back and cut any other grooves I needed on the interior of the boxes.
From Fine Woodworking #276
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