Making Shiplap Wall Panels From Plywood General Woodworking

This is part of an ongoing remodel of my office to make it more comfortable to work in. I actually started kind of at the end by building the new bookshelf speakers that will be connected to my editing computer, but in this one I’m right at the beginning.

Two years ago I made the computer desk for the office, thinking it would be the best solution for the small room:

And it is, but its placement had me cooped up on the corner and as seen in the picture above, it quickly became very cluttered. In particular, wire management was always a problem.

Another general room problem was the window. Shown here without trim, I’ve held off on installing it because the window units are not very efficient and I was going to either replace them outright, or try to improve them:

And as you can see, especially in the morning (when I usually do the video editing), sunlight streams in and I hung a makeshift “curtain” to block the majority of it when sitting at the desk:

Not going to win any awards for interior design on that one, am I?

And it gets even worse directly behind the desk:

A better look at that wire management problem, plus the general disarray. The printer stand is especially attractive.

So, it might seem radical, but I decided that the room as used doesn’t actually need a source of natural daylight. Having powerful light beaming in for the most productive hours of the day for me grossly limited where I could put the desk to avoid glare and reflection.

A more “reasonable” solution would be to hang a blind or thick (real) curtain to block the light, but I went with something a bit more extreme and blocked the window with 1-1/2″ thick insulation foam:

I painted it white on the outside face before putting it in, so from outside the house it just looks like blinds or a heavy curtain:

Along with blocking the light, this gives two other significant advantages: first, it keeps the room warmer in the cold winter (and cooler in the summer), because, as I said above, these windows are not efficient.
Second, it frees up that wall to use any way I want.

And the way I want to use it is to build a false wall on it with LED lighting at the sides. The wall will give me a place to mount a shelf for the new speakers and the computer monitors, plus it will provide a place to hide the wires for them.

I started by fastening furring strips that are 2-1/2″ wide to the wall. The two on the ends have LED light strips from American Green Lights – a 48″ and a 24″ on each:

The LED’s shine into the corners of the room giving me glare-free lighting. The power supply for these is also dimmable, so I can turn it way down.

As for the wall paneling, I considered of a few options, from plain drywall to maple veneer plywood, but settled on what’s known as shiplap. Typically, this is done with solid wood – pine boards that overlap with a reveal. But when I looked at my local home centre, I wasn’t impressed with what I saw.

Not only were the boards more expensive than the maple plywood mentioned above (at $60 per sheet, two sheets needed), but they were also warped and full of knots that would be problematic for a painted wall.

So instead, I went with sanded pine plywood (the same stuff I used on my plywood flooring) and made a simple jig to help route the grooves into it. The jig starts with a 5/8″ guide bushing in my router:

And the router has a 1/2″ straight cutting bit installed.

The guide bushing fits in a hole in a piece of 1/4″ hardboard with a hardwood cleat fastened at one edge:

The cleat is the same size as the slots I want to cut and the hole is spaced 5-3/4″ from it. With a 1/2″ bit, it will cut grooves that are 5-1/2″ from the edge of the cleat.

To start, the cleat is held against the edge of the sheet to route the first slot, then that new slot guides the jig for the next slot. I routed the grooves in two passes to 1/4″:

That spacing works out perfectly for a 48″ wide sheet, leaving a slot at the opposite edge:

Since these panels are mounted horizontally, that slot starts the panel above.

Before bringing the sheets in and installing them, I painted on two coats with a brush:

Another reason for using this plywood instead of something like MDF, is that it has wood grain, and I think it makes it look more authentic. The brush strokes work to accentuate this, and even though a roller would be faster, the texture it leaves would tend to hide it.

The first panel mounted using glue and 1-1/4″ brads into the furring:

I added short backer pieces at the midpoint to better support the joint:

Second sheet installed:

I wasn’t particularly careful about how tight it fit at the top, since I’ll be doing some more work on the ceiling in the next phase of improvements.

Before painting the third and final coat, I sanded the panels lightly, and modified a sanding sponge to get into the grooves and make them smooth:

A significant benefit of this wall is that it provides a solid place to mount other things, like a floating shelf for the speakers and monitors. I made this from a strip of the same plywood and wrapped the edge with reclaimed pine board:

The board edge is rabbeted on the top for the 1/2″ thick plywood and mitered at the corners.

The back that mounts to the wall needs to be strong, so I ripped down a well seasoned piece of 2×8 for that:

And glued that solidly to the plywood:

The board edge gives the shelf a solid looking thickness, and was cut from one long piece for this wrap-around grain effect:

Usually, floating shelves are mounted using some kind of rod that is set into the wall studs, but given the relatively low amount of weight this shelf will carry, I figured gluing and screwing it solidly to the plywood wall panel would be more than strong enough. A total of 8 – 2-1/2″ screws through the back cleat:

And a thick bead of polyurethane construction adhesive near the top of the shelf:

Not made for sitting on, but it will easily hold twice the weight I’ll have on there:

It was kind of painful, but I had to drill holes through the panels for the wiring:

And given the size of the wall, I decided that adding a big screen along with the smaller (27″) monitors would be a good idea. I made a french cleat from plywood to hand the screen:

Given the location and the weight of the monitor (just 30 pounds by my estimate), this cleat will perform perfectly.

And the setup mostly complete, I loaded a recent video that I edited to show it in action:

Still a bit more to do and like I mentioned above, I’ll be doing something special with the ceiling in this room as well, but already this is a massive improvement.

Here’s a video showing how I made the wall panels: