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How to construct a robust bookcase and not using a again.

When I’m designing furnishings, I typically flip to the Arts and Crafts period for inspiration. I really like this type. It’s easy, however elegant. When a shopper commissioned me to construct a small bookcase, I knew precisely what to begin  with: {a photograph} of a bit constructed by L. & J. G. Stickley round 1904.

This Stickley bookcase was good for my shoppers’ fashionable condominium. They wished a bookcase with an open again, so it may very well be accessed from each side and used as a room divider. I modified the Stickley piece’s dimensions and design a bit, however saved the distinctive look of its aspect panels.

As it turned out, my shoppers moved simply as I used to be finishing their bookcase. They didn’t want a divider of their new front room, however they did want a bit to suit behind their couch. The bookcase was a pure. It’s confirmed to be a really versatile design! 

Materials and instruments

I constructed this bookcase from quartersawn white oak, the identical sort of wooden that was used to construct most Arts and Crafts furnishings. This wooden’s most outstanding characteristic is its ray fleck, however some quartersawn boards have a lot better-looking determine than others. Before I bought began, I put aside the very best boards for the aspect panels and the highest. 

The double tenons I used on this bookcase will be tough to machine. I’ve discovered that the simplest technique is to make them as unfastened items, like dowels or biscuits. This requires lots of precisely machined mortises, made with a plunge router. You could make your personal jigs to information the router, however I used the Leigh FMT, which is designed for this sort of work (see Sources, web page 53).

Make the joints

1. Begin by routing double mortises within the legs. I’m utilizing a Leigh FMT Pro, a jig which has templates of varied sizes to information the router. Many kinds of shop-made jigs could make these joints, too.

Begin by making the legs (B). Cut them to remaining measurement and mark the very best sides to face entrance and out. Rout all of the mortises within the legs (Photo 1 and Fig. D).

2. Rout related mortises within the ends of the rails. This jig holds work each horizontally and vertically.

Mill all of the rails (C, D, E, F and Ok). Be certain to trim all the aspect rails (E and F) and the anti-racking rails (Ok) to the identical size.  Rout mortises of their ends, to match the mortises within the legs (Photo 2).

Make unfastened tenons  (M, N, P and Q) to suit the mortises. They’re all the identical thickness, however have completely different widths. Make every batch of tenons from one piece that’s not less than 12″ lengthy (shorter items aren’t secure to mill).

3. Mill some lengthy, skinny items to make unfastened tenons. Round the perimeters of those items to suit the mortises.

Note that the tenons for the back and front higher rails are 1/8″ narrower than their corresponding mortises. This necessary element requires a bit of rationalization. These mortises are horizontal, relatively than vertical. The tenons are narrower than the mortises so you possibly can modify the place of the rails aspect to aspect in a while, to accommodate the size of the anti-racking rails (Ok). If the tenons had been precisely the identical width because the mortises, you’d must mill the joints very exactly so that each one the components would match collectively. While that’s not out of the query, my method–leaving some room for adjustment–is far simpler.

4. Cut the tenon inventory into quick items and glue them into the rails.

Round the perimeters of the tenon inventory on the router desk (Photo 3). Cut the inventory into quick items and glue the tenons into the rails (Photo 4). On the back and front higher rails (those with the narrower tenons), glue the tenons in the course of the mortises.

Build the perimeters

5. Assemble the bookcase’s aspect, with out glue. Measure the space between the rails. Cut the aspect panels to this size.

Mill the aspect panels (G), however go away them 1″ further lengthy. Assemble the perimeters, with out glue, and measure the space between the rails (Photo 5). Cut the panels to this precise size (it’s greatest to take off a bit of at a time, till they match completely). Disassemble the perimeters.

6. Cut biscuit slots within the ends of the aspect panels. Glue the perimeters collectively.

Cut three biscuit slots within the ends of the panels and within the higher and decrease aspect rails (Photo 6 and Fig. A). Pre-finish the perimeters of the aspect rails which have the biscuit slots. The panels will contract when the climate is dry; pre-finishing prevents this shrinkage from revealing unfinished wooden.

Glue the perimeters collectively, multi function shot. I exploit Titebond Extend (see Sources) for classy assemblies like this. Its open time is longer than the open time of most yellow glues, so I don’t must rush as quick. Start by gluing the aspect panels to the rails–the joints which have three biscuits. Apply glue solely to the middle slots, and go away the outer ones dry. This will permit the panel to shrink and swell with out being restrained by glue.

7. Plane the highest of every aspect so the rails and legs are flush. Cut biscuit slots on the within face of the highest rails.

After the perimeters are glued, aircraft or sand the highest rails and legs so that they’re even, if crucial. Cut a pair of biscuit slots on the within edges of the highest rails (Photo 7).

Stickley Bookcase Cut List

Overall Dimensions: 36-5/8″ H x 45-1/2″ W x 13-1/4″ D




Th x W x L




7/8″ x 13-1/4″ x 45-1/2″




1-3/4″ x 1-3/4″ x 35-3/4″


Upper rail, entrance/again


3/4″ x 1-1/2″ x 38″


Lower rail, entrance/again


1-1/4″ x 1-3/4″ x 38″


Upper rail, aspect


1-1/4″ x 2″ x 9″


Lower rail, aspect


1-1/4″ x 5″ x 9″


Side panel


3/4″ x 7-1/2″ x 27-3/4″


Shelf, center/prime


3/4″ x 12″ x 38-7/8″


Shelf, backside


3/4″ x 12″ x 38-3/8″


Rail, anti-racking


5/8″ x 3-1/2″ x 9″




half of″ x 1″ x 1-5/16″


Tenons, higher rail


1/4″ x 5/8″ x 2-1/2″ (a, b)


Tenons, decrease rail


1/4″ x 1-1/4″ x 2-1/2″ (c)


Tenons, higher rail, aspect


1/4″ x 1″ x 2-1/2″ (c)


Tenons, decrease rail, aspect


1/4″ x 3″ x 2-1/2″ (c)

Notes:  a) Tenon inventory must be not less than 13-1/2″ lengthy.  This consists of 2″ on both finish for planer snipe.  b) Make these tenons 1/8″ narrower than their mortises.
c) Tenon inventory must be not less than 25″ lengthy or two items 14-1/2″ lengthy.

Fig. A) Exploded View

Fig. B) Upper Rail Joinery

Fig. C) Shelf Button

Fig. D) Leg Joinery

Assemble the case

8. Make two “anti-racking” rails, and clamp them collectively. Cut a collection of biscuit slots of their ends, to make one lengthy groove. When you separate the items, the groove will run out the aspect of every piece (see inset, prime left).

Drill holes and slots within the anti-racking rails for fastening the highest (Fig. B). The ends of the rails have biscuit slots which are a bit uncommon. These slots are extra like grooves–they cease shy of 1 edge, and run all the way in which out of the opposite edge. This design will let you slide the piece over a biscuit, as you’ll see later. The best option to make these lengthy slots is to clamp the 2 anti-racking rails collectively (Photo 8), and make plenty of common plunge cuts at every finish.

Cut single biscuit slots within the higher back and front rails to obtain the anti-racking rails. Glue biscuits in these slots, and thoroughly take away any glue squeeze-out.

9. Cut biscuit slots within the higher rails to obtain the anti-racking rails. Clamp the components collectively utilizing biscuits, however no glue. Align the ends of the higher rails with one another.

One thing more earlier than on the brink of glue: Rout slots on the within faces of all 4 back and front rails to obtain the wooden buttons (L) that may fasten the highest and decrease shelf (Fig. A). Make the buttons from an extended piece of inventory (Fig. C).

10. Glue the case collectively. Slide out the anti-racking rails earlier than the glue dries.

You’re prepared for the large glue-up. First, place biscuits–with out glue–into the ends of the anti-racking rails, and clamp these rails between the higher rails (Photo 9). Position the anti-racking rails so that they venture about 1/4″ past the ends of the higher rails. Use a framing sq. to align the ends of the higher rails.

11. Spread glue on the ends and internal fringe of the anti-racking rails, and slide them again in place. Clamp the rails to the perimeters.

Glue the case (Photo 10). Again, with so many items to deal with, utilizing glue with an extended open time will actually assist. Before the glue dries, loosen the clamps that maintain the anti-racking rails and slide these rails again an inch or so, to make sure that they aren’t inadvertently glued in place. When the glue dries, take away the anti-racking rails. Spread glue on the ends and sides of those rails, slide them again in place (Photo 11), and clamp them to the perimeters.

Finishing up

Glue up the cabinets (H & J) and prime (A), and lower them to remaining measurement. Notch the cabinets so there’s a 1/16″ hole between the cabinets and the tip panels (so you possibly can drop the cabinets in place), and an analogous hole between the cabinets and the legs (so the cabinets have room to increase in width). Make a plywood template for spacing the shelf pins and drill their holes. I exploit brass sleeves (see Sources) to line the shelf pin holes; the sleeves add a pleasant ornamental contact to the bookcase. Install the sleeves after the piece is completed.

I exploit a three-step end on white oak. First, I apply a yellow dye (see Sources). Next, I wipe on one or two coats of Bartley’s Jet Mahogany gel stain, adopted by three functions of Bartley’s gel varnish.

12. Fasten the decrease shelf and prime. I like utilizing shop-made picket buttons, which match into grooves within the rails. Buttons add a cultured look–though you must get in your fingers and knees to see them!

After the end is dry, fasten the decrease shelf and the highest to the case (Photo 12). Center the highest on the case. Using a spacer, go away a 1/8″ hole between the button and the rails, to permit the shelf and prime to increase when the humidity is excessive. In addition to the buttons, safe the highest with screws that undergo the anti-racking rails.


Leigh Industries, www.leighjigs.com, (800) 663-8932, FMT Pro, $929; Super FMT, $449.

Franklin International, www.titebond.com, (800) 877-4583,  Titebond Extend Wood Glue, $7.50 for 16 oz.

Widget Mfg. Co., WidgetCo.com, (800) 877-9270, 1/4″ Antique Brass Shelf Pins,
#1-250-ATQ-S, $0.29 every; 1/4″ Antique Brass Shelf Pin Sleeves, #1-250-ATQ-G, $0.15 every.

Homestead Finishing Products, www.homesteadfinishingproducts.com, TransFast Lemon Yellow powdered dye stain, water soluble, #3287, $25.95/ Four oz.

Bartley Classic Reproductions, www.bartleycollection.com, (800) 787-2800, Jet Mahogany Gel Stain, $16.75/qt; Gel Varnish, $16.75/qt.

Laurie McKichan designs furnishings to be “easy, sincere and direct.” You can see
extra of her work at

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