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Woodwork 

Winter 2013-2014

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Cottage Bookcase

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Cottage Bookcase

Reclaimed Douglas fir gives rustic charm.

By David Radtke

Every board of this bookcase is full of character—nail holes, gouges and even hammer marks. That’s because each piece was pulled from an old Montgomery Ward warehouse in Baltimore.

Originally part of a large shelving system built more than 75 years ago, our reclaimed boards still retained a dusty aroma and had mellowed to a rich warm color. These unique characteristics influenced the design of our bookcase—straightforward and reminiscent of rustic folk furniture. The bookcase is constructed from 3/4" boards. Unlike most plywood-backed bookcases, the back of this bookcase is assembled from individual pieces splined together.

To build this piece you’ll need a tablesaw, a jointer, a router and a biscuit joiner—although you could use a doweling jig. A large assembly table or a make-shift work surface made from a 3/4" plywood sheet laid over sawhorses is a must. Figure on spending about three days in your shop to complete this piece.

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Cut 3/8" deep rabbets and dadoes into the side panels to accept the solid wood back pieces as well as the top and bottom panels. Use a featherboard to keep the panel tight to the fence to ensure an even edge on the rabbets. The bottom horizontal panel should fit snugly into the dado, so adjust your dado blade precisely or make multiple passes.

Click any image to view a larger version.


Bore evenly spaced 1" holes for the shelf supports. Mount a board onto the table of your drill press and attach a fence to it for exact centering of each hole. Once the holes are drilled, cut each piece to length, then rip it down the middle to make a matched pair for each side. Glue and clamp each pair to the inside edge of each side panel.


Screw the top into the upper dadoes of the sides and glue and clamp the bottom into the lower dadoes. Measure the diagonals. They must be equal to square the case. Once the glue is dry, flip the case face down. Make sure the case is square and screw blocks along the sides and top into the work surface to keep it square as you install the back panels.


Rip, then joint the edges of all the back pieces. Rout a 1/4" groove into the center of each side edge. Glue a slightly thinner than 1/4" by 11/16" pine spline into one side of each back piece. Once the glue has dried, fit each back piece to the back of the case. Start in the center and work your way to the sides.


Glue the face frame to the front edges of the case. Be sure it’s perfectly aligned, then clamp it to the case every foot along the perimeter. Trim the slight overhang on each side with a block plane once the glue is dry.


Shape the cornice moldings on the tablesaw. Set the blade at 45°. Run each board through on both faces to create bevel edges, then repeat for the other edge. The other narrow cornice molding is a simple 45°piece cut from a 1-3/4" piece of 3/4" stock.


Fit the center cornice molding (N) to the upper cornice molding and to the lower cornice molding.


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 1999, issue #77.

December 1999, issue #77

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