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Craftsman Bookcase

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Craftsman Bookcase

Knockdown joinery makes this cabinet easy to build, easy to assemble and easy to move.

By Randy Johnson

Everyone loves bookcases. This beauty, with its Arts and Crafts overtones, offers abundant storage and style. We used rift-sawn white oak and built-up plywood parts to give this case the look of solid wood. The thick shelves will not sag even under a heavy load of books. Graceful arches, decorative pegs and hammered-copper hardware enhance the hand-crafted feel of this grand cabinet.

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Glue filler strips to one side panel. Add a few brad nails to keep the filler strips from sliding. Locate brad nails near the inside edge of the fillers so they don’t interfere when the panels are cut to final size later. The second side panel goes on top of this assembly.

Click any image to view a larger version.


Beg, borrow or buy two dozen clamps. Add some backer strips to protect the good side of your plywood. Then, clamp the whole sandwich to the plywood I-beams.


First cut. Use a guide board and a top-bearing bit to make the first trimming cut.


Second cut. Flip the panel over and trim the remaining edge with a bottom-bearing bit. The bottom-bearing bit will run on the previously routed surface.


Glue and clamp edge banding to each panel. The edge banding overhangs the ends and sides a little, and will be trimmed later. Make sure to use a backer board to protect the edge banding from the clamps.


Saw and chisel a notch at the top end of the edge banding on the side panels. A piece of trim will fit in this notch later.


Chisel 1/4-in.-deep mortises for the decorative pegs. Glue and hammer the pegs into place. Trim the pegs flush using a fine-tooth handsaw.


Drill pocket screw holes in the cabinet’s bottom, top and fixed shelf. Pay special attention to which side you drill the screw pockets into. A mistake here is difficult to fix.


Cut the biscuit slots in the side panel and the cabinet bottom. By lining up the bottom and side and clamping them together, they act as a guide for the biscuit cutter.


Trace arcs onto the toe and valance boards. The arcs stop 1-1/2 in. from each end.


Glue and clamp the toe board to the cabinet bottom. Set the toe board back the thickness of the edge banding. Use backer strips to protect your work.


It’s time to assemble. Just add the biscuits and pocket screws. Do not glue.


Check the cabinet for square by measuring from corner to corner. The diagonal measurements should be the same. If you need to, bump the cabinet a little to make it square, then screw the back in place.


Trace around the cabinet to mark the location for the trim strips that get glued to the applied top.


Align trim strips with the pencil lines. Then you can glue and clamp them to the underside of the applied top.


Drill shelf peg holes using a shopmade drilling guide and a self-centering bit.


Hang the doors with Euro-style hinges. They make door installation and adjustment a real snap.


Plane tapered fillers for the side cabinets using a shop-made tapering sled.


Sand horizontal fillers to match the slight angle of the tapered fillers. Add the outside panel, then glue and clamp.


Trimming the tapered sides requires a shimmed guide board for the first cut. Use this board on the tapered face of the panels only. Trim the inside face with a bottom-bearing bit, as shown in.


Position the drawer fronts and temporarily hold them in place with double-faced tape. A couple of nickels used as spacers provide just the right amount of clearance between the drawer fronts.


Staining and finishing is a breeze because the knockdown design allows each part to be finished separately.


Attaching the cabinets is as simple as a two-piece jigsaw puzzle. Line up the side cabinet with the alignment blocks and slide them together. The cabinets are then secured with a couple of screws from inside the side cabinet.


Attach the anti-tilt chain between the top of each side cabinet and a wall stud. For cabinets this tall, this is essential for safety.















This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 2001, issue #91.

December 2001, issue #91

Purchase this back issue.