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Project: Bookcase

Project in Progress! This project is certainly my first "big" one. Between Jane and I, we have a ton of books and really lack in places to put them. Currently we have one bookcase about the same size, but it's chock full already.

I'm probably going to build a few of these or similar items since we have so many things that require shelf storage. The plan I found on Ryobi's site had the look that Jane liked and I modified it to make more room. I also added a shelf for even more storage.

We're using hard maple for the face frame and shelf banding. For the carcass, I've opted for 3/4" birch plywood which looks pretty similar to the maple we got. It even has some figure to it which looks nice. Pics to come soon!

3/16/05 Status

Currently, the carass is assembled. I still have to make the face frame before it's done. Right now, I'm working on a tenoning jig for the tablesaw that will help to get this project finished.

I was originally going to just use dowels for the face frame assembly, but I think mortise and tenons would be better. After I assembled the carcass, it was pretty strong but it still had quite a bit of flex. My hope is that I can build the face frame stiff enough that it will help take some of that wobble out. We'll have to see, huh?

3/24/05 Status

I just finished a nice long 6-day weekend and made quite a bit of progress. I finally bit the bullet and started cutting the stock for the faceframe. After I finished building a pretty nifty tenoning jig for my tablesaw, I opted to do everything on the router. The jig just wasn't easy to get accurate. It's now going to be a panel raising jig, instead.

I must admit that I was very scared to begin cutting on the faceframe parts. This is by far the biggest project I've tried so far. It isn't that complex, but it feels a bit more intimidating just because of it's size. Thankfully, it all worked out.

The Incra Ultra 24 jig that I have really shined on this one. I don't know why I didn't think to use it to begin with. With it, I was able to position the mortises right in the center (two passes, of course). The real value of this jig came when it was time to cut the tenons both to fit snug and to stay right in line with the mortises so that the surfaces would remain flush when assembled. I love that jig :)

We also got quite a bit of sanding done. We completed sanding on the entire carcass by laying it on it's back. It spanned my bench, tablesaw and an outfeed roller on one corner. Jane and I spent much of last night on this and we even managed to sand the back side of the face frame. I found a few dings on the front side and slapped a little putty on them. We called it a night after that. Very productive!

4/28/05 Status

It's been over a month since I updated this thing! Quite a bit has happened. It's basically done, after some laboring on a few details.

I had quite a bit of trouble deciding how I would attach the faceframe to the carcass. I had lots of options, obviously. Originally, I was thinking I'd use dowels and glue so I made a crude little drill-block type jig. This was to try to keep the dowel holes even so everything came out flush. It would have worked if I'd taken some more time to make a stable jig, but I got sidetracked with other options.

I'd considered attaching the faceframe with just nails and then filling the holes. Since I don't have a nail gun, I'd have to do it by hand and I don't think it would come out very straight on my first try. Low confidence, plus I didn't like the idea too much because we were putting a clear finish on it and I would know. Another option was to use buscuits and glue. I liked the idea, but I don't have a plate joiner yet. Any excuse to buy a new tool is a good excuse, right? Well, after some research I decided that if I was going to get a plate joiner, it was going to have to be one of the better ones (Dewalt or Porter Cable). That meant at least $150 and the timing just wasn't right for that.

Someone mentioned using pocket holes and I loved the idea. My Kreg jig would have been perfect, except I'd already attached the back to the carcass and it wasn't going to come off easily. With only 14" of depth, I couldn't get the jig and a drill in there to make it work. The next one will be done with pocket holes, for sure!

In the end, I went back to the dowel idea. My landlord loaned me his dowel jig (a nice old craftsman cast iron anchor type thingy) and I went and bought a new one just like it for myself. It didn't come out as flush as I'd hoped it would, though. My first experience with just how crucial a glue's open time is really was a hard lesson. There are a few gaps between the faceframe and the carcass where the glue had set before I could get to it with the clamps. It's worse than nail holes would have been. But, all in all - it looks nice. The next one will be better!

Jane finished the carcass with wipe-on poly (a 50/50 mix of poly and mineral spirits). I think we ended up putting on a full 8 coats, sanding between after the 4th. She's got the shelves to do yet, and then we can make use of this thing! Pics will be coming soon, I promise!


I stumbled upon this plan in the Ryobi free plans section. Check their collection out here.

You can get a PDF viewer from Adobe at this link.

bookcase.pdf - This is the PDF.