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Craftsman-Esque Bookshelf In Cherry

author-gravatar GoatTnder Oct 15, 2018

Books are the best. And books for people who can't read are pretty awesome even still!

My daughter had a very small, cheap bookshelf made of cloth and particleboard, and it quickly fell apart.

I wanted to make her something that would fit all her books, with room to grow. And we had a specific place in mind to put it in her decidedly small room.

I can't find my original sketches, but I drew dozens of options before settling on the final design. The show faces are all solid cherry. The shelves are poplar with cherry banding on the front. And the back is plywood.

One of a few sketches to get height vs. width nailed. The whole thing ended up close to square, but because of the horizontal shelves it doesn't look so squat.

Detailed drawing of the two side pieces. All measurements are taken from the bottom, so I could work from one reference edge and everything would line up. Plus step-by-step instructions for myself to follow. It worked pretty well!

Another couple detail drawings of additional pieces. These didn't turn out to be super necessary.

Stock preparation. My fitness watch said I burned about 600 calories in a solid hour of flattening and thicknessing.

I used blue tape and a sharpie to keep track of the various pieces. This is my top shelf, the label reads "Glenmorangie 18 Year."

To make the shelf dadoes, I needed a crosscut sled.

So here it is. Super basic for now, looking into how to add tracks for stop blocks and such. But for this, it sufficed.

No one ever said, "Hey, nice dadoes!"

I wanted to test fit the shelves into the dadoes, but I am not very tall. In order to get better leverage, I laid the side down on the ground and used my rubber mallet to tap them in. This was a mistake... there are marks and gouges on the outside that I'm not gonna get rid of now.


You can also see here that the top shelf is a few assembled pieces of cherry. I ended up not accounting for waste and loss and all that fun stuff. So, I put together a board that was long enough with another two boards to make the width. From the bottom you can see the splice. From the top, it looks awesome.

But the shelves fit at least.

I'm not great with drawing curves or drawing in general. So, I tested out a few curve options in Illustrator, and printed the one I liked best. Taped down and used a jig saw to cut the curve close to the line (leaving enough room for clean-up).

Here is a mortise. I'm not sure why I took this picture.

Making the top took a few different approaches. First, I tried a long string as a compass, but that didn't really work. My wife suggested drawing a curve on the computer, and then measuring the height every couple inches. That worked much better, but took more than an hour just to get marked. Made the cut with a jig saw, and cleaned up with a combination of a block plane, smoothing plane, and sandpaper.

The detail at the top was marked front and back. I drilled out most of the waste, and cleared it to square with a chisel. Don't tell anyone, but it broke and I had to glue it back in. You can't see it, you can't feel it, I'm okay with how it ended up.

Final dry-fit.

I don't have enough large clamps. There are three 3/4" pipe clamps, two F-style clamps hooked together, a ratchet strap, and a rope.

Fun discovery here: I wanted to use a glue with a longer set time than your standard PVA because I was concerned about getting everything lined up and together. So this is Old Brown Glue. It has a set time of 24 hours. Don't take your clamps off early. Because if you do, your joints may pull apart, set more, and then never go back together. The bottom shelf has about a 3/64" gap. I see it, even if no one else does.

The rope I pulled tight using a trucker's hitch. My dad teared up a little when I showed him.

The back is a piece of "cherry" plywood. I'm still not convinced it's cherry, but it doesn't super matter.

This is also the first time I used my hand-me-down drill press.

Fully assembled.

I had a lot of issues with finish. My original intention was to use tung oil only, but my tung oil had started to cure in the can and wasn't really working out. I figured I'd top it with a couple coats of Arm-R-Seal satin finish, but that had completely cured in the can. More coats of bad tung oil should work then, right?


No, not right. Go out and buy new finish. I did that finally and then it was done. I should have done it a week earlier.

The last bad photo outside in the garage.

And here it is in my daughter's room, around 7AM.

I kinda like this shot.

Here's the happy recipient. She loved it! But she doesn't really appreciate the work that went into it yet. Ah well.

Dog tax.

1 comment

Looks great! I love the design.

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