Building a New Bookcase

See the glaringly obvious L-brackets in each corner and the triangular pieces of plywood in the top back corners that keep this monstrosity from racking? I can’t take it any more!

For the February 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking, I built a Shaker stepback to house my television and assorted A/V equipment. Sure, as a woodworker (and a persnickety person in general) there are small areas of the project with which I’m unhappy , one door is a wee bit racked, and the upper case doesn’t sit seamlessly on the lower case. But, these are fixable problems, and it looks a heck of a lot better than the old rickety table I was using as a TV stand (under which was stacked the cable box, DVD player, VCR and stereo).

The biggest problem with the stepback, however, is how atrocious the shelves on the other side of the fireplace now look. They never actually looked good (after all, I made them 20 years ago from Borg-bought dimensioned pine and L-brackets). They’ve held together for two decades and held a lot of books in their lifetime. But the death knell is beginning to toll.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been designing a bookcase that sits on a slightly deeper lower case piece with two drawers in it (to help overcome the inherent instability of an 8′-tall shallow piece). I believe the form is actually called a “biblioteque.” I call it a vast improvement, even though I’ve barely gotten started.

Yesterday and today I milled the stock and glued up all my panels…¦ then I cheated a bit by taking advantage of Glen Huey’s wide-belt sander to get things to final thickness. By the time I leave work on Monday afternoon, I plan to have the lower case completed, drawers and all. At left is a rough SketchUp drawing, though the backboards and drawer knobs aren’t shown. The poplar backboards will be shiplapped with a bead detail, then painted creamy white. The rest of the piece is cherry, finished the same way as the stepback. Best of all, the new piece will hold twice as many books, and the drawers are a perfect storage solution for my new kitten’s toys (her name is Viola, and she’s pictured below).

– Megan Fitzpatrick, managing editor

4 thoughts on “Building a New Bookcase

  1. Thomas Hoyt

    But – DID you notice those atrocious metal brackets BEFORE you started working at PopWood and saw what REAL furniture looked like??

  2. megan

    Thanks – she’s a handful though (she’s destroyed all my curtain tiebacks – ah well). I am planning on making it for the magazine – and if it doesn’t get into one of the next couple issues, I’ll post links to a full SketchUp drawing. But, the dimensions are roughly 13-1/2" deep on the base, 50" wide. On the top, 11-3/4-deep (including the face frame) and 50" wide (which is why I’m rabbeting lips on the front of the shelves – otherwise they’ll bow under the weight of my many books).

  3. Phil Jones

    I agree with the first commentator that the cat is cute. But I like the bookcase sketch even more. I’m currently in the process of building (slowly) a bunch of bookcases of various sizes (to fit in the spaces available) to house our book collection, and your design looks like a piece I’d like to make. Any chances of giving us a rough idea of the dimensions you chose? Or will you be writing a piece on this for a future issue of the magazine?

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