Folding Bookcase

Though not as lightweight as an eReader, this portable library is far more stylish.

~FoldingBookcaseby Christopher Schwarz
pages 24-29

Bookcases that fold up like a clamshell were common among British travelers of the 19th century. Soldiers, students, clerks and the clergy were all fond of this easy way to take a library with them anywhere in the world.

This version of a portable bookcase has been designed to simultaneously hold two different sizes of modern books, both 81⁄2″ x 11″ and 6″ x 9″ editions. Or you can move the shelves around to accommodate odd sizes of books in your personal library.

On its face, this is a deceptively simple project. It is but two boxes hinged together. But once you immerse yourself in the details – how the drawers, doors and shelves all work together – you’ll find the project is a bit of a puzzle. It’s fun to unravel – if you can identify the obstacles ahead of you and sidestep them with grace.

Bookcases such as this were typically made from mahogany, walnut, oak or a local exotic species. I made this version using sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum), an African relative to the three true mahoganies. Before you process a single stick of timber, however, I think it’s best to first purchase the hardware for the bookcase. The hinges in particular will guide you as you position the brasses on the bookcase.

Joinery: Easy & Odd
For the most part, the joinery on this bookcase is straightforward. The sides, tops and bottoms of the cases are joined using full-blind dovetails (the easiest dovetail ever invented). The back is attached to the carcase with the only oddball joint in the project. The back is rabbeted and grooved to both float in the carcase and provide a clean-looking exterior. The doors are joined with typical mortise-and-tenon joints. The drawers are built like many pre-industrial drawers.

Article: If your library is littered with books, download a free plan for a case-on-case shelving unit.
Blog: Read about other pieces of campaign furniture on the author’s blog.
In Our Store: “Handsaw Essentials,” by Christopher Schwarz.
To Buy: Plans for a Roorkhee chair, in our October 2012 issue (#199).

From the October 2014 issue, #213

Oct14cover150