Stickley Bookcase

Stickley Bookcase

How to build a strong bookcase without a back.

By Laurie McKichan

When I'm designing furniture, I
often turn to the Arts and Crafts era
for inspiration. I love this style. It’s
simple, but elegant. When a client
commissioned me to build a small
bookcase, I knew exactly what to start
with: a photograph of a piece built
by L. & J. G. Stickley around 1904.

This Stickley bookcase was
perfect for my clients’ modern condo.
They wanted a bookcase with an
open back, so it could be accessed
from both sides and used as a room
divider. I changed the Stickley piece’s
dimensions and design a bit, but kept
the distinctive look of its side panels.

As it turned out, my clients
moved just as I was completing their
bookcase. They didn’t need a divider
in their new living room, but they
did need a piece to fit behind their
sofa. The bookcase was a natural. It’s
proven to be a very versatile design!

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Begin by routing
double mortises
in the legs. I’m
using a Leigh FMT
Pro, a jig which
has templates of
various sizes to
guide the router.
Many types of
shop-made jigs
can make these
joints, too.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Rout similar
mortises
in
the ends of the
rails. This jig
holds work both
horizontally and
vertically.

Mill some long,
thin pieces
to
make loose tenons.
Round the
edges of these
pieces to fit the
mortises.

Cut the tenon
stock
into short
pieces and glue
them into the rails.

Assemble the
bookcase’s side
,
without glue.
Measure the
distance between
the rails. Cut the
side panels to
this length.

Cut biscuit slots
in the ends of the
side panels. Glue
the sides together.

Plane the top
of each side so
the rails and legs
are flush. Cut
biscuit slots on
the inside face
of the top rails.

Make two
“anti-racking" rails
,
and clamp them
together. Cut a
series of biscuit
slots in their ends,
to make one long
groove. When you
separate the pieces,
the groove will
run out the side
of each piece (see
inset, top left).

Cut biscuit slots
in the upper
rails to receive
the anti-racking
rails. Clamp the
parts together
using biscuits,
but no glue. Align
the ends of the
upper rails with
each other.

Glue the case
together.
Slide
out the antiracking
rails
before the
glue dries.

Spread glue on
the ends and
inner edge of the
anti-racking rails,
and slide them
back in place.
Clamp the rails
to the sides.

Fasten the lower
shelf and top.
I
like using shopmade
wooden
buttons, which
fit into grooves in
the rails. Buttons
add a classy
look–although
you have to get
on your hands
and knees to
see them!

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2010, issue #149.

August/September 2010, issue #149

Purchase this back issue.