I’ve always admired the work of
Greene & Greene, two architects
who designed Arts & Crafts
homes and furnishings in the early 20th century. Their
detailing is exquisite. I love the softened edges, pegged
joinery, square motifs and overall lightness of their work.
When I needed bookends to hold some special volumes, I turned to these gifted artists for inspiration.
This bookrack works on a very simple principle: friction.
The bookends are adjustable, sliding on two rails to hold
any set of books. But when you push the ends up to the
books, they tilt slightly and bind against the rails. They’re
locked in place. When you pull a book out, the ends are
released and free to slide again.
Make the Parts
1. Mill the bookends (A), endcaps (B) and bases (C) to
final size. Mill the rails (D) an extra 1/8 in. thick.
2. Cut the bookends, endcaps and bases on the bandsaw
(Photo 1; Fig. A). Sand the sawn edges. Use 100-,
120- and 150-grit sandpaper.
3. Rout the bookend profile with a 3/8-in. rabbeting bit
(Photo 2; Fig. A, Detail 1). Raise the bit in 1/16-in. increments
to avoid tear-out. Use a chisel to square the rabbet’s
4. Cut shallow mortises into the bookends (Fig. A, Detail
1). Cut through mortises in the endcaps and rails (Photo 3;
Fig. A, Details 2 and 3).
5. Plane the rails to final thickness (Photo 4).
6. Cut tenons on the rails using a dado set (Fig. A, Detail 3).
7. Make pegs (E) from 3/8-in.-thick square blank. Cut
the pegs to length with a Japanese pull saw, dovetail saw or
Assemble the Bookrack
8. Glue and clamp the rails and endcaps. Work on a flat
surface. Check the assembly for wobble before you set it
aside to dry.
9. Glue pegs (E) into the bookends and endcaps (Photo
5). Leave the pegs proud by at least 1/16 in. Scrape excess
glue from around the pegs before the glue dries.
10. Use 180-grit sandpaper in a random-orbit sander to
round the edges of the pegs.
11. Mark the positions of the bookend slots directly from
the rail and endcap assembly. Cut the slots using your miter
gauge and a tall auxiliary fence (Photo 6). Make multiple
passes, raising the blade 1/4 in. with each cut.
12. Predrill the bases and bookends. Screw these parts
together on the rail and endcap assembly and test their fit.
There should be a little play so the bookends will slide.
Disassemble the bases and bookends for finishing.
13. Sand with 180- and 220-grit sandpaper to gently
round the edges of the bookends, endcaps, rails and bases.
Don’t sand the bookends’ bottom edges.
14. Apply the finish. I used a mixture of cherry and mediumwalnut
Danish oil to achieve a beautiful warm tone, and
wiped on two coats.
15. After the finish is dry, apply a coat of paste wax over
every surface and rub out with #0000 steel wool to an even
sheen. This is an essential step. The wax lubricates the rails,
allowing the bookends to slide smoothly.
16. Screw the bases to the bookends and load the rack
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 2006, Issue #124.
October 2006, Issue #124
Purchase this back issue.
Click on any image to see a larger version.
1. Begin by sawing the sliding bookends and other curved
pieces. You can cut two at the same time. Hold the pieces
together with double-stick tape.
2. Rout a stepped profile on the bookends using a rabbeting
bit. To safely begin the cut, pivot the workpiece against a
starting pin. Once started, you can ride on the bit’s bearing.
3. Cut square holes through the rails using a mortising
machine. Some tear-out on the back is inevitable, even
with a sacrificial board under the rail, but you’ll remove it in
the next step.
4. Plane the rails to final thickness. Place the torn-out sides facing
up. They’ll come out perfectly smooth.
5. Glue walnut pegs into the square holes. The heads of the
pegs should be slightly proud of the surface. Round over
their sharp corners with sandpaper after the glue is dry.
6. Cut slots in the bookends. Their spacing is critical for the
bookends to slide smoothly on the rails. Assemble the
base first; then mark each slot’s position directly from the rails.
Fig. A: Exploded View
Detail 1: Bookend
Detail 2: Endcap
Detail 3: Rail