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After making the down-and-dirty folding bookstand in a video last week, I decided to make another pair as a very late Christmas gift. I am not a good friend.

These will be maple and sized more like the one from Roy Underhill’s article in the February 2011 issue. Of course, after building the first bookstand, I came up with a couple changes to make my second and third.

1. The coping saw blade left too-wide a kerf between the hinge knuckles for my taste. With these bookstands, I used a fretsaw blade, which leaves half the kerf behind. As a bonus, I could use a smaller hole (1/16″) because fretsaw blades are narrower.

2. I’m changing the order of the operations for making the bookstand. I drilled the holes first, cut the kerfs with a fretsaw, then chiseled the hinges. So far, the work is going much more cleanly and there is less layout work to do as a result.

Another Use for this Joint
Last week, reader Jay Christian sent me a great link to photos of a chair that uses this hinge that was designed by Carlo Bugatti, an early 20th-century Italian designer. The chair is absolutely outrageous and worth a look.

Take a look at the gallery at Capital Antiques.

Another Translation
One of the best things I like about this blog, besides the constant solicitations, is how the readers help me write on occasion. Reader Tom Holloway offered up his translation of the text that accompanies the drawing for the folding bookstand.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. We still have some of our posters of Roubo’s Plate 11 left in our store. Click here to check them out.

Tom Holloway’s Translation
Figures 1, 2, 3, & 4 show another type of stand, which is used especially in churches. This stand is made from solid wood. What’s special about it is that although it has moving parts it is made all of one piece, without the need for any hardware, as can be seen in the illustrations.

The construction of this type of stand is quite simple. Begin by preparing a board of the length and width out of which the two pieces, A, B, fig. 2 & 4, will be made, plus the space between them, which should be as thin as possible. In other words, the space will include the saw kerf, plus the material removed to plane out the saw marks.

When the board is prepared, lay out the hinge as follows:

After determining the height of the legs of the stand, the area below the hinge, on the face of the board, as shown in fig. 5, trace the width of the hinge, which must be the same as the thickness of the two pieces together, as indicated by lines “i-l” and “m-n,” marked on a slight slope to prevent the stand from opening completely square. It is necessary to do this, because these stands are tightly fitted, and the arc of a circle formed by the hinge at angle “o” (fig. 2), tends to spread the book and make it come forward. Once the width of the hinge is laid out, from point “p” at the center, draw a circle which touches the lines “i-l” and “m-n,” minus the thickness of a very thin chisel. This circle gives the shape of the hinge, which should not be cut until after gauging the outside of the hinge sections. Then lay out (fig. 6) the face of the hinge along lines “i-l” and “m-n,” and divide the space into a odd number of sections along the width, making sure that there is a bit of space between the lines that separate the sections. This is needed to allow for the entry of a very thin saw blade, with which the space “q-r,” (fig. 5) is cut, once the sections of the hinge have been cut out on both sides, as shown in figure 6.

After the hinge has been cut out in this way, cut the scroll in the bottom of the foot, as shown in figure 3. Then cut the two parts A and B apart along their width, both above and below the hinge. When the work has been done precisely, the two pieces should open by themselves.

When parts A and B have been separated, they are finished with a plane in the usual way, whether the stand is to be painted and carved, as is sometimes done, or whether it is left with its natural finish and polished, as desired.

It is good to note, however, that when there is to be carving on the stands under discussion, it should be done before the two parts A and B are separated, to avoid damaging or breaking the hinge.

These stands are never made singly, but two at a time, to avoid the great waste of lumber in the space from “s” to “t” (fig. 4). They are made one on top of the other, including the usual height of the stand, that of part A, plus the space necessary for the saw to enter. By following this procedure, one saves nearly a foot of lumber for the two. This is worth consideration, since these stands are always made of good walnut lumber – at least they should be.

— Tom Holloway’s translation of the text of André Roubo, “Le Menusier Ébéniste,” pp. 977-978, to accompany Plate 331 in the same volume, on the folding bookstand.

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Showing 12 comments
  • Chair Guy

    I would be afraid to sit in that chair with only that small amount of short grain at the hinge area. Seems bound to break… Am I wrong here?

  • Tom Holloway

    As Roubo hinted in his intro (left off Roy’s published translation as not relevant to construction), this was already a common design in his day, "n’est d’usage que dans les Eglises" (used especially in churches), where presumably it held the text for the mass or other scriptures on the altar. He, and probably Bugatti later, would have seen examples in use. Neither claimed to have come up with the idea, nor did Bugatti need to know about Roubo’s tract.

    BTW, when I made two of these stands from Roy’s earlier instructions a few years back, I cut the hinge sections apart with a razor blade utility knife. It works too–hole drilling and fret saw blades are not essential to the operation.

  • David Andersen

    At some point this joint became a popular exercise…not necessarily among furniture makers, but definitely among whittlers. Given the number of times I’ve seen references whittling a pliers with a narrower version of this joint, it would surprise me that it wasn’t something that Roubo and Bugatti saw it elsewhere and independently applied it to furniture designs.


  • Brian Welch

    I love the photos that accompany this article, as they look just like my bookstand that I started this weekend. On Saturday I did all the layout and marked the squares that I was going to remove. My 4 and 7 year old daughters were watching me very intently. I guess the 4 y.o. stayed longer in the shop than I realized, because when I went back the next day, someone had pencilled in ALL the squares!

    I enjoyed the video. But I can’t believe you have only one ripsaw and one hand drill. What kind of galoot are you?

  • Neil

    Quick thought……..seems weird but its there, Bugatti and Roubo. Big fan of Bugatti not for his interiors or furniture forms but for his fierce individualsim at a time of design reform. Then you start to think, were the late 19th Century communications efficient enough for Bugatti to have seen a plate of Roubo or is this such an old design that it became a training project and Bugatti wanted to be different.

    Just thinking!!

  • Tom

    Thanks, I see it now. I was picturing the hinges as independent pieces of wood.

  • Greg M

    Both sides of the hinge are cut from the same piece of wood. With this constuction wood movement should not be an issue at all. As the one side of the hinge changes in width, the gaps (negative space) for the other side of the hinge will move exactly the same amount. (Theoretically 😉

  • Tom

    With such a narrow kerf, are you worried about the hinge binding in more humid conditions? Maybe I’m over estimating wood movement.

  • Tom Holloway

    One small detail might help reduce head scratching over the hinge: The back side should be laid out exactly like the front, *except* that it is a mirror image of the front–cuts where there are blanks, blanks where there are cuts. It’s one of those things that are obvious when studying a completed example, but not so obvious when staring at a blank board, trying this for the first time.

    On the Bugatti chair: The angles of the back and seat can be altered by changing the lengths of legs and supports. I think it might be possible to make the seat with a similar hinge, all from the same plank. But a piece would need to extend toward the back in use, to maintain the integrity of the hinge parts.

  • David Chidester

    Wow, that chair is awesome! Thanks for sharing it.
    I can’t wait to make a Roubo book stand! It’s one of those projects that I’m extremely excited to do!

  • Andrew Yang

    Doesn’t depend on which surface has the seat joint? I would think if it came off the front, then the angle wouldn’t be an issue. If the angle of the primary joint is 90°, then the seat bottom should be a 45° angle.

  • Steve

    It doesn’t appear to be the case with the Bugatti chair, but it occurs to me that the entire chair could be made out of a single plank by using the same wooden hinge for the seat. The seat joint would be a little trickier to cut (and end up being a bit more delicate) since it has to go past 90°.

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