Why the level? - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Why the level?

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

BarristerBookcase.jpgLast week we sent out the two potential covers for our April 2007 issue and asked readers to vote on their favorite. We appreciate your voting if you were selected to participate. The result of the voting was as we expected, based on the results we’ve experienced over the past few issues.

What we didn’t expect was the stir that having a 4′-0″ level (that’s right, it’s not a rifle) leaning against the piece has caused. Some people questioned why it would be included in the picture because the bookcase was in the house and loaded with keepsakes and books.

Well, I too wondered just that when we were shooting the picture. What does a level have to do with the barrister bookcases? Most of the other editors understood the level concept completely. It seems that I am outnumbered here at Popular Woodworking. So, maybe I can help those of you who, like me, were perplexed by it.

Since I became responsible enough to own a house of my own, I have lived in a newer dwelling (for those of you not familiar with my background, I spent a past life in the home building business.) I’ve always found light switches, electric plugs and other necessities right where they should be. In some older homes this is not the case.  

Another characteristic of some older houses is out-of-level floors. And this is where the level comes into play. If you place a piece of furniture in your home and the floors aren’t level, the result will be pieces of furniture that doesn’t operate properly, especially a frameless cabinet with inset doors (like the barrister bookcase). Using the level and a few shims, if needed, will correctly set the furniture on a skewed floor so all the doors and drawers will work as planned.

If you find the need to level your projects, first position the tool across the base of the piece from side to side resting on the top edge of the furniture. Add shims until the bubble in the tool is centered in the glass rod.  Next repeat the steps while this time checking the piece from front to back. Adjust the shims as necessary to achieve the desired results, which is to be level in both directions.

After that, the base should be level and you can stack the bookcase units on top. If you did your job right each stacking unit will have the doors operate without concern. That is until Father Time assaults the floor further and the level once again leans on the case like a weary soldier.

Glen Huey

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Showing 5 comments
  • Andy

    I’m looking forward to that article –I’ve always wanted bookcases like this in a slightly larger scale to store my button accordions; perhaps this will inspire me to build…

  • Karl Rookey

    The leveling definately makes sense in an older house. The taller they are, the more dangerous Bookshelves become if they are not level, though aaimlove has a point that it looks pretty funny if the house is too crooked: at that point it’s time to start shimming the house frame…

  • aaimlove

    Your explanation makes things more strange……..<br> <br> I’ve not seen too many instances where "BB’s" are used<br> at an angle, away from the wall…….maybe these will <br> be different…….<br><br> Who, in their right mind, would load the book case up,<br> before you had them leveled and "in place"?<br><br>Good luck with this one…….LLL<br><br>

  • Christopher Schwarz


    There was time — 10 years ago — when I seemed to have more time and I would sometimes make photo captions into haikus for fun. Nowadays, we’re too nutty busy to build in anything subliminal.

    But someday…..


  • Richard Bry

    So what I got out of this is that Popular Woodworking has hidden meanings in their photos…

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