Arts & Crafts Bookshelf – Designing

A few weeks ago, Michelle mentioned that she wanted a new cabinet for the kitchen to keep all her cookbooks. So as a bit of a warm-up project in my new shop, I offered to build her one. I decided I wanted to make something in the Arts & Crafts style, so I broke out my A&C books to look for inspiration:

I dog eared a bunch of pictures with notes about which details I wanted to include in this project. I ended up focusing in on the cover project from Woodworking Magazine #3 (Spring 2005) – Gustav Stickley’s #73 Magazine Stand.

I’ve decided to make a few adjustments and embelishments on Gustav’s design, mostly to fit our specific needs in the kitchen. I’ve adjusted the height and width, added drawers, and included some decorative mortises to the sides.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do for pulls on the drawers.

This weekend I finally got around to the initial milling of the cherry I bought for this project.

It felt really good to be in the garage doing some real woodworking.

Design a Week – 13/52

I don’t have any open staircases in my house, so when I build this bookcase someone is going to have to have to buy it from me:

The idea for this bookcase is to follow a set of stairs that open into a room, so the descending shelf levels match the descending stairs. In this sketch, the light represents the bookcase itself and the dark is a backing lattice, similar to an earlier bookcase I designed and built.  Each cubbyhole would be as deep as they are tall and wide (a cube). There are two design elements on which I haven’t decided, both involving the lattice work.  First – should I extend the lattice so it connects with the far left vertical and/or the bottom of the case? Second – should the lattice work that is outside the cases connect at right angles or cross?

I think I prefer the lattice stopping at the right angle, but I’m undecided. Feel free to post your opinions on those two issue in the comments.

An aside on this “a week” endeavor: I have 6 other drawings that I’ve started working and a few other ideas that haven’t made it past words in a list. Some of the drawings are more flushed out than others. I don’t know when I’ll get caught up, other than to say I’m determined to reach 52/52 by 31 December 2010. Thanks for sticking around this far!

Design a Week – 5/52

This week’s furniture design is an adaptation of a previous piece I’ve built. Actually, it’s more the true realization of the first bookcase I built. A simple design, but the delight is in the details:

The original bookcase I built were done strictly out of plywood, thus why it got the whitewash treatment.  I would still use plywood for the shelves and the interior of the sides (maple, probably), but all the trim would be in a darker wood (likely walnut). 

I don’t have the shelf spacing drawn correctly.  The third shelf from the bottom should be at half the height of the total piece, so the trim divider on the sides would also be half way up. The other thing I couldn’t properly represent is the trim on the sides. The intent is that the dark trim would be proud of the maple side. It would also be coved/hollowed out on the inner edges, smoothing flush with maple side.

When I built the first bookshelf, I really liked how the latticed backing turned out on the piece. I think going horizontal/vertical two-toned here steps it up an notch. The added depth of the trim on the sides should also spice up the piece.

A question for the readers out there: how much attention should I pay to the back of the piece? Looking at the drawing, the trim looks incomplete without it boxing in that back edge, but no one will likely ever see that.  Also, do I need to trim the rear of the shelves or can I leave the plywood edge exposed, considering it would most likely never be seen?

The “Mandatory” First Project – Bookshelves

From the few things I’ve read, it almost seems like a right of passage to build a set of bookshelves as one of, if not the, first project as a woodworker.  The cliche wasn’t enough to dissuade me. It didn’t hurt that we had boxes and piles of books strewn across the house, either.  I was feeling creative, so I came up with this design:


Five shelves, angled side profile, and an interesting lattice work to keep books from falling out the back:


Being this was my first attempt at building, let alone designing, a piece of furniture – I ended up keeping things simple.  The whole bookcase (four feet wide, about 6 feet tall) was constructed from two 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3/4″ oak plywood. The shelves rest in 3/8″ deep dados on each side.  The back lattice work is joined with half-lap joints, assembled separately, and then added to shelf/side assembly.

Although this piece is not something I could sell to anyone, I’m proud of how things turned out and what I learned from it all. I’ve picked up tips on tear-out, on the true width of 3/4″ plywood, on how my collection of clamps is woefully insufficient, etc.  My favorite lesson has become my motto in my garage – “It doesn’t help to measure twice, if you only think once.”

Update:  Here’s a picture of the bookcase in use: