Jefferson Bookcases #11: Back boards

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Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 08-21-2020 06:54 PM 291 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Second shellac Part 11 of Jefferson Bookcases series Part 12: Interlude and medium bookcases »

One of the things where I’ve improved my workflow while building these bookcases is the process of cutting all the rabbets on the boards that make up the backs of the cases.

Each back is made up of two boards, rabbeted into the case, and ship-lapped where they overlap. The rabbets are all 3/8 from the front or back of the board, and the rabbets on the edges that join the case are 3/8 wide. The ship-lap is 3/4 wide, because with my 1×8s, that means the outside of the joined boards is about 14 inches, with the inside being 13 1/4 inches, to fit into an opening that’s about 13 1/2 inch, so they fit pretty well. When I start building cases that are smaller, I’ll have to adjust things.

So I start by pairing up the boards. Mostly I’m looking to avoid huge differences in color. Each pair gets the shiplapped rabbets marked first. I’m using my 3/8 inch kerfing plane and my 3/4 inch kerfing plane to do the marking. Originally I was cutting the rabbets with them, but a 30 inch long rabbet, 3/4×3/8 inch deep is a lot of work.

With my marks 3/8 from the outside of the boards, I set the circular saw to make a cut 3/4 inch deep.

And I make the two cuts.

Then I set the saw to make a 3/8 deep cut.

And cut the other part of the rabbet.

By having the two boards side-by-side while cutting, I’ve got a wider surface for the circular saw to ride on, and I end up with reasonably good cuts.

Here’s the stack of eight back boards (for four cases) with the larger rabbets cut.

At this point I consult my story stick (not shown) and see if the boards are too big. If so, I’ll plane down the pair of boards so they’ll fit.

I flip half of the boards, so all of the rabbets are now on the same side, and set the up in the vise again.

And I make the marks.

And make the cuts.

Yep. I got them alternating correctly.

Then they go into the vise edge up, with the inside of the back away from me.

And I hand-cut the rabbets on the ends of the boards. It goes pretty quickly.

And that’s it. Took me about an hour to cut four pairs of backs, as opposed to about an hour for a pair of backs doing it all by hand.

And yeah, if I had a table saw, it would go even quicker. But I don’t, and don’t do this sort of mass production often enough to make me want to get rid of something else from my shop to make room for a table saw.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

2 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile


3060 posts in 3075 days

#1 posted 08-21-2020 11:08 PM

Nice work Dave, good thinking.

I like the opportunity to improve the process when woodworking, and you’ve done just that. If you think about it, the circular saw is really a table saw but without a big table. You can do just as much with a circular saw – with a little forethought. I too am going this same direction, having trashed my Skil bench top model, after it quit working, and haven’t missed it since.

Your circular saw skills are better than mine though, I’d not be able to make those straight cuts without a small fence clamped on. I’m currently working on a table and I’ll be jointing the boards with a circular saw, and some form of guide or straightedge. After the saw however I’ll also be jointing the boards with my 22 inch Stanley.

Keep up the good work …..

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

6013 posts in 1467 days

#2 posted 08-21-2020 11:22 PM

I find the little 5 inch Milwaukee “metal cutting saw” with a wood blade gives me great control. And no cord to worry about sawing through! I had a 5 inch craftsman cordless one until the NiCd battery died, and that size circular saw is great for me. Big enough to crosscut (or rip) tubafors, and light and handy enough to use in all sorts of situations when I wouldn’t think of using a 7 inch corded circ saw.

But I’ve also got a pretty steady hand, I guess. I resawed a 5/4×6” board into a couple 3/8” pieces with the circular saw, cutting from both sides and successfully meeting in the middle. I think maybe the baseplate of the little Milwaukee is magic. ;-)

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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