Jefferson Bookcases #21: The home stretch?

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 04-10-2021 08:05 PM 896 reads 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 20: End of January update Part 21 of Jefferson Bookcases series no next part

Been a while since my last update. I’ve been busy building bookcases, turning bowls, and carving birbs. Plus it’s yard-work season here in New Mexico, and we’ve planted eight smaller plants and three trees already this year.

Here’s what the stacks of cases look like today.

There’s going to be one more stack of cases, and maybe two before I’m done. I have four boxes of books to unpack yet, plus 11 rows of paperbacks, each of which should get its own case. But I may donate some to the library. Or I may leave some on the shelves built into our master closet.

Some things I’ve learned in the process of building this many cases:
  1. Make sure the opposing boards in a case match in size. A sixteenth of an inch variance doesn’t look like much, but it can make for quite a head-scratcher trying to figure out why a guy can’t get the case square while the glue is setting up. Check ahead of time!
  2. The depth of the cases (the width of the boards) is much less critical. But it’s not very hard to fix either before cutting the dovetails or even after the case is glued up. Planing a little width off a board isn’t a big deal. And even if the cases vary in dimension by as much as a quarter inch (6mm), they can be stacked with the fronts aligned, and everything will look ok.
  3. It’s a lot easier to inspect boards for checks, knots, etc before starting to cut the dovetails. If there’s a flaw on the back of a case, it’s not a big deal. If it’s on the front, it kinda sticks out.
  4. While a flaw on the back of a board is not a deal breaker, it’s even better to cut it or plane it away entirely before starting to cut the dovetails. Because having the cases vary in depth a little isn’t a big deal, and because I got the boards long enough from the lumber yard that I have a few inches of waste from every longer board, which makes a top or bottom and a side of a case, I find I can get rid of a lot of knots and dings that would otherwise either take extra work to hide later, or which will give me fits while trying to plane the surfaces of the box flat later.
  5. Similarly, because the backs are rabbeted into the cases, I’ve cut a 3/8 inch square piece off the edge of every board. That’s a great place to put a flaw so I can throw it away. As long as I know it’s there before I saw the first dovetail and lock in the orientation of the board.
  6. When planing the sides of the box smooth, remember that a concave top or bottom is fine. A convex one will cause rocking. So when planing from the end towards the middle to clean up the dovetails, make sure to do more passes on the middle of the box than the ends. And make sure to do more passes (even if it’s only one or two) on the middle of the board than the front or back.
  7. When building the plinths, have the back legs be a tiny bit shorter than the front, so the stack of cases will tend to lean closer to the wall, rather than toppling into the middle of the room. For stacks three or four cases high, it’s not a big deal, but when they’re stacked seven or eight cases high, it will definitely be noticeable which way the plinth leans.
  8. If you do have a plinth that’s off, put it under a shorter stack of cases. The lean will be a lot less noticeable.
  9. Not all publishers use the same sizes for books. I’ve had to make at least two cases of each size in a “tall” version, which is an inch taller than all the other cases of the same depth. I’ve also been able to make a few “short” cases, but they’re generally not worth the extra effort.

I think that’s it for now. Fifty-seven cases down. Roughly a dozen to go.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

20 comments so far

View doubleDD's profile


10375 posts in 3130 days

#1 posted 04-10-2021 09:41 PM

It seems like all the cases you have built have you doing better planning. I bet you learned a lot in the process and can build them twice as fast. Congrats on your accomplishment so far.
57 cases so far ? I don’t think I have enough books to fill one. haha. The library continues.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#2 posted 04-10-2021 11:21 PM

Yeah, Dave. I knocked a case out this morning. Still have an hour or two of finishing left (plane smooth, then two coats of shellac), but I’m quite a bit quicker. And spend almost zero time going back to fix mistakes now.

Turns out, mess something up fifty-some times, and even I can learn. ;-)

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View recycle1943's profile


5412 posts in 2709 days

#3 posted 04-10-2021 11:24 PM

Too many books – unless you have an eidetic memory

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View splintergroup's profile


5141 posts in 2309 days

#4 posted 04-10-2021 11:35 PM

Did you lose some of your process steps during the “bookcase shutdown”?

That happens to me, batching things out, get the routine down (knowing I’ll never forget it), then taking time off and having to plan from the beginning.

57 is a bunch! looking good as always!

View pottz's profile


16954 posts in 2071 days

#5 posted 04-10-2021 11:56 PM

nice work my friend but i gotta ask,you read all those books? or are those props-lol.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View crowie's profile


4593 posts in 3037 days

#6 posted 04-11-2021 12:25 AM

That’s sure some library of books for those beaut bookshelves, well done Dave.

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#7 posted 04-11-2021 12:50 AM

No such thing, Dick.

Not really, Splint. That was part of the reason I blogged everything, though. If I write something down, I find it almost impossible to forget (so far, knock wood). Thanks!

Thanks, Pottz. Read all of them but the rightmost stack of six cases in the top picture. Those are the “to read” stack. I’ve added a couple dozen to it since we moved in, but I’ve read a few more than that during our 19 months here. Call it one case.

Thanks, Peter! I think I’d rather be building trucks for kids, but maybe next year after I’ve cleared the projects I’ve already promised to my sweetie, like the fireplace screens and the laundry hamper so she doesn’t have to look at my dirty unmentionables.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Oldtool's profile


3220 posts in 3277 days

#8 posted 04-11-2021 02:29 AM

Very nice private library there Dave, well done. I like the list of lessons learned, good things to remember.

-- "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

7479 posts in 1669 days

#9 posted 04-11-2021 03:02 AM

Thanks, Tom! It’ll be nice to have it finished.

And yeah. I learned things. And by writing them down, they’re a lot more likely to stick with me on future projects. Hopefully, I won’t have quite as many to learn on the next big project.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View EarlS's profile


4463 posts in 3435 days

#10 posted 04-11-2021 12:12 PM

The only thing I’ve made that might even come close to 57 times is the dice mallets (OK – maybe 20), and they were a lot less involved.

I find that I wind up making multiples if I start thinking of different wood options, or slightly different designs. I’m not sure I could make 57 things the same way. Making only one version takes the most focus.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#11 posted 04-11-2021 01:07 PM

Well, they are at least different sizes. But yeah, it’s been a long haul. On the other hand, I’ve gotten a lot better at casework, which will come in handy for future projects.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View SouthShoreDeck's profile


2 posts in 102 days

#12 posted 04-11-2021 02:45 PM

Looks great! And I’m jealous that you have enough time to read all those books!

-- Sandy, Quincy MA,

View Eric's profile


1381 posts in 960 days

#13 posted 04-12-2021 01:34 AM

Beautiful job on the cases Dave, really liked reading the blog with the pointers that you have learned during the process. And by the time you finish, you will be building these in you sleep.

Now are all of those book cataloged like you would find in the local library? But since it is a personal one, folks might not notice. I tried to read some of the titles there, that is one great collection

-- Eric, building the dream

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7479 posts in 1669 days

#14 posted 04-12-2021 02:07 AM

They’re not cataloged. They are grouped, sorta. But as I still have four boxes to unpack, I’ll be rearranging things. The fiction in particular is going to need a pretty thorough reorganization once I’ve got all the paperbacks where I can see them.

The nice part of this sort of case is that I can pick up a shelf of books and move them to another stack without hurting myself. Yeah, it might require some tower of Hanoi type machinations if it’s a shelf near the bottom of a stack, but I can get it done without having to call for help or take books off shelves. Which is kinda cool.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View MikeB_UK's profile


401 posts in 2121 days

#15 posted 04-12-2021 09:37 AM

Great job Dave, although I’m not surprised you’ll be glad to see the back of this one. :)

-- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

showing 1 through 15 of 20 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics