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Jefferson Bookcases

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Blog series by Dave Polaschek updated 04-10-2021 08:05 PM 21 parts 16814 reads 222 comments total

Part 1: Introduction

08-02-2020 01:56 AM by Dave Polaschek | 13 comments »

When we moved to Santa Fe last year, I had planned to build new bookcases for the house. In my old house in Minneapolis, I had built-in bookcases, and the house here in the Southwest needs a different look. So I looked around a little, and decided to build the Jefferson Bookcases that Chris Schwarz wrote about for Pop Wood. Given that I’m in Santa Fe, and getting nice hardwood is tougher here than I’m used to from Minnesota, I decided to build them in pine. I can get nice clear pine...

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Part 2: Building the plinths

08-03-2020 02:06 AM by Dave Polaschek | 22 comments »

For this style of bookcase, there is a plinth, which serves as a base, supporting the stack of boxes. Since the plinths are mostly hidden, and the weight is mostly carried by the four glue blocks in the corners, I figured they were a good place to start. Half of the dovetails will be hidden, and only one of the four boards is very visible. Here’s my checklist for building the plinths, along with some pictures of the intermediate steps: Cut all the boards to length. There are three dif...

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Part 3: Large case tail boards (sides)

08-05-2020 01:32 AM by Dave Polaschek | 7 comments »

First, some measurements. I spent the tail end of yesterday sawing all the boards for eleven of the largest cases to size. Here’s the cut-list: Two 1×12x30¼ – top & bottomTwo 1×12x14½ – left & rightTwo 1×8x29⅝ – back boards Today I spent the day making tail boards, which are the left and right sides of the cases. Here are the steps for them. 1. Mark out a pair of boards on one end. I usually plan to make the outsides of this pair the inside...

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Part 4: Large case pin boards and backs

08-07-2020 07:24 PM by Dave Polaschek | 4 comments »

Today it was time to start making boxes. First step is to cut the pin boards. I start by transferring the tails to them and marking everything out. On the front, I should draw the baseline to the second to last line I transferred from the tails. On the back, I only need to mark the outermost two lines, as those will be part of the mitered corner, and I’ll be sawing the top and back, but not the front. After cutting the sides of the pins (the ones I marked on the front)...

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Part 5: Winging it with Big Cases

08-09-2020 01:28 AM by Dave Polaschek | 12 comments »

After getting my third case glued up, and my second one finished and installed, I unpacked a box which held some of my big-ass art books and measured a few of them. Sixteen inches tall! That’s not going to fit! So I called an audible. Since all the lumber I bought was in four foot lengths (48 inches), and the cases are 30¼ inches wide on the outside, I can pretty easily make a case that’s… carry the one… 17¾ inches tall on the outside, minus ¾ inch twice for the wood thickn...

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Part 6: A back for the oversized case

08-10-2020 01:55 AM by Dave Polaschek | 3 comments »

For the normal cases, the backs are rabbeted into the sides of the case. It makes for a very strong case, the back is attached solidly on two sides, and can move with the seasons thanks to the lapped joint in the middle, and it can still bear some weight thanks to the nails holding each of the two pieces in. For this oversized case, I needed to put the back onto the sides of the case. This changed a few things in the construction. Rather than mitering the back corners, I can just do a norm...

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Part 7: Smoothing and prep for shellac

08-10-2020 06:19 PM by Dave Polaschek | 10 comments »

I had planned to blog about applying shellac next, but realized that getting ready for finishing is more important than applying the finish. So let’s get a case ready for finishing. I have two primary tools for this prep work. A wooden smoothing plane I made and a block plane. The first is for planing long grain, and the latter for end grain, though if I just have a tiny bit of end grain to do and it’s well supported so I don’t have to worry about blowing out the edges, I’ll use the smooth...

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Part 8: Cleaning up a dovetail

08-12-2020 07:06 PM by Dave Polaschek | 11 comments »

A couple years ago, when I was new to woodworking, I read about how to cut dovetails by hand, and how to clean them up. But a lot of it was mysterious. How close can I saw to the line? What happens if the dovetail is too tight to go together when I test fit it? What if it’s too loose? So in order to write down some of the things I’ve learned over the years, here’s a look at one dovetail on the pin-board, from after I’ve made the vertical cuts to until the tail board fits over it well enoug...

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Part 9: First shellac

08-14-2020 07:14 PM by Dave Polaschek | 6 comments »

After prepping the case, it’s time for shellac. I start by laying the case on its front and putting a coat of shellac on the back. I mix my shellac with 2oz of shellac flakes to 12oz of alcohol (by volume). This is near a 1.5 pound cut. I use pint salsa jars, and that gets the jar full enough that I can completely cover a case, but leaves enough headroom in the jar that I can still shake it to dissolve the shellac. This isn’t going to be seen, so I just put it in pretty quickly and ...

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Part 10: Second shellac

08-15-2020 08:16 PM by Dave Polaschek | 10 comments »

The second set of shellac generally goes on the day after the first set of two coats. I put the shellac on thickly enough with those first two coats that it takes a while to dry. Not overnight, but it doesn’t hurt it to wait, and letting it dry overnight keeps my production line moving smoothly. While the goal with the first two coats was coverage, the goal with this one is getting a good finish. So I start by inspecting the case, lightly sanding each side with 320 or 400 grit sandpaper. T...

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Part 11: Back boards

08-21-2020 06:54 PM by Dave Polaschek | 3 comments »

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 a...

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Part 12: Interlude and medium bookcases

09-20-2020 05:01 PM by Dave Polaschek | 10 comments »

Having finished the three extra-large cases, plus the twelve large cases, it was time for a break. If nothing else, the two block planes and smoothing plane I use to clean up the boxes all needed a sharpening. The smoother has almost a half-dozen divots in the edge of the blade, and was leaving tracks. The last few cases I ended up finishing off with a card scraper. With the sharpening behind me, and having knocked out another picture frame, plus some other shop maintenance (I need to ...

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Part 13: First medium case done

09-23-2020 01:48 AM by Dave Polaschek | 32 comments »

Just a quick update – the first medium case got its second coat of finish yesterday, and I buffed it with a paper bag and put some books in it today. It fits the standard hardcovers that I have a lot of, so I’ll be cranking these out for a while. I figure I need to make 16 or 18 of them total, but I’m going to have to figure out exactly where I’ll put them all. But not today.

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Part 14: More plinths, different sizes

11-11-2020 09:40 PM by Dave Polaschek | 11 comments »

Realized over the past couple days that I’m going to need more stacks of cases, which means more plinths. I’m going to have one case (at least) which will be 16-ish inches deep, so it can hold coffee-table books. I’m aiming for 15½” total depth, which means a plinth 16¼” on the outside. And I’ll need a small stack of cases (made up of the medium case and smaller) which will be able to fit behind the door. So today I dug out my templates for the plinths (really glad I made templates now)...

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Part 15: Art books case

11-22-2020 02:05 PM by Dave Polaschek | 6 comments »

I have a bunch of art books that are formatted landscape. They’re basically coffee-table books, and they don’t fit well in the cases I’ve built so far, so I decided to make a special case for them. The main problem is that when I figured out the dimensions I’ll need, I will need a 1×16 to make the case, and I can’t buy 16 inch wide pine here in New Mexico (and shipping a board from the east coast didn’t seem especially wise). In case that’s hard to read, the measurements are:2 ...

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Part 16: Littlest case

11-22-2020 05:48 PM by Dave Polaschek | 4 comments »

I needed to make a little case for some small hardcovers. It’s also the size I will need for paperbacks if I don’t put them in tall skinny cases. If that’s hard to read, the measurements are (to hold 5¼x7¼ books) 2 – 1×6x30¼2 – 1×6x8¾1 – 1×8x29⅝ I didn’t have a 30 inch long 1×8 offcut, so I put two shorter ones together. They’re ship-lapped. Otherwise it’s just like the other cases, just smaller.

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Part 17: Three sizes of plinths

11-23-2020 06:29 PM by Dave Polaschek | 10 comments »

I made a big case recently, and since that will be at the bottom of a stack of cases of books, I needed to make a special-sized plinth for it. And I have a spot behind the bedroom door where I will build a stack of cases with the largest case being the middle-sized case, so I needed a smaller plinth to hold that. The nice thing about building other sizes of plinths is that they’re all the same width, so the front, back and glue-blocks are all the same, it’s just the sides that change to ac...

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Part 18: The Little Things

12-08-2020 10:17 PM by Dave Polaschek | 10 comments »

As I was building another book case today, I thought about some of the little things I do that make the process easier. These aren’t all things I’ve been doing all along, and while there’s nothing surprising here, it took me a while to incorporate these into my process. Maybe this will help someone else. Square up the stock, and making sure opposite sides are the same size. Since I tend to cut the lumber to size in batches, all of the pieces are pretty close in size. There’s les...

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Part 19: Periodic update

01-06-2021 10:38 PM by Dave Polaschek | 11 comments »

Still building cases. I’m down to ten boxes of books remaining to open, but I have thirteen rows of paperbacks waiting for me to build small boxes to hold them. Looks like my library is going to expand into the hallway, with three stacks of four or five paperback cases, and another stack of a bunch of paperbacks living behind the door (behind where this picture was taken from). I’ve donated four boxes of books to the library, and have another almost ready to go. I suspect they’ll be se...

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Part 20: End of January update

01-30-2021 01:23 PM by Dave Polaschek | 7 comments »

Been a couple pretty slow weeks on the bookcase front. I’ve had a few other projects pop up, most notably a sign to go on the dog-poop-bag-dispenser station I’m going to be putting at the corner of our lot once the ground thaws a little more, which has required me to learn how to carve round letters better (because there’s lots of curves in “POOP”), and just getting a bit fatigued with building bookcases. I’ve started on three new (small) plinths to go in the hallway. They’ll hold stacks o...

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Part 21: The home stretch?

04-10-2021 08:05 PM by Dave Polaschek | 20 comments »

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 som...

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