Thomas Jefferson Bookstand

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Project by Elm55 posted 05-30-2017 02:14 AM 2182 views 4 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was one of my first attempts at woodworking about 5 years ago. I guess I started calling myself a woodworker, rather than a DIY’er, when my wooden projects were no longer attached to the house. I was adept with moulding planes, but not joinery at the time. This project was a good intro to hand tools and got me hooked on the hobby ever since.

The plans and inspiration came from Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s Shop. You can still see the episode from the 2008-09 season on the PBS website.

I also have some details about the history and construction of the Jefferson Bookstand on my blog.

There are 30 mortise and tenon joints all cut by hand, with a chisel, moving filletser plane, marking gauge and a saw. The joinery is essentially a bunch of breadboard clamps with haunched mortise and tenons. The 4 posts are attached to the “subtop” and moving part of the base with dovetails. I used chisels and a hand router to make the large groove on the “subtop”. Not knowing any better at the time, I filled in any small gaps with cherry wood filler with a perfect match…for about 3 weeks. The piece is quite heavy as there are actually the 5 panels plus 4 boards (two on top and two on the bottom). The last photo is a good view to understand the construction.

The panels are angled 45 degrees on their sides so that the whole contraption can close up as a box.

Unfortunately, the plans used to be available on The Woodwright’s School site, but are no longer available. There is a SketchUp model available online which seems to be the exact same one that Roy used to provide.

View on YouTube

12 comments so far

View Rich's profile


4693 posts in 1040 days

#1 posted 05-30-2017 02:43 AM

That’s a really cool piece. You did a great job on it, and I really appreciate the education that comes with your post. I had never heard of it, but now I’m intrigued.

-- My grandfather always said that when one door closes, another one opens. He was a wonderful man, but a lousy cabinet maker

View Elm55's profile


38 posts in 1551 days

#2 posted 05-30-2017 02:55 AM

Rich, I saw your beautiful door that you posted back in February. This bookstand then should be a breeze for you, especially with a table saw. Elm

View Rich's profile


4693 posts in 1040 days

#3 posted 05-30-2017 04:34 AM

Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate your compliment, and I’m proud of my work. However, at least in my mind, there is a difference between building and crafting — and you are a craftsman.

-- My grandfather always said that when one door closes, another one opens. He was a wonderful man, but a lousy cabinet maker

View DrDeath's profile


2 posts in 812 days

#4 posted 05-30-2017 05:26 AM

I have heard of these things, but I had never seen one before. It’s pretty cool and it looks like you did a fine job on it. You have much more patience than I do. If I had to cut 30 M&T joints by hand, someone within throwing distance would probably end up with a Chisel in the side of their neck. Naw, actually I don’t have that good of aim. Something like this could come in handy in the Woodshop if you were looking to build something and were comparing various magazines with that project in them. Or, in my perverted case, different Porn Magazines on each one. It’s odd they had it fold into what appears to be a useless box. You would think maybe they could have used it for some book storage also. Then again, that’s probably why they invented BOOK Shelves.

-- Better to be Pissed Off than Pissed On.

View Woodknack's profile


12870 posts in 2830 days

#5 posted 05-30-2017 07:13 AM

Very skillful, impressive.

-- Rick M,

View ronstar's profile


519 posts in 4161 days

#6 posted 05-30-2017 11:01 AM

Jefferson would be proud !

-- Ron, Northern Illinois

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

22998 posts in 3556 days

#7 posted 05-30-2017 12:18 PM

That is cool. Tom would be proud of you!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1091 posts in 2763 days

#8 posted 05-30-2017 01:14 PM

Very good.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3317 days

#9 posted 05-30-2017 01:31 PM

This book stand is such a beautiful piece and so nicely done.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View OnhillWW's profile


184 posts in 1683 days

#10 posted 05-30-2017 03:40 PM

Nicely executed. That project has been on my – to do – list ever since I visited Monticello 3 years ago. Nice job.

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View Elm55's profile


38 posts in 1551 days

#11 posted 05-30-2017 04:05 PM

If you have a hollow chisel mortiser and a table saw at your disposal, this project can be done in a weekend. It took me a whole weekend just to chop out the mortises. It was a good learning experience, but not sure if I have the mental stamina to do that again.

I still haven’t stepped up to the big leagues yet…still don’t own and table saw. Not sure if I ever will.

If any of you have an questions in the future about the construction, drop a comment and I should be able to help.

View balidoug's profile


497 posts in 2929 days

#12 posted 05-31-2017 02:14 AM

A fine rendering of a classic original, and like the original made by hand. well done. thanks for sharing.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

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